F.Birchman / MSNBC.com
By msnbc.com contributor
msnbc.com contributor
updated 5/31/2005 5:49:40 PM ET 2005-05-31T21:49:40

So you’ve seen the results of the Elle/MSNBC.com Sex and Beauty Survey and you’ve learned that women spend 2.2 hours more per week working on their appearance than men do, and that women are more freaked out by the thought of sex if they don’t feel confident about the state of their “nether regions.” This sure reinforces the view of men as the gender more willing to have sex no matter what we look or smell like.

Sadly, this is not an entirely mistaken view. An old girlfriend of mine once thanked me for smelling good. I figured cleanliness was kind of a minimum requirement. I mean, it’s not like I could afford to alienate a willing woman. But she informed me that not all men were quite so fastidious (or, I could have added, grateful).

So let me state right up front that taking a shower before a date is the very least you can do, even if you’re not going to have sex. And use soap. In fact, if this admonition comes as news to you, you shouldn’t be having sex at all. I hereby revoke your license. 

But what else can one do, aside from avoiding being thought a swine, to actually groom for sexual success?

Well, my friends, more than you could have imagined.

Trim the hair down there
I called Lou Paget, the Los Angeles sex seminar guru and author of books like "The Great Lover Playbook" for a few tips. According to Paget, a shower, a spritz of deodorant and a good teeth scrubbing just aren't enough when it comes to sex.

“Women always say ‘Oh, I have shaved my legs,’ but I always tell them ‘Ladies, that’s fine, but he’s not having sex with your legs.’”

So trim things up a bit down there. Sexploration has covered pubic hair grooming before, and described all sorts of creative hairdos that have come in vogue and gone out again, but you don’t have to be elaborate. Just tidy up. This goes for men, too. If you want her down there, why not spruce up Mr. Happy? Besides, he’ll look a bit bigger if he’s out from under all that hair, and most guys are happy for any optical illusion they can get.   

Did you remember to drink pineapple juice?

Yes, ladies — and men too, for that matter — drinking a good sized glass of pineapple juice a couple of hours before the deed can help make your bodily fluids taste and even smell better. Fruits in general are good because they contain acids and sugars.

But, Paget cautions, avoid some vegetables, like asparagus. The same chemicals that makes post-asparagus pee smell like a biohazard also affect our vital juices.

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Tragically, beer can make semen taste bitter. Some guys, of course, have never actually had sex without drinking beer, so this is a tough one to avoid, but at least now you know.

While women should be aware of how their genitals are faring, they should not be paranoid about how the aroma changes during the monthly cycle, just aware. An extra shower might be good right beforehand, but it’s usually a bad idea to douche. The vagina contains an entire ecosystem. Douching can wreck it. Besides, Paget says, “Women tell me they use douches that smell like roses or something, but no man wants somebody who smells like wilted flowers!”

As for you, men, picture this: You’re out on a date and things are going beautifully. As you stand there at the restaurant’s urinal, you’re thinking to yourself “Dude! You are Mr. Seduction!” And then, like all men, you flip Mr. Happy back in your pants, wave your hands under the faucet and quicker than she can say “Waiter! Another Cosmopolitan!” you’re back at the table.

Well, inside your pants, Mr. Happy’s crown is drenched in urine. So take a second to give that little fella a wipe with a piece of tissue, preferably moistened with water. Ignore the stares you’ll get from other guys. They won’t be getting laid.

“Men are really not aware of how sensitive a woman’s sense of smell can be,” Paget says. “Especially when we ovulate, it’s unbelievable.”

Just remember, the idea is to put out a big sign saying “Welcome to my Happy Place!”

“You want her to keep her focus on whatever activity she’s doing,” Paget explains, and odd smells “make it hard to focus.”

When less is more
Smells are very powerful, but that doesn’t mean you should pour on the cologne or perfume. We have natural smells, often quite subtle, that are meant to attract the opposite sex. Let those shine through. While a dash of a lover’s favorite scent can be a boost, it should mingle with what we’ve already got.

Paget argues that most of these tips are really just common courtesy. You are asking another person to share bodies. We should all make that sharing as welcoming and enticing as we can.

While we might do all these things when we’re first trying to seduce a new lover, we often forget them once we’re in a long-term, committed relationship. Don’t. By keeping up with the grooming and prep work, you are paying attention to the needs of your lover and, as Paget says, “paying attention to someone the way they love to have attention paid to them is massively seductive. And you are paying attention to yourself, too.”

In fact, you might find that the grooming and cleansing and attention doesn’t seem like work at all, that it can help you feel more confident, free and sexy. Even guys who have been married forever can still stand in front of that urinal and say “Dude! You are Mr. Seduction!”   

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).

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