Humans have been trying hard not to stink for 5,000 years. From flowers to the musk glands of other animals, we have used everything to hide our natural scent, partially because we all share an unspoken agreement not to launch olfactory terrorism in public places, and partially because our body odor reveals all of our secrets to potential mates. How so? Glad you asked!
#4. It Can Reveal Someone's Political Stance
We've told you before how women can smell out the best mate. The scent coming off a man tells them if they are biologically fit (because strong babies are good) as well as if they are an appropriate match genetically (because incest is bad -- a bold stance, I know). This, you would think, is superpower enough.
Lots of women can do this, too.
But other studies have found that you can actually smell someone's political beliefs. Politics, it turns out, are crucial to a happy relationship. And, while maybe not consciously, it seems that you can actually tell from smelling someone if they have similar political beliefs as you.
A study had people rating the odor of individuals who were very liberal or very conservative. They never saw the smellees, so it was based on scent alone. And while the smellers couldn't predict who held what belief, they consistently preferred the odor of those with similar political beliefs as themselves.
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Everyone holding a sign in this picture smells like chicken sandwiches.
So while you might think you fell in love with your significant other when you discovered you both voted for Dennis Kucinich in 2008, in reality you might have known instinctively they had the politics for you before you ever even spoke. And if you're a single guy, with just one bipartisan friendship you and your buddy can swap clothes depending on what type of woman you're trying to impress. Because the fastest way to a woman's heart is deception.
#3. It Tells You When To Have Sex
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Our bodies are primarily concerned with one thing: creating the next generation of humans. No matter how much you don't want a kid, your body will still work in ways that make sure the survival of the species is likely to occur. There are two things to take away from that: one, always use protection, and two, there are times when the bodies of both men and women are screaming at them to have sex. And scent has a lot to do with this.
All animals release pheromones. Since humans are animals, it follows that we might do the same thing. But scientists have never been able to say for sure if we send out similar kinds of chemical signals as our less-evolved counterparts. Since we are also visual creatures and care about biologically pointless trivia, like what sort of music our potential mates listen to and their opinion on the new Star Trek movies, it is hard to say for sure how much these scents we are not conscious of are affecting our choice of whom to pair up with. There is plenty of research to indicate that smell must have at least something to do with it, though.
Apart from the obvious.
For example, women can smell when a man is turned on. One study found that women can tell the difference between the sweat a man produces normally and the sweat he produces when aroused. While the women couldn't overtly explain the difference, brain scans showed that the sexy sweat lit up the "Your place or mine?" portion of their brain. Another study showed that women who were ovulating could smell men who had the most testosterone and would therefore make the best mates at that specific moment.
Men, on the other hand, are very good at smelling when a woman is fertile. Not only that, they prefer that smell over a woman's smell all other times of the month. One study had women wear one T-shirt while ovulating and another while less fertile, and then gave them to men to smell. The men rated the shirt worn while in baby-making mode as smelling more attractive over two-thirds of the time. Men just seem to like the smell of lady sweat more when a woman's body is trying to get pregnant.
It'll be fine. Just be sure to mention how much you want a kid.
One of the most interesting things about the T-shirt study was this: Men found the smell more attractive even after the shirts had been left for a week. So ladies, if you have a party to go to, consider wearing a shirt while you are fertile, not washing it, and then wearing it on your night out. It just might be the extra edge you need to attract the hottest guy there.
If actually wearing a dirty shirt doesn't appeal to you, you could always just bring it with you in a bag. Judith Prays invented "pheromone parties" when she grew disenchanted with online dating. People bring a shirt they have worn previously in a Ziploc bag and label it with a number. Then everyone smells all the other shirts hoping to sniff out an acceptable mate. While it doesn't sound like anyone has gotten married as a result of these parties, you have to admit that is a hell of an icebreaker.