Article by Joe Kita & Antoine Verglas
Despite an unremarkable mug, no man is more renowned for his power over women than Giacomo Casanova. In fact, his name has become synonymous with seduction. He was, quite simply, irresistible. And the 200-odd years that have passed since his death have only embellished his reputation. Every man, at one time or another, wants to be a Giacomo Casanova.
And we’re here to tell you it’s possible. The ability to entrance a woman, to get her to surrender what Casanova called her “delicious little that,” depends mostly on style and sincerity.
That’s all there is to it. Although you may object to Casanova’s morals (he reveled in orgies, abhorred condoms, and once made love to his illegitimate daughter), he was not reprehensible.
“Unlike the fictional Don Juan or the Marquis de Sade, Casanova wasn’t a sexual predator,” says Ted Emery, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Italian at Dickinson College and a noted Casanovist. “He was very much in love with most of these women, and they with him. He frequently mentions the multiple orgasms he gave them. This is certainly flattering, but the fact that he even thought about their pleasure makes him different and admirable.”
To gain a better understanding of this man’s genius (without reading all 12 volumes of his autobiography), we attended a Casanova dinner at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York City. It was a lavishly detailed re-creation (right down to the period cutlery) of a rendezvous in Venice in 1753 between the 28-year-old Casanova and a beautiful nun into whose habit he wished to plunge. It was his finest moment — an evening that exemplified his charm, and one from which all men can learn.
“It was a dinner of seduction,” explains Carolin Young, a culinary historian who organized the event. “It was 2 hours of playful flirtation during which they were both waiting to devour each other. Afterward, the nun finally told him she had ‘an appetite that promised to do honor to the supper.’ ”
So what did Casanova do that night? How did he steal the keys to the convent? Before we divulge his secrets, you should understand that Casanova was not an aristocrat. Although he enjoyed projecting that image, he was essentially a gambler and a con man who fought duels and even served time in prison. So while this evening may appear highly sophisticated, don’t forget that Casanova was, at heart, a philandering rogue who placed fun and love above all else.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can stage a Casanova dinner of your own. You’ll find recipes and even a shopping list (look at “Related Articles” below). (You, however, are responsible for the nun.) Otherwise, just adhere to the following 10 principles the next time you’re with a woman you admire. The results will be delicious.
Casanova Commandment #1
To make a woman feel special, do something special. For his illicit dinner with the good sister, Casanova rented an elegant five-room apartment. He met her as she stepped off the gondola, and they walked arm-in-arm across a lantern-lit plaza.
Your move: When you’re trying to impress a woman, never utter these words at the cusp of an evening: “So, what do you feel like doing?” A true Casanova takes charge. He has a plan. To devise a memorable one, imagine that you’re proposing. What would you do to make the night so special she couldn’t possibly say no? Then arrange it (minus the ring and bent-knee thing, of course). After all, you are proposing — only it’s something far more enticing than marriage. “Women are very appreciative of any kind of effort,” says Young. “Casanova certainly realized that.”
Casanova Commandment #2
Privacy is sexy. The nun had a reputation to protect, and Casanova was sensitive to that. The apartment staff did not disturb Casanova and his guest; dinner was served through a window in the wall, allowing the servants to deliver the food without being seen or heard. There were no prying eyes to fear, nothing to distract the two lovers from each other. Privacy gives a woman permission to be herself.
Your move: Create an intimate atmosphere whenever you can. Invite her to dinner at your place, reserve a cozy table at a fine restaurant, encourage her to slip away from the party for a starlit stroll….Continually be searching for eddies in the evening where you both can linger and connect. You can bestow no greater compliment on a woman than your full attention.
Casanova Commandment #3
Let her admire you admiring her. Casanova’s rented apartment was full of mirrors and candles. He wanted his love to be “reflected a thousand times,” and he wanted to be able to enjoy her from many different angles during dinner. He knew, too, that a beautiful woman enjoys looking at herself–that the mirrors would become her portraits, and she’d feel even sexier because of it. “There’s a magical quality to mirrors, candlelight, and silver,” says Young. “Women find it enchanting.”
Your move: If you can’t duplicate an atmosphere like this, become a mirror yourself. Let her see the effects of her beauty and charm reflected in you. Every now and then, look at her appreciatively and smile. At opportune times, compliment her — choosing a trait other than the obvious. For instance, pretty women are used to being told they’re pretty. That kind of compliment has little effect. But tell a pretty woman that she’s smart, and you often win her heart. There’s a magical quality to a man’s open, insightful admiration that women find equally enchanting.
Casanova Commandment #4
Ask her what she thinks. Casanova’s seduction lasted several hours, and he spent much of this time asking questions and listening. In an age when women were considered inferior to men, such behavior was flattering. He treated his guest reverently, and not just because she was a nun. This woman was his equal, and he was genuinely interested in her perspective.
