Like many others, I too read through Sydney Leathers' poorly written, cringeworthy tell-all on xoJane today where she dished her advice on seducing a high-profile man based on her experience sexting with NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. It's events like these that give seduction a bad name, and since apparently I'm the defender of seduction these days, I'm going to address them.
There were so many things that were not okay about this affair that it's difficult to know where to begin. Weiner's behavior was reprehensible, obviously, but for the sake of this post, I'm going to concentrate on Leathers, since what I study is female seduction. Please don't misread that as condoning Weiner's dishonesty and disloyalty, however. I'm simply choosing to concentrate on the parts of this issue that are most relevant to the kind of wisdom I have to offer.
photo via Jezebel
As a self-made seductress, I have seduced some fairly well-known men in my day. But I seduced them because I was, you know, actually interested in dating them. (It bears noting that they were also single.) The presence of desire is what makes seduction ethical, and integrity, in my opinion, is a highly seductive quality. Your actions must align with your intentions.
I could talk about the immorality of having an affair with a married man, or of a married man himself having an affair, neither of which sit too well with me, but it's not my style to impose my own views where that's concerned. Lord knows there are plenty of people out there doing it, and if Weiner hadn't been sexting Sydney, he'd have certainly sexted someone else. I've had enough trouble in the past with guys who lied and told me they were single (or implied they were poly) to put me off of taken men for the rest of my romantic life. But what really strikes me about this situation, what really makes me cringe, is how someone could appear proud at the act of violating another person's privacy.
It is never okay to out a lover who hasn't consented to going public with you. I'm not just speaking of illicit affairs. If you're going to date someone -- and really this goes for anyone but especially a partner who's high-profile -- it's essential courtesy to wait for certain signs from them before you start splashing your affair all over your social media (or in this case, calling the papers). For me, I use the word "boyfriend" as a metric. Once my lover and I start referring to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, I take that as a public stance. Anyone who's going to hold the title of boyfriend in my life is going to be unafraid of showing he's proud to be with me, so I'm not going to go out of my way to hide our status. If someone does have a problem with that, well, then we'll have a conversation about the reasons behind that fear. If they have a legitimate reason for needing to keep their personal life private (and not just a cover for "I'm trying to hide you from four other girls who also think they're my girlfriend"), then I'll probably make an exception, because if they're my boyfriend then chances are I care deeply about their comfort. But anyone who's not a boyfriend gets referred to on my blogs and social media as "my crush," "a boy," "my date," or "this guy I'm seeing." No exceptions.
There's a self-serving reason for this, and this is what Ms. Leathers apparently can't see: if you go around dishing all the secrets of the guys you've been with, no self-respecting man will ever want to date you again. Being seen as a potential liability to the person you want to date is possibly the most anti-seductive thing ever. No sane man wants to feel that his intimate moments with you might one day be a linkbait sensation on Gawker. I feel a little bad for Leathers in her naivete, thinking that full disclosure (including verbatim sexcerpts from her exchanges with Weiner) was the best way to handle Buzzfeed's outing of her. She's doing harm to Weiner and his family, obviously, but she's doing arguably even more damage to herself. I understand the impulse to own one's actions and the power in not keeping any secrets for others to hold over your head; ever since the New York Post outed me as a professional dominatrix in 2008, I've been transparent about my BDSM-steeped past, even so much as to include it in my book as a cornerstone from which I'd learned much about the art of seduction. But when it comes to secrets you share at the expense of someone else, especially a lover, no response will ever trump "I have no comment."
And this is coming from someone who theoretically might have something to profit by in the publicity of a successful seduction. I mean, is it slightly sociopathic of me that one of my first thoughts in response to Leathers was "And she doesn't even have a product!"? She's sold out her romantic integrity for, what, a five-minute softcore porn clip, a bad modeling campaign, and an interview on Howard Stern? I've been asked by the press before to disclose some of the guys I've dated, and I have always given them (and always will) a firm no. Because revealing my lovers to the public without their consent for the purpose of increasing my Amazon sales would make me a raging cunt. And then I'd have to live with being a raging cunt, and frankly I can't do that. I'm hard enough on myself as it is.
