On the surface, sex couldn't be simpler - get it in, and jiggle it about it about until it goes off. Unfortunately, the thing about sex that makes it interesting lies beneath the surface, and is anything but simple. Take two men, with similar levels of personal attractiveness and physical stamina. One may be so great in the sack that his lover has to have her smile removed by surgery afterwards, and the other may not be able to give it away.
What is the difference? Gentlemen, if you don't know, I'm afraid it's because - feminism notwithstanding - women have been too polite to tell you. We have lied about your performance, partly because of the tradition that it is somehow unfeminine not to put up a tremendous show of excitement the moment a guy drops his drawers, but mostly because a lie is sometimes the only way to shore up a flagging erection. Dear me, what a lot of work it takes, to keep those things at the right angle. And, like the rest of the world's work, it falls to women.
Tragically, in our anxiety to please, we have played down the vital importance of several very basic truths about sex. The First Principle should be obvious, but my teachers used to say long division was "obvious" and it never was, so let's say it again. Sex is a washout for a woman when she does not have an orgasm. If your lover swears she likes sex without the big O, she is lying her face off, and probably masturbating furtively in the bathroom afterwards.
Close behind that First Principle comes the Second - that female orgasms occur following stimulation of the clitoris. Penetration alone will not make us come, unless you are Rufus Sewell or Colin Firth, and we have done the initial legwork by fantasising about you for months beforehand. Actually, Mr Firth could make me come like the Flying Scotsman merely by peeling a banana, but the rest of you are less attractive, and will have to try harder.
In sex manuals, one often reads that "men should never regard sex as a performance". Why not? A performance is exactly what women want - especially when we routinely give such Oscar-winners ourselves. I would not think much of a Hamlet who just mumbled his lines, for godsake. Let us have some passion, commitment, enthusiasm. The sad truth may be that a man, once erect, could happily shag a hole in the mattress, but great sex depends upon the masking of this fact. We love to think it is our bodies alone that thrill the men in our lives.
Where length of performance is concerned, we do not expect the Ring Cycle. There is no virtue in stamina for its own sake. On the other hand, I cannot imagine what we are meant to do with one quick chorus and no encore. As to structure, theatrical rules apply. A good performance has a beginning, middle and end, during which dramatic tension builds steadily towards a climax. And please give clear signals when a climax is happening - don't you hate plays where you don't know when to start applauding, because you're not sure it's finished?
Superfluous dialogue can ruin the whole thing. I am very sorry for men who shout foolish things in the heat of the moment, such as "Mum" or "Suffer, baby". A woman's heated moment is never so hot that she will not notice this, and phone for a mini-cab immediately.
If a woman shouts during the act, it will probably be something along the lines of "Give it to me, you tiger", and she is doing it because she feels you need encouragement. When she groans, and begs "Please!" she usually means: "Stop twiddling my nipples as if you were trying to pick up Classic FM, and get the hell on with it!" You have read about the importance of foreplay, but none at all is better than bad foreplay.
Which brings us back to the female orgasm, and the way to cause one. I have never understood why so many men seem to regard this as difficult. My sister once said she could never live in Clissold Park because it sounded too much like "clitoris", and she was afraid male visitors would never be able to find it. Any woman can give you simple directions, lads. Please don't behave as you do when driving, and refuse to stop to ask.
The clitoris is a little knob of flesh, conveniently situated near the top of the slit. It is as sensitive as the most sensitive part of a penis, so strumming it aggressively with the thumb or flat of the hand won't help. A delicate touch is required.
Simply locating it is not enough. Bringing a woman to orgasm takes time. We will do it ourselves when in a hurry, but there is one infallible route to ecstasy. I am talking about the Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Give Head.
A man who gives good head, willingly and for ages, will instantly acquire a reputation as a sex-god. Stop groaning, class. I don't want to hear any feeble jokes about the view - it ain't much of a landscape round your privates, either. Yes, of course you will encounter a hair or two. Some of you, I daresay, would do it if we shaved down there, but bad luck. Apart from anything else, think what the stubble would do to our tights.
Women's eagerness to get head, and men's unwillingness to give it, is the Feminist Issue of our age. I believe we should take to the streets, demanding our fair share of oral sex as a right. We should take militant action, refusing to go down ourselves unless the favour is returned. Take a positive view. It does not require a complicated technique - only patience. And age is no barrier; this is one area in which having false teeth you can take out may be a positive advantage.
I dislike the term "foreplay", because it implies that the woman's orgasm is only a curtain-raiser to the main event, but there is a reason why we should come first, which is that penetration is more fun afterwards. The mythic vaginal orgasm may even be achieved in this way.
