Review

Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love

by Betsy Prioleau

In SEDUCTRESS author Betsy Prioleau attempts to restore feminine sexual power to modern women. She examines the wiles of historical seductresses in a meticulous treatment of their histories. Intense research is a hallmark of her authoritative guide to sexual sovereignty.

Early in the book she puts down myths about the sexuality of the historical seductress with voluminous facts that substantiate her theories. She categorizes the seductresses into six prototypes. The first insidious falsehood is that seductresses must be young and beautiful, but she dispels the myth with stories of very ugly enchantresses of the past. Age is a second misnomer, with celebrated allure of "old dames." The third myth centers on the intellectuality of a real seductress, with intelligence winning out over stupidity. Inspiration and artistic endeavor allowed women to build careers, tearing away the vapid housewife myth. Real seductresses were "movers and shakers," playing heavy parts in the world of government. Lastly, she explores the seductress as wildly adventurous and rakishly professional.

Prioleau next explains the art of seduction: physical art, dress and ornamentation, hygiene and cosmetic usage, artful detail of setting, body language and music, lustful experience with sex, psychological affectation, intimacy and ego enhancement for the male, along with comedy as an aphrodisiac, festivity and dramatic impact. Seduction is now, according to Prioleau, with a look at the past. The learning curve is open to every woman. "Ladies choice," she proposes.

SEDUCTRESS sets forth an archetype for the sex goddesses in ancient history, with a chapter moving from goddess mythology, through the divinity of Inanna to the Greek love goddess Aphrodite. She is described as a "lioness on the loose in the Olympian firmament." History treats her with scorn but she survives in mysticism and fairy tales. Her decline is followed by the demonic Lillith, the two-faced vision of beauty and fiery serpentine demonism.

The author writes in the meat of SEDUCTRESS with passion about Belles Laides, her so-called homely sirens. Isabella Stewart Gardiner, known as Belle, stated, "Never ever behave with pride, self-confidence, and self-conceit." Wallis Simpson, the divorced siren who caused David Windsor to abdicate the British throne, is another less than beautiful personality described. A chapter titled "Silver Foxes" is a word picture of the elder seductress such as Diane de Poiters, George Sand of the nineteenth century, and Colette, the modern aging siren. Mae West takes a big bite of this chapter, adding the categories of money and status to adulation reserved for sexual prowess.

Siren-scholars, artists, political divas and adventurers unfold in the bulk of the book. Their lives are a checklist for the women of today, to develop a new seductress prototype in the fast-paced twenty-first century world that paints sex as an act rather than an art. Prioleau suggests that women can become happier, sexier and more vital. Generous lists of notes, suggested readings and an index substantiate the author's research on her educational and stimulating topic. Difficult to categorize as a self-help book, SEDUCTRESS offers enlightenment and entertainment in the realm of female entitlement.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on October 26, 2004

Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love
by Betsy Prioleau

  • Publication Date: October 26, 2004
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143034227
  • ISBN-13: 9780143034223