What turns women on? Up there with the meaning of life, it is one of the great imponderables. Of course, you may raise an insouciant eyebrow and comment that you already know, to which my answer is twofold: first, not every girl is fortunate to know a man as sophisticated as your good self (and who has the sexual advantage of reading my columns); second, you may be closer to the truth than you realise.
Female arousal has been in the news following the excitement surrounding Flibanserin. Designed as an antidepressant, the drug was found to have scant effect on depression but to have surprising benefits for the female libido. Flibanserin is expected to go on sale in the UK within 18 months, and the company that developed it is doubtless praying it will replicate the enormous success of Viagra.
However, where Viagra does a fine, upstanding job for men, can there be a female equivalent? Clearly the erotic drive in men is not only about their having an erection. But solving erectile dysfunction is a major step. If a man's brain is scanned during orgasm, the focus of activity is in the area relating to genital stimulation. No surprises there. But scan a woman's brain, and the first thing you'll notice is that the areas relating to fear and anxiety are almost shut down. Scientific evidence proves that for a woman her mood is of equal importance to how well her clitoris works - or is being worked - and may be part of the reason why, for the sisterhood, Viagra is no more than a recreational diversion.
Flibanserin is thought to work by encouraging dopamine release; the heady, horny, aphrodisiac chemical released when you take ecstasy. It seems unlikely to be a panacea.
Sex and relationship psychologist Dr Petra Boynton says: "There are all kinds of physical, psychological and emotional reasons that could put a woman off sex: [taking a drug] won't make her feel better about her body image or make her partner better in bed."
So what else might? Clearly it's important to build a loving, communicative relationship, and there is always room for, you guessed it, more talking. Sorry to say it, boys, but emotional attachment is wired to sexual arousal in women. This has the happy upside of being why a primarily heterosexual woman might take up with lesbian partners from time to time.
A woman may feel so embraced and safe in the company of a girlfriend that a sapphic relationship is the natural next step. Well, that, and the fact she suddenly discovers the joy of being woken up by a beautiful girl trailing her fingernails, her breasts and her long hair the length of her, covering her skin in kisses, and spreading her legs to gently, gently, float her to orgasm. The thing every man should learn from girl-girl love is their ability to make every inch of the body an erogenous zone; I know a fabulous red-haired actress who can make women come simply by sucking their feet.
Though talking has its place, it's a cruel truth that the nice guy doesn't necessarily get the girl, and women don't lie awake dreaming of how you listened to her bitch about her job.
Instead, she wants excitement, passion, transgression - a little light sodomy perhaps, or to be filmed. Surveys suggest that most women you know will fantasise about being picked up on the street and paid for sex; having sex in a group; no-strings sex with a stranger.
Being overpowered or "forced" to submit is one of the most popular fantasies. This is domination and submission in an essentially willing context, very different from actual coercion. Choose your moment, then catch your darling in your arms and push her back against a wall, kiss her eyes and mouth, her neck and breasts, tell her how ravishing she looks, how you want her right now more than anything in the world. You are unlikely to
Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, has a theory to explain this phenomenon. After years of experiments she has concluded that "women's desire is not relational, it's narcissistic" - the thing that will finally send her into a paroxysm of lust is not intimacy per se, but a clear demonstration that she is wanted.
It makes sense. Men are testosterone-laden hunters, by nature aggressive beings who like to target a mate and go to it. So it would be natural for women to have a predilection for being fought for, courted, desired and taken.
I support a sister's right to court, hunt and the rest. But if you want to stoke the fires of your fair maiden, now is the time to take control. The moral is that scented candles and earnest conversation will only take you so far. Be cool. But let her know how very much you want her. Tell her how hot she looks, how you long to touch her, how more than anything else on this earth you want to adore her and bury yourself in her and give her the kind of pleasure she has only dreamt about. Then all you need to do is live up to it.
Original article published in GQ Magazine, in March, 2010