Sunday, May 11, 2014

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES: The Seduction of a 15-Year-Old French Nymphet

I wrote in The Allure of Nymphets that the opening credits for Cruel Intentions (1999) revealed that the movie was “suggested” by the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos De Laclos. 

Here's the abbreviated Wikipedia plot summary of Les Liaisons dangereuses:

The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous, married ... Madame de Tourvel. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young [15-year-old] Cécile de Volanges, whose mother has only recently brought her out of a convent to be married — to Merteuil's previous lover [36-year-old M. le Comte de Gercourt], who has rudely discarded her. [However] Cécile falls in love with the Chevalier Danceny (her young music tutor), and Merteuil and Valmont pretend to help the secret lovers in order to gain their trust and use them later in their own schemes.

Merteuil suggests that the Vicomte seduces Cécile in order to enact her revenge on Cécile's future husband. Valmont refuses, finding the challenge too easy, and preferring to devote himself to seducing [22-year-old] Madame de Tourvel. Merteuil promises Valmont that if he seduces Madame de Tourvel and provides her with written proof, she will spend the night with him. He expects rapid success, but does not find it as easy as his many other conquests. During the course of his pursuit, he discovers that Cécile's mother has written to Madame de Tourvel about his bad reputation. He avenges himself in seducing Cécile as Merteuil had suggested. In the meantime, Merteuil takes Danceny as a lover.

By the time Valmont has succeeded in seducing Madame de Tourvel, he seems to have fallen in love with her. Jealous, Merteuil tricks him into deserting Madame de Tourvel — and reneges on her promise of spending the night with him. In retaliation Valmont reveals that he prompted Danceny to reunite with Cécile, leaving Merteuil abandoned yet again. Merteuil declares war on Valmont and reveals to Danceny that Valmont has seduced Cécile.

We already know why Valmont seduced Cécile, who is described in the novel as "really pretty, she is only fifteen; a rosebud...[an] innocent convent-girl..." but let's take a look at how he seduced the nymphet. 

1. Self-Confidence 

Valmont possesses a very high level of self-confidence and he clearly practices Assumed Attraction i.e., he has no doubt in his mind that Cécile will be attracted to him and that he could seduce the maiden. Valmont boasts that Cécile, "...would be handed over to me defenseless, who could not fail to be intoxicated by a first attention...whom curiosity would probably lead more rapidly than love."

What Kerry Cohen wrote in Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity supports Valmont's stance that females become intoxicated by male attention. She wrote "What they crave is attention, that moment when a boy looks at them and they can believe that they are worth something to someone. They can believe that they matter."

2. Presence\Focus Charisma

In addition, Valmont is focused, which is an essential part of charisma according to the book The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Madame de Volanges wrote that Valmont "...has never from his earliest youth taken one step or said one word without a purpose..." And the author of the ebook The October Man Sequence advises that pickup artists should maintain that level of moment-to-moment focus.

3. Self-Efficacy

Geoff Colvin relates in Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else that for one to be a world-class performer he should possess self-efficacy, which is a tool that can be used to help one succeed in specific situations. One aspect of self-efficacy is using Performance Outcomes (i.e., past experiences) to increase one's self-confidence. 

In an attempt to humble Valmont, Marquise de Merteuil wrote, "You [Valmont] have seduced, ruined even, a number of women...Where is there in that any merit which is really yours? A handsome face, the result of mere chance; grace, which is almost always given by experience...quite praiseworthy impudence (i.e., extreme self-confidence), but probably due solely to the facility of your first successes..."

Thus, Valmont's attractive grace and impudence can be attributed to his previous Performance Outcomes.

4. Attention via Eye-Contact

Michael Ellsberg wrote in the book The Power of Eye Contact that eye contact "... doesn't create attraction. What it does do ... is reveal attraction and makes both parties unmistakably aware of it."

Consequently, Valmont used eye contact to reveal is attraction to Cécile. He made use of "tender and pressing" glances, which caused the nymphet to "lower her large, modest eyes." After looking at her "angelic face" his eyes wandered "... over all her person" He said, "... I amused myself by guessing at the curves and forms through a light but always troublesome garment. After I had descended from the head to her feet, I returned from the feet to her head. My fair friend, that soft gaze was fixed upon me...Then there was established between us...the first treaty of love..."

5. Gorilla Seduction

Valmont requested that Cécile remove the key to her bedroom door from her mother's mantle, so that he could procure a copy under the guise of making it easier for him to relay letters to Cécile from Danceny. But what Valmont really had in mind were "nocturnal rendezvous".

After making a copy of the key and making sure "everything was quiet in the chateau", armed with a dark lantern, Valmont made his way into Cécile's bedroom. Cécile, whom Valmont describes as having a, "... little person's pretty look", a "fresh mouth", and a "childish air" was asleep, but he was able to wake her without causing a stir in the chateau.

Valmont wrote, "... I promised everything for a kiss...After much bargaining, we agreed on a second...Then I guided the timid arms around my body, I held her more amorously in one of mine, and the soft kiss was indeed received...I have begun to like slow methods, I tell you. Once certain of arriving, why hurry on the journey so fast?"

But Valmont didn't wait long before moving on to the next phase of seduction. He wrote that Cécile, "yielded at first and ended up by consenting... we did not separate until we were satisfied with each other and had both agreed..." on the next rendezvous.

It's worth sharing that Valmont didn't get back to room until dawn and "...was worn out with fatigue.." but went to breakfast, because he had a "...passion for observing behaviors the morning after." And Valmont observed that the nymphet he seduced had, "... embarrassment in her countenance! Difficulty in walking! Eyes continually lowered, and so large and so tired!"

If you read the novel, it may appear that Valmont raped Cécile, but the maiden admitted she didn't thwart Valmont's advances as aggressively as she could have. She wrote, "...I am afraid I did not defend myself as much as I could have...there were moments when I was if I loved him...and I was weak enough to consent that he should come again this evening..."

After subsequent late night visits from Valmont, Cécile wrote, "... I must admit there is great pleasure in it; so I am scarcely at all unhappy...And also M. de Valmont is very charming!"

But Valmont didn't stop there. You used another seduction technique on the nymphet. One that he wrote, "... is not always necessary for seducing a girl, it is indispensable and often the most efficacious way, when you wish to deprave her.." And what seduction technique did he use? He falsely related "scandalous adventures" about Cécile's mother, for "...she who does not respect her mother will not respect herself..." 

And before long Valmont had seduced the nymphet to meet in his room. He wrote, "I have received her there twice; and in this short space the scholar has become almost as learned as the master. Yes, truly, I have taught her everything, including the complaisances!"

After the scandalous novel, which the author stated was based on personal observations of French nobles, was published in 1782, it was enjoyed by the likes of Queen Marie Antoinette. And despite the fact that Les Liaisons Dangereuses involves a middle-aged man seducing, "ruining", and taking the virginity of a 15-year-old girl, it has been adapted into a number of plays, films, television shows, ballets, radio shows and operas. 

For example, Dangerous Liaisons (1988) starred 17-year-old (nude) Uma Thurman as Cécile and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Louisa Krause as Cecile in the Huntington Theatre Company Production of
Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Boston University Theatre


  1. "Dangerous Liaisons (1988) starred 17-year-old (nude) Uma Thurman as Cécile"

    FYI, Uma was 17 only if filming began before her 18th birthday in April of 1988, which is more than possible. The Film actually had a premiere date of December 11th 1988, well past her 18th birthday.

    1. Yes. We base the date on the time of the filming and assume that the filming was done at least a year prior to its release, but this method is not error free. By the way, thanks for the reminder. I'm going to edit a clip for Vid.