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I agree with Jensen in many ways: I do hope that more men will want to move away from pornography and the toxic sorts of attitudes it can create. I've definitely also felt horrified at times by the sexual culture I see around me (which is why American Psycho is one of my favorite books). At the same time, (while admittedly only skimming through a few times) I didn't see an exploration of the complex reasons for pornographic use, nor concrete ideas for creating learning conversations about pornography. Given these things, I don't see a reason to read it.
The main motivation for pornographic use the author focuses on is masculine self-image. To be a man, it requires the domination of women. Okay, so why do men pursue that image? What is it in their own lives that makes that image seductive? There were no interviews with men of their stories and struggles with porn dependency/addiction and the complex difficulties in their life that led to that. He at least shows the influence of socialization of this image, but doesn't consider whether other situational factors such as family and social experiences, past trauma, or coping skills have any influence on porn use. Instead the author repeats the same claim over and over, and tries to show evidence for it by looking at pornographic videos and the porn industry. The films Shame (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy) and The Free Will give a better idea, though I have yet to find any relevant books. There is also little advice for overcoming porn dependency/addiction. If you want that, some books that have been helpful for me are: The Sex Addiction Workbook: Proven Strategies to Help You Regain Control of Your Life (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) and Self-Directed Behavior.
A number of times in the book the author sees the necessity of delivering messages to men in condemnation of their immoral, patriarchal practices and attitudes. How exactly will that lead to any learning conversation about pornography? I'd rather rely on Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.
I'm saddened by the number of people who have misunderstood this book because I've encountered various people who could really use it to transform their own lives and the lives of those they might build connections with. I'm going to use this review to clear up some misconceptions about the book and give a few points of advice in using it.
There are some who read the Art of Seduction and immediately assume from the language Greene uses that it can only be used by someone who wants to gather conquests, or to sexually or emotionally exploit people and make them their playthings.
Many seem to have missed a quote from the acknowledgments section: "First, I would like to thank Anna Biller for her countless contributions to this book: the research, the many discussions, her invaluable help with the text itself, and, last, but not least, her knowledge of the art of seduction, of which I have been the happy victim on numerous occasions." Greene still lives with Biller. He talks about his own seduction in an interview which I've posted in the comments, which may also clear up some misunderstandings.
If you read the book carefully, especially the chapter on victim types, you'll recognize that when Greene uses the term "victim", he is referring to concepts of which exploitation can be a part, but helping enrich someone's life in a way they desire can also be. First, we are victims in the sense that, when we are seduced, our seducer opens a defining wound or wounds in our personality, such as dissatisfaction with our circumstances or something about us. The term "target" is a reference to the metaphor of Cupid's arrow. Second, we are victims of a seduction in the sense that parts of are life are gradually left behind or destroyed as we come into a new life that our seducer leads us toward. Whether this new life is good or bad for us in the long run depends on our seducer and the ways in which we attempt to meet our individual needs - sometimes desires fulfill a need only at a superficial level.
Some also say that to follow the Art of Seduction, you are not being your authentic self; that you are acting out a kind of fake simulation of a fantasy figure for the seduced. To these people I would point out a concept in social psychology known as the Fundamental Attribution Error: in the initial impressions we get of others, we have a tendency to attribute the behaviors someone engages in to their overarching personality traits rather than to the circumstances of the situation. If you reveal intense or vulnerable sides of yourself soon off in a relationship, people will assume that is how you tend to be--they don't know enough about you to think otherwise. In the seductive process, you are gradually revealing yourself. Now, it is true that in a love affair you are to some degree applying a fantasy aura to some of your traits, but this can be a pleasurable way to bring out the private side of your target so they can access transformative attitudes and feelings. Consider also that there are different approaches to using the steps and ideas in the book. As Greene says, "select certain things that strike you as something you can do."
Why does Greene write as he does? Perhaps the following quote will shed some light on this issue: "The problem in writing such a book [The 48 Laws of Power], as I saw it then, was the massive amount of confusion surrounding the subject. Few people like to admit they are motivated by ambition or a hunger for power. That seems too ugly. If somehow they attain some success in life it is because of their goodness or talent, never because of any maneuvering or political gamesmanship. Many people are masters at passive aggression--disguising their grabs at power behind a benign or smiling façade.
All of this moralizing and denial creates a great deal of fog. To pierce this fog and get at the reality, I devised a method that has served me well in all of my subsequent writings: I would ignore people's words and justifications; instead, I would study their actions. To show what is timeless and universal in this hunger for power, I would look at the most illustrious people in history--all periods, all cultures--and ruthlessly dissect their successes and failures." [...]
There are some things we may find hard to acknowledge about love affairs. The idea that having to go through some emotional turmoil or getting emotionally rough treatment can sometimes engender confidence and a greater ability to engage with the world may be disturbing to some, but it can, as it did for Napoleon, and Nietzsche to some extent. I think rather than applying the emotional and vague label "love" to a relationship, it's better to evaluate, specifically, what dynamics are going on between those involved and how their separate lives are affected.
Greene may have also written in the way he did and given so many destructive examples because he wanted to caution people about the possible ruin we need to fight against in relationships. We need to be able to perceive when a seducer wants to exploit us rather than connect with us and help us, and we need to know which of our desires can be self-destructive.
Greene deliberately avoids putting his personal philosophy on seduction in to the book. You can get some sense of it in a video interview, of which the following is an excerpt: [...]
"The thing in seduction is everybody that you're dealing with is an individual and your problem is you're bringing with you your baggage, your past, your stereotypes about who a man is or what a woman is like. The other sex is almost, Freud said, is like another country. You know you don't really understand them in any way, so you bring with you all of these stereotypes, these preconceptions and you just throw them on that person, and then you also have these lines that you learn from Robert Greene's book, all right, the Game or some other stupid thing like that, and then you know it's like you're not dealing with that person as who they are, and they know it and they feel it and it feels empty and mechanical. And so I preach it in The Art of Seduction is knowing that person, gathering intelligence on them. I hate to put it that way. Figuring out what makes them tick, who they are, what their needs are, what they're missing in life, what they want. [...] If you're able to make that person feel like an individual and that they are wanted and desired for who they are then you're going to seduce them whether your try boldness or whatever it is. So it's more like individualizing the people you're trying to seduce or reach in life."
Some things that may make it easier to understand the book: First, it's useful to try to interpret the implicit principles or methods in the stories that aren't always mentioned in the interpretations. Second, studying some of the types and needs or desires seen in the stories can also be useful. Rather than labeling yourself or others, think of these as hints towards studying people's deeper and more multifaceted complexities. Third, the steps in each phase of the seductive process aren't all that step-by-step; there's a lot of going back and forth and mixing among the steps. And of course, which steps you decide to use will define how you connect with the person you are interested in.
Lastly, it might be helpful to look into books on conversation skills, conflict management, storytelling, body language, and behavioral modification. So can exploring the books, music and other media you are interested in and that your target or your target's group may be interested in. Explore large cities nearby you - the bars, music, and other entertainment, as well as the parks and other natural places of interest (browsing local weekly publications or neighborhoods in Yelp can be useful for finding such places, though don't always trust the reviewers to know what you might enjoy). You may notice that the people who open up something important for you listen to music that greatly contrasts with what you typically listen to. It can also be useful to analyze the personalities you identify with or idealize in the Art of Seduction or in other literature you are lucky enough to come across - try to figure out the attitudes, conflicts, and needs which motivate their actions.