A Snap Quiz in Body Language

Spy Couple 3

Silhouettes of spy couple over white background. Four versions differing by the outfit of the female.


A Snap Quiz in Body Language
by David Wagoner

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We can’t hear what they’re saying, but that man
is holding that woman in his arms. Your assignment
is to deduce their thoughts from what they do.
They’ve left no apparent space between their bodies.
It could be called a close embrace, but notice
her arms are at her sides, her hands relaxed,
her face impassive, while he’s whispering
something in her ear. His upper torso
is tilted slightly forward. Hers is yielding
but not in a way suggesting sweet surrender.
Is this a seduction scene? Is she being held
for questioning? Should she call a lawyer?
He’s looking into her eyes now. How wide open
would you say they are? What does he see in them?
If he were to let her go, class, what would she do?

“A Snap Quiz in Body Language” by David Wagoner from A Map of the Night. © University of Illinois Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

2 thoughts on “A Snap Quiz in Body Language

  1. That image makes my stomach turn.

    He stands comfortably in clothing appropriate to his profession, clothing that covers him from the neck down and conceals every physical sexual characteristic he possesses. He only raises one arm part way, the other rests easily in a pocket.

    She must balance on excessive high heels with most of her weight on only one foot so that she can extend the other leg in front of her in order to open the slit in her dress to onlookers. She must arch her back while simultaneously thrusting her chest forward so that her backside and breasts stick out as far as possible in either direction. Her hand is on her hip with her elbow crooked backwards behind her at an unnatural angle to emphasize the curve along her waist, her backside, and her breasts.

    Every single “alternative” outfit provided for her accentuates her sexual characteristics while simultaneously putting her at a disadvantage in the spy business: Have you ever tried running down a bad guy in six inch stilettos?


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