Desire: What really turns us on?

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/desire/desire-what-really-turns-us-on-1606978.html

‘No matter how much their keypads insisted they weren’t interested in the scenes before them, their internal monitors showed they were turned on by everything: straight sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, the nude gymnast – even the rutting simians got a vaginal thumbs-up. ”

“Academics are pondering the importance of being desired in inspiring desire; how women are turned on by the thought of being wanted – not just loved by a caring and empathetic partner, but urgently, physically craved to a level of derangement. “Women’s desire,” said one (female) professor, “is not relational, it’s narcissistic.” Coleridge expressed the same idea 170 years earlier: “The man’s desire is for the woman,” he wrote, “but the woman’s desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.” ”

“Women would be amazed if they knew what men desire about them. Yes, of course, they want to see women naked and supine and melting, but male desire is far more readily stimulated by what the oblique glance discovers: the parted lips, the micron of eyelash which the mascara brush missed, the changing angle and shadow of cleavage, the bra-strap alternately displayed and covered up, the ripe-camembert plumpness at the edge of hips. There is, inside every adult man, a relentless Peeping Tom, a perennial 14-year-old boy, still amazed by the phenomenon of women on display, flagging their sexuality, their availability, with every square inch of visible flesh, clothing, make-up and curve. ”

“For men, desire involves the primal urge to possess and penetrate the object of their attention, but also the more sophisticated urge to invade her (or his) life, to become the object of her attention and affection. Male desire does not cease when the initiating partner – the desirer – has finished performing the blanket hornpipe and the midnight rodeo upon (or beneath) the desiree. In many respects, his urge to explore every nook and cranny of her body and soul has only just begun.
Male lust is an ignorant, blind, bullying thing – an immediate need, as real as hunger though not quite so life-threatening. Male desire is more subtle and strategic than wanting to get laid. It yearns to satisfy something more long-term, something awkwardly freighted with spiritual components. It’s about wanting to offer yourself to a person you admire, to combine your two spirits. ”

“Women have been much more concerned about having the “right” kind of sex ever since Sigmund Freud started the “vaginal vs clitoral” orgasm debate back in 1905. He gave several generations of women instantaneous inferiority complexes when he wrote that the clitoral orgasm was an “adolescent” phenomenon that “mature” women would outgrow.”

How to break free from the single trap: seven tips

Are you stuck in the lonely hearts’ club? The marital therapist Andrew G. Marshall says finding love is just a matter of changing your tactics

For some, being single is no longer a natural phase between the end of one relationship and the beginning of another but somewhere they have become trapped. In my new book The Single Trap I look at the underlying causes: how the internet might provide more choice but makes it harder to choose; how having divorced parents makes it more difficult to trust; and the social changes that mean we meet fewer prospective partners.

However, it is possible to break free from the single trap. The first step is to take a fresh look at yourself. Often the very things that we think protect us from getting hurt make it harder for new people to come into our lives and because like attracts like it is important to balance ourselves. The second step involves changing the way that we search for love, to become more open-minded, learning the art of mixing and making more fulfilling emotional connections, as the extract on the facing page shows.

In my work as a marital therapist I always start by taking a history of my client’s relationships. Most people knew each other casually, or even distantly, before going out together. Work has been another low-risk way to meet people; other couples have a shared interest. The key advantage of meeting someone casually — as a friend of a friend, through work or sharing a hobby — is that all the defences are down. You are not meeting a potential life partner, but chatting for 30 seconds waiting for the lift. The stakes are so low there is no need for game-playing and you are more likely to be yourself.

What I’m suggesting in effect is a return to the roots of British courting: parading, mixing, and saying “how do you do?” At parties, it’s not looking for a partner but for an interesting conversation, which might lead to a recommendation for an art exhibition and getting talking to someone else at the gallery. It’s about joining a poetry class, not to find a potential date, but because you love words and then going to a classmate’s coffee-shop performance and being introduced to someone from his or her workplace.

