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Sex and the Sense of Smell

There are so many interesting aspects to sexuality. One of my favourites is the biology of sex. Sure, we like to analyze sexuality in terms of sociological constructs, but we are animals and the purpose of sex is to procreate. We have many physical elements to us that drive us to do that. I thought that this week I would explore the sense of smell and how it affects our sexuality.

Men and women have different reactions to scents. This is especially the case when they smell each other. In one study scientists looked at how men and women judged attractiveness of the opposite sex and its relationship to smell.

Men who judged women with the most beautiful faces were also judged to smell the best. This is how the experiment went down: a group of women volunteers gave T-shirts that they had slept in for a few nights. Then, a group of men selected the T-shirts they found to smell the best. The “best” smelling ones were consistently those from the women that were rated most attractive by a different group of men. However, the results were very different when the scientists had women judge the attractiveness of men. When men submitted their T-shirts to the experiment, a group of women rated which ones smelled the best. Then another group of women rated the attractiveness of these men, the men deemed as the worst smelling were rated as the most attractive and the best smelling were rated the least attractive. The scientists concluded from this experiment that it demonstrated “intriguing differences in the mating strategies of men and women.” I have to admit that it is very interesting. I personally get quite aroused when I smell my man’s side of the bed – especially his pillow. In another T-shirt smelling experiment, women and men were able to distinguish T-shirts worn by their spouses, from among dozens of others, by scent alone. Sounds like something I would like to try. I wonder how I would do.

However, generally speaking, there does seem to be a sex difference when it comes to smelling ability. Women consistently score higher than men in odour detection, discrimination and identification. This ability is likely affected by the hormonal changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle. During ovulation female sensitivity to male pheromones (scented sex hormones) is 10,000 times stronger during ovulation than during menstruation. My guess is that this is a sign that it plays a role in mate selection and reproduction. Perhaps women use their sense of smell to select a good mate during the time she is most likely to conceive.

But not all smells are equal for women. Fresh male sweat is rated as attractive to females, but sweat exposed to oxygen is rated as not attractive at all. So if you have just jumped off the treadmill you might get the ladies going, but wait 15 minutes and you will have them turning away.

Another thing to keep in mind is that has been shown that birth control pills (specifically the hormone progesterone) have an affect on women’s smelling abilities. The birth control pill causes higher levels of progesterone throughout the cycle consequently eliminating peaks in smell sensitivity. It is quite likely that the decrease in sex drive Pill users sometimes experience is actually due to their lack of olfactory sensitivity.

Even though men have a weaker sense of smell, there are some scents that have shown to be effective on men. It was discovered for those men with normal smelling abilities that a variety of odours could increase penile blood flow. They included pumpkin pie, liquorice, doughnuts and lavender. Instead of Viagra maybe men should bake or pick some flowers. Good stuff for the penis and it is romantic too!

One last factoid: it has been noted that 25 percent of people who lose their sense of smell also lose their sex drive. Your most important sex organ just might be your nose.

So, there you have it! To get some sex, you need to follow your nose. It always knows!

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Rating: 4.9/5 (9 votes cast)
Sex and the Sense of Smell, 4.9 out of 5 based on 9 ratings

2 Responses to “Sex and the Sense of Smell”

  • SuzieW:

    Love a man that smells good!

    VA:F [1.9.14_1148]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  • FishnetMum:

    If a man walks past me and smells great, I could just jump on him there and then. It just drives me wild and crazy as if nothing else matters….. Take note all you men out there, if you want to be inundated with women just splash on a bit of the smelly stuff and see what happens.

    VA:F [1.9.14_1148]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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