Details, Details 1: Disgust

Female sexuality is, on the whole, a delicately balanced business. It might be fair to say that for many women, their libidos ask “why,” when men’s ask “why not?” This is not to say that women’s sexual desires can’t be extremely powerful once they are awakened, but it often takes complex, subtle and sustained stimuli to get them to stir, and — most important of all — it doesn’t take much to put them back to sleep.

Intelligent and sophisticated men “get” this concept intellectually, having been told over and over again that there can be significant differences in desire and how it manifests itself, but it is sometimes very difficult for them to really, viscerally understand it. When a man can feel an instantaneous urgency for sex flaring up from, say, a moment’s glimpse of the edge of a lace bra, it’s sometimes almost impossible to fathom his wife’s slower or more equivocal responsiveness. Even more baffling, perhaps, is how apparent trivialities can so fundamentally interfere with her sexual desire. Little things can make a huge difference in how much she will want you.

So first things first: take care of the minor stuff that might be damaging her ability to respond to you erotically. If she experiences a steady stream of continuous small disgusts and little irritants associated with you, that can set up a negative conditioned response to the very idea of being intimate with you.

With that possibility in mind, here’s my first insulting question:

Do you stink?

No, really. I’m serious.

Evolutionary psychologists insist that pit pong and Eau de Crotch must have been sexually stimulating to our ape ancestors (why else would nature have left all that curly hair there to trap the scent?), but culture seems to have triumphed in the last hundred thousand years. Women today — especially American women — are not usually turned on by powerful body odors.

Don’t get me wrong, a faint whiff of Animal Armpit in a man who showers and uses antiperspirant deodorant every day can be very interesting or even exciting to many women, at least once her libido has already been engaged in other ways. But if you are taller than your wife, missionary position will bring her nose pretty close to your underarms, and if they’re putting out the equivalent of mustard gas, she’s not going to wholeheartedly enjoy the experience.

And you’ll be breathing on her, too, so it behooves you to think at least as much about your potential mouth miasma around her as you would when greeting your clients or office mates every day. Keep a tin of Altoids by the bed. Morning breath can be minimized by aggressive cleaning and flossing the night before, followed by a rinse with Listerine or even hydrogen peroxide (full strength, never swallowed — but watch out, that stuff foams up like crazy!). Coffee on your breath is fine in about the first half hour after you drink it, but after that it goes sour FAST.

Do you sit around at night with your feet propped up on the hassock or recliner, perfuming the air all around you with an acrid cloud of Fungi Foot? Sure, you should be able to relax in your own home, and maybe it shouldn’t matter, but your aromatic dogs are a turnoff, and their turnoff effect will linger with your wife long after you’ve washed them and gotten into bed later, because she’ll see your waving them around in the family air as thoughtless and arrogant, and that will be remembered long after the odor itself has gone away.

So get rid of any shoes that are not canvas or real leather, and any socks that are not mostly natural fibers. “Man-made materials” are your enemy (this goes for polyester shirts, too). Put a dryer sheet or deodorant insole in your shoes. Don’t wear the same shoes day after day, switch around between several pairs. You might even have to — gasp — consult a doctor. Suck it up, soldier.

And speaking of sitting around stinking up the place, most women will not feel all cuddly and romantic about guys who treat them to lengthy evenings of luxurious farting, either. I’m aware that some men consider body-tooting the height of humor (exceeded only by “The Man Show,” perhaps), but it’s likely that your wife doesn’t consider it nearly as knee-slapping as you do — especially when repetition dulls its hilarious ability to startle her. She might be a good sport through a couple of serenades, but trust me, after 3 or 4 the delights will pale considerably.

Yes, it’s hard not to fart. Sometimes you just have to do it. But make an effort. Get some Bean-O and take it when you eat any musical fruit or cruciferous vegetables. Get up and bleed off some of the pressure in the bathroom. Take some Gas-X or generic simethicone when the belly balloon starts inflating. Although increasing your fiber can increase gassiness at first, over time it will at least diminish the odor of the gases that emerge. Above all, don’t make farting part of your routine comic repetoire. If you push her head under the covers once too often, your bed may begin to seem to her more like a torture chamber than a bower of love.

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