"And if he won't tell them?"
"Well, at least I'll get laid."
Espionage has long been depicted as a glamorous and exciting profession. The same depiction goes for its practitioners. Among this image is the concept of a beautiful and irresistible young woman charming male officers into revealing military secrets with her feminine wiles.
To qualify as this trope, the character must be a young attractive female who uses her "charms" (sexual, emotional manipulation, or both) to work in a capacity for espionage specifically under a guise of innocence. She can be a member of La Résistance or The Empire, be idealistic, motivated by revenge, or simply in it for the money and personal gain, as long as it's an attractive female spy, it fits this trope. This trope however does not apply to females who are merely secret agents. There must clearly be incidences of fraternizing with the enemy as The Mole.
The biological basis for this trope is quite sound: orgasm tends to shut off the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for, among other things, controlling behavior and impulses, and even simple kissing releases oxytocin, which is known to make people more trusting. Lack of self-control + misplaced trust = Loose Lips. However, this trope is rarely Truth in Television.
Despite its popularity in media, this trope is not usually Truth in Television for the reason that most political and military leaders know better than to blab state secrets to women they get to know in private company. Much more common is the case where a weak-willed political leader will reveal secrets to an ordinary prostitute who will then reveal it to the press or others, fulfilling the trope retroactively.
Finally, one doesn't need to actually get the target to reveal secrets directly; photographs or other embarrassing evidence of the encounter can be used to blackmail the target into giving you what you want (the classic Honey Trap).
- Nancy Makuhari in Read or Die is both The Mole and a literal clone of Mata Hari.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Lust bemoans that Jean Havoc was smart enough not to tell her anything despite her best attempts.
- Irina Jelavić in Assassination Classroom is a stock example of this. A professional assassin who tends to default to seduction in order to get close to her targets.
- The Grey Spy in Antonio Prohias' Spy vs. Spy strips is a glamorous young woman who always plays on the Black and White Spies' sense of chivalry in order to defeat them both. Prohias eventually phased her out of the strips because he couldn't bring himself to have the Spies hurt a woman and the comics were too predictable if she never lost.
- The Black Widow was this in her early appearances as an Iron Man villain: a Russian spy sent by the KGB to romance him while stealing his secrets. She also initially manipulated Hawkeye in order to get him to help her.
- Mockingbird did this at least once when she was Bobbi Morse/Agent 19. She went undercover and become engaged to a man SHIELD suspected was involved with AIM so that SHIELD could gather information on him (he was involved with AIM).
- X-Men villain Mystique isn't above playing this role from time to time. Being a shapeshifter helps.
- In SpyBoy, Bombshell uses "Marta Hari" as her school-going alias.
- Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies all fit this trope.
- Agent327: The voluptuous Olga Lawina is a Swiss spy, who is very attractive and has rather large breasts. In the series she is a double spy, sometimes siding with Agent 327 but other times siding with the enemies, which makes her very unpredictable.
- Lampshaded in Nikolai Dante. Nikolai's childhood friend, Lauren is his contact at a tavern. When Akita Sagawa's ninjas attack her, she notes that she should have dressed like a smelly old hag, but that vanity got the better of her and she feels that spies should be sexy and glamorous. Nikolai doesn't complain.
- Kay-K from Double Duck, a very attractive spy. In her first apparation ( before her HeelFace Turn) she has no problem to use her beauty to manipulate male characters like Donald Duck. She was the criminal Red Primerose who introduce herself in the Agency replacing secretly the director Jay J..
- Barbie ends up playing this role in Toy Story 3. She did love Ken before realizing what was really going on at Sunnyside and then rejected him. She played this role well enough to push him into a HeelFace Turn, and they end the movie Happily Married.
- Tintin and the Lake of Sharks: The housekeeper Madame Black is a female spy, but an old lady, this not exactly this trope. When Tintin catches ugly old housekeeper Madame Black red-handed, he tells her "Spies have changed a lot since Mata Hari, haven't they?"
- In Mata Hari, Greta Garbo plays the titular sexy dancing spy in a Very Loosely Based on a True Story account.
- Marta Bond, the illegitimate daughter of Mata Hari and James Bond in the spoofy Casino Royale (1967) is this trope played for maximum silliness.
- Eve in North by Northwest. Doubly so once it's revealed she's the Reverse Mole working for the United States government.