Mixing is about being open to new ideas, new opportunities and ultimately new people. The good news is that not only will these seven skills opposite help you to meet more people, they will also undo some of the bad habits acquired through dating.

THE SEVEN STEPS TO FINDING A PARTNER

1. Riding the flow

Have you ever been so wrapped up in something that when you looked at your watch, time had evaporated? Psychologists call this “riding the flow”. Not only is it extremely pleasurable, but your mood is expansive, tolerant and creative. Even better, we forget ourselves and are less self-conscious and self-critical. Not only is this the perfect state of mind to meet a partner, but the chances are increased dramatically; happy people are a pleasure to be around. People get more satisfaction from activities outside work — the most common examples are sport or exercise, or satisfaction could come from joining a choir or volunteering. So how do you find your own personal flow? It must be something you find personally rewarding and which maintains your interest. Set yourself small, realistic goals. It is better to aim at learning 20 French words a week than to speak French in time for your holiday. Seek to help others rather than just looking after number one. You will reap the personal benefits. Research shows that volunteering is the second greatest source of joy, after dancing, and a good way of meeting people. As your aim is to find a partner, look for ways to flow with other people. If hours disappear when you are playing the piano, accompany the local amateur dramatic society. If you enjoy squash, join a league.

2. Six degrees of separation

Frigyes Karinthy, a Hungarian author, claimed that we can link ourselves to any other human being on Earth using no more than five intermediaries, one of whom is a personal acquaintance. The idea was tested in a Sixties experiment by a social psychologist who mailed random people and asked them to forward a parcel to someone who might forward it closer to the final recipient. The average number of times the parcel was forwarded was six. But what does all this mean for mixing and finding your ideal partner? Firstly, the more friends and acquaintances, the greater chances of meeting him or her. Market researcher John T. Molloy interviewed 2,500 couples and found that women about to marry knew significantly more people than women with no proposal in sight. Secondly, six degrees of separation underlines how important it is to take every opportunity to talk to people. Look back at your previous partners. How many times did you meet someone who was a friend of a friend? Even if you met by chance, did you have acquaintances in common?

3. Becoming open-hearted

What is the best predictor for whether two people will be attracted? When I put this question to acquaintances, there was a clear consensus: looks. Yet if you look around your own circle of friends, you will find ordinary and even plain people who are never short of dates, and gorgeous ones who seem doomed to remain single. So what’s going on? Fortunately, social psychologists have always been fascinated by what attracts people to each other and the key predictor is not looks but the sheer amount of contact time. We expect to be attracted to the unknown, but are most likely to fall for the known. Social psychologists have found a second key predictor of mutual attraction: similarity. Although we might occasionally like a challenge, ultimately we choose someone similar in one or more of the following ways: attitudes, personality, demographic characteristics and lifestyle. So how do you move from a spark of interest for someone you see on a regular basis to a relationship? Becoming open-hearted Contrary to many people’s expectations, personality is more important than looks in attracting a partner; students were asked to rate qualities in possible mates, and the results were: 1) Kind and considerate; 2) Socially exciting; 3) Artistic/intelligent; 4) Easy-going/adaptable.

So how do you come across as open-hearted? Smile: This will not only make you seem warm but approachable too. Maintain good eye contact — people who cannot look us directly in the eye are considered to be lying. Be positive: We like people who make us feel good about the world, and ourselves. Appear interested: This includes nodding the head, repeating back key phrases and, most powerful of all, identifying feelings (“you must have been horrified”).

4. Flirting

If you have been out of the singles game for a while, flirting can be particularly daunting. In essence, there are three key ingredients to successful flirting: encouraging body language, easy-flowing conversation and confidence.

