The Art of Seduction
Reviewed By Gary Vogin
Sept. 14, 2001 -- When I read that Rene Russo enlisted a sex-appeal coach to prepare for her smoldering role in The Thomas Crown Affair, I was immediately skeptical. After all, I'm pretty sure sculptured cheekbones and perky breasts can't be learned. Still I wonder: With a little professional help, can your average woman -- OK, me -- go from tepid to tamale?
Intrigued, I do what any gal looking to boost her babe quotient would do: I head to Los Angeles. I've booked a one-hour session with Barbara Biggs, PhD, the Los Angeles sex therapist I've chosen to cultivate my inner siren.
Before I set out, though, I have a dilemma to solve: How does one dress for seductress school? Should my hair be up or down? What if my personal sex-appeal coach tells me I'm hopeless, that my Wonderbra was a waste of money? I haven't felt this flustered since my last blind date. And he wasn't even a doctor. No wonder I'm nervous.
By chance, Biggs does not live up to her name: She's actually quite petite. She's also warm and friendly, which instantly puts me at ease. And she gets right down to business.
Debunking the Myths
"The biggest misconception about sex appeal," she says, "is that there's one definition or ideal." She often hears women telling her, "I've got to have long hair" or "I've got to have long legs" if they have any hope of measuring up on the sexiness scale.
There is definitely more than one definition of what's sexy, she says, so if you meet someone whose description of sexiness doesn't fit you, you can walk away and fulfill someone else's definition.
There are other misconceptions, as well. Warmth, Biggs says, is the essence of sexiness. (And all along, I thought it was the strategically timed hair toss.)
"The average guy does not see himself as a super-stud," she says. (This, too, is news to me.)
"A friendly smile, with eye contact, shows you're confident and approachable and probably won't shoot him down, something most guys find incredibly appealing," Biggs says. (Now, I'm relaxing a little. After all, who can't smile and zero in on someone else's eyes?)
My coach continues: "There's a saying: 'If you think you're the most beautiful woman in the room, you will be.'" The same applies to sexy.
Your Personal Top 10 List
But if you can't imagine thinking that you're the sexiest person in any room -- ever -- it's time to catalog your positive traits. To do this, Biggs says, you have to look at yourself without judging. (Recruit several friends for unbiased feedback.)
First, address the body-image issue.
"Most women think they're too fat, but women are meant to be round," Biggs says. "This is about looking at your curves and appreciating them as an artist might. This is not about trying to count your ribs."
Write down other assets -- Nice eyes? Easy smile? Great voice? Ask your friends to validate the list. Step back, look it over, and you're likely to say, "Hmm ... not bad."
While you're still in that mood, scan your 10-best-things-about-me list and figure out how to emphasize your assets. If you're especially tall, take a Pilates class to perfect your posture. If you've got knockout eyes, experiment with new makeup, get your bangs away from them, and, if you wear "Coke-bottle" glasses, consider trading them in for contact lenses.
"If you don't think you're fabulous, nobody else is likely to think so either," she says. "Your body language will convey how you feel about yourself."
Assets and Deficits
I can't help it. I'm a masochist. I've got to ask: What am I doing right, and -- God help me -- where am I failing miserably?
"I find you very attractive," Biggs tells me. (Call me totally insecure, but I enjoy hearing this.) "You're friendly and warm, you talk easily, and you listen, which is key.
"But ..." (Here it comes!) "... if I were forced to find something wrong with you ..." (Who's forcing?) "... you might consider having fewer dark undertones in your hair ..." (Note to self: Book emergency highlight appointment.) "... and perhaps wearing some blush and eye shadow, to emphasize your eyes. On the other hand, you've got a great body and good arms." (Roots be damned! Biggs is my new best friend.) "Lots of women wear clothes that aren't appropriate for their shape, but you look great."
Keeping Some Perspective
I'm still contemplating the effects my bad hair and buffed biceps could be having on my sexpot status, but Biggs' next comment instantly snaps me out of it.
"You can't be sexy if you're not fully present," she says. "When you're with another person and your only concern is what they're thinking about you, you send out a message that nobody's home. You need to stay inside yourself and your experience. Ask yourself, 'Do I like what I see? Do I like the way this person is responding to me?' "
This, she says, is the key to honest communication, a skill that ranks way ahead of a smoldering look or a collagen-plumped pucker on the sexiness scale.
High on insight, I can't wait to test my new seduction skills. When my husband comes home, I greet him in a slinky little slip dress he loves (instead of the workout attire I'm usually wearing when he gets home) and plant a long, steamy kiss on his mouth, demonstrating my new-found sexiness.
Ignoring his questioning stare, I lead him into the dining room, listening to every word he says and then pointing him to a decadent array of snacks.
As I slide a sliver of avocado into his mouth, I casually mention another activity I have in mind for the evening. He's clearly surprised by my boldness and asks if I've been drinking. I shrug innocently and insist that sometimes I just can't keep my hands off of him.
I look him right in the eye, smiling, as I say this, and suddenly feel like I'm the sexiest woman on the block. He doesn't say another word -- and he doesn't need to.
Note to self: Practice new skills often.
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