- The title character of Darling Lili is a Glamorous Wartime Singer who is also a spy.
- Bridget von Hammersmark from Inglourious Basterds may qualify. She relies more on her fame from being a movie star than her sexual charm, though. In fact, Quentin Tarantino may have been hinting that he did intend for her to be seen as this kind of character; in the same scene, a group of German soldiers (whom she had been sitting with earlier) are playing a kind of celebrity guessing game, and Mata Hari herself is one of the answers.
- In Mars Attacks!, the Martians send out a Martian in an Uncanny Valley woman suit to infiltrate the White House and try to assassinate the President. It almost works because of the Idiot Plot.
- Claire Romely (Saffron Burrows) in Enigma is suspected of being this but you only find out at the end of the film if she is.
- In Munich a character says "beware the local honeytrap."
- Monica Fuentes in 2 Fast 2 Furious
- Rachel Stein alias Ellis de Vries in Black Book
- Mati Herring, from You Nazty Spy!, a classic The Three Stooges film.
- The "deaf" girl from the Matt Damon film The Good Shepherd.
- Alicia Huberman in Notorious is asked by the US government to seduce (and eventually marry) a Nazi agent in order to have someone with inside access to his house who can look out for the illegal activities the US government suspects are going on in there. When told the nature of her assignment, Alicia even mentions Mata Hari, saying, "Mata Hari, she makes love for the papers."
- Zeppelin (1971) opens with the protagonist, a Fake Defector going to meet Stephanie, a beautiful German spy in World War One. His superior makes a Deadpan Snarker comment about how dedicated he is, that he would go to meet the woman without having to be ordered to do so.
- Female Agents: Jeanne and Suzy serve as these. Suzy is specifically chosen because she formerly had a relationship with the target, and the team hopes she'll rekindle it to gain information. This gets her killed.
- The Black Dahlia reveals that Madelleine Linscott is actually this. She dons men's clothes to kill numerous cops and that includes Dwight, preserving her cover as a seemingly wholesome heiress.
- Lori from Total Recall (1990) poses as the amnesiac protagonist's wife. When her cover is blown, she reveals herself as a Dark Action Girl.
- True Lies parodies this. Helen Tasker believes a pick-up routine from a sleazy liar who pretends to be a spy to seduce women. Of course she doesn't know her husband is actually a spy. When questioning her, she reveals she just wanted to do something exciting, so they put her on a fake mission to oblige - playing a prostitute named Michelle. By the end she's a spy alongside her husband for real.
- Marushuka in The Adventuresof Tartu. She's beautiful and part of La Résistance, trying to get Nazi officers to spill their secrets.
- Nyah Nordoff-Hall in Mission: Impossible II sleeps with the Big Bad in order to infiltrate his operation, although she's not happy about it.
- In Quantum of Solace Bolivian agent Camille Montes sleeps with crimelord Dominic Greene to get near one of his partners in crime; war criminal General Medrano, although she has a personal vendetta againts him.
- Spoofed with Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me who has to seduce Fat Bastard in order to put a tracker on him.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Elsa Schneider is a German spy who sleeps with both Indy and his father.
- Red Sparrow and the book it was based on deconstruct the everliving hell out of this trope and any associated character archetypes by showcasing the training needed for a woman to be an effective seductress, which is a barrage of constant sexual assaults and other denigrations meant to teach the students how to become insensitive and dominant.
Dominika Egronova, to her uncle: [Full of deadpan hatred] You sent me to whore school.
- Jane Wooliston, Mary Alsworthy and Teresa Ballinger all employ this trope in the Pink Carnation Series. Jane Wooliston however also uses many other disguises and methods in her quest to prevent the Napoleonic invasion of England. She is the Pink Carnation after all.
- Catherine de Varesne in the Matthew Hawkwood novel Ratcatcher.
- Comes up quite a bit in BattleTech fiction. One detailed example can be seen in the novel Close Quarters, in which a disguised Cassie Suthorn manages to work her way into the confidence of the Duke of Hachiman by playing on his chivalrous impulses and allowing him to "rescue" her from the supposed minions of the "abusive" Chandrasekhar Kurita (actually her regiment's current employer) after a party. They never get physically intimate, the Duke being quite sympathetic to her alleged plight and too much of a gentleman to take advantage, but the general principle still holds.
