Author(s): Clement Knox
What makes a bad choice irresistible? In brilliantly original history, Clement Knox offers new insight into the art - and history, legality, politics and literature - of seduction.
If sex has generally been agreed a private matter, seduction has always been of intense public interest. Whether the stuff of front-page tabloid news, the scandal of nineteenth-century American courts, or the heart and soul of the literature across the eras, we are fascinated by stories of temptation and resistance, seduction and sex.
In the first history of its kind, Clement Knox explores seduction in all its romantic traditions. But he also resets our view of seduction as a political, cultural force: a hatemonger seduces the vulnerable, and a politician courts the voter.
Knox's history moves from the Odyssey to the medieval damsel to 1720s Venice, when the world's most famous womaniser - Casanova - was born. He writes of Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughter Mary Shelley and her friend Caroline Norton with their fight for women's rights and freedom. He recounts the story of 1890s Texas, when a black man named Henry Smith was tortured and lynched, exciting thousands of spectators to come and cheer. He explores how Hitler attracted millions; how the twentieth century vampire symbolised the - terrifying - sudden existence of women's libido; and how Neil Strauss' 2005 book The Game became a multi-million bestseller, exposing the unrealised male appetite for a guide to manipulating women.
In big-thinking, political history told through an extraordinary range of stories, Knox explores how our ideas about desire and pursuit have developed in step with the world. Many values have changed over time. More base preoccupations have not. This is a bold, modern charter of seduction, from Zeus' wandering eyes, to the explosion of romantic literature, and right up to the reckoning moments today for 'incel' culture and #MeToo.