I used to think the old phrasing was a fairly straightforward affair. Moths, and flames... one remains in place, bright and beckoning, while the other flutters toward it with abandon, desperate to bask in the light of its warmth and radiance.
“Be the flame, not the moth,” advised Casanova... and it would seem to be simple enough advice.
Yet, one of the things that you learn you must be as you drive ever deeper into seduction is nuanced, not straightforward.
Complex, not simple.
A woman does not fancy a man who is too easily understood. Nor is being that man quite nearly as interesting.
And I realized, while thinking some things over one night working in a room, watching a number of large brown moths fluttering frantically and futilely at my window screen to enter the room and reach the light, and a number of smaller insects that had dropped, burned and singed onto my bed cover, after having attained the object that called to them so alluringly from the ceiling above, that this turn of the phrase was one that, like the men and women it describes, has a bit more nuance to it than it seems at first.
“I’ll save you, milady!” cries the dashing white knight as he rides up to save the weeping damsel in distress, wounded deeply from her passion-filled but ultimately scorching encounter with a seductive charmer.
Weeks or months later, he stands there, bitter and hurt, burnt by the alluring female flame he flew to only to watch her become a moth again and fly after the next smoldering man to capture her heart and affections, leaving her would-be rescuer behind in the dust.
The world of romance spills over with moths and flames, and what one is to one person is not always the same as what one is to another.
If you are a skilled seducer – irresistible to women, and talented with them – most of the women you meet, to you, will be moths.
Yet, to a man far less skilled than you – who’s spent far less time meeting women and developing his expertise with them; who’s invested far less time in his appearance, composure, and comportment – every woman he sees will be a flame that he flutters toward, heart brimming with hope and anticipation.
It is easy for that man to look down on the seducer as a man who
burns women... those same women that he, the moth, flutters ever after.
What is more challenging still is when you realize that there is no fire that does not burn; all intentions of the flame beside the matter.
You may be a flame with sadistic intent.
Or you may be one with a heart of gold.
But either way, when the moth gets too close, it is burned just the same.
On Being the Flame
Many of history’s most famed seducers clearly seem to be low or no empathy individuals who take pleasure in the women they enjoy, with little thought to the human cost of their encounters, in terms of broken dreams, altered life paths, and jaded and embittered women.
If you are a more empathetic individual, the path of the seducer is one that challenges you, without ever providing a clear “right” answer.
The men who chase women – the moths – are quick to judge you; you, the flame, burn those moths that come to you... therefore, you are bad.
As these men gather more experience with women and become embittered (nearly always), they also come to judge women... women are their flames, and when they fly to them, they invariably are burned themselves... therefore, women, too, are bad.
Soon you learn that you are bad and women are bad, but perhaps you are worse, because maybe those women would not be so bad were it not for bad men like you depriving them of what they want (namely... you), and your choices are threefold:
Give every woman what she wants from you (marriage and commitment)
Quit sleeping with women altogether and live a life of inaction and celibacy
Continue being the flame, and continue to scorch and burn
You can seek to direct your flames and burn less and do less harm and not damage as much. You can get better at setting expectations; at not hurting girls; at removing yourself so far out of boyfriend consideration that it’s not remotely realistic for a girl to think she has a shot at tying you down.
Yet, regardless, there are always still women who “don’t get it”, or choose not to get it... women who believe that against all odds, they can rope you into something long-term and continuous and monogamous. No matter what you’ve told or shown them or how you’ve acted around them. You are so exceptional for them, and they are so confident in themselves, that of course they know they can do it.
These are the ones who flutter right into the center of your flame. And as the flame, you can bend and whip away as much as possible, but you cannot stop the moth from flying in.
Time and again, they emerge from the experience with beautiful wings charred, and if you have a soul it leaves you feeling torn for it... but there is only ever so much that you can do.
On Being the Moth
The moth lives for the excitement of the chase. When you are the moth, the world is filled with emotion; you are not in control, and instead you hope, pray, and dream.
When one day, in your meanderings, you spy a beautiful flame in the distance. Ah! you say to yourself, I must have her!
