When I began studying men, I had no intention of learning anything about women, and I had no interest whatsoever in femininity. Little did I know I was about to be taught by the experts – men. Men know so much more about femininity than women. Funny, isn’t it? I began studying men in 1991 with the question, “What if men are responding to women?” Well, they often are, and do so when we least expect it. Men respond to femininity in very powerful, predictable ways.
When we discuss femininity in Understanding Men, women frequently conjure up these feminine stereotypes: “Femme Fatale,” “Damsel-in-Distress,” “Southern Belle,” and “Dowdy Grandma.” Femininity is so much more than these one-dimensional concepts.
Femininity covers a broad spectrum of extraordinary and delightful qualities. To make femininity more accessible and easier to understand, we group these qualities together into three archetypes: “Temptress,” “Mother” and “Queen.” These archetypes don’t exist in reality, but they make it easier to see the effects of femininity. Fortunately for us all, every woman is born with these qualities innate in her being. Femininity however, like our muscles, may atrophy from disuse. Recognizing these qualities, and keeping femininity alive within us, is examined in detail in Understanding Men.
The Temptress includes those qualities of physical energy like playfulness, sensuality and sexuality. But the Temptress is not aggressive, that would be masculine. Her physical energy is more like a tickle, an invitation, a warm fire attracting visitors. The Temptress is tempting, inviting the pursuit of men, not pursuing them. When a woman expresses this special feminine energy, men respond by wanting to participate with her. Men will describe her as “sexy,” no matter what she is wearing. These qualities attract attention, physical affection and sexual interest.
When a woman expresses the playful aspect of her femininity (without the sensual or sexual), everyone is invited to participate. This quality is very charming, like a magical spell that makes life more fun for all. All men, and young boys especially, will respond to this playful energy by adoring their mother or any other woman who interacts with them that way.
All women have the ability to express the Temptress energy. It is important to do so consciously. Women who indiscriminately exude their sensuality and sexuality will experience being “hit on” often and think that men are the cause. Actually, men are responding to their communication, conscious or otherwise. The wise woman will direct the Temptress energy in a laser-like fashion at the men of her choice, instead of broadcasting it widely.
Many women, especially as they get deeper into their 30s, stop expressing the Temptress qualities. There are many reasons for this. One, the Temptress is inherently physical, which means she requires energy to be expressed. As our families and careers absorb all our attention, there is often little energy left over for fire of the Temptress. We are too tired to be sensual or sexual or just plain fun.
Another reason we don’t see much of the Temptress past 30 is that, whether we become biological mothers or not, we begin mothering the men in our lives. We focus more on support than on play and participation. While this support is essential to men (read more about this in Gather Round the Mother Hearth), dropping out our playful, physical energy makes our relationships very dull.
Lastly, many of us suppress the Temptress because she got us into trouble in our teens and 20s. This was not our fault, but a result of too little useful information. Forgive yourself. Forgive men, if you can. By understanding the predictable effects of the Temptress, and by understanding male sexuality, it is possible to “play safe” with this potent feminine energy. Learning to handle your own fire is better than putting it out.
If you have put your Temptress under the bed, and you want to bring her out, here are some things you can do to nurture her.
To better understand male sexuality and understand how it relates to the Temptress, graduates of Understanding Men are encouraged to participate in Understanding Men, Sex & Intimacy. This program is healing, freeing and fun. You will learn how to honor your own needs while understanding those of your partner.