It’s sometimes hard to write a review for a friend. I mean, can you really be objective? It’s easy in a one-on-one “Hey, page 189 has a typo, and I think you would be clearer in this paragraph if you made it a bullet list like you did over in chapter 8…” But in a public venue? That’s when it gets tricky.
Especially when it’s a subject that you have, at best, mixed feelings about. I’ve read “The Game” and endured several research-trips into “seduction blogs” and podcasts. I’ve also encountered enough of “The Rules” to consider both to be pretty distasteful. Seduction is not my thing, at least as those people see it; I’m about being authentic, serendipitous, enjoying things as they happen. I have never gone into a room, set my eye on someone, and thought “I’m going to go home with that person.”
At least not consciously. And that, frankly, might be a character flaw. That’s what Arden is providing in The Seduction Manual. Even though she borrows from the vocabulary of those other game-players, using words like “target” and “strategies” and “added value” – there is a constant theme of self-improvement running under every practical instruction. It’s even in the structure of the book, with the first chapters being about self-discovery, accentuating your positive traits, and developing your own confidence in your desirability. She even delves into the process of creating an environment of seduction in your home, long before she ever starts on how to acquire your “target.”
The middle part of the book is much more about interactions and strategies, and this is where I was pushing my own comfort zone. I’d love to think that every great conversation, every successful date, every hot sweaty post-coital grin was a unique confluence of coincidental factors that culminated in this fated moment of bliss. It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Maybe not, Arden points out. Using many examples as both seducer and seduced, she outlines not only the how of getting into someone’s awareness but also makes a pretty convincing argument of the why: why it is actually more flattering to know that someone is intentionally making the effort to learn about you, to figure out what you need, to make themselves a part of your dream. They are good and effective strategies; in fact, in a couple of anecdotes I realize that they’ve worked on me, quite enjoyably.
“The persuasive element of seduction, like anything else, is a tool… i didn’t write this book so that women could learn how to be soulless harpies breaking men’s hearts everywhere they go; i wrote it so that women could learn to be better lovers and better partners, both for themselves and the men they encounter. i wrote it so that more people could end up happier.” —Arden Leigh, The Seduction Manual
There are two possible flaws, from my point of view, in the book. One is that it is written with a target audience of women looking for men, and as such there are occasional generalizations and heteronormative assumptions that tend to raise my sex-positive hackles now and again. However, it’s silly to expect one book to be all things to all people. If anything, the fault would lie with the reader who failed to see beyond the conventions of language to find the gems of wisdom throughout that apply to every relationship, regardless of sexuality or gender. At the same time, I can’t help but hope she writes a similar manual for men, for queers, for leather daddies and dykes and more…
That brings up the second possible flaw: a great deal of the book’s anecdotes are predicated on Arden’s experience as a pro-domme. One of the best pro-domme’s out there, in fact, and therein lies enough of a tale to write an entire other book (which, she tells us, she has). But if kinky sex, power-exchange relationships, or sex work in general squicks a person, they may find it difficult to get past the environment of the stories to really see the meaning behind them. I could be wrong about this; as a queer sex-positive kinky ninja sex poodle, I loved hearing about the fetish parties and client sessions. But I do worry that others might use that as a grounds for dismissing her frank and open point of view. If so, it’s their loss.
It’s in the final chapters of the book that I really found Arden’s writing exceptional. She brings the practice of seduction past “closing the deal” – i.e., sex and delves into the philosophy of life behind the whole process. Seduction is not for the faint of heart, and not a journey to be taken lightly, she warns. Arden bares her own past, her own faux-pas, her own dreams and wishes at a personal level that made me want to stand up and cheer. “I will say yes to being broken and crushed,” she says, “if it means I’m fully living.” This is where the book goes beyond being a manual and becomes a manifesto, a barbaric yawp at the risky world of dating with all its joys, pitfalls, and superficial beauty.
Gentlemen, if you find this book on your lover’s shelf, know this: you never stood a chance. The Seduction Manual gave her everything she needed to attract, acquire, captivate, and occupy your mind with a wonderful, inexorable obsession. It wasn’t fate, it wasn’t kismet, it was a foregone conclusion the minute she set out to put Arden’s guidelines into practice. You might as well surrender to the inevitable, because she’s got you right where you want her.