And so you fly after her, filled with desire to obtain her, to bask in her warm glow.
Just as most of the time that a moth flies after a light source he never reaches it – he sees the moon but cannot get there – so too do you often fail when pursuing some dancing, flickering flame in the distance that entices you so.
Yet, every now and then, you get her... and circle her in her warmth... and smile at her light... until you are drawn in so close that the inevitable happens, and you are burned.
And you feel betrayed! How could she, the beautiful flame, burn you as she did? How cruel is she to do this to you? Does she not know how long it’s taken you to reach her? How many promising lights and fires you’ve pursued but never attained before reaching her? How much work it was, to get inside the screen, and finally arrive at where she is?
You back away, wingtips ashen and heart smarting, only to notice that you were not the only one, and maybe never were – there are more moths circling around your flame; being burned; and others still showing up to replace them all the time.
Were you not special to her? Was it all an illusion?
You fly away, back into the night, with damaged wings and damaged pride, thinking poorly of the flame... until you spot another source of light, and emotion overcomes you, and you fly desperately toward it... or perhaps you cross by that old flame again, and despite your better judgment find yourself inexorably drawn back... perhaps, you think, this time she will not burn you.
When I was younger, and more idealistic, I was convinced that it must be possible to be a charming, sexy man who is alluring to women and draws them in and provides them unforgettable experiences, yet does so so delicately and so sublimely that they are never hurt.
Yet, despite my best efforts, I have found that periodically, no matter how careful I am, women get hurt with me. I’m better at avoiding this now than I was when less experienced... but I’m also far more alluring to the opposite sex now than I was when less experienced.
You cannot be “the flame that doesn’t burn”; there is no such flame as this. All flames burn. And if you become a man who attracts women to himself, you will burn too.
The best that you can do is to learn to keep away those moths prone to flying too close... and to put a damper on your flame around the moths who do regardless.
Which Moths to Gently Shoo Away
One of the things I avoid as much as possible now is sleeping with any woman who knows me remotely well through a social circle setting.
I have seen it repeatedly; when women know you through social circle, if you are an attractive, uncommon man, they will want, hope for, and chase hard after commitment.
And when they don’t get it, it’s a real
There are two factors there that influence how large the effect is:
- How long she’s known you, and
- How alluring your flame is to her
If she’s known you but a short while, yet your flame is extremely alluring... or if your flame is only somewhat alluring, yet she’s known you a long while... if you only sleep with her once or twice and do not repeat after this, and do not offer her a relationship after this, she will be burned.
Another one I have noted is those kinds of girls who are soft and inexperienced (FT/IN on the 4 kinds of girls scale). These women, even when met through cold approach, can be mesmerized by you; they will think you have just stepped out of a romance novel, and are here to bring them their happily ever after. They are invariably disappointed when the night of passion does not lead to a life of passion; they have great expectations for you... far greater than you probably want to provide, or even can provide.
Conversely, soft and experienced women will be excited, but cautious; they’ve been with men like you before, and they know how it all plays out. Strong and inexperienced women may not have been with a similar man yet, but they are less dreamy and more practical about the world than their soft peers, and will be a lot more likely to simply drink in the experience for whatever it is worth.
For these reasons, I try to not sleep with women I know through social circle (too messy for my tastes), and I prefer to not sleep with soft and inexperienced women I meet through cold approach... although this cannot always be avoided...
And in any event, as your skill as a seducer increases, your responsibility to set expectations as best you can does as well.
Because, more and more, you come to possess increasingly lopsided power in all your social and romantic interactions.
What Flames Owe Moths
“I am glad for your company, beautiful moth... yet advise you against drawing too near lest you be burned.”
This is the sentiment I urge you to convey to women who are
entering (or seeking to enter) your life in any romantic capacity...
once you are good. Once you do have this burning effect upon
women inadvertently and accidentally.
Since the flame is the one that hypnotizes, and the one with the capacity to damage, I view it as the flame’s responsibility to warn the moths encircling it what they can expect.