Only if a man has a sense of rhythm, however. Rhythm is terribly important. Good, confident strokes. No stopping and starting, no feeble thrusts, no silly woodpecker tapping. A chap who cannot manage this must ask himself if he is a breathless old git who is utterly past it anyway. "All you want from sex," a man once complained to me, "is bang-bang-bang, in a variety of positions, that lasts for ages." Yup, that's it in a nutshell.
Generally, the days of men having it all their way are numbered. When I was a gel, in that prelapsarian, overrated era before Aids awareness, you couldn't get a bloke near a condom for love nor money. If I had a quid for every time I've heard the one about it being like taking a shower in a raincoat, I would be writing this on a sun lounger in the Bahamas.
Now that condoms are mandatory, however, women are waking up to the inadequacy of the alternatives. I cannot think of a single form of female contraception that does not involve either poison or mutilation. The pill works by mimicking the earliest stages of pregnancy: wow, very sexy. Using a diaphragm is like inserting a spring-sided dinner-plate covered in axle-grease. Using the so-called "female" condom is like having sex by fax, and the coil has always struck me as barbaric. Women prefer condoms. Yes means yes and no means no, but when a woman swears she prefers the diaphragm, pill or coil - well, ten to one she's lying again.
Believe me, it pains me to reveal the extent of female mendacity. But we only do it when we believe it will help some poor geezer to achieve orgasm, and it pains me far more that men believe us so readily. If men thought of women as members of the human race, they would be better in bed for the simple reason that they would treat us more as they would like to be treated themselves. Honestly, chaps, would you enjoy sex without a climax, and with your genitalia full of clanking metal objects?
The most universal sexual lie told by women is, of course, the faked orgasm. Why are we still doing this? Not for fun, certainly. Often, I'm afraid, to be kind. Though since the female orgasm became compulsory, there are too many men who decide their women should have one, with no notion of helping her.
The fake is tricky to spot. Generally, gentlemen, if it looks too photogenic, or too out of proportion to your own performance, be suspicious. And if you meet a woman's orgasm when you have paid no attention whatever to her clitoris, a thousand to one says it's as fake as Vermeer's "Still Life With Digital Watch".
nothing in this article is to be construed as pertaining to the author in any way. The observations contained are strictly the results of field research carried out with a representative sample of men aged 25-35 in the dying days of 1995. And what they wanted was:
Tenderness. The adolescent male dreams of an older woman with breasts like he remembers his mother's, a generous heart, a patient soul and warm hands. She will tell him what a big boy he is, and how impetuous, and invite him to put his finger just there. A boy enters the bedroom, but a man eventually leaves it. The enlightened French used to organise this type of encounter on a regular basis, much as we now pay for piano tuition or acting classes. Sadly, this vision practically never materialises, so younger men could do with some...
Help. We all start the bilateral phase of our sexual careers with a fumble (the unilateral is accomplished relatively smoothly). The schoolbook diagrams provide poor guidance to the real geography of a woman's body. So what you require is the equivalent of one of those 3-D relief maps of great mountain ranges, something that indicates the principal heights, gullies, waterfalls and crevices - and all in living colour. I'd like to see Dorling Kindersley providing a CD- ROM with back up book, entitled Finding Your Way Around The Fanny. Commentary by Dawn French.
This should be supplemented by an early relationship with a sensible, practical and long-suffering lover, on whom elementary moves can be practised - not unlike the lifesize dolls that St John ambulance trainees bandage, truss and administer the kiss of life to. Only then is a man ready for adult desires, predominant among which is...
Raunch. A savannah motel - the ceiling fan providing little respite from the sultry heat. Two bodies collide, mind is obliterated, thighs are gripped, mouth is clamped upon mouth, faces are devoured, sweat runs in rivulets, eyes sparkle, he moans and she groans, sweet agony and bitter ecstasy. She shudders and he pumps - or is it the other way around? They collapse, panting like two exhausted animals. Deep sleep. He wakes at dawn to find the mystery woman gone. There's a note" "You were the best, Johnny, but I am a wanderer". Is that a tear-stain at the bottom? He sighs, smiles wistfully, dresses and walks out to the diner, where he eats a large American-style breakfast, including flapjacks and eggs easy-over. Easy-over, hmmmmm. He flings his overnight bag into the back of the '62 Cadillac convertible and sets off along the dusty road, jangly guitar on radio. Tonight there will be another town and maybe another woman.
