What is it about Angelina Jolie that brings men to their knees? Why is Susan Sarandon the thinking man's fantasy? And what on earth can we learn from Camilla Parker Bowles about keeping men in sexual thrall?
In her new book, Simply Irresistible, author Ellen T. White has examined some of the greatest sex sirens in history, from Eva Peron to Nicole Kidman, and uncovered what makes them so alluring.
She also unveils their secrets and tricks, so you too can unleash your inner siren.
She says: "I come from a long line of women who treated seduction very seriously. My grandmother, at 56, wooed a younger man out of bachelorhood after she had been twice widowed.
My mother still entertained gentleman callers when she was 75.
A close friend, Ruth, was a femme fatale. By any standards, she was plain - flat-chested and skinny, with stringy blonde hair, a big nose and beady little eyes.
Yet her whole being projected the conviction that she was a raving beauty.
Guys never seemed to be able to catch up with her, or at least she made them feel that way.
She had a kind of goddess quality, alluring yet distant and untouchable, but she was always in the close company of men.
Men can't resist women like Angelina Jolie, whose passion for life brings out their red-blooded side
She also had individual traits that heightened her appeal. She was unusually smart and wowed men with her mental agility. She was always beautifully dressed and was elusive.
Men were driven to rash and near-suicidal acts over her. I watched in awe.
Through Ruth's example I began to understand that while it helps to be beautiful, it is not essential to being irresistible to men. And beauty alone is never enough.
Men are most attracted to women who are convinced of their own appeal. These women live large, as if men and life were created for their pleasure.
After further consideration, I saw that Sirens fall roughly into five distinguishable types - the Goddess, the Companion, the Sex Kitten, the Competitor and the Mother - based on their dominant qualities.
They are not babes, bombshells or hotties, although that does not exempt you from becoming a Siren. But being beautiful is too easy. The essence of a Siren is sex appeal.
Building on this foundation, the irresistible woman will have her series of individual quirks, tricks and talents that personalise and heighten her appeal, creating her own signature 'brand'.
This guide is a blueprint for bringing out your inner Siren - every woman has one. First, however, you must determine which one you are...
Clubs, teams and other group activities leave you cold. You are prone to moodiness. You like being waited on but also being in control. And you enjoy dressing to the hilt and see yourself as different from other people.
A famous example is Eva Peron, first lady of Argentina whose life was depicted in the musical Evita.
She knew the power of rising above the crowd. She would wear 5in heels and pile her hair high.
Stand tall - even the most diminutive Goddess will establish her regal presence if she throws her shoulders back and keeps her chin up.
Rely on dresses to give you that exalted look. Fabrics should say luxury, not hot-water washable. If you have to do casual then do jeans, but wear a £500 top.
Sex kitten: Jane Fonda in Barbarella
THE SEX KITTEN
You tend to resort to shows of helplessness to get out of a tight spot. You feel powerful when men think of you in overtly sexual terms. You consider Jane Fonda in Barbarella a more interesting role model than Condoleezza Rice and you're looking for a 'Daddy' to care for you.
Marilyn Monroe was the archetypal Sex Kitten. She developed a wide and revolving network of men on whose advice she depended. Should she make this film, buy that house, wear these clothes?
Even a woman with a PhD and a seven-figure salary loses nothing by asking a man for a little guidance now and then. Leave him with the impression that you're safely under his wing.
The aspiring Sex Kitten wears white. It strikes a balance between childlike innocence and knowing lady. Everything about your wardrobe should say squeaky clean, but it should always be a smidge too tight, an inch too short and show a provocative expanse of skin.
As for lingerie, make it feminine and expensive, unless you have 'forgotten' to wear any at all. But remember to express surprise if someone mentions it - a show of modesty is critical in the Sex Kitten.
This siren strives to make men feel comfortable rather than challenged. They think men have a raw deal and believe the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. They are calm in a crisis and like feeling relied upon.
