And now it's time to take my hand and enter into your sexual adventuring. Together we will share in the loving experience. -- From "Nice Girls Do," by Dr. Irene Kassorla

"I'm not a sex therapist -- underlined," says Irene Kassorla, who speaks in underlines and italics, who will tell you that nice girls do, who will tell you that they can do it well. Just read her book -- "You can't skim it," she says emphatically.

"I'm a family therapist, a research scholar," says the author of "Nice Girs Do." As soon as some people see the title they assume it's about sex. You see I'm not really talking about sex. I'm talking about relationships. Sex comes from closeness."

She leans forward, deep-lidded brown eyes serious. Later this afternoon she has a flight to Houston for a speech and maybe some sleep after a day of a radio talk show, a television talk show, a newspaper interview, a magazine interview. The limousine waits out front to take her to the airport. m

"This is why my sex book is selling," she says. "I'm talking about people -- not genitalia."

"Men are affection-starved," she says. "But they don't know how to say 'I need you to hold me, I need you to cares me, I need to feel little . . .'" Her fingers interlock gracefully, the nails long and painted shiny pink.

"When two people are together and one is saying 'I need more space, I need more space,' that's fear of intimacy."

Gay men buy the book a lot, she says. She wrote it for married women, although she treats single as well as married men and women. It ranked No. 8 on the Washington Best Sellers List last week (14 weeks on the list).

She denies there's a difference in the problems men and women have. "I can't find anything that's male or female. I find women thinking about sex a lot I find men saying 'Don't use me.' I find men saying, 'Not tonight, I have a headache.'" And she laughs.

Her hair is an array of puffy ashblond curls and swirls. She is thin and short, wearing a red tailored suit and a mauve-colored blouse. The smile is a little tired as she leans back in a chair and props up her feet, crossed at the ankles, on another chair. Red suede high heels.

"I'm 49," she says. "I like to say I'm in my 40s. Would you say, that, please?"

Kassorla says she is a millionaire several times over. Merv Griffin called her the "Shrink of the Stars." In the early '70s she held group therapy sessions on television and now says that five producers are talking to her about another possible television show.

"In my clinic, [actually, it's an office in Los Angeles], no one is turned away because of money," she says. "We have a sliding scale.The whole clinic is family therapy. If someone wants to come for sex therapy, I tell them I don't do sex therapy. I do family therapy. I tell them that with family therapy, their sex problems will melt away."

Her office has brightly colored chairs and yellow carpeting, she says. Sometimes children are brought to her. "I say to their parents, 'Tell them I'm the fun doctor.'"

Everybody who sees her is fully clothed. "I absolutely don't approve of undressing people."

She does, however, approve very much of sex.

. . . certainly one could argue that it is possible to survive without sex . . . or walks in the park, or music, or laughter, or the other sweet extras of living that are not primary biological needs.

BUT WHY SHOULD YOU? -- From "Nice Girls Do"

The first "nice girl" came to her for treatment in London in the late '60s when Kassorla was working at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London where she got her Ph.D. "My expertise was communication," she said. "I had gotten autistic children to talk. A well-known actress [no names, please] in London was very depressed, very upset. Her husband was having an affair, and she came to me."

Her mother had inhibited her, the actress told Kassorla. "She kept saying her mother told her 'Nice girls don't,' and I would holler at her, 'Nice girls do!'" She leans forward, brow furrowed, and points a finger at her interviewer. "I had no idea I'd write a book." She shrugs and leans back in her chair. "I just kept a little data. I thought maybe I'd write a little article for the American Psychological Association."

Your unique sexual personality is part of you from the moment of birth. Right from the beginning you have sensual behaviors that are instinctive. -- From "Nice Girls Do"

Irene Kassorla was born in Los Angeles. "When I was in high school, I wrote and directed and acted. I thought I was a star. Then I went to UCLA, and I was mediocre." She received a B.A. in psychology in 1963.

Her book is dedicated to her father, who died of pneumonia when she was 6 years old: "TO MY FATHER, who taught me the meaning of tenderness with his soft cheeks and gentle hands."

"That's not sensual," she says. "Just very tender and loving. It was a tragedy he died so young.

"My mother talked about sex," she says. "She's so positive. If four tons of garbage fell on her, she'd say, 'Well, it could have been five.' I don't think my mother has read the book. But she's very proud of me. She always has been. She's just proud that I'm Dr. Irene Kassorla."

She has two daughters -- 26 and 32. One is divorced. "They come to me with everything, my girls," she says. "And I go to them with everything." m

Kassorla was divorced in 1966. "Oh, jeez . . ." she says, voice lowered, chin resting on hand. "I don't remember how long I was married. We were married very very young. I don't think that's relative -- except to show how foolish you can be." She sighs. "He was a tennis star. That was enough." She laughs. "If you're married after age 28, you have a much better chance of staying married."

Exercise 6: Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Acceptance.

I am Irene Kassorla.

Although I am a mother, daughter, citizen, homemaker, psychologist -- none of these things is important to me at this moment.

Right now, I am a sensual and responsive human being. . .

A unique and original me. . .

I am a therapist. I cure and help. But not now . . . not in bed. -- From "Nice Girls Do"