- Rook and occasionally Amara from Codex Alera. The Cursors and Bloodcrows play for keeps.
- Kushiel's Dart is a rare example of a femme fatale spy as protagonist.
- The Silerian Trilogy: Femme Fatale Spy: Elelar is a straight example, and surprisingly effective, gaining state secrets from the head of the Valdani administration in Sileria.
- Victoria has both male and female examples, including Governor Bowen's regular mistress and the gorgeous female impersonators who pull a Honey Trap on Governor Hokem.
- John Rain's Love Interest Delilah's job with Mossad is to seduce targets to get information. She's routinely despised by her colleagues for her methods, although they have no problem using the intelligence she provides.
- Though nobody is every shown doing it on page, this trope is brought up in the Vorkosigan Saga. ImpSec agent Byelry Vorruyter notes that when he wants some, it's easier to convince prostitutes to spy on their clients than to convince female agents to seduce people on demand.
- Sydney Bristow, along with roughly half the female cast.
- Sydney's mother, Irina Derevko, is a literal example - a KGB agent assigned to marry a CIA agent (namely, Jack) and steal his secrets.
- Lauren Reed pulls the same exact act, but on Vaughn.
- Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans has this arrow in her quiver. Averted by her daughter Paige in later seasons, with Elizabeth in one instance ordering her not to attempt to seduce a mark.
- Ziva David, NCIS, but only occasionally. She is better known for more "direct" methods then seduction.
- Young Indiana Jones: Indiana Jones meets Mata Hari in one episode, also losing his virginity to her.
- The North Korean spy Joyce Kim in The Big Bang Theory tried to obtain military secrets from Leonard, who was working under a DARPA contract at the time. She couldn't put up with Sheldon though, and abandoned her attempt.
- Mandy in 24, who poses as a seemingly normal Girl Next Door. She's one of the few villains to end her season still being at large, due to the information she gives CTU in exchange for freedom.
- Devonne from The Wire.
- Undercover policewoman Kate Morton in Eastenders became the girlfriend of Phil Mitchell to get him to confess if he murdered his ex.
- The Bill WPC Kerry Young seduced a gangster for inside information to help free women who were victims of sex trafficking
- Nikita and Alex from Nikita qualify for this trope, although they often use other methods to get their way as well.
- Katherine Pierce from The Vampire Diaries employs this tactic many times, always with brilliant results but then she is a Magnificent Bastard.
- Sarah Walker on Chuck.
- Irene Adler from Sherlock, the BBC series, where she's a dominatrix instead of an opera singer.
- Indeed, she very nearly succeeds at turning the British treasury into her own personal bank account.
- Fiona from Burn Notice has played this role occasionally, although she generally prefers the More Dakka approach.
- Karen is sent by the Overlords in Falling Skies to play this role in order to get Ben away from the 2nd Mass.
- In eight season JAG episode "Dangerous Game", Chegwidden tells Rabb that a new attorney, Lieutenant Commander Tracey Manetti, on the recommendation of the new SecNav will work at JAG, Rabb quips "Mata Hari in our midst". It later turns out (in a later episode) that she actually was assigned there as the Secretary's pair of extra eyes and ears.
- Elizabeth in The Americans seduces a KGB defector in order to facilitate his kidnapping.
- In the world of Warehouse 13, Margaretha Zelle was much more successful as a spy and seductress than in our world. While wearing Zelle's stockings, a woman has the power to enslave the mind of any man who has touched the stockings.
- Subverted in the 1979 mini-series A Man Called Intrepid. David Niven's character objects to a beautiful woman being used as a spy because "anyone who saw her would never forget her". Because she's highly qualified she's sent into France anyway; sure enough a German sentry remembers her face and it leads to her capture.
- Katrina Petrovna (Joan Collins), in the 1986 miniseries Monte Carlo, is a famous lounge singer who is also working for MI-6 and seduces an Italian general in the pursuit of intelligence on behalf of Great Britain.
- In the episode "Ms. Hellfire," Prue goes undercover as a hitwoman sent to kill the sisters to find out who ordered the hit. Naturally this involves donning some sexy black dresses and going to a party.
- In "Used Karma," a backfiring spell causes Phoebe to get possessed by none other than Mata Hari herself. So she behaves as if she's this - and makes a deal with a group of demons to assassinate her ex-boyfriend.
