I have known the joys of seduction, I have known the thrill of the chase, the simultaneous empowerment and disempowerment of pursuit, of feeling you might but not yet feeling you will. I, like St. Augustine, have felt more strongly about that which was harder to attain, and I, like Job, have felt that I was unfairly tested, and, in my frustration, asked only to be delivered. I have desired and been spurned, only later to be embraced, and I have relished that turnaround, that surprise. I have enjoyed kisses from people I thought lost to me, gone on dates with those I thought impossible. Once I was engaged to a woman I never would have believed could want me, only to realize, one day, the truth that I didn’t want her. I have known people who dream and are rarely disappointed and those whom disappointment has taught never to dream again. I am neither of these people; I dream, and I fail, and it hurts me, so when I succeed I feel the force of the success, the brief, rapturous sense that maybe I deserve my achievement, however fleeting it may be.
There was a time when my ego needed the reinforcement that seduction provides, yet no amount of conquest ever proved enough. The seducer assumes that the quest is for something external, but it is clear that the lack comes from within. How much affirmation does one need? And from whom? I was told once by a policeman in India that happiness is a quotient of what you have divided by what you want. In the West, he told me, you try to increase the numerator, accumulating more and more of everything. In the East, he said, they try to reduce the denominator, trimming their expectations to correspond to what’s probable. I think he had it dead on, and what’s worse, as the numerator increases as we begin to get what we thought we were after it often causes us to set our aims higher and not reap the rewards of what we’ve achieved.
Serial seduction, like gambling, is all too likely to fall prey to this dynamic. Each conquest ups the ante for the subsequent one, and that which is desired, when attained, loses its value. A sad phenomenon, more so because the objects in question are emotive humans. The perils of sexual insatiability are chronicled in two great fictional studies: Laclos’ Les liasons dangereuses and Kierkegaard’s “Diary of the Seducer.” I’m excerpting two paragraphs of the latter to indicate the poles of the seducer’s logic: the attraction that makes him grab and the repulsion that makes him throw away. A word to the wise . . .