The smell of desire: fact or fiction?

Goose bumps provoked by a fresh breeze. Photo ...

“His very smell gives me goose bumps and turns my brain to mush.”

The topic of pheromones and how they affect physical attraction has interested me for a long time. For example, I once dated a guy whose hobbit-like body odour turned me on completely. For some reason I was intensely attracted to him even though it defied all logic. That’s what I’m talking about – pure primal attraction! The kind of attraction we sometimes don’t understand and often cannot rationalise.

Although some people aren’t as smell sensitive as others, “scientists have found repeatedly that the less a person smells like you (as far as natural body odours go), the more attractive – or rather, the less repulsive – you find their armpit aromas”. This is according to ‘Scientific American’ (Armpit Psychology: The science of body odour perception).

If I think of my husband, I confess that I find his scent in the morning intoxicating – I just want to drink him in. He actually admitted something along the same lines to me too. Every morning when I roll out of bed, he always moves over to my side of the bed. I initially thought it was because he prefers my pillow to his (which he does!). However, the real reason is that he apparently likes the scent I leave behind on my pillow.

In an article ‘Scent of a woman’, Rachel Herz Ph.D. says that “women rank how a man smells as the number one determinant for whether she’ll be sexually attracted to him. Moreover, what men each woman finds most sexy smelling varies widely and is tied to immune system genetics”.

She goes on to refer to research that shows how “naturally cycling women prefer the body-odour of men whose immune system genes are relatively different from their own”. It is seemingly nature’s process to help a woman select a male partner that she is compatible with in terms of fertility and reproduction. Why is this important you ask? Simply put: because it ensures the reproduction of genetically strong offspring.

Oral contraceptive

Note the research refers to “naturally cycling women” and not the over 100 million women worldwide who take the oral contraceptive pill. The pill alters a woman’s hormones and apparently this has an impact on the type of man she would be attracted to. Think about it: if a woman who is not on any hormone altering medication or treatments is drawn to a man who has a genetic composition different to hers, then wouldn’t it be correct to say that the opposite would be true of a woman who is on the contraceptive pill? Wouldn’t she then be attracted to a man who has a similar genetic profile to hers? This poses a further question: if by taking the birth control pill, are we not contributing to a genetically weak lineage?

The moral of the story for women: ditch the contraceptive pill when choosing a lifelong mate and rather revert to other methods of safe sex if you can’t abstain (wink wink).


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6 thoughts on “The smell of desire: fact or fiction?

  1. Samantha Baker November 12, 2012 at 17:16 Reply

    Interesting. Very. I was on BCP when I met my husband, but I stopped when we got married and have not used any method of BCP since. We used natural family planning when it came to having children…and clearly we had many children. I do love his smell. I often, because he gets up much earlier than me, go to his side of the bed too. Last week he told me how good I smelled to him.


    • Teatart November 12, 2012 at 18:02 Reply

      I always knew there was some truth in the “smell” compatibility department but didn’t realise just how much! Thanks for your comments … it re-affirms my pattern of thought :)


  2. rgonaut November 12, 2012 at 21:21 Reply

    I don’t think the opposite would be true necessarily, it might lessen or change the effect though. Smell does do all sorts of things to me..especially it evokes memories.


    • Teatart November 20, 2012 at 23:19 Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts :)


    • Teatart November 26, 2012 at 13:33 Reply

      It’s amazing how often we overlook the power of smell! To this day, specific smells still conjur up bitter-sweet memories! Here’s to the power of smell :D


  3. […] The smell of desire: fact or fiction? ( […]


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