Encouraging body language Leaning slightly towards someone — although not too close — shows interest. Nodding signals not only encouragement but also demonstrates involvement in the story that you’re being told. Blinking can also set a romantic mood. We blink every two or three seconds and increasing the rate will increase your partner’s too. Conversely slowing down a blink can be sexually attractive as it mimics a wink. Mirroring — matching your body posture to someone else’s — can amplify intimacy.

Easy-flowing conversation Value small talk: It’s a good way of warming up for a more interesting conversation and provides a breathing space to relax. When using small talk add extra conversational hooks: “At least the rain will bring on things in my allotment.” Look for areas of conversational connection. Echo the other person’s language. Don’t block topics A rant against dogs fouling the pavements will not build rapport. Never underestimate the importance of asking questions. A good listener will always be appreciated.

Confidence We like confident, outgoing people Make a list of three things under the following headings — parts of my body that I like; positive aspects of my personality; past achievements; past compliments and my potential. Check your language in case you are unknowingly running yourself down. Be upbeat: When you are interested and excited, your face muscles become more animated and more attractive. Confidence is not about being perfect. It comes from knowledge and experience, and through achieving small goals.

5. Taking a risk

When adopting this mixing skill, the first job is to reconsider people that you already know but have dismissed on possibly spurious grounds. John T.Molloy found that 20 per cent of the women he interviewed coming out of a marriage bureau had not liked their intended when they first met him. However, something made them reconsider and take a risk. The second way of taking a risk is to suspend judgment for longer and give your unconscious time to breathe and decide. If you have been thinking about someone in a new way, it is probably time to see more of them. This might be officially seen as a date, or possibly an extension of your normal routine. I would suggest you follow these guidelines:

No introspection on the date :Just enjoy the moment. Let the experience brew: Try to avoid making a judgment and instead sleep on it. Ultimately, your unconscious will tell you if there is a true match But your unconscious can talk only if you are prepared to listen — and that’s impossible if you’re too busy analysing. By waiting until the next morning, you will have avoided the snap judgment and stretched your normal window of decision-making.

6. Do as you would be done by

We frequently judge on the most superficial grounds, but demand that others consider our character and personality, not just our looks, weight and bank balance. If men knew the problems of women (who have traditionally supposed to wait to be asked) and women knew men’s fears (looking foolish), we would be kinder. These are the new rules of seeing someone: Both men and women have an equal opportunity to ask each other out. The policy should be, generally, to accept an invitation. First outings should be small events. If you promise to call or contact, it is your responsibility to do so. Whoever suggests the outing pays.

7. Be philosophical

Although we think of philosophy as being dominated by dead men with beards, it is in essence about making sense of the world around us. We have to accept the things over which we have no control and concentrate on what we can influence: our own behaviour. This means embracing all of the seven skills of mixing and, in particular, taking a risk. Sometimes when we stop trying to control — and when we least expect it — love comes to us.

© Andrew G. Marshall 2009. Extracted from The Single Trap: The Two-Step Guide to Escaping it and Finding Lasting Love (Bloomsbury, £12.99), published on February 2. The book is available for £11.69, free p&p, from Times Books; tel 0845 2712134, timesonline.co.uk/booksfirst

The trouble with sex

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/men-women/the-trouble-with-sex-937450.html
One major cause of misunderstanding between men and women is the awkward fact that sexual intercourse, which we imagine will bring us closer together, is poorly designed to give pleasure to both parties. Jeremy Laurance goes back to physiological basics

Monday, 22 September 2008

If we were designing men and women to deliver maximum sexual satisfaction to one another, we would not start from here. The reason, as Shere Hite noted, has to do with the position of a tiny, but neglected organ – the clitoris.

Conventional sexual intercourse, in which the penis is inserted into the vagina, may be an efficient method of reproduction but is doomed to failure when it comes to maximising sexual pleasure – at least for the woman.

The author of the Hite report, one of the most detailed surveys of sexual behaviour ever carried out, says doctors, therapists and the public share a collective blindness about this simple anatomical fact which determines the way in which most women achieve orgasm.

