Darlings:

Let me preface today's post by saying I receive a ton of free new books over here at Maura Kelly HQ, sent by publicists who want me to blog about their authors. The vast majority of these books end up in the hands of my friends, neighbors, and the homeless people who collect the free crap I put out on my stoop so they can sell it off their sidewalk blankets. I get more books than I can reasonably peruse. Many of these books are books about girls who are in love or want to be or whatever — which do not seem to contain any information that would be informative or entertaining for you or me. I don't want to bore you guys — or myself — with a bunch of nonsense that might fill a post for the day, but will not leave any of us a little wiser, a little happier, or a little more ahead of the game.

This is a long way of saying that I found the latest book that I received in the mail very interesting — despite the fact that before reading it I contacted the author and found him so difficult to communicate with over email with that I almost threw the book out without reading it. So interesting I may have to do multiple posts about it. So interesting that I was pissed when I just spilled coffee on it, because this is one book I plan to keep.

This new book — Sex Appeal: Six Ethical Principles for the 21st Century — was written by UCLA professor of psychology Paul Abramson, who proposes that if we all stuck to six very easy-to-understand ideas, sex (and life) would be a helluva lot better for all of us. He asserts that if we all just lived our sex lives according to the six principles he lays out, we'd more or less do away with ALL the unwanted consequences — not only the STDs and accidental pregnancies, but the guilt, pain, and confusion as well.

Who doesn't want that?

It's funny, but reading this book, I had to wonder: Why is it that so many modern humans seem to think it's okay NOT to conduct themselves ethically when it comes to sex? And I'm not just talking about the men who endorsed that op-ed about how it's okay to "date rape" girls who get drunk at frat parties. I'm also talking about guys who think it's fine to pressure women into having sex without a condom, or those who don't mention it when the condom slips or breaks. But also — ladies, we are not exempt as a gender — about women who thinks it's fine to ignore completely a nice man's request for a second or third date.

At some point in the next week or three, I plan to delve into some of Abramson's finer points — like how to create better self-esteem through better sexual practices and why pleasure trumps reproduction as the primary biological purpose of sex. Today, though, I'm going to start with a brief explanation of his six basic principles.

1. DO NO HARM (including emotional harm)

This one is kind of self-explanatory: Don't do anything that would harm yourself, or another person. So, wear condoms, absolutely. But perhaps more worth mentioning — because most people try to avoid STDs but are more careless about avoiding psychological suffering — do your best to steer clear of situations that will cause you or your sex partner emotional harm. Don't "use" any one. Don't go through with sex if you fear you will regret it. If you're in a relationship, don't lie to your partner or be deceitful in any way. Play by the rules you've agreed upon. Being truly honest with yourself and your lover is, ultimately, the sexiest thing of all.

2. CELEBRATE SEX

It's supposed to be fun, people — isn't that the whole point? So enjoy it. Bask in the pleasure, and make the most of it. If it feels like work or a chore, something is not right. As Abramson says, "Sex is a great way to express affection, show desire for your partner, demonstrate how physically attracted you are ... and convey the joy you experience ...." If you're not having fun, focus on any one of those things and it will become more playful, more exciting, more delightful. And hey, if you're not getting any — masturbate! That has its own plentiful rewards, as do carefully conducted short-term flings, says Abramson. "All in all, sex is a wonderful form of expression for many psychological and physiological reasons."

3. BE CAREFUL (or TAKE IT SLOW)

Here, Abramson is advising us to pick our partners with care, and to cultivate our relationships carefully — because otherwise, the results can be disastrous. He notes that while most relationships start off with a bang — we are blissed out, happier than ever, can't believe our luck — the euphoria usually ends after a few months, if not much sooner. He cautions us all to remember that that's the case. He advises us to avoid making impulsive decisions (no matter how good they feel in the moment) and to spend more time getting to know your partner before sex begins. Because like it or not, sex IS a big deal; it changes things (particularly, as he notes, for women). As he says, "this is not a moral issue, but instead a practical solution. Sex ... is the glue of humanity. It will bind you to your partner ... and make it more difficult to make thoughtful choices. If you go slower in the beginning, you can weigh the pain of ending something against the pleasure of beginning it."

4. SPEAK UP

Make an effort to talk more honestly to your partner and to encourage him or her to be frank with you. As Abramson says, "Sometimes it's easier to take one's clothes off than to shed the defenses that surround intimate desires or fears .... [Though] deep partner dialogue is difficult to achieve, [it's] more rewarding in the long run, contributing to the strength and stability of a sexual relationship." It also adds to the sexiness of the relationship.

5. THROW NO STONES

"Do not criticize, ridicule, or punish someone because he or she is sexually different from you," Abramson says. In other words, mind your own! Concentrate on enjoying your own sex life, and you won't need to be such a busybody about what other people are doing in their bedrooms. Or, to paraphrase New Hampshire's state motto: Keep your opinions off other people's bodies.

6. KNOW YOURSELF

This may sound like the easiest one, but it may very well be the toughest one — and yet, the better you know yourself, the better you will be able to do all the things listed above. Knowing yourself means being aware of what kinds of situations make you unhappy, being conscious of how you get yourself into them, and also having a sense of how you can avoid them. Knowing yourself means thinking about the ways in which you might be a bad communicator — passive-aggressive, for instance, or quick to anger, etc. — and thinking about how you can fix that problem. Knowing yourself means understanding your needs, desires, dreams, values, limitations, and worries — and talking about them.

Much as I'm down on psychotherapy, I think everyone can benefit from a year of talking yourself out with a professional; it's a great way to help you understand yourself better. Keeping a journal helps too. So does talking to empathetic friends who are good listeners.

People, we could start a sexual revolution right here, through this blog, with help from this book!

Imagine all the people, living life without STDs! Without walks of shame, breakup texts, cheaters. and all the rest. You could say I'm a dreamer, but I like to think I'm not the only one.

What do you think? You with me?

xxx

(Keep the discussion going on my Facebook fan page.)

What Do You Think?