We hold these sexual truths to be self-evident:

1. As George Bernard Shaw advised, it is not always a good idea to treat others as you would like to be treated since their tastes might differ from yours. If, for example, your partner likes a whisper-soft and gentle fluttering of the finger-tips, do not use your hands in a way that suggests you're churning butter or flattening pizza dough. But if your mate is ticklish, the least soothing touch might be a gentle one—it can replace his or her erotic mood with a supremely annoyed one. You need to consider not what you think your partner wants, but what he or she actually wants.

2. Speaking of wants, talk, using grown-up up words, about what you actually want. This might be a conversation to have before you begin anything physical—maybe several hours or several days before you begin acting on those wants. (Rarely is it wisest to initiate such discourse in the middle of the main course.) What’s remarkable and yet totally common is the shyness even sexually-active couples have about putting into words what they like and don’t like. You’d think long-term partners would be able to say, “Let’s use position 17, with side orders of 12 and 9,” but often they just can’t. If anything, long-term partners grow to be increasingly shy about changes in their sexual tastes, instead passively permitting the menu to remain the same. The courage to speak about sex instead of simply having sex is crucial.

3. Laughing together is an underestimated aphrodisiac. The eye-contact, the sense of connection, the warmth and physical relaxation of a shared funny moment can lead to later moments of heat. I’m always surprised when heroes in romantic movies kiss the heroines when the ladies are weeping; it seems far more likely that a deep, genuine laugh would end in kisses than bursting into tears—not to mention being more fun.

4. You can’t be dignified and be sexy. Be playful. Be indulgent. Be patient. Be extravagant. Be silly. But give up any and all attempts to be dignified. Remember, even Queen Victoria had nine children; at times, even she must have been. . . amused.

5. But don’t ignore hygiene just because you’ve been together before or you’ve been together forever. Do I need to say more? Make an effort! Take three minutes and clean yourself off and up and under and in-between. If you don't think it's worth even that much work, you may need to rethink your choices.

6. Sex should not be a competition. You don't "win" by having an orgasm. You most certainly won’t help your partner “win” by employing the kind of focused diligence typically used by deputies to serve subpoenas. If you’re trying to feel a sense of total immersion in the moment, then turning an act of intimacy into a contest complete with grand slams, receivers, doubles, servers, and break points, is probably not your best choice. Focus instead on the much more daring score of "love."

7. Turn off all electronic devices. Or, for heaven’s sake, at least put them on airplane mode. . .

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