The key, according to Ms Hite, is that women have orgasms more easily when masturbating than when having intercourse. This is because the clitoris, the stimulation of which leads to orgasm, is situated above the entrance to the vagina, where it is mostly inaccessible to the thrusting movement of the penis.

“The overwhelming majority of women, according to my research, can have orgasms easily during masturbation. So why not also during coitus? The answer is that during masturbation women choose to stimulate the clitoral area. Only rarely, in 2 per cent of cases, does it involve vaginal penetration,” she said.

This difference between men and women is fundamental but not widely recognised. For men the stimulation they give themselves when masturbating is similar to that which they receive when having intercourse. For women it is completely different. So it is not at all surprising that the rate of orgasm for women during intercourse is low.

That old cliché about men being from Mars and women from Venus applies not only to their psychology but to their anatomy, too.

Despite the importance of clitoral stimulation to women, the definition of sex is focused on intercourse. This is fine for men, but not at all fine for women, and may account for the high proportion of women that research suggests suffer from “sexual dysfunction”.

Ms Hite says it is this limited definition of sex, not women’s bodies, that is at fault. Sex should be composed not only of intercourse but also of clitoral stimulation, by hand or mouth. But the sad reality is that although women know how to have orgasms, they rarely feel free to express this during sex with men. Their inhibition not only denies them pleasure but has also put researchers trying to treat female sexual dysfunction on the wrong track.

The fundamental error was committed by Freud who said that the source of sexual excitement transferred from the clitoris to the vagina at puberty. This view was later entrenched by psychiatrists who defined a lack of orgasm during intercourse in women as a disorder. Now drug companies are trying to solve the problem by looking for a female equivalent of Viagra. But by focussing on women’s readiness to participate in intercourse rather than helping them to experience pleasure, they risk making matters worse.

Ms Hite said: “The pharmaceutical industry has misunderstood the basics of female sexuality. Putting money into supposed treatments that don’t work could mean financing unhappiness and divorce, leaving women’s feelings invisible or unexplained, and placing men on insecure ground.

“It risks fostering an atmosphere of fear and confusion in which love, including intense sexual intimacy and experimentation, needlessly becomes an area of conflict rather than pleasure.”

“It is not arousal pills we need, but a whole new set of physical relations with each other,” she says.

Critics have challenged her analysis on the grounds that it neglects another part of the female anatomy – the G-spot. The G-spot is said to lie a third to halfway inside the vagina, on the upper (front) wall and is claimed to enable some women to experience a vaginal orgasm, in addition to the conventional clitoral one.

Unlike the clitoris, however, the existence of the G-spot has been contested ever since it was first suggested by German gynaecologist Ernst Grafenberg in 1944 (after whose surname it became known in the 1980s). Earlier this year, Italian researcher Professor Emmanuele Jannini claimed to have located it using ultrasound. That was the good news. The bad news was that, according to Professor Jannini, not all women had one.

His study, involving 20 women, suggested those who claimed to experience vaginal orgasms had an area of thicker tissue on the front wall of their vagina, which he identified as the G-spot, while those who had not climaxed in this way had not.

Others disputed the findings, reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggesting the thicker tissue was actually part of the clitoris which, in some women, extends far beyond its visible tip. MRI scans have shown that the clitoris is in the form of an inverted V, extending from the tip, back and along the vagina, raising the possibility that, in some women at least, it may be stimulated internally as well as externally.

Sexual failure, as all couples know, is not confined to women. If for females it is the location of the clitoris that causes problems, in males it is the performance of the penis. Almost all men experience impotence on some occasions or at some time in their lives.

Masters and Johnson, the American gynaecologist and psychologist who revolutionised sex research 40 years ago with their detailed laboratory studies of the physiology of sexual arousal, described how the human sexual response fell into four distinct phases, for both men and women – excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution.

