The Romantic Predator

The Don Juan motif has fascinated artists and thinkers for centuries. Tirso de Molina, in the 17th Century, created the archetype of the character as the proto-trickster, the promiscuous manipulator. Mozart's Don Giovanni is an elaboration, in an opera that overwhelms the senses with the sheer vitality of an entity that can only be described as a force of nature. Moliere and Lord Byron, among others, give him life. Bernard Shaw, in an interlude in his play, Man and Superman, consigns him to an honorable place in Hell. In our own era, in the '60's, cartoonist Jules Pfeiffer wrote the successful play, Harry, The Rat With Women, describing the sad/humorous shenanigans of a lothario using women for recreational sex. The film Alfie, dating from the same period, describes the many "conquests" of a Cockney truck driver. The seducer remains the hero of song and saga, or at least of the pop culture media.

The sexual predator, that dark and mysterious figure, the "stranger", unpredictable, hinting at danger, tinged with violence... what is there that so attracts women to him? Truly, there seems something almost magical about those few men who seem to be able to attract women at will. What secret do they possess that gives them this power, this intensity, this animal magnetism?

Users and manipulators is the key phrase. These men have learned how to spot and sniff out vulnerable women, the "wounded birds", the ones most susceptible to their brand of sorcery. They have mastered the art of "pushing the emotional buttons" of their fellow humans, exploiting the feelings and weaknesses of hurt people (and is not most everyone hurt?), playing women like a musical instrument. In their single-minded pursuit of pleasure, of self-gratification, they leave behind them a string of victims. These are haters of women, exploiters of human weakness, sociopaths*.

This little deviation into the dark alleys of the criminal mind, the underside of human nature, yields insight into the sad emptiness of the career seducer. There is little to admire in these creatures, considering the pain and wreckage they leave in their wake. We shy men can pride ourselves in being truly different, in being perceptive, sensitive, caring human beings, in being lovers of women. We are the ones who clean up the damage left behind by the monsters and the misbegotten. We bring beauty and healing into the world.

     What a chimera, then, is man! what a novelty, what a monster, what a
     chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy! A judge of all
     things, feeble worm of the earth, depositary of the truth, cloaca of
     uncertainty and error, the glory and the shame of the universe.
Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, chap. x.

* See Dr. Robert Hare's book, Without Conscience (Pocket Books, 1993, ISBN 0-671-73261-7), for further reading on this topic.