- Russian spy Dottie Underwood from Agent Carter is an early graduate of the country's Black Widow program, where orphan girls are trained to fulfill this trope. Her most successful mission was seducing Howard Stark and stealing his designs, a nod to the comics where Natasha Romanov—the Black Widow we know and love—initially played this role. Dottie goes on to become Peggy Carter's personal archenemy.
- In Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns, and Money", the first scrape the narrator gets into involves this:
I went home with a waitress,Just like I always do.How was I to knowShe was with the Russians too?
- Lampshaded of course in Secret Agent Man.
Beware of pretty faces that you find
A pretty face can hide an evil mind
- M. Butterfly has Song, a Chinese spy, who poses as a woman to get information from Gallimard, a French soldier. He ends up falling in love with him after being his "mistress" for years.
- Milla Vodello from Psychonauts is an attractive lady spy whose nickname is "The Mental Minx."
- Margarete from Shadow Hearts... then again, she is the actual Mata Hari.
- EVA from Metal Gear Solid 3. Snake even refers to her as "a regular Mata Hari."
- Belleza from Skies of Arcadia. She's an Admiral, but she poses as a belly dancer to gather information on the party for The Empire. Rare, in that she's both a villainous version of this trope and motivated by idealism.
- The design of A Dance with Rogues lends itself to this sort of player character. An Ax-Crazy runthrough is much more difficult.
- Rouge the Bat fits as a femme fatale spy in Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The adventure game Mata Hari. Reviews have been mixed, but the general consensus is it's So Okay, It's Average.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Orlesiannote Bards fill this role. Party member Leliana used to be one, and also doubles as a Naughty Nun; she has trouble reconciling the two aspects of her being, since she enjoyed her former career as much as her newfound faith. She does this by the time of Dragon Age II, by becoming a spy for the Church.
- Zevran is a male version. In the 'verse, the genders are equal and homo/bisexuality is seen as a mere fetish rather than a taboo, thus making male Mata Haris almost as effective as the ladies.
- Ada Wong of Resident Evil is first introduced as this, seducing an Umbrella employee in order to gain access to company secrets. Doesn't hurt that she's also a Dark Action Girl and a world-class Femme Fatale.
- Surprisingly Averted in Velvet Assassin. Violette possesses a lot of feminine charm, but never uses them on her missions, preferring the more direct method of sneaking around and stabbing Nazis. Even the dimwitted guards of this game are able to clue in that the heavily-armed and rather scary looking British woman didn't sneak into enemy territory because she wanted a good time.
- The T-Girls of the Jet Dream Remix Comic are all femme fatale spies, similar to ''their original counterparts, except that in this case, they're an all-transgender group.
- In Spying with Lana, Lana often uses honey traps to get close to her targets. However, once she has closed in, she handles herself very well with guns or in fist fights.
- Mata Hari is the most iconic example. She was an exotic dancer from The Netherlands. During and before World War I she was a courtesan to many high class officials, politicians, and military officers. She was a spy for the French, but was convicted of being a double agent for Germany and was eventually executed by firing squad by the French. Her life was later fictionalized into a story of her being an irresistible master spy, yet in reality she wasn't such a master spy at all (most of the information she sold to both sides was little more than gossip about various official's personal lives). In fact, while movie adaptations of her story (most famously the 1931 version starring Greta Garbo) depict her as a sensational beauty, the real Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, while attractive, was more remarkable in her heyday for her sensual appeal than for her looks.
- Katrina Leung worked as a double agent for China and the FBI. She seduced several FBI employees including her FBI handler which got her information of use to China
- Cheryl Bentov (aka Cindy) was an American Mossad Agent who targeted a former Israeli nuclear technician who had disclosed nuclear secrets. She posed as an American tourist, became his lover, and persuaded him to go to Italy with her... where, naturally, he was kidnapped and smuggled back to Israel.
- In 2006 a British Defense Attache in Pakistan was brought back to the UK after it emerged a girlfriend/lover of his was a Pakistani Intelligence Officer. There are sources which say his actions compromised Western operatives and operations in Pakistan but the British government denies this.
- A North Korean woman, Wong Jeong-Hwa, was imprisoned in 2008 after she admitted seducing South Korean military officers in exchange for classified information.
- A US diplomat was photographed in a "compromising situation" with a Polish woman in 1961 and was blackmailed into revealing secrets.
