“Like you're in the perfect vaginal fluids outfit because your neckline is open. So like your skin is exposed here. Like it's the perfect day if you want to test it out!”
Shannon Boodram says to me roughly 20 minutes into our conversation about her new book, The Game Of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets To Dating With Dominance And Getting What You Want. To be fair, we’re not complete strangers so it’s really not as insane as it sounds but I also realize it sounds pretty insane. For the record, I declined to try it out but Boodram does make a solid argument for using this tactic as one of the many ways that she encourages women to get in control of their seductive powers to triumph in the modern dating game. We, of course, discussed many of the strategies that she introduced in the book in a style reminiscent of a high school science project but this one, in particular, was truly one of the most colorful.
“You know what's crazy? It's not crazy anymore! I think I've done it for like 10 years and so maybe in the beginning it was crazy but now there's been so many articles on it. There was a girl I think who did it for like 28 days and she recorded her experience with it. So it feels like very normal to me but I also recognize that my barometer for what's normal is probably broken.”
What she means by that is that her years as a sexologist, writer, YouTuber and influencer have demonstrated an enormous spectrum of “weird”, so basically, at this point, nothing is weird. Hey, between two (or more, whatever!) consenting adults, pretty much anything goes so long as there’s clear, respectful communication and a deference for the concept of equality. But sex isn’t really the problem that we’re facing when it comes to relationships in 2019 and that’s precisely why Boodram wrote a book.
“I'm a product of research and reading in this area and I think I have a pretty great life, but one of my favorite books is A Social Animal by David Brooks. I quoted it in [my] book and he said there’s a recipe to happiness and two thirds of that recipe has to do with the quality and quantity of your relationships, which means this area of your life is going to be the mark that you're going to close your eyes at the end of the day and say, ‘I really lived.’ And yet we spent no time focusing on it. This is an area that's pushed to the side and seen as a ‘distraction’ and it's seen as something that you do when you have the time. If I want to be great at anything, I have to try.”
Try she did. In The Game of Desire, which is Boodram’s second published title, she used social media to recruit a group of five young women who were struggling with their dating life. Her approach was remarkably scientific. She wanted to see if there were discernable ways to be seductive that works across gender, race and preferred sexual orientation. As it turns out, there kind of are and vaginal fluid is just a small piece of the puzzle. The larger pieces of the puzzle are actually part of a skillset that can be studied, learned and applied, just like anything else in your life. Boodram says, “I think the love and connection and seducing and flirting, those are skills. Those are not things that you call upon when you have the exact right moment, the exact right person. And so when you get good at loving first and foremost yourself because according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you can't put the oxygen mask on someone else first. When you're breathing and you have what you need, you're actually way more useful to other people, right?”
The book demonstrates the ways that women are trained to think about relationships and the ways that this training has developed into a disservice over the years.
“I think people just feel like there's this, I want to say the word ‘dichotomy.’ Essentially they're driven towards something that's not making them happy and they're trying to reconcile that. So they're in a sexual relationship with someone where the sex isn't great or they're pursuing somebody romantically that makes them feel like a less version of themselves or makes them feel sad and isolated and lonely and, but the feelings are there or they're in a romantic relationship where they think they're supposed to be happy, but they're just not. Like they do all the things and yet I just don't feel that fire for them. So I think that people don't understand that they've got choices and options. I think that people think, again, like if I want to do something that must mean I meant to do it.”
By commit, Boodram means recruitment into her summer-long relationship-themed bootcamp program where the challenges included calling exes, medium-extreme makeovers and a group therapy session with Matt Barnes. Actually, one girl didn’t make it but the ones who did manage to tough it out, actually underwent incredible personal growth and transformation. After giving an update on where each of the five women Boodram featured in the book ended up, she reflects, “They're my friends. These are people that I'll never forget and I will always keep connected with them. I've never done something like this before and been this involved with people's lives. Even if I work with somebody for years, it's once every four months we're checking back in. You know, I'm not a therapist. I’m not set up to be that kind of consistent assistance in someone's life and this is the first time that I opened myself up for that.”
Over the months of last summer, as the ladies became more of an unofficial sorority, Boodram as the proverbial house mother, provided more complicated and difficult tasks to maintain membership, but instead of with the intention to humiliate, the end game was learning to adjust to successful relationships and ultimately achieve self-love. Boodram is married but as a woman of color, she found herself particularly committed to the dating plight of Black women. Boodram is categorically beautiful. She tall, thin and biracial. She's even got green eyes. The girl is a walking wet dream for a casting director and impressively she understands the kind of privileges her looks have given her in life. These physical attributes might have helped her get her husband, who is, also by all accounts, an unquestionable hottie but physical characteristics aside, Boodram in and of herself is quite seductive. After reading the book, I was sure that she was using her studied methodologies on me but it’s not like it’s an unpleasant experience. Besides, like the book says, basically every encounter is an opportunity to learn. But what really intrigued me is what she thinks about the particular predicament of Black women in the modern romantic ecosystem.
Boodram answers pointedly and doesn’t mince words. The game is rigged and not in our favor. “The start line is massively different. Black women are not in a world that has conditioned preference for them. The way that a white male has conditioned preference in the dating world is that he walks into a room and people think he belongs there, people look up to him as a voice of authority. And we've seen him as a love interest our entire lives growing up. And so there's already a natural like, ‘oh, I understand you.’ When you see a chair, you've got a schema for what a chair does and is. And so you're like, okay, I know how to interact with this chair. If you don't see Black women positioned as a love interest and if you don't see them in advertisements as the sex symbols and as someone that you want to connect with, when you see a black woman in real life, you have to create that schema for yourself or you had to have been taught it. And unfortunately a lot of people aren't [taught it]. [Black women] have so much more work and it's exhausting. A lot of my audience is Black women, like they're not mixed with Black like I am. So I really wanted to get Black women’s true experiences. I think that Deshawn, Courtney and Cherise all had really different perspectives even though they share the same skin tone. The one thing they all had in common were the stories were the same that they've heard ridiculous things. I cannot believe that someone has literally said those things to you because you just can't have that in the world where people think that's okay. And they all had those same stories.”
Still, when armed with the knowledge from this book, there’s really no reason why one can’t be optimistic. In fact, all of the women ended up very happy in the end and Shan, like I mentioned, is married so she knows what she’s doing, if that’s what you want in life. Even Boodram learned a thing or two on this journey. Namely, that perhaps the things that make us successful people are not necessarily making us successful in relationships. Perhaps is not good to be a shark all the time. Sometimes, it might be beneficial to be something more palpable for people, like a shrimp maybe. Even the suggestion that someone who’s got to worry about making 61 cents on the dollar should be more shrimp-like is vaguely cringeworthy but it’s really hard being single out there so what is there really to lose?
Boodram says, “I talked about it in the book and your critical voice and your innovative voice are the exact same thing but it's just that critical voice you have to like keep it quiet in social interactions because you can get very draining on people. So I think that people have more choice than they think. You've got a lot more choice in the matter, and if what you've been choosing hasn't been working for you, here's an alternative. I would love for women to say ‘I'm in the driver's seat of my love life.’”
(Photo: Shan Boodram)