Sexts are sacred. Sext photos, just as much so. When you're with a lover, the intimacy that you feel with them manifests itself in the secret words and images you send to them. They highlight the trust that you feel in one another. That's why they're sexy -- precisely because they're a physical reminder of how deeply you are placing your most intimate self in the hands of another human being. You are trusting this person with parts of yourself and your sexuality that are definitively not on view to the public, trusting them to have those parts of you even if the day comes when you're no longer together, even if you have the messiest of breakups and part on terrible terms. Your trust in that person transcends the boundaries of the immediate relationship. And trust is sexy. Intimacy is sexy. Allowing someone to have some sort of physical keepsake of your desire for them is a deeply generous act.
I'm already naked on the internet, but there are some photos and videos of me in the possession of some of my exes that I definitely wouldn't want cropping up on Fleshbot. How do I know that my exes won't violate that trust that I put in them at a time when we surely felt very differently about one another than we do now? I don't, honestly. That's part of why it was hot at the time.
And yeah, for someone like Weiner, his turn-on was clearly more about the danger (no pun intended) involved in exchanging illicit missives with a secret internet mistress than about an expression of intimacy that he actually felt with a real-life partner, and so his sexts were a much dumber idea than ones that happen within the boundaries of a legitimate relationship. How can you trust someone you've never met with things you don't want exposed to the public? You probably can't. It's just a bad, bad idea. I don't feel particularly sorry for him.
But I do feel sorry for Leathers, a bit, in her misguided attempts to parlay an outing as a politician's sext mistress into some sort of reclaimed fame-whoredom. I applaud her efforts not to come off as a victim, but the damage she's doing to her trustworthiness will probably never go away. Girl, is breach of trust really what you want to be known for?
One thing I've learned over the years about seduction is that when women, myself included, first get into studying the art of attraction, many of them enjoy the idea of branding themselves as a sort of femme fatale. It feels sexy and powerful and so opposite of the AFC lives we've been living up to that point. We want to be dangerously desirable, the heroines of our own films noir. But what I've learned from actually dating men over the past several years is that most functional men aren't actually attracted to women who seem dangerous. Hell, men get easily scared off sometimes just by a woman mentioning she's dating other guys. The most popular cause of my getting dumped, I learned by having some excruciating conversations with some former lovers, was my partner thinking I wasn't really all that into him. One even thought I was going to leave him for my ex, and decided to disappear on me rather than, you know, ask me about it and possibly face rejection. Guys aren't typically attracted to the prospect of getting hurt, and those that are don't exactly make for the best prospects as lovers. (Unless it's in that BDSM way that I know all too well, in which case, no judgments.)
I go out of my way to make myself as trustworthy as possible, even when that kind of goes against my marketing as notorious seductress. I pride myself on my transparency, when appropriate, and on my discretion, also when appropriate. But most of all I pride myself on my sincerity. If I'm seducing you, it's because I want you, sexually, romantically, spiritually. And that desire is something I hold sacred. My desire for you means I like you enough to actively not ever want to fuck you over in the public eye.
I wrote a blog post three years ago where I talked about the ethics of seduction, and in it I wrote,
I watch what I do and how I operate because when I do meet the next person that I fall in love with, I don't want that person to have to be with someone who's done a lot of bad things. I know that I am going to think the world of that person, and I am going to believe that he deserves someone wonderful, someone kind, generous, and loving. Someone who's brought good into the world rather than harm. And that's who I want to be, because that's what I want to be able to offer him.
At the end of the day, this work is about who you want to be when you look in the mirror. You have to be able to live with yourself and your choices, and you have to be the kind of person that you believe your ideal partner would want to be with so that you can be with that partner without shame or regret. And while there's some room for individual interpretation there, violating someone's trust publicly is just never a good look. Your integrity is worth far more than whatever's on the other end of that bargain.