History's most renowned ladies' man, Giacomo Casanova, appreciated and harnessed the power of flattery. When seducing a beautiful woman, Casanova complimented her on her intelligence. When seducing an intelligent woman, he emphasized her beauty. His reasons are obvious: beautiful women are told they're beautiful, intelligent women are told they're intelligent. The key, Casanova understood, was to offer a unique compliment, emphasizing something other than the obvious, making the woman feel special.
Casanova employed another tactic, hinging on the [female condition eternally preoccupied] with love and looks. After inviting a woman to dinner, he surrounded his apartment with mirrors, functioning as portraits by which she could both admire herself and watch Casanova admiring her during the meal. Vain? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
Despite two centuries having passed since the famous womanizer's death, women's natural preoccupation with love and beauty hasn't dramatically changed. 'Romance' is the best-selling fiction genre, amassing $1.4 billion per year, and the cosmetic, beauty supply, and perfume store industry includes about 13,000 stores with a combined annual revenue of around $10 billion. Sure, there are men who love everything from Jane Austen to Twilight to blemish-reducing foundation, but it's hardly presumptuous to classify both romance novels and makeup as predominantly "feminine."
While women have remained invested in conventionally feminine interests, the so-called "tactics" of seduction have experienced a dramatic, unfortunate shift away from pleasantries and compliments.
A recent phenomenon, "negging," has grown increasingly common in both young men's behavior and today's vernacular, managing to infiltrate the upper echelons of mainstream media. Negging, as defined by the oh-so-legitimate Urban Dictionary, is "a way to pick up girls" by tapping into female insecurities, employing subtle insults to debase a woman's confidence, making her more vulnerable to a man's advances. According to Neil Strauss, best-selling author of The Game, negging is the number-one most effective pick-up tactic.
To flirt is to neg. Young women almost expect to be insulted by a prospective suitor and respond accordingly, feigning frustration and then peacocking around for the rest of a night in an attempt to win his attention.
The growing popularity of this transparent mind-gaming is often blamed on men. After all, it is men who are employing this tactic on us "poor and defenseless" women.
Au contraire. The unfortunate truth is that negging is popular because it works. It works as well today for bands of young men as outrageous flattery did for Casanova. However, contrary to popular opinion, the roots of negging are not imbedded in the sociopathic egos of young men, but rather, in the origins of the second-wave feminist movement.
A famous feminist gibe of the 1970s was, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," promoting women's radical independence and complete disregard for men.
Negging is, first and foremost, a testament to a prevalent hostility between the sexes -- a hostility introduced by the feminist man-bashers of the 1960s and 70s and despised by young women today.
Craving the same attentiveness and compliments showered upon Casanova's paramours, modern women are utterly disenchanted by today's dating game, lamenting The End of Men and accepting self-deprecating, "flirtatious" banter as the norm.
It is a vicious cycle: women bash men, men insult women, women bash men. Rinse, repeat. One can't help but wonder... Could even Casanova survive in today's dating game?