The Kama Sutra could blithely assume a readership with sufficient time and resources to allow installation of the rope-and-pulley system required to lower a woman into the Crippled Starfish on a Spike position. But times have, alas, changed. The latest fashion in publishing, spreading faster than chlamydia at a mixed comprehensive, is for sex manuals aimed at people who don't have time to Do It any more.
According to the likes of Urban Tantra, Mating in Captivity and Quickies: Sex for Busy People, the pressures of modern living are taking their toll on our willingness and ability to bump uglies, and we need to find new ways to combat our sexual anomie. But of course, who has time to read an entire book to find out how? Fortunately, the Guardian can offer you 10 top tips, distilled from the latest publications.
1. Embrace technology
Mobile phones and email can alienate us from each other in a manner wholly antithetical to eroticism, or they can be pressed into useful sexual service. Tracey Cox's Quickies advocates sx txtng yr lvr throughout the day so that by the time you fall through the door, you are a panting, lubricious heap of pulsating desire. Remember, however, that sex texting only works if your abbreviations remain comprehensible throughout. Nothing kills the erotic mood like having to request clarification ("Darling, do you mean you want me to do this once a year or an ... I see.") or call colleagues over to decipher "I wnt 2 pt yr flm n my dblbg".
And don't ignore the possibilities offered by more primitive technology either. According to the photo on page 39, you can still have fun utilising the relatively low-concept wheelbarrow and a set of wedge heels. Don't, however, run away from the spiritual aspect of sex. Esther Perel's Mating in Captivity has much sensible advice on creating intimacy and reconnecting with your partner, but for a more direct connection, look to Barbara Carrellas's words in Urban Tantra on gently awakening your "chakras". Particularly Muladhara, located between the anus and the genitals. If you've found that, I would say that reconnection has occurred on a grand scale.
2. Embrace a philosophical approach
Recognise that love is an elevated state of being that promises that "with you and through you I will become that which I long to be". According to Perel, a New York couples and family therapist, remembering this can help to recapture the essence of the relationship. The author of Quickies, on the other hand, is a disciple of mind-body dualism, though admittedly Descartes himself might have some trouble reconciling the demands of "You might not feel like frequent sex, but your body sure as hell does!" in practice.
3. Embrace a different perspective
Either by entangling yourself in the Split the Whisker, Crouching Tiger or Staging Post positions recommended by psychologist (and woman presumably blessed with a preternaturally robust lumbar region) Dr Pam Spurr in Sensational Sex, or by buying Rubess and Moerbeek's Pop-Up Book of Sex, which does exactly what it says on the tin.
4. The non-talking cure
Talking, all the authors agree, is good. Or, as Mating in Captivity puts it: "Open and honest dialogue provides the resources necessary to meet the demands of modern relationships." But too much talking, the authors also agree, is bad: partly because "the capacity to express feelings is not a prized attribute in the making of manhood", so men suffer from "a chronic intimacy deficiency that needs ongoing repair" that leaves their ladyfriends feeling uncherished; and partly because - well, who wants to listen to anyone yammering on all bloody day?
The power of eye contact is lauded by everyone, but once again, Urban Tantra takes a basic principle and buffs it up until it can take its place in the Museum of Borderline Insanity with the exhortation to look only in your lover's non-dominant eye, because this is the gateway to the soul. "You don't have to worry about accidentally glimpsing their soul without their permission or allowing the unintentional access to yours," the author adds kindly. "The gateway stays firmly shut unless you really want to open it up." Sex doesn't come much safer than that.
5. Location, location, location
Head to the countryside, says Quickies, and have lots of sex in barns and stables that throb with Lawrentian promise. Of course, the property market being what it is, next time you look up from fellating your horny-handed son of toil, you'll probably find an 18-flat conversion has been built over your activities.
You could, alternatively, move to Australia. It worked for our Barbara: "I began using several of my favourite tantric techniques to circulate sexual energy between me and Sydney. Before I knew it, a little blissgasm shivered up my spine, followed by an actual clitoral orgasm ... I was so amazed, I had to stop and lean against a wall." The tantric beginner is advised to start off slowly, perhaps with a short walk through Filey and a good cough.
6. The kids aren't all right
Get rid of them, says Mating in Captivity. Put them into care, boarding school or a cupboard, but get rid of them. "Happy parents mean happy kids means you shouldn't feel the slightest bit guilty for stealing frequent 'Mummy Daddy alone' moments," says Cox, proving that deathless prose need be no barrier to arousal provided you shove it in between lots of pictures of pouting women in nice knickers and vest tops.
7. Take your ideology and shove it
Everything western society tells you is wrong. Take the traditional norms - "the cultural mandate of self reliance", consumerism, "open and honest communication", individualism, democracy, personal autonomy, egalitarianism - and smash them to pieces. They are all anathema to good sex, which for reasons best known to our deepest, most primitive brain centres, depends on large doses of secrecy, power imbalances and vulnerability for its success. You don't like it, I don't like it, and neither do any of the authors, but our nether regions do, so tough. Bring out the gimp.
8. Be practical
Everyone is very insistent that you keep your sex toys clean, your fingernails filed and your condoms in date. But don't forget other helpful hints, ie: "Keep the ends of cotton clothesline rope from fraying by dipping in glue or nail polish, or wrapping with duct tape or twine." (The Big Bang) and "Leave tubes of lubricant in secret hiding places (the side of the sofa, the glovebox of the car, in the office). You can also buy little sachets of travel-size lubricant to carry with you, for whenever and wherever." (Quickies)
9. Role play
Loosens inhibitions, adds excitement. The pretend forbidden fruit (be it delivery men, nuns, nannies, celebrities) can be almost as good as the real thing. All the authors, however, neglect to mention the number one fantasy of all women - hot monkey sex with someone who can close a door quietly and not smash the toilet seat into the cistern every time he lifts it as if it has done him some great personal wrong, thus calling into question the validity of the entire canon.
10. Be guided by your star sign
If, say, you are role playing being a pair of total idiots, why not believe that you can restore your libido by having sex according to your innate zodiacal needs? You will require a copy of Sextrology: the Astrology of Sex and the Sexes and a pre-frontal lobotomy. Enjoy.