4 Surprising Ways Your Sense Of Smell Rules Your Love Life
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!
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.
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.
It Tells You When To Have Sex
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.
Smell Affects Your Sex Drive
Just the act of smelling something can get you going. While perfumes and body sprays tend to go with vague combinations of scents, which are effective in their own way, if you want to attract a guy it might be worth dabbing some of his favorite food behind your ears.
In one of the more bizarre studies I have written about for this website, researchers attached men to something called a plethysmograph. This is a machine for measuring how stimulated a man gets during various situations. Some of them look like a blood-pressure cuff for the penis, and some ...
Let's just say that is not for milking cows.
While attached to the plethysmograph, the test subjects inhaled different scents and it measured which ones turned them on the most. In this case it was pumpkin, which increased blood flow to the nether regions by 40 percent. But it might be more about comfort food and the smell of home than a specific scent. Another study revealed that men from different countries found the smell of food from their native lands sexier than those from other countries. But the key here is that ALL scents turned men on at least a little. Absolutely nothing turned them off. The act of smelling itself seems to literally get the blood flowing.
Women were also included in the study (I'll let you look up their version of the plethysmograph yourself) and scent turned them on as well, although not nearly as much as men. But the LACK of scent can actually turn women off ...
Oh, not again.
No Sense Of Smell Equals No Sex Life
A woman's sense of smell is best when she is ovulating, most likely so she can sniff out the best mate, as we have already discussed. But women on birth control don't get this sensory power increase, and while scientists can't prove it conclusively, they think this might make women less likely to do it. They know that women on the pill are less able to smell out a symmetrical (and therefore stronger) mate. This might help explain why some women report a reduced sex drive while on the pill. We also know that the parts of the brain that control ovulation and the parts that control smell are located near each other. While they might not be as affected sexually by scent as men are, a reduction in what they do smell seems to turn women off. So don't even bother trying to hook up with a woman during cold season.
Think about what you're bringing back to your co-workers at the office, if nothing else.
Men who can't smell have a similar problem. Just like some people are born blind or deaf, some people are born with no sense of smell. Women born without this sense often don't ovulate, but their sex lives seem to be OK, regardless. But men who can't smell may have greatly reduced sex lives. A small study found that men who suffer from isolated congenital anosmia have up to five times fewer sex partners than men with all five senses.
Someone somewhere is having less sex than this guy.
The researchers theorize that this might be because being unable to smell yourself makes you uncomfortable in social situations (what if you stink?) but it could also be because being able to smell your potential partner is a bigger part of sex than we thought.
Either way, women rate what a guy smells like as the most important thing when it comes to choosing a date. So if you keep striking out, at least try to cover up your genetically incompatible natural scent with something that smells nice.
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