Smoky Mirrors Sex and the Single Object THE SENSUOUS WOMAN,

Lyle Stuart, Inc. 192 pp.; $6.

IMAGINE: you are a man in your mid 30's with an attractive wife to whom you have been married eight years. Your sex life is okay but nothing incredible. You have been away on a business trip in Pittsburgh for a week. When you get home, a note from your wife on the door tells you to go to the refrigerator, where you find a chilled martini and another note, directing you to the guest bathroom, where a hot bath awaits you. A note on the towel reads: "You have the most exciting body I have ever seen. If you want to see for yourself why you are the most sensual man in the world, come to the bedroom." When you left home a week ago, the bedroom was a regular old room with a pink chenille bedspread. You open the door to find it lined with smoked mirrors which reflect a woman in a black bikini who looks like your wife, except that her hair is no longer brown but blonde-streaked, lying on a fur throw that covers leopard-spotted sheets on the bed. If you are a real man, which Joan Garrity, author of The Sensuous Woman, assumes you are, you will hop into bed and screw for the next three days, letting your wife up only "long enough to get food and drink occasionally."

If I were he. I'd probably crack up laughing or take her away to a loony bin.

THE SENSUOUS WOMAN, which has already hit the top of the best-seller list and is second this week, combines many sexist, self-deprecatory attitudes with a few good techniques and ideas. The main reason to be a Sensuous Woman (i.e., good in bed) is to be able to catch and keep men. Garrity also points out that a woman can have a lot of fun herself, but the main thrust of the book is pleasing men so they won't leave you for that cute little secretary at the office.

In the introduction, she says:

... through intelligence and hard work, I have become a Sensuous Woman.

And that's what almost every man wants.

More than beauty

More than brilliance

More than great housekeeping abilities

More than a model mother to his children

He wants a Sensuous Woman

Because she makes him KNOW that he is the most remarkable man that ever lived.

Underneath a uniformly irritating style, which lets up only during technical explanations, Garrity lurches from basically sound attitudes to ones that appall. The first chapter ("Sex- Why It's Even Ahead of Horse' Racing as the Nation's Number One Sport"), she gives arguments for accepting sex as a positive good and not a necessary duty. Sounds fine, right? "You're not going to able to skip out on sex, so accept it and look toward the good," one paragraph starts. Okay, but what's the good?

... Those of us who have been labeled female owe it to ourselves to reap the considerable benefits, such as- well, how about these for openers? -the right to be soft and fragile; the luxury of having doors opened, packages carried, cigarettes lighted, chairs pulled out for us; the pleasure of being able to cry openly when we feel like it; the joy of giving everything of ourselves to the men we love; and (sometimes) the delight of receiving great loot like diamond necklaces, ruby bracelets and mink coats.

A chapter entitled, "Orgasm- Yours, Not His," extols the virtues of making love when you don't feel like it and faking orgasm because "you make him happy" and keep him coming back for more. The next chapter, "Orgasm- His, Not Yours," is all about the pleasure of non-simultaneous orgasm. Feeling a man coming to a climax,. Garrity argues, is a reward for being a sensuous woman. "He will never be more yours than at that moment."

Since the rest of the book is also about orgasm or leading up to it, it would be unfair to say that these two chapters comprise her entire discussion of sexuality. Garrity puts forth a step-by-step plan to become a Sensuous Woman.

Her four keys to being sensuous are: "heightened sensitivity, appetite, the desire to give and sexual skill." For the first, Garity recommends a series of ten "sensuality exercises." Some of these are simply heightening the tactile sense- like running fur hats over your body- which anyone who has ever smoked dope has probably already developed. There are also tongue exercises (more on this later) and suggestions to buy lace underwear. One of the more important of these "exercises" is buying another book- Bonnie Pruden's How to Keep Slender and Fit after Thirty - and doing the exercises in that. One has the feeling that those are the ones that really count. Garrity cutely labels masturbation "Sensuality Exercise Number Ten," and devotes a whole chapter to it.

This is just about the best chapter in the book. Again, the reasoning behind it defers to male appetites: you should know what turns you on best so that you can tell your sexual partner who wants to get on with the action, not "to play laboratory," once you are in bed together.

What men don't realize is that masturbation is something that many women have rarely- if ever- done, and that they have considerable inhibitions about it. Garrity explores both simple and fairly exotic means of masturbation, including a reference to the "Jacuzzi whirlpool bath" ("it's heavenly"), without any further explanation of what the hell it is.

A CHAPTER entitled, "Maintenance, Reclamation and Salvage" begins, "We both know that when you're marketing a product (you), packaging is important. Unless you catch the buyer's eye, you'll never be taken off the shelf." "Sex- What to Wear' advises a woman to be as many different women as your man, who is "by nature a polygamist," wants you to be. The opening smoked-mirrors act is one of the many examples of how a woman can keep her man coming home to her. "How to Give to Your Favorite Charity- You" includes the thought, "No one has more to gain from giving than a woman." After going through all these chapters, one finally arrives at "How to Drive a Man to Ecstacy."

This chapter is one of the few devoted mainly to techniques. As a manual per se, it has very little basic stuff, but charges happily into some of the more advanced techniques. Her style sometimes is enough to make one want to quit. The first sentence under the heading "Nibbling, Nipping, Eatting, Licking and Sucking" (about half of the chapter is, "Now don't turn up your nose and make that ugly face!" The whole chapter has the attitude of "Don't knock it until you've tried it," which is fine. But some of the reasons for doing these techniques are not exactly ones you would think of on your own: one of the advantages of learning to move your lips in rhythm with pelvic thrusts is that it is "most helpful in slimming the waist and hips, flattening the tummy and tightening the derriere.

One occasion, Garrity is screamingly funny without realizing it, as in the section under "Penis-Mouth Technique" entitled, "The Whipped Cream Wriggle," reproduced below in its entirety:

If you have a sweet tooth, this is the one for you. Take some freshly whipped cream, to which you have added a dash of vanilla and a couple of teaspoons of powdered sugar and spread the concoction evenly on the penis so that the whole area is covered with a quarter-inch layer of cream. As a finishing touch, sprinkle on a little shredded coconut and/or chocolate. Then lap it all up with your tongue. He'll wriggle with delight and you'll have the fun of an extra dessert. If you have a weight problem, use one of the many artificial whipped creams on the market (available in boxes, plastic containers and aerosol cans) and forego the coconut and chocolate.

And for the diet-conscious: "One Cool Whip, dear, hold the almonds."

ADMITTEDLY, this book is not written as a how-to for beginners, and it doesn't stop to explain many things, but it has at least one major omission. While devoting an entire chapter to aphrodisiacs ("There is only one aphrodisiac in this world, and that is love"), she barely mentions birth control. To a generation of women brought up on the Pill and who now have doubts about it, Garrity could have given some helpful opinions about other contraceptive methods which women have been avoiding because they lack effectiveness or spontaneity.

Reading The Sensuous Woman, I kept asking myself who it was written for and if there was any group its attitudes would benefit. Young politically liberated, sexually competent women would find most of the views either ones they have agreed with for years or ones totally repugnant to them. But would this book be of help to a 40-year-old hung-up housewife whose husband does run after the secretaries in the office? It tells her that, once she has made herself sexually exciting, he will come home to her every night. It tells the secretaries that they can have their pick of "some of the most interesting men in America," who will fall in love with them as soon as they flop into bed, and propose marriage shortly thereafter.

No longer need woman be an unhappy, unwilling sexual object, now she can be a satisfies sexual object. I agree entirely with Garrity that being sexually competent is enjoyable. But it is still a long way from being the solution to all the problems between the sexes.