Using sexual arousal as a way to lower people’s guard has been an age old technique. Men and women in position of tremendous power and access to secrets know better. They know they have to keep their discipline. Yet, when the “right person” comes in front of them arousing their sexual needs, most fall prey to such enticement.
Use of Sexual Arousal in laying “Honey Traps”
Sex as a way of entrapment has been used in espionage from times immemorial. Although women are known more for this “art”, the use of sexually enticing the right person for information and secrets has worked both ways.
Mata Hari: the Quintessential Seductress
Margaretha Zelle – or popularly known as Mata Hari in espionage folklore – was probably the greatest one when it came to using her charms on men. After having gone through a failed marriage in 1902, she moved to Paris. There, pretending to be a Hindu Javanese princess who well versed in sacred Indian dances due to ger priestly birth (go figure!), she made a name for herself as an exotic dancer. Zelle or Mata Hari became an overnight sensation when she danced almost nude wearing little else than a jewelled bra. She first became a mistress to French millionaire Émile Étienne Guimet and then served in German Secret Service moving between different cities of Europe. She was caught and executed by the French firing squad in October 1917. Her ability to entice men was unparalleled.
Even Men have Enticed Women Operatives
Sexual enticement works both ways. Even women have been enticed by men to part with secrets that they shouldn’t have. In 1983-84, Sharon Marie Scranage working as an Operations Support Assistant in the CIA became a victim of a honey trap and passed on classified information – including names of CIA operatives working in Ghana – to Michael Soussoudis, a Ghanian citizen with a US Green card, who worked for the Ghanian intelligence. He had been specially assigned by his agency to seduce Scranage.
So is there something to the practice of laying the “honey traps”? Now studies are showing that sexual arousal leads men and women to take up risky sexual behaviors and actions.
How Sexual Arousal Impacts Decision Making and Judgment Leading to Risk Taking
In an interesting study by Dan Ariely (of MIT) and George Loewenstein (Carnegie Mellon), titled “The Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making” – the subjects (students) were put in state of sexual arousal or a neutral state and were asked to:
- indicate how appealing they find a wide range of sexual stimuli and activities,
- report their willingness to engage in morally questionable behavior in order to obtain sexual gratification, and
- describe their willingness to engage in unsafe sex when sexually aroused.
[pullquote align=”left”] Related: Sexual Mores, Addiction and Women: Why We Need a New Paradigm [/pullquote] What they saw confirms the strength of the Honey Trap strategy by the espionage agencies. Sexual Arousal has a very strong impact on all the three areas of judgment thus impairing the subjects’ decision making. The power of the situation the subjects were put in had an enormous impact on how they behaved irrespective of their principles otherwise. Even the subjects could not predict their own behavior in such a situation. Such is the impact of the scenario where someone is subject to sexual arousal.
It is therefore clear that when people – both, men and women – are taken over by their sexual arousal, they indulge in risky behavior when it comes to their sexual mores. They are willing to perform sex with people they should not – given their position and status – or because of the risk of sexually transmitted disease in absence of any protection. Both these risks are potentially life threatening. Yet, good judgment is left aside when the hormones kick in! In fact, women may be ready to indulge in things they find disgusting more easily once they are aroused (Sexually aroused women are less easily disgusted)!
The question then becomes larger. Do people indulge in risk taking (and bad judgment) overall when sexually aroused. Or is it only to do with throwing all caution to the winds in terms of how to indulge in sex?
The answer to this question comes from the research of Shayna Skakoon-Sparling of the University of Windsor, Canada. The team looked into the effects of sexual arousal on propensity to “risk-taking in general (using a modified version of Blackjack) and on decision-making related to sexual situations among both male and female participants (using hypothetical scenarios)”.
The results showed that men and women who were sexually aroused were more willing to engage in risky behavior in the game of Blackjack. Also, sexually aroused women showed more risky behavior in sexual decision making in hypothetical scenarios that were presented to them.
So when we look at Bill Clinton’s life or say that of an erstwhile US Presidential candidate John Edwards, and wonder why would they have done what they did in a seemingly perfect life. The answer may be because of how the humans – both men and women – respond to sexual arousal. The degree may vary but the impact and ability to take risk is there. The extent to which one goes may be dependent on many things, most of them external. In that sense, isn’t it because of this why advertising companies use seductive images to mould one’s responses to buying?
Sexual impetus sells because sexual arousal makes one lose her or his judgment more easily!