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NEW YORK -- Wearing jeans, her hair pinned up in a tousled but stylish way, actress Kim Cattrall has heads turning as she walks through the Four Seasons Hotel.
Cattrall is here to talk about sex -- not Sex and the City, the TV show that made her a household name, but Sexual Intelligence, her just-published book (Bulfinch, $30).
"This is a fantasy job I created for myself," Cattrall says of the book and the HBO documentary of the same name that airs Nov. 15.
The subject matter is not new to Cattrall, 49, who wrote another book about sex -- Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm -- in 2002.
"Sexual Intelligence is almost like a prequel to Satisfaction," says Cattrall, who is a partner in Fertile Ground Productions, which produced the book and the documentary. Sexual Intelligence, she says, attempts to explain why and how men and women feel sexual desire and how world culture and nature influence our impulses and attitudes toward sex.
"We wanted to call it Sexual Intelligence because we wanted to bring intelligence to something that is shrouded in a lot of mystery," Cattrall says.
"It's all the things we touched on and talked about in Sex and the City with a lot of humor and panache and style, but going deeper."
The full-color book includes numerous photos of classic paintings and sculptures that celebrate the human body. Cattrall's role is that of a tour guide, setting the scene for discussions about sexual attraction, fantasies, taboos and physical chemistry.
"Instead of me being in any kind of role as an expert," she says, "we went about finding experts and everyday people courageous enough to talk about their desires and needs and then using nature, culture and history to highlight that."
For the project, Cattrall traveled to the ancient streets of Pompeii, where sexually explicit art was commonplace; the Secret (erotic) Museum in Naples; a 2,000-year-old earthwork figure of a naked man in Dorset, England; and the beaches of Cyprus, where the love goddess Aphrodite is said to have been born.
"To stand on the beach where Aphrodite, 5,000 years ago, came out of the waves ... there was something quite spiritual about it," Cattrall says.
She hopes the book and documentary will enlighten people and teach them something about themselves and their relationships.
"I feel like we're putting this warm light on it, this glow on it. Not a searchlight, which is too scary, and it's not a candle so you don't see clearly enough, but just a nice warm glow of sensuality and sexuality."
As for whether she believes Americans take sex too seriously or not seriously enough, she says with a laugh, "A little bit of both. Humor is a huge part of sex. It should not be left outside the bedroom.
"That's why Sex and the City was so successful. It allowed us to laugh at these situations we find ourselves in that can be so ridiculous. We often take things so seriously."
And people struggling with understanding their sexuality, she says, should know "you really aren't alone. We're all searching; we're all trying to find the answers. That's why I want to continue being the searcher. I don't ever want to be the expert. That kind of stunts the experience and limits the questions you can ask."
In addition to a book tour, which will take her to London, Berlin and Amsterdam, Cattrall is tackling projects that will take her in new directions.
She's planning another book and companion documentary titled Everything I Ever Learned About Being a Girl, a self-help and advice guide for young women.
She hopes to produce an English version of a French film (she won't reveal the title) for which she has acquired the rights, and she says she would like to perform in another play in London. This past January through May, she starred in a London production of Whose Life Is It Anyway?
Her personal life also is keeping her busy. She is dating a 26-year-old chef she met in Toronto last year when she was working on Ice Princess for Walt Disney Pictures.
"Seeing someone much younger than me was totally unexpected," she says.
"But it's going very well. We share common interests in food. I love to eat -- love to eat well -- and we love to cook together. It sort of seems to be the zeitgeist right now of older women and younger men."
Cattrall says the idea of having a relationship with someone 23 years younger was initially disquieting.
"At first, I found myself in this state of mind of really having a judgment about it," says Cattrall, who has been married twice.
"What does this mean? We can't possibly have the same point of view about things because of the age difference-- and we don't. But I never had that with my husbands, either."
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