The excitement stage is marked by increased blood flow to the genitals causing them to swell. In men, the tissues of the penis become engorged with blood, so that it stands erect, while in women the tissues surrounding the vagina swell and fluid seeps through the vaginal walls, increasing lubrication. The glans of the clitoris enlarges and hardens in a process similar to male erection.

While successful penetration and intercourse depends on the arousal of both sexes, it is the male erection – or its absence – that is the most frequent cause of problems. A common difficulty is that men can get an erection but cannot hold it long enough to have sex. In 75 per cent of men with impotence who have normal neurological and hormonal function, blood flows into the penis normally but flows out too rapidly.

Treatments for impotence have been painful, cumbersome and of limited effectiveness in the past – until the arrival of Viagra in 1997. An effective therapy in an oral tablet, it transformed the approach to male impotence. The Government was so worried by the potential demand that it immediately restricted its availability on the NHS to men with diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions. Even so, it rapidly became a global best seller.

Viagra works by increasing the blood flow to the penis, boosting performance when sexual arousal occurs. Male journalists lucky enough to be asked to test the drug in its early days wrote almost universally enthusiastic reports, proving that it is a rare erection that cannot be improved, even in relatively young men.

A recent study suggested that Viagra has transformed the sex lives of the over-70s who have found themselves able to continue having intimate relations for years, or even decades, longer than in the past. But while men are performing better they are enjoying themselves less. It is women who are reaping the benefits, reporting increased satisfaction with their sex lives, while in men satisfaction has declined. The study was conducted in Sweden and published in the British Medical Journal in July.

Viagra’s success prompted drug companies to search for its female equivalent. Could a similar drug do the same for women? Millions have been invested, but women are proving more complicated than men.

Female sexual dysfunction is a more diverse condition than male impotence. Researchers have pointed out that it has four distinct categories: lack of desire, lack of arousal, pain on intercourse and lack of orgasm and that only one of these – lack of arousal – corresponds to impotence in men. Trials have shown that Viagra can help some women with lack of arousal by increasing blood flow to the genitals. But it cannot help the other three components of female sexual dysfunction.

A female testosterone patch, called Intrinsa, launched in the UK in 2007, is claimed to restore the sex drive of women with low libido. It has been shown to boost sexual desire in post-menopausal women, but it is currently only licensed for those with premature menopause caused by surgical removal of the ovaries, of whom there are one million in the UK.

Although testosterone is a male hormone, it is also produced in women at a lower level and plays a crucial role in sexual desire. Levels of testosterone fall after the menopause as do levels of oestrogen.

There has been a fierce debate in recent years about the extent of female sexual dysfunction with one widely quoted study suggesting as many as 43 per cent of women may be affected. Drug companies have been accused of stoking the issue to create new markets.

But some experts say the problem is under-recognised and under-treated. They describe clinics packed with post-menopausal women worried about loss of libido. “My patients complain bitterly of the loss of sex drive and satisfaction, and of difficulty in achieving orgasm. The drug companies have not invented it, we need to have a treatment that is safe, reliable and cheap,” said one gynaecologist.

Critics say there is a danger of seeing problems where they don’t exist. Lack of desire may be widespread, but it is not perceived as a problem by many women – and men – who may feel relief as advancing years bring freedom from the need, or the demand, to have sex.

This was borne out by a survey of 1,000 women and 450 men in north London, published in the British Medical Journal in 2003, which revealed that 40 per cent of the women and 22 per cent of men reported at least one sexual problem. But those who mentioned “lack of sexual desire” were much less likely to have visited their doctor for treatment than those with other problems. The implication, the researchers from the Royal free Hospital said, was that lack of desire was not necessarily an “obstacle to satisfactory sexual relations”.

“For many people reduced sexual interest may be a normal adaptation to stress or an unsatisfactory relationship,” they added.

