Stylist's first ever sex survey revealed that 65% of you would like to have more sex in your lives, while Alain de Botton - author of How To Think More About Sex - encourages us all to tackle the issue of sex with more honesty, courage and above all, humour. To help set us on a new road to sexual enlightenment we've chosen 40 must-see erotic films, controversial books and sex scenes to break through those knee-jerk feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment, and get you in the mood to enjoy that strangely wonderful thing called good sex.
You might like: The 20 most erotic moments in the history of cinema
What do you think? Which other must-see films or erotic novels would you add? Tell us your thoughts (maybe keep the dirty ones for your partner!) on Twitter or in the comments section below.
Beautiful, confident, provocative and possibly homicidal, being seduced by suspected murderer Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is police detective Nick Curran's (Michael Douglas) biggest fantasy and worst nightmare rolled into one. And boy does the leggy blonde have an upfront way to distract the during police questioning - blink and you'll miss 'it'.
First appearing in the 1957 book The Joys of a Woman, which details the sexual exploits of Emmanuelle Arsan a bored housewife of a French diplomat, Emmanuelle was the creation of French-Thai actress, Marayat Rollet-Andriane. Emmanuelle later evolved into an erotic French television series.
9 ½ weeks
The best relationships are the ones built on love, trust, mutual respect and a deep knowledge of your partner, right? We're not sure Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke got the memo on that one when they begin their anonymous, 9 ½ week affair. Though the kinky sex that ensues probably makes up for lack of personal details.
... And God Created Woman
While there's no actual sex that takes place in Roger Vadim's 1956 classic, Brigitte Bardot brings more than enough sexual energy to the film to make up for it.
Belle de Jour
Mad Men's Betty Draper has got nothing on bored housewife Séverine Serizy, played by the beautiful Catherine Denueve. Rather than become jaded, Serizy decides to inject some sexual frisson into her dull life by spending her afternoons as a prostitute.
Raw and edgy, seeing Michael Fassbender play a sex addict should be a dream come true but it ain't pretty.
Who knew car crashes could be sexy? James Spader didn't - until he was in one and discovered it was a great way to perk up his sex life with his wife.
A Dangerous Method
We're sure there were some deep psychological theories being wrangled over between Michael Fassbender (as Carl Jung) and Viggo Mortensen (as Sigmund Freud) in 2011’S A Dangerous Method, but we were just waiting for the moment when Keira Knightley gets spanked.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Inspired by Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy went from word-of-mouth recommendation to New York Times bestseller in less than a year. Described as 'Mommy Porn' by some, the series follows the erotic exploits of college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young business magnate, Christian Grey.
Lie With Me
Based on the novel of the same name by Tamara Faith Berger, Lie With Me follows the steamy romance of lead character Leila (Lauren Lee Smith) and David (Eric Balfour). The film opens with Leila watching porn while masturbating, a scene which powerfully sets the tone for what’s to follow.
Delta of Venus
Penned by Anaïs Nin in the 1940s, this erotic collection is said to have been written for a private client known simply as 'The Collector', who commissioned Nin to write the stories for his own private titillation.
Eddie Redmayne puts to bed – literally – any doubts about his pulling power when he embarks on an illicit affair with Clémence Poésy in the BBC's adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' wartime novel.
Don't Look Now
An innovative thriller from director Nicholas Roeg, this film was ahead of its time in more ways than one – causing controversy on its release in 1973 for its explicit sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. A scene which is rumoured to be not entirely simulated.
Eyes Wide Shut
Tarnishing his clean-cut image, Tom Cruise and former wife Nicole Kidman surprised us all when they played a couple embarking on an odyssey of sexual and moral discovery in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Like Don't Look Now, rumours abound that Cruise and Kidman's sex scenes appeared real for a reason.
Heightened emotions and aggressive passion are the modus operandi for Betty (Béatrice Dalle), and she has no trouble with showing just how much she loves her new boyfriend Zorg (Jean Hugues Anglande). Little wonder they call her Betty Blue.
Two words. Bunny. Boiler.
The Story of O
Penned under the name Pauline Reage, The Story of O was actually written by French author Anne Desclos in 1954. Initially published in French, the novel is a tale of a female photographer, O, who is willing led into sexual submission by her mysterious lover René.
Bringing gay sex to the big screen, cowboys Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are made for each other – yet destined for tragedy.
Henry & June
Starring Uma Thurman, Fred Ward and Maria de Medeiros as Anaïs Nin, the 1990 film Henry & June brings to life the sexual exploits of erotic fiction writer Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. As if her novels weren't racy enough.
