For I have sinned. Not just once, but seven times. Let me explain: I’m single and seven is my “number”. You know, the number of notches on my pre-marital bedpost. The closely counted and well-guarded tally that most sane women wouldn’t trumpet across the pages of a popular men’s magazine.

In the beginning, it was called “knowing”. The shy meet-and-greet of mild husband and meek wife. But somewhere between Adam knowing Eve and you knobbing a colleague in the copy room, sex and sin became full-blown bedfellows.

Yes, society made its good, clean rules to protect good, clean family values. But branding sex as “sinful” has done very little to decrease the number of sinners. Clearly.Why does porn still clock more Googles and ogles than anything else online? Why do the bad boys still get the most bed action? I call it the “Forbidden-fruit Effect” – the process by which a sense of carnal sin takes a physical experience to juicy new heights.

“Culture and society tend to quietly approve ‘sinful’ or ‘naughty’ behaviour, particularly in men,” says Professor Johann Lemmer, president of Sexology SA, principal of the Academy for Sexology and practising sexologist at Pretoria East Hospital (yes, these are real organisations). “Men often seek stability and security in life, but when they’ve reached this goal, they get bored and start looking for new excitement. Thus, men – and women – are always on the move between sexual stability and adventure.”

But the maddening hit-and-miss thing about sexual misdemeanours is that too much of a bad thing is not good for you, baby.

“Naughtiness can definitely spice up a relationship and enhance sexual pleasure,” says Johannesburg sensualist (a sexologist who emphasises sensuality rather than simply sex) Jonti Searll. “But taking things too far can become very destructive.”

Case in point: my own secret seven. This select group has included both highly-skilled saints and ham-handed sinners. Some got the good-bad balance just right. Others made bedroom botch-ups of epic proportions. But how much is just enough? And which sexual sins bring a built-in “Forbidden-fruit Effect”? These are tough questions. But my chequered past and partners in crime have contributed to the development of a comprehensive bible of carnal equilibrium. I thank them for it. And so will you.

GLUTTONY: Christopher

We were students. But Chris’s unquenchable appetite meant our time together was far more athletic than academic. At first it was flattering. He wanted me day, night and everywhere from posh hotel bathrooms to behind a tree at a trance party. But after a while it got a bit scary. I’d hurry to get changed while he was in the bathroom so he wouldn’t catch a glimpse and get horny. Again. We never really went anywhere or did anything except each other. He just didn’t get the fact that a little longing goes a long way…

Too much sex? Is it possible? Oh yes, says Searll. “There’s a danger of losing the excitement and preventing other aspects of a relationship from developing. Also, if your partner thinks that’s all you want from her, well, she probably won’t stick around for long.”The gender sex-drive divide is a classic complaint from men whose partners suffer from I-have-a-headache syndrome. Lemmer also adds that women often accuse men of sexual addiction (or hyperactivity) in an attempt to avoid their own hypoactive disorders or low sexual self-esteem. That said, the modern woman is far from frigid – according to Penthouse magazine, more women than men complain about infrequent sex.So, although a glut of gluttony can be overkill, there’s no sense in going hungry. It’s all about balance, says Lemmer: “The body can take a lot of sex without negative consequences. But I’d say, if sex affects your monthly income, your wife needs medical treatment or you don’t know the names of your children any more, then it is indeed ‘too much’.”

Researchers still can’t work out where a healthy sex drive begins and ends. According to the Durex Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey, 71 percent of South Africans are having sex weekly, but only 50 percent say they’re sexually satisfied. Why? Because quantity doesn’t guarantee quality. Searll offers the following tips on being a quality-driven glutton…
• Listen to your body. Don’t force it.
• The true secret to holding back and lasting longer is in deep breathing and relaxing the muscles of your pelvic floor. To be in control, a pelvic-floor strengthening programme is vital – but the power is in the relaxation, not the contraction.

PRIDE: Bradley

He was a male model who specialised in underwear campaigns. Seriously. He was also quite sweet. After buying me a drink at a celluloid Cape Town club, he told me he only ever went for “real” girls. So this real girl went home with him. What followed was the ultimate anticlimax. He pouted, posed and pawed his way round me. I felt like an inanimate prop in an underwear shoot – without the underwear. Ag shame. I suppose, when a guy knows that a woman gets off just looking at him, there’s no need to learn how to get a woman off.