Your move: The reason women found Casanova so fascinating is that he found them so fascinating. In fact, he believed that without engaging conversation, physical pleasure was uninteresting. “The minute you start thinking of the woman as an object, the instant you become more interested in yourself than in finding out about her, then you’re not being a Casanova,” notes Emery. “He made women feel valued for things other than their bodies.” It’s not difficult to get a woman to talk about herself. Just ask open-ended questions and shut up. But you have to be sincere about it. Casanova’s success with women stemmed from his genuine interest in them. He touched their hearts before daring to venture anyplace else.
Casanova Commandment #5
Encourage decadence. For this particular evening, Casanova spared no expense. The apartment, the dinner table, his own body were all dressed with the finest things available. The meal consisted of eight courses, served in pairs. Many of the dishes, such as oysters, champagne, game, sturgeon, truffles, fruits, and sorbets, were delicacies, considered highly indulgent separately, let alone combined with everything else. Casanova was obviously out to impress, but he also knew that after the first sampling of something sinful, it becomes much easier to sin again.
Your move: Provide your lady with something decadent. This could be a single chocolate truffle (gift-wrapped) or an ice-cream sundae that the two of you share. Indulgence is the removal of a single brick that significantly weakens the temple.
Casanova Commandment #6
Appeal to all her senses. Casanova scented the apartment with tuberoses because he believed they were an aphrodisiac. He served oysters and champagne as an appetizer because on the tongue there is only one thing more titillating. He asked for his lady’s opinions because every woman loves the music of her own voice. He created an atmosphere of lavishness and luxury, so her own indulgence would feel less guilty. And he touched her, often and gently, to return her attention to the true focus of the evening. By stimulating every sense, Casanova was able to immerse this woman more fully in the moment, and make her feel more alive and sexual.
Your move: Be attentive to every one of your mate’s five senses. Play background music, touch the small of her back to guide her, make eye contact, give her a flute of champagne to sip, buy her a fresh flower to sniff….Think of each sense as a little engine you need to warm up. When all her senses are purring, she will be, too.
Casanova Commandment #7
Savor the anticipation. Although Casanova immediately grew “ardent” when he noticed that his lady’s breasts were covered by only a dainty chemise, he didn’t force himself upon her. He was patient. He accepted her single kiss and cherished her two-word promise: “After supper.” “Casanova appreciated that if you have your pleasure too quickly, you don’t suck all the pleasure out of it,” explains Young. “Savor the anticipation, because often the anticipation is half the fun.”
Your move: Foreplay doesn’t happen only in the bedroom 60 seconds before intercourse. It’s organic. It encompasses the entire day. Slip a note into her purse confessing how much you’re looking forward to this date, or call her at work and tell her the same. When you meet, take her hands and softly kiss her lips. Most important: Allow the evening to progress at its own pace, remembering that neither of you has to be anywhere except together.
Casanova Commandment #8
Be playful. Most of the food and drink Casanova preferred was sexually suggestive. Plump oysters, succulent game hens, soft cheeses, ripe fruit…On one level, he simply enjoyed watching women put these things in their mouths. But on another, he saw dinnertime as an opportunity for playfulness. When a slippery oyster fell onto an ample bosom, he immediately offered to slurp it off. When the salad arrived undressed, he encouraged the lady to dribble on the oil and vinegar. Casanova realized that sex isn’t serious — it’s playtime for adults. Games like this are the warmup.
Your move: Whether you’re dining at home or at a restaurant, choose something provocative the two of you can share. Put the plate between you and nibble. Eat with your fingers. Feed each other. Make it your goal to keep the evening lighthearted.
Casanova Commandment #9
Be spontaneous. Casanova was an opportunist. He drifted from country to country, working at ludicrously diverse jobs (among them, priest and pimp). He was a disciple of the moment. Once, while sharing a carriage with a farmer’s wife during a severe storm, he found her perched on his lap after a frightening thunderclap. Seizing the opportunity, he deftly rearranged her skirts.
Your move: If the evening isn’t going according to plan, abandon it. Be attuned to fate and go where it directs. The confidence and daring this shows is in itself seductive.
Casanova Commandment #10
Surprise her with a gift. After supper, Casanova and his lady retired to a candlelit alcove, where he presented her with a beautiful lace nightcap. She pronounced it “magnificent.” It was the final, thoughtful coup de grace. “She told me to go undress in the next room,” writes Casanova, “promising to call me as soon as she was in bed. This took but 2 minutes.”
Your move: Women love unexpected gifts. Make hers personal rather than trendy, small rather than large, silly rather than serious — something only she can appreciate. “Casanova’s gifts showed a great deal of creativity and thoughtfulness,” says Emery. Most important, time your gift’s delivery for that critical point in the evening when there remains just one obvious way for her to show her gratitude.