As they age, men and women may hope to achieve some kind of sexual accommodation with one another. Along the way there is certain to be tension, reflecting in part their differing physiology and needs. Men are still expected to make sex happen, and women to respond. That causes some to question the whole notion of female sexual dysfunction. The clinical psychologist, Dorothy Rowe, expresses the cynical view. It is, she says, “something men dream up when women won’t do what they want”.

Sex doctor: The gender gap and how to get over it

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/men-women/sex-doctor-the-gender-gap-and-how-to-get-over-it-937452.html
By Tracey Cox
Monday, 22 September 2008

There are certain classic mistakes that men and women are always making concerning the opposite sex. So, if you want to find out what sort of lover you really are, check that you’re not committing any of the following carnal sins.

 

 

 

The mistakes men make

*Men think women want loving sex rather than lusty sex: The two aren’t mutually exclusive. While we like a soft touch in some places, we’re not adverse to a bit of rough handling of other parts. The trick is to ask what she feels like on that particular day.

*Men think women aren’t as ‘dirty’ as they are: In a recent study which measured blood flow in the genitals (blood flow increases when we’re turned on) women were more aroused by explicit fantasies than romantic ones.

*Some men still cling to the myth that women orgasm purely through intercourse: Only 30 per cent of women can climax from penetration alone. Most need stimulation of the clitoris by hand or vibrator during intercourse, or for you to perform oral sex or hand stimulation before or after intercourse, in order to orgasm.

*Men think all women want big penises: If anything, width tends to count more than length. This is because nearly all the nerves of the vagina are concentrated in the first inch or so and a thicker penis connects with more nerve endings.

*Men think sex isn’t sex without intercourse: It’s your main course with foreplay as the starter. For lots of women, foreplay is the main course and intercourse is a rather delicious side order. Get in the habit of being specific when you talk about sex. Divide it up: say, oral sex, hand stimulation, intercourse. This reinforces the idea that sex is about a lot more than penetration.

*Men think women are impressed if they change positions lots during intercourse: It’s always wise to mix things up a bit, but don’t do it purely for the sake of it, especially at the start. Changing positions works best when you know each other’s orgasm patterns because you can sense when the other needs more stimulation or is close to climaxing and choose a position to suit.

*Men tend to rush women to orgasm: Even experienced male lovers underestimate how long women take to orgasm. The statistic most cited for oral sex – the fastest, most direct route – is 20 minutes. That gives you a bit of an idea, but it also depends on how turned on we were before you even touched us, and how much we’ve had to drink (two drinks and it’s delayed, over four and forget it, everything’s numb!). Stop thinking of oral sex or heavy petting as paying your dues and instead think of them as complete sex acts in themselves.

 

The mistakes women make

*Women think men are always ready for and always want sex:

Real life dampens a lot of men’s sex drives more efficiently than a bucket of water poured over a lit match. Work, stress, pressure, bills, arguments – they all stop him, and you, feeling like sex, all day, every day. He’s not like your vibrator – you can’t just plug him in and expect him to perform on cue.

*Women think sex is over once he ejaculates: This is often the case. A selfish lover will collapse into a heap and leave you dry and sadly not high. But while his penis might be temporarily out of action, there’s nothing wrong with his hands or his mouth. What’s to stop you saying to him, “We’re not finished yet!” If his orgasm has wiped him out – and it’s true that his body does get flooded with “sleepy” hormones immediately after orgasm – explain that you need to have yours before he does.

*Women don’t realise that sex is more than just sex to men: Sex for men appears to be a primal form of giving – it’s a way for him to feel accepted both physically and emotionally. Because some men still aren’t as verbose or comfortable with expressing emotion as women are, sex tends to be used as a means of showing his love and getting close to you. All of this means that when you reject sex with him, you’re not just rejecting sex. In his eyes, you’re effectively saying, “I don’t like or want you.” Always make it clear you’re saying no to sex, not a cuddle or cosy chat.