That is what men really want out of sex: passion, anonymity, praise, physical fulfilment, moderate exercise and a good night's kip. Our perfect woman is the one who cries when she comes, but doesn't get all serious. However we know that this is an ideal and we will happily settle for less. As long as we get some or all of the following things:
A Good Pursuit. It's true. Everybody knows it. The keenest pleasure is in the chase, or the dalliance, or the dance - whichever you prefer. Can you, Bert, or Hugo, or Merlin, by dint of your wiles, by deployment of your charms, by a whiff of your pheromones, or by sheer bloody persistence, get that lovely woman over there to do it with you? It's all so terribly, tantalisingly uncertain, a primordial hangover from those thousands of years spent running, naked on the veldt. To the victor the race. On with the hair-gel and off to the office party.
Where what will set him on most is...
Indifference. Just as women seem to go for snakes and rakes, men adore cruel, cold women. Women with very red lipstick, whose snarls reveal perfect incisors and who indulge in designer-lesbianism, just to tease. Sassy, clever, contemptuous gals with PVC masks, stiletto heels and... anyway you catch my drift. If there is any one piece of advice to women on snaring men - as delivered by generations of wise mothers - it is treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen. If, on the other hand, you're not into snaring anyone but are just after some good lovemaking too, don't worry too much. Just be careful that he doesn't fall in...
Lurve. Yes, that too. That period of adoration when he nearly ruptures himself in bed by holding in both his stomach and his flatulence. When he counts off the days, hours and minutes till he sees The Woman again. When perception and senses are curiously heightened. When he doesn't eat for a week. When the real prize he is craving turns out to be...
Acceptance. At last someone loves him for who he really is. Not the sanitised, deodorised, windless Potemkin of a man who dresses carefully and speaks cautiously. But the true man, with all his accretions and secretions. As they both embrace in post-coital contentment, she lays her hand gently on his wilting member and whispers that - potbelly, zits and all - he's her guy. Whatever his name is. And she will understand that he needs...
Relief. Every minute of every day men's bodies are manufacturing sperm. Inside the avuncular priest, the bank manager and that bloke on the bus there is an industrial-scale operation going on. So there is a truth in the physiological determinism that men have used for so long to justify their mis- behaviour. To them it all feels like a bath with both taps running - if the plug isn't pulled then eventually the floor will get wet. So men must have orgasms if they are to be happy and docile. And the question is: who will pull the plug? Which is why one of the qualities many look for in their sex lives is...
Friendship. Passion is all very well, but it is both exhausting and temporary. Sometimes you just need someone to do you a favour. Like sleep with you. And send you Christmas cards. Which doen't appeal at all to those men who crave...
Danger. Mr X has got it all. Handsome, rich and married to the world's most desirable woman. But should this pale he can have his pick of lovely girls (guys too, if the urge takes him) and cavort in the total privacy of a secluded beachside villa. So what does he do? Cruises one of America's most policed red-light areas, picks up a rather ordinary hooker, parks in a nearby street and - inevitably - is caught mid-gobble by the LAPD. All (career, family, girlfriend) is nearly lost. You don't get much more exciting than that. Unless you crave...
Death. Or Le Grand Mort. The ultimate sexual experience to be accomplished with the aid of an orange, silk stockings, rope, garden rollers, water tanks and a mad Japanese bimbo wielding a bread knife. Reserved for those with exceptionally vivid imaginations who have exhausted all other possibilities. Such men typically include politicians, advertising executives and equally mad Japanese film directors. Not to be confused with...
Peace. There comes a time in all men's lives when they weary of the constant demands of the flesh. The insistent tug at the groin is an irritant - they want peace. They need displacement. So what better than to put on your waders and waterproofs, pick up your rod and saunter down to a sun- dappled stretch of river or stream? There your sexual apparatus is reduced to the vestigial status of an appendix or tonsils - a dangling appendage well-covered and happily to be ignored. The day passes in untroubled solitude and fish fill the keepnet. Evening falls. Back to the hotel and a bloody good shag before dinner.
And finally... what do men not want. Do not buy him that coffee table version of The Sensitive Lover's Guide to Endlessly Prolonged Massage. It will sit on the shelves for years; an eternal reproach to the pathetic urgency of male sexuality. Likewise forget the subscription to classes on Tantric, Yogic or any New Age Sex, which involves candles, comfrey, self-restraint, forgoing climax, missing Match of ihe Day. Do not take advice from the likes of Shere Hite on how total honesty will improve your relationship with your man. Her list of questions include the following: "Where exactly do you feel your orgasm - in the base of your penis, or at the tip?" (Like riding a bicycle, too close an analysis can make what seems a simple act almost impossible to achieve). And this: "Do you masturbate when I am not around? How often? What do you think about?" (The answers, which he will not give you, almost certainly are the following: yes, at least three times a week and your sister).
And whatever you do, do not question him about this article. He'll only say that it's one sad old fart's opinion.