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Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Very good dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover / Publisher: Viking Adult / Pub. Date: 2003-10-27 Attributes: Book, 384 pp / Stock#: z992173472 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love Hardcover – October 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prioleau's captivating debut is a fervid self-help tract well-disguised as a history. "Seductresses are in fact the liberated women incarnate," asserts the author in her opening chapter. "They're the stealth heroines of history. The first feminists." It's a persuasive argument, which Prioleau pounds home with massive fists full of quotations, attributions and texts from anthropology, religion, psychology, history, art, literature, music and anything else she can get her hyperintellectual hands on. Modern women have lost their goddess-centered groove, the Manhattan College professor asserts, and as a consequence the entire race is going to hell in a male-dominated, bimbo-focused handbasket. If only women would search their collective unconscious for their archetypal Goddess roots, they'd realize modern feminism has rendered them joyless, and the reality TV/Barbie look-alike trends are hooey. Rather, women of any age (there's a chapter on "silver foxes") or looks (another chapter on "homely sirens") are multiorgasmic, brilliant, joyous power mavens who possess everything to bring a man to his willing knees and keep both genders happy and sated. Telling wonderfully peripatetic tales of self-possessed sirens and seductresses throughout the eons, Prioleau makes a strong case for women to take back their ancestral birthright of sexy wholeness (though the problems of non-middle-class women, like poverty, among others, never enter her worldview). Whether one buys her argument or not, it's wildly engaging reading and faultless scholarship.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Prioleau is almost incapable of writing a dreary sentence... Delightful philosophy and wickedly wonderful advice. (USA Today)

Prioleau has gathered together historyÆs sexiest vixens and given them a delicious voice. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First edition (October 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670031666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670031665
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Betsy Prioleau is the author of Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them (W. W. Norton, 2013), Circle of Eros (Duke University Press) and Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love (Penguin/Viking). She has a Ph.D. in literature from Duke University, was an associate professor at Manhattan College, and taught cultural history at New York University. She lives in New York City. Visit her website at

An excerpt from a review of "Swoon" by Helen Davies that was published January 26, 2014 in the U.K. Sunday Times:

"Swoon doesn't conform to the dreary do-gooding of the worst of self-help literature. Instead, Prioleau offers a romp through centuries of amorous liaisons and seduction techniques ... if you are willing to be seduced into some entertaining badinage, it is worth a read."

For the full text, go to:

An excerpt from a review of "Swoon," June 14, 2014 in the Irish Times:

"This is a deliciously sexy, erudite read that may help (if it's not too late for some of us) reveal the elusive qualities of the world's great seducers."

for the full text, go to:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Power on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Betsy Prioleau's "Seductress: Women who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love" has been described as a self-help book masquerading as a well-researched history book, but this is misleading. It's actually a feminist tract -- disguised as a history book disguised as a self-help book -- with all the attendant weaknesses and strengths.

The meat of the book is an anthology of mini-biographies of "true seductreses." You won't find Marilyn Monroe or Madonna here, but you will find Mae West and Catherine the Great, plus some names you might not know as well, such as journalist Martha Gellhorn or "homely siren" Pauline Viardot. All are women who shattered the stereotypes of desirability. Most were neither beautiful nor submissive, and Prioleau categorizes them by type: scholars, artists, adventurers, political leaders.

Many of these women are inspirations. But in her rush to prove this, Prioleau makes some missteps. She holds up as "self-actualized" women who cheated on their husbands, kept multiple lovers, and left callous trails of broken hearts. (Having your pick of men is admirable, but the most intuitive conclusion is that you might eventually actually pick one.)

In choosing this view, Prioleau slips into the trap of many modern feminists: that a woman finds liberation by behaving just as terribly as the worst male cad. Indeed, Prioleau makes some uncomfortable generalizations about men: They cheat, fear women's sexuality, and "binge out on casual infidelity, wife trade-ins, and hit-and-run sex." This hardly seems fair, and the book is best read while sharply aware of this bias.

But darn if it isn't an interesting read.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Erica N. Herron on October 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
I think what many of the previous reviewers found offensive was that the author turned the sexual double standard on its head; the old "promiscuous men are studs and pimps, promiscuous women are slut and whores" axiom. In this book, promiscuous women who enjoyed sex and didn't allow men to objectify them are the real and ultimate pimps, the studs. These women took on the male role of sexual conquerer and they are seen in a positive light for it. Although I personally can't imagine this being a satisfying lifestyle, I think it's awesome that some women have really put on the boys' shoes, dodged marriage and commitment, had successful careers, pursued attractive men, and toyed with lovers.

Women's sexuality is so often used against them, so often seen as their weakness that it is disturbing to the popular mind to see women using their sexuality, which society says is their mortal Achilles heel to be exploited by men, to their advantage. The notion that women would use the very weapon that's brandished against them to conquer the world is terrifying. It's okay to see women on the front of magazines displaying themselves for men's pleasure, but it's *not* okay when they use that display for their own personal gain, their own pleasure. They become dangerous.

And this wonderful book is about dangerous women. It's delightfully readable. It shows how many very accomplished women have been mistreated by historians (Did you know Cleopatra was *also* a great ruler, besides just being the mistress of Mark Antony? Did you know she was ugly?
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