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor was surely one of the unlikeliest Sirens. Photographer Cecil Beaton described her as "attractively ugly". Yet she had the gift of making people feel they were the very person she had been waiting all her life to meet.
If your man is tired and stressed, bar the door, take the phone off the hook and book a holiday. Never blanch when he wants to act on sexual fantasies that seem a little quirky - Wallis mastered several sexual techniques on her whirlwind tour of Hong Kong with her first husband.
Turn homemaking into an art form - never underestimate the power of a vase of fresh flowers - Wallis didn't.
You see men as wonderful playmates and are a team player. You like organising things but would call yourself spontaneous. You are more comfortable in the company of men than women.
A well-known example was Winston Churchill's mother, Lady Randolph Churchill.
Jennie Jerome was the ultimate political wife. She spotted the potential in young Randolph Churchill from an early age and her hunch was dead-on, as he rose from an unlikely MP to Chancellor of the Exchequer. A Companion Siren participates in her husband's success.
She understands what her partner is into. If he likes cars, find out what a carburettor is. If he likes stocks and shares, read the financial pages.
Generally feel more comfortable with men than women. Have a higher than average libido. Don't cry easily. Would rather spend the day learning a new sport than at a spa getting a makeover.
Be adventurous, like Angelina Jolie. Men drawn to Competitor Sirens find it hard to resist a woman whose spirit and passion are equal to his manliest self. Wear mannish designs, or even better, borrow his clothes.
Accessorise a tuxedo with Victoria's Secret underwear. In your jeans, wear his tie as a belt. A woman in men's clothes is a popular tease in countless Hollywood flicks.
HOW TO BE UNFORGETTABLE...
Now you know what type of Siren you are, it's all about personalising your appeal. A true Siren always uses one or two tricks to make her stand out from the crowd. Learn them here, but give them your own inimitable spin. A Siren is original through and through.
USE HIS NAME
It's such a small and flattering technique - always remember his name and use it. "I was so hoping I'd see you here tonight, Lionel!" and follow it with a delighted pause. It shows you are fully tuned in. Be careful not to overdo it, though.
BE A REBEL WITH A CAUSE
There's something decidedly sexy about a woman who believes. Actress Susan Sarandon has done time in jail in the name of public outrage and men love her all the more for it. The passionate woman sends an arrow to a man's heart.
LET HIM KNOW YOU'RE IN DEMAND
There's no need to brag, it's unladylike. Just get a little careless with incriminating evidence: that e-mail from an admirer open on your screen, the card that came with the flowers. Assure him these men mean nothing - they just can't help themselves.
STRIVE TO BE CHIC
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is forever the First Lady we will remember for her clothes. She stuck to solid colours and classic lines because she knew they suited her. Find clothes that flatter your figure. If in doubt, stick to well-made classics.
DEVELOP YOUR MIND
In 2006, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women reported that 90 per cent of high-achieving men want a woman with brains. So keep studying, and if you want to seem smarter, speed up your speech. And never overuse the word "like". You don't, like, want to sound like Paris Hilton.
GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT, AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES
One afternoon in 1972, Camilla Shand is said to have waltzed up to Prince Charles and said: "My great grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress. How about it?"
She was wearing muddy wellies, her hair was frizzy and yet Charles's attraction to Camilla was instant. She was confident, spirited and more popular than prettier girls. Take a leaf out of her book with a teasing chat-up line.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
If we can learn anything from Angelina Jolie, it's that opening the door to your darker fantasies is a definite turn-on. You don't need vials of blood - Angelina famously carried her ex-husband's blood around her neck - but every man wants a bad girl in the bedroom - why not you?
FIND YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT
Coco Chanel knew the incredible power of the right perfume. She once said: "It heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure." Take her advice and dab your favourite perfume wherever you want to be kissed.
DON'T BE A PUSHOVER
A pushover is always finding excuses for men. But now's the time to speak up. The Siren who inspires a little fear never hurt anyone. Today, the excuses for putting up with a cad are far less persuasive - if he's brutish and cruel, don't stick around, let alone defend him.