Most flames – whether male or female – are not aware enough or
experienced enough yet to know to do this, or to know how... or they
are too fearful of scaring off potential partners to know how. And in
some cases, they may know, but not care.
If you are inexperienced, you may fear a warning like this means you’ll be relegating yourself to a life of celibacy... after all, what moth would continue to circle the flame, knowing she might be burned?
The answer is knowing that she might be burned only makes her want to circle the flame MORE... playing a sort of dangerous game, perhaps, or challenging herself to be the one moth to bask in the flame’s light and warmth without setting her wings alight.
Warning her that she may be burned with you will not usually prevent her from getting burned:
She will still sleep with you hoping for a relationship, and feel hurt, spurned, and rejected when she’s unable to get one
She will still hang on in a friends with benefits relationship, hoping to convert it to something more serious, and will still feel judged unworthy when she can’t
She will still enter into a relationship with you, hoping it will last forever, and will feel angry, bitter, and betrayed when you break up with her... or she discovers your dalliances with other women and decides to break up with you
So what’s the good of warning her, then?
The good it does is that sets her expectations properly so that the ending of things does not come as a surprise.
The worst shock, hurt, and surprise comes when we expect things to go one way... only to find out that they are not as we expected at all. That is when our mental models fail us; when our worlds come crashing down; when the weight of our cognitive dissonances upon us are crushing.
But when she already had it in mind – when she knew going in that she was playing a dangerous game – the hurt is not quite as bad, and the embittering is not nearly as severe. She’s much quicker to pick herself up, dust herself off, and say, “Okay – I knew this was coming anyway. So not really a surprise.”
Even better, she’s able to pursue future relationships more honestly with herself – to say, “I’m going to date this next sexy, alluring man... though I know how it will probably end,” or to say, “What I really want is something stable – and as sexy and alluring as that man over there is, I’ve learned that stability is the very opposite of excitement, so let me set aside looking for someone I feel passion for and take up the search for someone I feel comfort with.”
When you don’t verbalize this in advance, a woman can be left
confused and adrift as to why the relationship did not work out. But
when she was forewarned, and it played out just as you said it would,
she is able to look back and say, “What he told me was true.”
Can You Be Neither Flame Nor Moth?
Of course, no.
And if you are thinking, “I am neither the flame nor the moth!” then I assure you... you are the moth.
Not that that is a bad thing – it’s simply another way of life.
However, if you want the power to control your own outcomes, you must be the flame.
And there is the damning decision – if you will be the moth:
- You are free from the responsibility for how things turn out; yet
- You are also devoid of the ability to control your own outcomes
Meanwhile, if you will be the flame:
- You gain the ability to control your own outcomes, to large extent
- Yet, you also assume the responsibility for what happens to those
In his memoir Story of My Life, Giacomo Casanova states that:
“As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love’s in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other.”
And this, of course, is true.
Which is why you must either be the moth, or the flame; but cannot be neither, if you will be at all involved with women.
Either you will be the flame, or she will.
If you – and if you’re reading this site, then probably it will be you... if not now, then in the future at least – I advise you to be as responsible a flame as you can be.
You cannot be a flame that does not burn; this is the tragedy of the seducer, and it’s the tragedy of the woman (flame) dealing with the ordinary man (moth), as well.
So, there is no right answer – you can absolve yourself of responsibility by becoming the moth, but then you will be buffeted about by life, hurt, damaged, and embittered, with little chance of happiness; or, you can seize control of life by becoming the flame, and experience the outcomes you want to experience, but with the heavy heart of knowing that no matter how careful you are, you will always leave behind you a trail of broken hearts, for there are always far more women who want to be with the man who has worked hard to make himself exceptional than there are men who have worked hard to make themselves exceptional to go around for those women.
I, of course, would suggest you be the flame, and simply do the best you can do to be a responsible flame that is, as much as possible, a light of warmth and radiance and brilliance that shies away from burning.
And when a moth is burned, the best you can do at that point is to try to warn the other moths who flock to you next time to be more careful... but of course, they never listen.