Monday, December 8, 2014

The Honey Trap

Rarely does wikipedia fail me.  This is one of those times.

As such, I'm going to have to explain this one before I can move forward on it.  For those who don't know, "a honey trap" is a con game in which an attractive woman is used to lure a fellow into a private location where he can be threatened, robbed or killed, depending upon the variant played. Sometimes, a single man - usually very large but sometimes just extraordinarily dangerous - appears at the right moment (preferably when the dupe has removed most of his clothes) and claims to be the woman's husband.  In addition to robbing the dupe, the 'husband' and the woman may work together to blackmail the victim after initially robbing him.  Alternately, the woman may be part of a gang that turns up in order to viciously beat or kill the dupe.

Either way, the woman's part in this is clear - she needs to appear both desirable and willing.  After doing her part, her male counterparts will mop up the mess and she gets her cut of the take.  Women do it because it is comparably easy work if they have the attributes to pull it off.

It is interesting to note that, although the woman will usually not take part in physically hurting the male, she is often the only one blamed.  The victim - for reasons that will seem obvious to many males - has a sort of grudging respect for the men, who are at least 'honest' in their criminality.  The woman, however, is the worst sort of harlot imaginable.  That is because the woman has been able to hurt the man straight to the heart of his ego - he really did think she wanted him because he was just so desirable.

The reason wikipedia does not include this definition is likely due to an intense hatred that feminists have acquired for the honey trapping stereotype.  Because the honey trap has appeared so often in fiction, a belief has grown that there is a conspiracy among male writers to depict women as evil, conniving, selfish, horrible sub-humans.  It is almost impossible at present to write any story about a strong, capable woman that takes shit from no one without that character somehow being subverted into proof of the author's hatred for women.  She's no darker than any of the characters played by male anti-heroes . . . except that because she's a woman, the character has 'obviously' be created to emphasize how much she threatens men.

Some of you may have felt a little of this heat with regards to the succubus, the female demon based upon Christian mythology.  The succubus is proof positive that men hate women - otherwise, why would we create a monster that looked like a beautiful woman, whose sole purpose is to entrance men and then kill them?  In short, the honey pot all in one character - proof positive that men hate women.

As such, there has always been pressure to remove succubus from the lexicon, as well as any similar female-based monsters.  In part, because female-based monsters are often sexually designed or based. Since corporation-marketed gaming must include children as potential buyers, we must downplay sex . . . and what the hell, most players of any age aren't that comfortable with sex.  I've written about that before.  Also here.

There is something particularly harrowing about the honey trap - and the accompanying succubus - that cuts deep into a man's perception of himself.  The anger he feels for the woman afterwards (assuming he lives) and his consummate association with the woman as demon (as a succubus) is a displacement of that self-understanding.  He knows, inherently, that there was always the possibility of his showing fortitude and resolve by saying to the woman, 'no.'  She does not physically force him into the alley way or into the darkness - it is his weakness in character that drags him there, for a number of reasons.  First, because the possibility of sex seems easy and available - but deeper than that, because he has that knowledge about himself that sex usually isn't easy and available.  In short, he knows he must grab it when it arrives or else he will get nothing.  He understands, even as his feet drift in the woman's direction of their own accord, that he has already lost this game between men and women.  If he could have sex whenever he wished, and knew it, the trap wouldn't work.

The succubus is the intensified manifestation of this internal struggle - for the demon represents the projection of man's wish to possess that which is perfect.  The demon, of course, cannot be obtained . . . yet there remains the terror is in the knowledge that the demon is also beyond denial.  The demon is the male's fantasy and at the same time proof of the male's vulnerability.

The intense hatred of the woman following the honey trap is in the male's complete and devastating comprehension that her sexuality bested him.  As he thinks of her, he understands his inferiority, and in that inferiority is the intense hatred he feels for her.  He knows that if he'd had any strength at all, he'd have walked away at the beginning.

That is a profoundly difficult concept to understand if you don't happen to be a man; and a profoundly difficult realization to incorporate if you happen to be one.  It's easy to see how women relate to the surface perception.  Bad woman = depiction of all women as evil and therefore disposable.  That is then exacerbated by the male point of view . . . Bad woman = fucking goddamned evil bitch, ought to kill them all.

Truth be told, perhaps it is better to remove the succubus from the game.  It's presence in our culture has long represented a difficult evaluation of ourselves as persons of two different sexes, with remarkably two different viewpoints, continously subverted by propaganda that continues to insist that there is no difference.  Presenting the succubus into the game properly - in the sense that it subverts pompous narcissism - requires a measure of maturity that is short in supply.


Jeremiah Scott said...

I imagine that, unless the succubus were something the DM had used often enough to be remembered, that employing a honey trap on the party might result in the rage normally heaped upon the female instead being turned on the DM. All but the most mature players would claim that the saccharine presentation of a desirable woman desiring a PC is tantamount to railroading--of course it wouldn't be. But I suspect wounded ego would lead them to cry foul at the DM.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Undoubtedly. I've never used a honey trap in my world. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Admittedly, I have created situations that seemed like a honey trap.

Tim said...

I would think that many situations like the honey trap, where the DM presents a tempting treat to the players, would fall risk to the players accusing the DM of railroading or toying with them should the situation not go as the players expected, as Jeremiah says.
I often find myself wondering if all adventure hooks fall into this category to some extent. I certainly don't want a town message board for mercenary work and seasonal farm help, but I still find myself feeling uncertain when I devise an adventure hook. How tempting should the treat be? If you dangle it too obviously, the players may ignore it in protest or accept it in pity.
Then again, if the players pass up the hook, I would hope that is because they have goals they want to pursue first.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Well, remember that the purpose of the honey trap is to deliberately fuck the players over. An adventure hook has the potential to offer both positive or negative results, with the exact overall complications that can result not being the sort that are dramatically predetermined.

I'll try to write more on this tomorrow.

Vb Wyrde said...

The Gamesmaster, if he or she is a Master, ought to work towards cultivating the kind of maturity among players that would allow for a Succubus in the campaign. Perhaps as a test for some Character who has pretensions of joining the Paladinic Order. If he walks away at the beginning, he is deemed Paladinic Material. If he manages to fight his way out, all is well and good. If he is killed ... well, he was unworthy, at the least. I could see this happening in my World. I happen to think highly enough of my Players to believe that even if they did harbor feelings of being railroaded, they would trust me enough to understand that whether they lived or died, they had options along the way. And that sometimes once a trap is sprung, it is already too late. So while I agree that in many, and perhaps the vast majority of cases the maturity level needs to be high enough to handle this kind of adventure - I would also say that the GM can work towards the cultivation of this level of maturity among their Players over time, and so it should not be excluded out of hand. I'm rather tempted to work something like this in, frankly, as I have high confidence that my Players would not only find it interesting, but in fact enjoy the challenge.