Ellie Levenson: British men and the art of seduction

Share
Related Topics

Macmillan are going to publish Love Letters of Great Men, an invention by the makers of the film version of Sex and the City which, until now, didn't exist. The book, which Carrie reads while in bed with her lover Mr Big, and which he copies and sends in emails in order to woo her back after leaving her standing at the altar, includes letters by Pliny, Henry VIII, Mozart and Napoleon. Leaving aside the question of whether Henry VIII, divorced from two wives and murderer of two more, should be feted as an example of how to woo a woman, I am not convinced that sending love letters is the way to a woman's heart.

After all, the potential for errors is vast. I know a woman who won't date a man if he has an apostrophe in the wrong place, and we all know that the sweetest sentiment whispered in your ear in a romantic moment can look somewhat trite written down. Plus, there is the ongoing terror that love letters can be passed around friends for all to see, exposing the sender to ridicule, if not now then in the future when the passion has dulled and they've been caught whispering sweet nothings into somebody else's ear.

I don't think I have ever received a proper love letter. Drunken requests for sex sent by text at 3am, yes, but thoughtful poetry or declarations of undying love, no. I was, however, once sent a book and some chocolate by a man who had asked me out on a date. Deciding not to go on the date, I greedily ate the chocolate and put the book to one side. In fact, I only rediscovered it earlier this year while unpacking some boxes when I moved house. The book was a collection of poetry, The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy, in which poems are written from the perspective of the wives of famous men in history and literature.

My favourite is short and sweet, and reminds me of that feminist slogan: "Behind every great man there's a great woman." Written as if by Mrs Darwin, and dated 7 April 1852, it says: "Went to the zoo/I said to Him/ Something about that chimpanzee over there reminds me of you."

Sending me this book was the ultimate self-deprecating act against all of his gender, and in retrospect was very attractive. If only I had looked at it before casting it aside, the course of my life might have been rather different. For a study into the art of seduction, due to be published next month in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, has found that self-deprecating humour is the way to a potential mate's heart rather than the poetic musings favoured by Carrie and Mr Big.

The study, by the anthropologist Gil Greengross, looked at the seduction techniques of British people, and found that taking the mickey out of yourself makes you more desirable. This is a peculiarly British form of humour, allowing you to both show off your achievements and show a sense of modesty and, found the study, rarely works when used on foreigners, who tend to take what we say at face value.

I'm not a Darwin expert so don't know whether self deprecation was one of his talents. If it was, however, then he could well have developed it as an evolutionary method to find some extra-marital rumpy pumpy with any admirers of his work.

After all, if Greengross is to be believed, all he would have to do to make women swoon would be to shrug his shoulders and self-deprecatingly say. "it wasn't me, it was all my wife", something that would have saved the men in Macmillan's new book a whole lot of effort.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot