I’m clearly not the first one to notice, but I was reflecting today on the relative joys of seduction and the objective of same, that is, the sex act itself. I’m certainly not going to knock the latter. But the interesting thing is that as far as cultural expression goes, the truly powerful stuff is related to seduction rather than copulation.
The event that sparked this line of thinking was my playing Rick Springfield’s Greatest Hits in my car this morning. You should be aware that Rick saved my sanity back when I was a pastor’s wife with two preschoolers living in the middle of Iowa farm country, with no job, friends, or even a satellite dish. City girl that I was, I would throw Rick on the turntable and stare out the windows at the grain elevators on the horizon, wishing they were skyscrapers of some neighboring urban paradise. My boredom and loneliness were greatly eased by Rick Springfield’s overtly seductive music. Few musicians have so unapologetically sung seduction as Rick, and I love him for comforting me with the balm produced by my own stimulated hormones.
Consider, if you will, the bridge from the song “Love is Alright Tonight”:
Don’t worry Daddy, I’ll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep Daddy, you won't think about tonight
With the night comes the feeling that I’ve got this incredible power
Gonna love her, Daddy, she’ll be feeling it tonight
Alright, it’s gonna be alright…
I too felt that Rick had “this incredible power,” derived largely from his having an awesome body, a gorgeous face, an extremely hot singing voice, and the ability to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar. The object of his lust (in fantasyland, me) was in big danger all right. She (if only it were me) would be feeling it and powerless to fight it.
Before I completely drift off my topic and into some Rick fantasy, here’s my point: in cultural expression, seduction often seems to make the world go round even more than love does, and certainly more than depictions of sex do. If the FCC allowed Victoria’s Secret to show copulation in its commercials, I suspect Madison Avenue would leave them as they are today. Temptation, teasing, hints and suggestions are so much more effective than handing over the cake.
In my erotic reading, the same principle holds true. When I read a story that plunges right into the orgy on page one, I derive very little from the experience. But I can get crazy hot and bothered when the seduction goes on for twenty pages. Is desire really that much more fun than satisfaction? That doesn’t really make sense! But sensible or no, it often proves true. I could handle hours of watching Rick Springfield playing guitar in leather pants, just hinting at the sex with his eyes and the placement of his instrument right over the groin. Meanwhile, although I haven’t actually seen such footage, watching him have sex would probably not be nearly so powerful. (Not that it would suck, but you know what I’m saying.)
It’s an interesting phenomenon. Desire without satisfaction is not usually particularly fun. I have no urge to spend time looking at pictures of food and never eating any of the tasty dishes. I’m not crazy about shopping unless I get to take something home with me. Reading the liner notes of CDs does absolutely nothing for me--the listening is everything. But with sex, we are interesting creatures. Men are willing to go to strip clubs knowing they are in for nothing but unfulfilled titillation. Women generally prefer looking at guys in jeans or even suits than guys engaged in sex acts. Heck, I’ll get off on listening to Rick Springfield singing without any visuals at all.
So do I have a theory to explain all this? Hey, it’s me...I always have a theory. And seeing as my theories usually involve the wonders of the imagination, why not go there right away and save time?
The imagination is the source of all things spiritually powerful, even the carnal things, if you’ll forgive that paradox. If you want power, give the imagination something to work with and let it fill in the gaps with whatever it most wishes to. Sure you could have a video of Rick Springfield having sex with some young girl. But how much more effective it is just to set some interesting lyrics to the right beat and have Rick put them out there in delicious voice, letting you create your own story.
I picture Rick luring the girl away from her home, barely concealing his lascivious propensities under the polite promise, “Don’t worry, Daddy, I’ll have her home at a respectable hour.” He doesn’t seem safe--you sense the fire underneath his reassuring demeanor. Then he admits to you to his conviction that he holds “incredible power”--the very sort of sexual power you’ve been sensing in his voice, and the voice of his guitar. His motives are not honorable, in fact he laughs at you for ever thinking that, he laughs at authority in his cocky certainty of his own sexual prowess: “Gonna love her, Daddy, she’ll be feeling it tonight.” Yeah, I bet she will.
See, my imagination filled in the gaps in the storyline with fodder from my own unique imagination, the fodder that is arousing to me in particular. Arousal is unique to each individual, whereas orgasm is a physical response that is always more or less the same. It’s somewhat analogous to the fact that after a meal the feeling of contented fullness is pretty much the same; it’s the route you took to get there than differs based on your personal taste and choice.
It’s in the course of arousal that a person’s particular needs are provoked and their satisfaction promised. Your attraction to men in beards, your yearning to be treated with a firm hand, your longing to surrender your inhibitions, whatever your individual psyche needs for balance and fulfillment--these things are addressed during the seduction. The final act, the copulation itself, is more of a “Yes!...thank you,” from a psychological perspective.
In my erotic romance writing I do make sure to write about the actual sex acts, but that’s always the toughest part. It’s important to weave in some material that will spark the imagination and inspire the reader, or there just won’t be much oomph there.
But writing seduction is a lot easier. I find material for that all over the place...even in the bridge to some 20 year old Rick Springfield song.