We asked two of our favorite female photographers about the evolution of sex and seduction for the final interview of our “Design & Desire” series. Mayan Toledano, also the founder of lingerie brand “Me & You,” and Lula Hyers tell us what they think of the dominant male from the fifties, famously portrayed in the “Playboy’s Progress.” Read below where Mayan and Lula explain that seduction shouldn’t be a promise of sex, and the dance of attraction shouldn’t always be dictated by gender.
What is seduction to you?
Mayan: A secret feeling between two people. Something that is mutual, where two people meet not necessarily a motive or an action.
Lula: I think the best seduction is eye contact. The way someone looks at you can say a lot. Seduction can definitely be curated and improved.
Mayan: Definitely, from how it is traditionally to a more gender free way of communicating sexual attraction.
Lula: Think about how long women have been socialized to follow certain steps that lead up to having sex. To have authentic sex that isn’t just following steps you need to unlearn that and follow your feelings.
What do you think of the “Playboy’s Progress” map?
Lula: It scared me because the whole time it felt so curated in a manipulative and creepy way. The drink after drink, the expectation for something in return for his "charm" and hospitality, then when she doesn't want to have sex, the ignore her and she will crawl back to him...very gross. Obviously, this is a dated piece but this style of pursuit is still very visible in today's hookup culture. Thankfully, from my experience it's beginning to change for the better. This map promotes heteronormativity as the norm as well as solidifies very boring gender roles. I think people who are uncomfortable with the idea of fluidity in terms of roles in the bedroom or even just in life, haven't tried it. People share both masculine and feminine energy and we need to allow our partners to call on both no matter how they identify as to let one another be free and happy. We need to show that anyone can play any role… Because to have better sex and to dismantle things like rape culture and gender roles and to be more comfortable in life, in bed, whatever it be, we need to all feel like we can approach sex without barriers. This map doesn't talk at all about discussing what the person coming over is comfortable with, the idea of a drink is not something we should promote as a “step.” Of course, people have drinks and then have sex but that with no discussion of what is ok is not ok.
Mayan: Seduction only used to apply to men before but today I think traditional roles are too obvious for a lot of people. I find it boring, of course, I want to be pursued sometimes, but I also want to have the choice and feel free of what is expected of me. There’s no reason to be passive or shamed for my intentions or sexuality. If we are trapped in gender performance all the time we (females) are left behind, having less space and less voice so progress is really necessary. Less gender, more choices. The map is basically describing a passive female visitor, coming into a male’s space where she can only be “tricked” to bed. The goal of the night is to have sex rather than getting to know the person in front of you. It doesn’t speak about consent and basically, desensitize men to women’s pleasure.
“Less gender, more choices.”—Mayan
Mayan: Totally it does, the fact that everything is prepped for sex and that every action describes how the female is following the male figure. Arriving at a new space already puts you in a vulnerable position.
Lula: Because of movies and porn the action of a man cumming is the defining point at which sex is over and is the thing that you "work to" and that takes away from the whole experience. That heteronormative lens also delegitimizes the many other types of sex that exist.
Mayan: Sex without spontaneity to me is so boring.
Lula: Same. It’s like if you are just waiting for it to happen… What’s the use? And it’s like “ooop he came it’s over done.” But that sucks.
Mayan: It just feels unnatural; instincts can’t be calculated like that.
“To have authentic sex that isn’t just following steps you need to unlearn that and follow your feelings.”—Lula
Have you ever walked into a man’s apartment prepped to attract female’s acquaintances, and could you tell?
Mayan: LOL Turn off... Maybe happened once with like incense and I found it really gross.
Lula: Hahaha usually the guys I go home with have super messy rooms like me. I feel like I've never walked into a guys house that was don johned ya know.
Mayan: Ya, me neither.