I was looking through the rich plethora of material on Brain Pickings recently when I stumbled across a piece on How To Make Love: Secrets of Wooing from the 1930s – a how-to guide in the art of seduction, released in 1936 by one Pietro Ramirez Sr.. Ramirez declares in the foreword that he is taking great strides to rid society of the “yoke of puritanism” through his guide. A Gregorian who pushed for sex-positivity even whilst surrounded by the Great Depression and the Nazis?! I thought. How fantastic!
How disappointed I was then, to discover Ramirez placing love and sex in a mutually exclusive bind, fixed tighter than your most faint-inducing Victorian corset. And instructing men that women, so vulnerable and weak as we are, should be treated with “the same gentleness as would a cat lifting her precious kittens”.
Turns out, Secrets of Wooing from the 1930s is more A Guide to Maintaining Rampant Misogyny than actually getting laid.
And with the beautiful gift of hindsight we can revel in the marvellous progressive steps forward that we have made as a society in nearly a century since…
“Man was created strong. Woman was created weak.” is a hilariously out-of-date highlight, albeit one that we can still see permeates through every layer of our society. Aside from the fact that homosexuality is completely ignored throughout this text, when looking at heterosexual relationships, are men still expected to be strong, and women weak? I’d argue that now just as ever that is the case. It’s just slightly less acceptable to say so. Unless you’re, y’know, in the “Men’s Rights Movement”. In which case, how did you end up on my blog?
Of course there has been progression. In the past few years Feminism has come back into the mainstream for the fourth wave, and the most powerful women in the world, such as Beyonce and Hilary Clinton, are supporting the, ahem, revolutionary concept that feminism means men and women are, and should be treated, equal. But as we battle in the trenches to take down the patriarchy and liberate all of us from the stifling clutches of it’s oppressive structure, it is still true that globally 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence from a male.
It is still true that globally 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence from a male.
And why? A plethora of reasons of course, but much of it can be traced back, as, all hail, Simone de Beauvoir explored, to the pervasive idea that Man is strong and Woman is weak, or to be more specific, Woman was made to be boned by Man. And any existence outside of that role is one that women have had to fight for. As he oh-so-eloquently phrases it in the guide, “She must always be passive. Man, it is, who must be the active partner. It is he who makes love to woman. He chases the woman who was made to be chased.” These sexist stereotypes are bad news for men too – suicide is the number one cause of death in men under 35. The structure of patriarchy is unhealthy for people of all genders, and fuels the capitalist money-making machine by keeping us all perpetually insecure, encouraging us to conform to gender binaries (i.e. man earn money, woman look after babies) in order to validate ourselves and our choices. And when we don’t live up to these unrealistic and often irrelevant expectations of us, society rejects us. Man must be strong and woman must be weak, because if they are not, then Man is not “man-enough” and woman is either “a femi-nazi”, “man hating” or inexplicably assumed a lesbian.
So while it would be easy just to dismiss How to Make Love as an outdated and hilarious time-capsule of Victorian repression, when I looked closer what I actually saw was a collection of ideas that have not yet been abolished. Perhaps most revelatory of all is the guide to kissing, which, as the article points out, verges dangerously close to date-rape. In it, the author assures us that only if the woman is physically scratching at your face should you take it as a hint not to continue trying to kiss her.
Wow, this guy really understood the psychology of women!
However, the outdated idea that a woman is only saying “no” to make you want her more is not only offensive, it’s profoundly dangerous. It is also true that the mystery of how to woo someone still remains just that, a mystery. The world of online dating, post “Tinder Apocalypse”, is tough. (See below…) Everyday Sexism is making strides to address catcalling and share stories of women being catcalled, but it still seems an inexplicable trend. Did you ever hear a woman say, “Oh, we met when he yelled ‘alright sexy legs’ out of the window of his van and I just dropped my knickers and asked him to take me right then and there”?
So, my advice on how to “woo” someone you fancy? As cliche as it sounds, just be yourself. And if you are on a dating app, maybe take a look at some of these tips instead… life is too short for bad Tinder chat.