Everyone knows the office can be sexy; countless embarrassed looks and red faces after office Christmas parties attest to the fact. However, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the office romance to a whole new level as sexy secretary Lee Holloway, who is only too happy to please her boss.
In The Realm of the Senses
Sexual harrassment turns into a full-blown sexual affair between prostitute turned hotel maid Sada Abe (played by Eiko Matsuda) and hotel owner Kichizo Ishida (actor Tatsuya Fuji). They have sex a lot, like freaky sex, all the time –and, it's been revealed, not all of the sex was simulated.
The Night Porter
It's a dark and uncomfortable watch, but Charlotte Rampling and Dirk Bogarde push the boundaries in this provocative drama. Thirteen years after WWII, a concentration camp survivor (Rampling) and her tormentor (Bogarde), currently the night porter at a Vienna hotel, meet again and fall back into their sado-masochistic relationship.
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Giving a voice to countless women and men that desired a 'roll in the hay', D.H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover tells the story of an illicit affair between an aristocratic woman and a working class man.
As controversial as their relationship would have been at the time, that was nothing compared to the furore that the book caused: publishers Penguin were put on trial under the Obscene Publications Act in 1959.
While ballet and breakdowns are the main focus in 2011’s big hit Black Swan, the film also contains some startingly sexual scenes - including a blistering reminder for Natalie Portman's character, Nina, to listen out for her creepily over-protective mother when she's enjoying a night of passion.
Considered the first original work of erotic fiction in England, Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure was actually written by a man. John Cleland penned the novel while in debtors prison (well, we guess he had a lot of time on his hands) in 1748, and it went on to become one of the most banned books in history.
Perhaps the original relationship self-help book, the Kama Sutra is an ancient Hindu text written by Hindu philosopher, Vātsyāyana. While there are chapters on acquiring a wife and being a wife, we think it's best to just cut straight to enjoying a bit of the old Kama.
Newbie actress Margo Stilley became a household name with the furore that accompanied the release of 9 Songs in 2004. The controversial Brit flick features its lead actors Stilley and Kieran O'Brien having real sex on-screen – and needless to say, we doubt it was the film’s hip indie soundtrack that brought cinema-goers in.
In The Cut
When Harry Met Sally proved Meg Ryan can fake an orgasm, but she took things a big step forward with this erotic thriller.
Written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955, Lolita is world-renowned as one of the most controversial novels of the 20th century. Narrated by middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, the story tells of his growing sexual obsession with his 12-year-old step-daughter Dolores Haze, who he nicknames Lolita. Stanley Kubrick brought Nabokov's novel to life with his 1962 film.
Starring Emily Browning as a university student who offers up her sleeping body for men to indulge their sexual desires, this provocative film is not to be mixed up with the Disney classic.
John Malkovich and Glenn Close play aristocrats in Rococo France staving off their boredom by with sexual power games, using the naive young Uma Thurman as bait.
Tropic of Cancer
First published in 1934 (with the help of erotic novelist Anaïs Nin), Henry Miller's controversial book describes his experience living among a community of bohemians in Paris, including explicit descriptions of his sexual encounters with the women of the city.
While the 1968 Paris student riots rage outside, inside, Eva Green and her character's twin brother entice a naive American student into a sensual orgy of indulgence.
We didn't understand much of what was going on in David Lynch's 2001 film Mulholland Drive, but the sexual tension – eventually consumated – between lead actresses Naomi Watts and Laura Harring was very hard to miss.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl
From pre-teen sensation to London call-girl - we'd never have guessed Billie Piper would be a natural at bringing Brooke Magnanti's Belle de Jour books and blog alive.
Before vampires were cool, there was Catherine Deneuve playing predatory vamp Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger. She has a young David Bowie and Susan Sarandon in her sights, and the three become trapped in a dangerously erotic love triangle.
Thelma and Louise
A landmark moment for Brad Pitt: his highly-charged sex scene with Geena Davis put him on the map as Hollywood's hottest property.
Based on stories by Hanif Kureishi, Intimacy sees Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox's characters looking for just that – but on the way they have lots of anonymous, casual sex to pass the time.
The Joy of Sex
Despite huge amounts of controversy and condemnation when it was first published in 1972, this revolutionary sex manual has stood the test of time.
She may be having a passionate affair with a man almost half her age, but Kate Winslet looks as good as ever playing the mysterious Hanna in Stephen Daldry's post-WWII drama. Reading aloud has never been so sexy.