*Women worry too much about their body during sex: If body worries are making you self-conscious, give yourself a huge kick up the bottom so you land somewhere in reality, which is this: if a man obviously wants to have sex with you, he thinks you’re the sexiest woman on the planet at that moment. It’s also worth remembering that lots of men find curvy women way more attractive than the skinny girls you envy.

*Women don’t give instructions: Learn to show him or tell him how to touch you. And try letting out a little groan to let him know he’s on the right lines, or giving a one-word command like, “Softer”. You’ll get there.

‘The Sex Doctor’ by Tracey Cox, is published by Corgi (£7.99)

What men don’t get about women

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/men-women/what-men-dont-get-about-women-936124.html
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. No woman, no cry. A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. The only thing that the genders agree on, it seems, is that the two of them have little in common. Here, we aim to promote understanding between the two halves of the human species, with two explanatory essays by a representative of each. Ladies first…

By Esther Walker
Monday, 22 September 2008

I am going to tell you a secret. It is one all women – but only a handful of men – know. It is this: most men are awful. And I mean awful: lazy, tedious, defensive, chippy, selfish, patronising, ignorant, insensitive donks, box-fresh from the Planet Clunk.

It’s not that women are much better, but the point is that if you want to snare Miss Right (or any old floozy), the first step is to understand the outstanding badness of the competition.

Then all you have to do is not make the same mistakes. You don’t need to be the wittiest, the most suave, the best-dressed, the richest or the best-looking to get the girl. You just have to not be a lazy, selfish, thoughtless prick. It is almost always as simple as that.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Let’s start with you being the One Who Always Rings. At times, nothing beats a little thoughtful text message, but for big things – arranging dates, enquiries after her health, gossip – ring her, for god’s sake. Awful Men send a spineless “How RU?” text. Be the one who wants to hear her voice.

And be the one who cares about her well-being. Women are not pathetic, but from time to time we quite enjoy allowing ourselves to be rescued. So, for example, always see her to her door. Awful Men are the sort that happily put their girlfriends on the night bus at the end of an evening. And do you know what? Those girlfriends will, in time, run off with that friend of a friend who once went three miles out of his way to drive her home. If you’re in a cab, stop at hers first, then yours (so she isn’t lumbered with the fare or the creepy cab driver).

Men who have some sort of appreciation of just how wretched it can be, at times, to be a woman, are always impressive. You don’t have to be an expert on oral contraceptives or the Atkins diet, but at the very least do not, as Awful Men do, cringe if she mentions anything to do with her period, do not screw your eyes shut and bare your teeth in nauseated horror at the mention of childbirth.

And, please, do not become angry if she suggests that she looks fat. Fretting aloud about weight is womankind’s least charming habit but you can’t stop them. Awful Men don’t understand this and will either accuse women of fishing for compliments or scream “You’re not FAT! For GOD’S SAKE stop going ON ABOUT IT!”

You must, always, simply put your head on one side and say, as if it’s the first time you’ve had the conversation: “You don’t look fat to me,” and smile.

The best seducers take this appreciation of womanhood one step further with casual unkindness about Awful Men. “He’s quite boring,” they might say, or, “I don’t know how she stands him,” or “He forgot her birthday! She should dump him.”

It is simply not in the nature of men to do this, which is why doing it will make you seem like such a rare and exquisite creature. It makes women feel like you’re on their side, like you understand them. The least sexy thing you can say, as a man, is: “I don’t understand women.”

But don’t make the mistake of gushing about other women; you might think it shows how much you like women, what a feminist you are, but all it does is make women feel bad. “She’s a great girl,” is the most enthusiastic you should get about another woman. Never say: “She’s the funniest girl I’ve ever met,” or “She’s a legend” and the worst: “She’s so beautiful.”

No, pal: we are the funniest girl you’ve ever met. We are a legend. We are so beautiful.

If you find yourself trying to prise a woman away from her boyfriend, listen carefully to what she says. When women are unhappy with their boyfriends, they will tell everyone exactly what’s wrong with them, but you have to know what to listen for.