Sex and self-esteem are pretty much joined at the hip. So if one falls on its face, the other usually follows. In their book, The Social Dimension of Sex, Roy Baumeister and Dianne Tice acknowledge that most research suggests more confident people have more sex (or getting more sex makes people more confident). But they also say a sky-high self-esteem can fly you towards unrealistic optimism and dangerous sexual risk-taking. “Indeed,” says Lemmer, “confidence is necessary for a healthy sex life. But there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. In fact, arrogance is a sign of a low self-esteem.”This is especially significant because, according to Baumeister and Tice, more women than men struggle with body confidence issues. The message: if you’re too puffed-up with pride you could intensify her insecurities. “Women want to feel safe,” says Searll. “So, when you’re nervous and tentative, your lover won’t feel safe and won’t let go. But the flipside of this coin is arrogance – which can have the same effect. The idea is to make a woman feel safe by being comfortable with your sexuality. Sexual confidence should be based on the fact that you know how to please your lover.”

Don’t be too proud to learn and try new things, says Searll. His top techniques for keeping pride in check?
• Communication – have the confidence (and humility) to ask her what she likes and then provide it.
• Let her take prime position. “When she’s on top, she’s in control,” says Searll. “She can regulate the angle, the depth and speed of penetration. Let her take that control – and let her know that you like it.”

ENVY: Ollie

Ollie certainly wasn’t slothful. On the contrary, he was up for anything – especially what he heard “everyone else” was doing. Yes, his hankering for heat kept the temperature climbing. But despite his extensive “research” he was always lukewarm about the results. The last straw came when he said a particular position would’ve been better if I’d worn a black bra. Why? Because that’s what the girl in the porno was wearing.

Because the green-eyed monster keeps an eye on others, it can certainly be a force for sexual good. But only if it’s on the lookout to learn new and exciting things. “Know this,” cautions Searll. “If you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people and their body types or sexual experiences, you’ll always be searching for new, better or different. The result is zero satisfaction.” And remember to take porn with a pinch of salt, he adds. “Most movies are fantasy lands with special effects, good lighting and 20 takes to get it right. Focus on using what you see to have fun in reality.”

• Instead of trying to measure up to ideals, share your fantasies and learn from your partner.
• Get the juice without the jealousy by checking out some amateur online footage, says Searll. “It’s the best way to see what real people look like and what they’re doing.”

GREED: Phillipe

I don’t have much to say about Phillipe. Probably because, in our three months together, everything was about him and nothing was about me. You know how a dog humps a leg? Well, I was the leg. Enough said.

“Firstly, if it’s only about you, it won’t be long before she loses interest,” says Searll. “And, secondly, the more fulfilled and pleasured she is, the more sex you’ll end up having.” Yes, the greedy guy may get a kick out of the solo sprint towards his own pleasure. But he’ll never have as much fun as the more generous player who treats sex like a team sport. Consider a study in the Journal of Sex Research, which found that men’s sexual fantasies featured a partner’s desire and pleasure more frequently than women’s fantasies did. So, by giving to her, you’re also giving to you. And that’s the best kind of greedy! “No one’s asking you to be self-sacrificing all the time,” says Searll. “Sometimes it’s just about her. Sometimes it’s just about you. And sometimes it’s pleasure for everybody.”

“Enhance the experience for both of you by making a mind shift and going on a journey of pleasure without focusing on the orgasm – hers or yours,” says Searll. Try this mind-shifting tip…
• Touch her clitoris really gently. Build it up for a while, then stop and tell your lover to take two or three really big breaths. Then start again and repeat the process a few more times. The fact that this is all about her will do wonders for both of you.

SLOTH: Gregory

“We’ve got plenty of time to try new things.” That was Gregory’s response when I got mischievous in a movie theatre. Actually, it was his response to anything except five minutes of foreplay and missionary. In the beginning I thought he was shy. Six months later I thought he was saving all his good tricks for a rainy day or raunchy weekend away. Six months after that (and after a slew of rainy, but not so raunchy days and weekends), I realised Gregory was a no-trick pony. Or, at least, a lazy one.

