Betsy Prioleau

Betsy Prioleau

Swoon explores one of the big unsolved mysteries:  what makes a man irresistible to women?  Who are these love-magnets?  How and why do they attract women in droves and enthrall them?


I studied over fifty ladies’ men, from heartthrobs of ancient Greece to those today.  And the findings were surprising.


Real woman-charmers defy popular preconceptions, and share some unique traits, both in personality and amorous arts.  They possess a cache of erotic secrets we haven’t heard about, and tap into what women truly want.


Why have men accrued certain stereotypes over the years?


For millennia, ladies’ men have been plagued by prejudice.  With their outlaw allure, they menace personal safety and public order.  Women fear their power over them and men envy their lion’s share of the erotic spoils. 


A great seducer also threatens social stability.  He can undermine domestic institutions, subvert paternal certainty, and imperil female fidelity.  Consequently, great lovers have been typecast and stigmatized as everything from effeminate girlie men to heartless rakes, horndogs, and sociopaths.


Why are woman so easily ‘enswooned’?


Ladies’ men rock women with so little effort because they have sizzle and an uncanny grasp of the female psyche.  They sense a woman’s deepest desires and deliver in spades.  They know women yearn to be singled out and cherished, charmed, and courted continually with romantic zeal, fun, adventure, and good conversation. They also invest in the most potent aphrodisiac:  an ever-fascinating, multifaceted personality.


Please can you tell us about sourcing the real life ladykillers.


In the beginning, I didn’t plan to interview real-life ladies’ men.  They sort of landed in my lap.  It began with a phone call from a priest—of all people—who told me I had to talk to “Rick,” an ex fire captain.  “Rick,” he said, “has something.  What, I have no idea.  We go out for coffee and women appear and are all over him.”


After Rick, other ladies’ men turned up everywhere. Women volunteered stories and deluged me with referrals.  Then the men themselves sent me to their friends.  If I’d had time, the candidates would have doubled. There’s a secret fraternity, it seems, of underground Casanovas.


What unusual traits do great seducers embody?


Great seducers have several unexpected features in common.  First, they genuinely like women and enjoy their company, which is rarer than we think.  Mainstream culture socializes men early on to boycott the girls’ club and bond with their brothers.


 Second, they exude sexual charisma—a special oomph!—that involves a cluster of unusual traits such as ultra-vitality, nonconformity, and a hint of vulnerability and androgyny.  Strangely enough, a number of ladies’ men have a strong feminine streak.


Third, great seducers take an unconventional approach to courtship.  They don’t follow the standard script.  They handle love as an art, with creativity, ardor, customized spells for individual women, and a sophisticated skillset of physical and psychological charms.  Not only that: they are perpetual suitors and perpetually intriguing.


Why is society now lacking ladies’ men?

There does seem to be a dearth of ladies’ men today.  In a post-romantic age of hook-ups and casual coupling, many men have dropped the mating effort.  Most, claims sexual researcher Timothy Perper, are “oblivious about the art of seduction.”


         Men are getting their erotic education in all the wrong places—sex ed, porn, and locker rooms.  And women, sadly, haven’t helped:  they’re demanding less, aggressively pursuing men, and losing their natural edge and power of choice in love.


Why do you feel that we need more of them about?


Romantic happiness is a universal wish, and at the moment we seem to be in an historic slump.  Cynicism is rampant; passionate desire, on the decline; and alienation between the sexes, on the rise.  Women feel demoralized and improperly loved.


The great seducers—whatever their faults (and there are many)—are mavens of romance.  They know how to ignite passion, nourish it, and keep it humming.  Their arts and secrets can be culled by ordinary men and put to positive use. 


As the philosophers say, every man should be Don Juan to his wife (or partner) over and over.  It’s just a question of the will to seduce and re-envision love for the twenty-first century.


What prompted you to write the book?


In my book Seductress, I examined history’s enchantresses and found that they exploded all the stereotypes.  That made me curious about great seducers.


I then taught a course in cultural history at New York University that focused on ladies’ men, real and imaginary.  In the end, though, there were more questions than answers.  So I raided the library and began Swoon. Sure enough, I discovered that great seducers, too, had been misunderstood and stigmatized, and possessed a rich trove of erotic arts and wisdom.


What is next for you?


Since I had to confine myself to micro-biographies in Swoon, I’d like to write a full-length one.  There’s the “dashing little duke,” the eighteenth-century duc de Richelieu, for instance, not to be confused with the cardinal of The Three Musketeers.


 A famous diplomat, general, and confidant of kings, Richelieu was also a “hero of the boudoir” who received ten to twelve love letters a day and romanced nearly every noblewoman in Paris.  With his charm and “unbridled sexual magnetism,” he could “ruin a woman with a smile.”


Women were wild for him, so wild that two court ladies, disguised as Amazons, dueled for his favors in the Bois de Boulogne. Both survived, but neither won.  The duc de Richelieu was too charismatic and seductive to belong wholly to anyone.  He sired a child in his eighties and died, still virile, at ninety-two.  I would love to tell his full story—his adventurous life and fabulous romantic escapades.




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