- A US Army NCO who worked at the US Embassy in Moscow either had drunken sex or was made to believe he had sex with a Soviet Agent because he was too drunk to remember. He was later told she was pregnant and that his wife would be told if he did not cooperate with the Soviet Authorities.
- This was a very common tactic used by the KGB, which trained attractive female personnel known as "sparrows" to lure Westerners into sexual situations by which they could be blackmailed into working for the Soviets or at least giving classified information to them. Smart victims of this plot would refuse and immediately contact the American embassy.
- In 1987 a US Marine Sergeant embassy guard in Moscow called Clayton J. Lonetree was convicted of spying against the United States for handing over documents he was assigned to after being honeytrapped and blackmailed by a female Soviet officer.
- Anna Chapman, who pleaded guilty to acting as a agent for a foreign government, has been described in the media as a "modern day Mata Hari" and a "honey trap" for obtaining a British passport by marrying a British man and allegedly having affairs with prominent businessmen.
- She, at least, appears no more competent than the real Mata Hari, having been caught by U.S. authorities and extradited back to Russia via Prisoner Exchange. With her cover thoroughly blown, she's been capitalizing on her looks and notoriety to become a media personality and TV host. She also did a photo shoot for Maxim magazine which played up this trope, posing in Agent Provocateur lingerie while holding a pistol.
- Alleged Russian spy Katja Zatuliveter, who worked as a researcher for the BBC and a politician's PA, has been labeled a honey trap and "blonde temptress" by the UK press, who strongly imply the MP in question hired her out of lust and didn't do the proper background checks.
- During the Cold War, British Secretary of State for War John Profumo was accused of putting national security at risk by having a sexual relationship with alleged call girl Christine Keeler, who was reputed to also be sleeping with Eugene Ivanov, a senior Naval Attache at the Soviet Embassy in London.
- M15 sent out a 14-page document to British banks, businesses and financial institutions warning about the danger of Chinese intelligence services blackmailing Western businesspeople over sexual relationships.
- Spy Sylvia Rafael has been called a Mossad honey trap.
- British MP Ian Clement admitted he was seduced by a woman in Beijing he suspects of working for Chinese intelligence.
- Russian model Ekaterina Gerasimova was allegedly employed by the Kremlin to seduce at least half a dozen of their high profile critics to destroy their reputations and for blackmail purposes.
- World War II American spy Betty Pack used her feminine wiles to get an Italian naval attache to give her the Italian Naval Code book (some say he gave her fake codes but the Italian fleets movements were predicted much more accurately suggesting he didn't) and seduced the French Embassy's press attache who gave her information to use against the Nazis.
- Also in World War II, Amy Elizabeth Thorpe was an American spy, codenamed Cynthia, who worked for the British government. She seduced several foreign diplomats to gain access to their plans. Among her contributions was helping the Allied Invasion of North Africa succeed.
- A Taiwanese Army Major General Lo Hsien-che was drawn into a honey trap set by a "tall, beautiful and chic" Chinese agent and supplied her with top secret information in exchange for sex and money in what has been described as the worst Espionage case in Taiwan for 50 years
- Rose O'Neal Greenhow. She was a Southern socialite and spy for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. She was hugely successful because men seemed incapable of refusing her anything. On multiple occasions, she seduced Union officers and politicians to where they were willing to betray their duty (and left a few suicides in her wake).
- For a multiplayer example, this is generally considered to be true about prostitutes during America's war in Vietnam. Much of the intelligence also came from other sources that were close to the Americans such as taxi drivers.
- During his time as a spy in World War II, Roald Dahl served as a gender-inverted version of this. Yes, THAT Roald Dahl. Cracked has more information than you require.
- In a 1904 manual on field intelligence, a British intelligence colonel discussed this trope.
"When women are employed as secret service agents, the probability of success and the difficulty of administration are alike increased. Women are frequently very skilful in eliciting information; they require no disguise; if attractive, they are likely to be welcome everywhere, and may be able to seduce from their loyalty those whose assistance and information may be of use. On the other hand, they are variable, easily offended, seldom sufficiently reticent, and apt to be reckless. Usually they will work more consistently for a person than for a principle, and a lover in the Intelligence Corps makes a useful intermediary."
- In 2018, US prosecutor unmasked Maria Butina, who used, among other things, "sex, lies and gun" to infiltrate the NRA and undermine the US election.