“Lazy loving is one of the worst sexual sins you can commit,” says Searll. And he’s right. Especially in our post-feminist age of sexual liberation and vibrators. “It says you’re not interested in her pleasure,” Searll explains. “Plus it could get her thinking that she can have a better time without you – she has two perfectly good hands, to say nothing about all the toys on the market…” Also, sex is a reciprocal process where you get what you give – as well as what you don’t. Therefore, if you’re lazy, she’ll feel she has a right to be too. And no one wins. Simple as that. But there’s a big difference between being lazy and taking things slow. Like, tantrically slow (which is the ultimate use of the sexual sin of sloth). “The principles of tantra include delaying gratification and understanding that making love is about relishing the sensations and the moment instead of climbing for a climactic end-point,” says Searll. “And, if it is about getting there, it definitely involves taking the scenic route.”

Take your speed and energy levels from one extreme to another – follow a slow and restrained session with a highly-energetic display. And remember: long, leisurely pauses in the action are the antithesis of lazy.

WRATH: James

James was really good at make-up sex. But that didn’t make up for the other times. An office manager (and a gentle-man) he was all about impeccable filing and mild-mannered smiles. He didn’t do edgy or messy. He was far too refined for things rough or tumbled. Once I even picked a fight with him because he was so much more passionate post-squabble. But the passion didn’t last. That’s why he was a far better dinner-date than bedmate.

“Make-up sex works because it involves powerful, primal energies,” says Searll. “We feel alive when we fight; blood flows and the body tingles. So taking that intensity into sex makes the passion deeper and stronger.” International sex therapist, author and founder of the online Loveology University Dr Ava Cadell agrees: “The writer [of the Kama Sutra] was definitely into S&M, because he recommends biting and scratching as ways of improving lovemaking,” she writes in her article, Power Play.But, although anger has a place in the bedroom, don’t introduce it without the appropriate management. “Too much aggression can become very destructive,” says Searll. “Even bondage games need boundaries because it’s easy to lose control and tip over into violence, which is definitely not sexy.”

You don’t need conflict to make wrath work for you…
• Women like a potty mouth – statistics show more women talk dirty during sex than men.
• Amp up the heat and passion by glaring at each other, growling, wrestling or playing like animals, recommends Searll.
• If you’re going to experiment with S&M, have safe words to indicate your comfort levels.

LUST: Kevin

After six stories about lust, here’s one about love. It’s a simple story about two people who stopped making an effort – probably because they loved and lived together for five years.Kevin wasn’t the only sinner. I was just as guilty. He stopped jumping me when I got home from work. And me? Well, I stopped wanting him to. It was an unhappy ending because we never stopped loving each other. But lacklustre lust can scupper even the best-laid plans.

Love and lust require the most delicate balance of all sexual duos. Especially in relationships that are meant to last. The problem is, while love calls for a feeling of togetherness, lust demands a sense of separateness. Also, men and women walk the tightrope between the two in totally different ways. “Men under 40 tend to neglect intimacy,” says Lemmer, “and men over 40 tend to neglect the physical aspects of sexuality. But it’s exactly the opposite with women.” Either way, sexual satisfaction is a common casualty. And women are particularly sensitive to imbalances of this ilk – according to a study in the Journal of Counseling & Development, many women say their most satisfying sexual experiences involve being “connected” to someone, as opposed to simple orgasmic satisfaction. Lemmer’s game plan for solving the love-lust conundrum? “Open communication. No double standards. A balance between give and take. A balance between excitement and stability. A balance between intimacy and sexuality. A balance between being ‘too close to each other’ and ‘too far away’.”

According to Lemmer, couples compromise their own sex lives if they don’t master the following facts…
• Men have an impatient, direct and visual approach to sexuality, while women are more indirect and subtle.
• Men find it more difficult to manage hyperactive libidos, needing orgasms like oxygen, while women can enjoy sexual encounters without a cloud-nine orgasm every time.
• Polygamous instincts aren’t easily held by men in relationships, while women are more monogamous.