As a sex columnist for men's magazines for more than a decade, I've had the unique opportunity to learn more than most women will ever know about men's secret desires, fears and fantasies. When I was writing about sex for Details magazine, I received thousands of letters from men: A few were the on-paper equivalent of the stranger on the bus who tells you everything -- including things you're not sure you really want to hear! While often thinking, Uh, thanks for sharing, I have come to a few clear conclusions about the sometimes hard-to-believe but still lovable world of men. Want details? Here's a peek into the private minds of guys. Although some of these truths may not be pretty, they'll help you understand any man in your life.
1 Men can't resist the tease. There's no sexier surprise for your guy than when you dance seductively, slowly undress or wear lacy underwear -- anything that stimulates him visually. This sexual tension drives him wild, because his mind races, imagining what's coming next. Feel shy dancing around in your bra? You should know that men don't notice your so-called flaws when you're turning them on. In this situation, your guy has a one-track mind, and it stays focused on how hot you are. So the next time you undress, take it slow. Toss your clothes at him as you go. That's all it takes to drive him nuts -- in a good way.
2 Men can't help but stare at other women. It's true: They just can't control themselves. We're the same way when we walk by a window filled with gorgeous shoes -- we just have to look. It's anthropological; if you look at the mating habits of gorillas, even if they're "pair bonded" (anthropology-speak for gorilla marriage), most males cruise the females and stare when a cute gorilla girl walks by. Your guy's not insensitive, he's just been momentarily possessed by his inner ape.
3 Men are big kids (and proud of it). Deep down, all men are big ol' boys. (This explains why so many grown men wear baseball caps.) Their interests are boy-like, too. Take his obsession with sports. Most men love anything that involves kicking something, throwing things or punching each other. When you put three or more men together, they bond by yelling at the TV and being idiots to each other. Regressing into childlike behavior isn't just a means of amusing themselves -- it's their way of escaping real-life pressures and feeling accepted as they are. There's no point in denying guys time to release their juvenile side. Just be glad they're doing it during boys' night out and not in front of your girlfriends or family.
4 Men are perverts. There's no getting around it: Guys are pervs. They think about sex 24/7. And sometimes they daydream about -- and look at pictures of -- gross stuff or weird moves, moves that they'd never try in a million years. Fact is, men have a higher tolerance for body fluids and outrageous sex acts than we do (it's something about that 10-year-old boy inside each of them -- see above). And it's a fact that men's sexual fantasies contain more people than ours do. For the guy who has everything, I always give the gift of porn. It's the one present men never complain about (or return). But if you can't stand the thought of these films, then don't go there. Nothing is less sexy to a man than a woman who's uncomfortable. Guys may be turned on by the visuals in porn, but trust me, they'd rather have the real, in-the-flesh deal anytime.
Personally, I am pro-porn: Watching together can add zing to a long-term relationship. But the problem with most porn is that it's still mostly geared toward male fantasies. So look for titles by female directors, like Candida Royalle, who create videos with hot guys and plotlines that reflect women's fantasies. Don't worry if your man will like them, too: If they show skin, he will.
5 Men would love to cheat. That doesn't mean they will, though. Luckily, they're either too guilty, too shy or too scared. It's biology: They see, they want, they fantasize. Men are not by nature monogamous animals, and they often have to fight their sexual urges, which many do very successfully. If a guy could live his perfect fantasy life, he would have a wife and a new fling whenever he felt like it. (While women look for that one "special" guy, men look for those five "special" girls.) Fifty percent of men say that if there were zero percent chance you'd find out, they'd cheat. But that also means 50 percent wouldn't -- even if there were no danger of getting caught. Many men say that when they've had the idea, they nix it because they wouldn't want to mess up the good thing they've got at home.
6 Men want us to worship them. Every man has a bit of Donald Trump in him. They want us to think they're strong, successful and sexy. Most men would never admit this, but they'd like to think they're slightly smarter than the woman they're with. Yet they have no problem with the woman being 10 times better-looking than they are (that strokes his ego even more). Ultimately, they'd settle for just being able to do one thing better than us. I think it's because, deep down, they know we're as smart as (or smarter than) they are.
7 Men love oral sex. What do men want more of in bed? When I conducted a survey asking 100 men that question, 80 percent of them said, "More oral sex." Specifically, they wanted to be on the receiving end. Why do they love it so much? They don't have to worry about technique, and we do all the work. Guys say the best treat a woman can give them is oral sex in the morning. Forget pancakes -- this is his idea of breakfast in bed.
8 Men don't take hints. When men are with other men, they don't tiptoe around each other and drop subtle suggestions. That's because hints don't register with guys. We women pride ourselves on being able to know intuitively what our friends, husbands and kids are thinking, but men have no interest in reading minds. That's why one thing I've learned from men is, "If you don't ask, you don't get." In relationships, I don't expect a guy to know exactly what I want -- and whenever I do, I'm disappointed. If, for example, you want him to take you out for your birthday, you're wasting your time dropping hints like "Guess what day Friday is? It's someone's birthday!" If you do that, you'll be 80 before he takes you out.
9 Men love their penises. Man's best friend is actually his penis. And he assumes it's our best friend, too. After all, like a dog, it's always happy to see us, enjoys being petted and often rubs itself against our legs. And have you noticed that guys are so intimate with their members that they often create pet names for them, including "Mr. Friendly" and "Thruster."
While women have internal, squishy accommodations, men are equipped with external, throbbing reminders of the biological imperative to "spread the seed." Every time they look down at their tools standing at attention, they remember that their penises are there for a reason -- to conquer the planet. That's why they've built so many monuments in the penis' likeness. The phallus is represented by erected symbols of power worldwide, from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building.
Women don't make a big deal about what we have going on downstairs because we're too busy worrying about the size and shape of our other body parts. But men are obsessed with size. I live near a cactus store, and every time I walk by with a guy, he points to the biggest cactus in the window and says, "There's my size!" If you ask a dozen men what the average length of an erect penis is, they'll say eight inches. But if you ask a dozen women, they'll say it's four inches. No matter how small it is, tell him it's huge. If it's too big, tell him just that. Trust me -- he'll take it as a compliment.
This story originally appeared in Redbook and on www.featurewell.com.