She will say: “Oh I really wanted to see that film… but Steve said it sounded childish.” “I love skinny jeans… but Steve thinks they’re ugly.” Your job is to be exactly the opposite of whatever desperado she’s stuck with, without actually saying: “Your boyfriend is an idiot.”

He’s too passive? Take charge. He never listens to her? You’re all ears! He didn’t think her career was important? Women with careers are so sexy!!

The chances are that this Awful Man never does anything for her on Valentine’s Day. Your attitude towards romantic gestures, even if you think they are embarrassing and contrived, must be that they are important to women, so they are important to you. Because, you see, something like Valentine’s Day is not about you, it is about us. Women are much more sensitive to social embarrassment than men; the thing we dread when February rolls around is watching flowers arrive for everyone else in the office except us, and having to pretend we don’t care that you don’t care enough to spend £25 on a bunch of flowers.

Listening to women (just generally, not only to find out what she hates about her boyfriend) is the easiest way to earn their adoration. Ask the occasional question and listen dutifully to the answer. That might sound like far too much effort but the alternative – to drone on about your job, your new car, the boys’ holiday you’re planning – is the date equivalent of anthrax.

So, now we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s move on to the Restaurant Date, the battlefield upon which most romantic encounters are bayoneted and die writhing in agony.

Don’t be late. Just don’t; it is the behaviour of Awful Men. But if disaster strikes and you are late, you’re in luck, as there is a way to salvage things that is so unbelievably money it’s almost worth committing the sin of lateness in order to deploy it.

As soon as you know you’re going to be late, ring the restaurant, explain the situation to the maître-d’ and ask them to sit your date down and get her a drink. You spare her the embarrassment of fumbling for her phone as she sits alone at the table waiting for your sorry ass. And it is simply immeasurably cool for the maître-d’ to arrive at the table, glass of champagne in hand, to pass on your apologies and say discreetly that you’re on your way.

If you are shown to your table together, make sure she has the best seat, which is the one with the view of the room.

If you’ve been paying attention, you will know that, during the date, you should encourage her to talk a lot about herself and listen like a secret agent so you can deduce what she wants from a man and make her believe that you, right there, are he.

Now the tricky part: the bill. With arch-feminism on the wane it’s now safer to assume that a man can buy a woman dinner without it being interpreted as an act of gross chauvinist piggery. Most women – not all, but most – are consciously or subconsciously looking for someone who will be supportive. It’s not the actual money that’s the issue (what self-respecting girl can’t buy her own dinner?), and just because she lets you pay doesn’t mean she plans to bleed you dry. The point here is what the act represents. It is symbolic and it says “I will care for you in times of need.”

If you’re not exactly Bernie Ecclestone, take her to an inexpensive restaurant where you won’t bite your fist when she orders the steak or pass out on seeing the bill.

During the inevitable paying dance, she will offer to pay and you will refuse once. If she still says “No, no, really: let me pay my half,” then you should be cool and let her. She is telling you that she doesn’t want to feel beholden to kiss you at the end of the evening. Take the hint but don’t take offence.

Only an Awful Man aims to get a woman into bed on the first date. It’s just so tacky. Most women sleep with men on the first date (especially in winter) because they are too pissed, cold or lazy to get themselves home. If you make it easy for her to get home, she’ll go, and will be impressed and grateful the next morning that you didn’t take advantage of her.

Perhaps the most important thing to learn about seducing women is when to give up. Men whose seduction technique is to wear a woman down with constant phone calls, date requests and e-mails may get the girl – but it’s never for long.

Two days after your first date, call and ask to see her again the following week. If she says she’s busy, she’s not interested; if she doesn’t return your call, she’s not interested. Then leave it; persistence is at first flattering and then annoying. And then creepy.

But, if she says yes to a second date then, my son, it is game on.

And the rest is up to you.