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Sexy Time: The science of scent and attraction

Until recently, scientists haved dismissed scent when it comes to sexual attraction. Good hygiene is a basic thing we learned in the fourth grade after little Tommy raised his hand to solve the long division problem on the board. After all, deodorant is important in all human interactions, and if your hair smells like vomit, you probably have bigger things to worry about than dating. However, studies have found thatour partners may not be chosen consciously, but on a pure animalistic level due to their pheromones.

According to Psychology Today, human beings are strongly moved by smell. When you really think about it, the best sex is the messy kind that engages all of our senses, including smell. Human sweat, breathe, saliva, breast milk, skin oils and sexual ecretions all contain scent with chemical compounds.

Since I was a little girl, I have been obsessed with smell. In fact, I’ve affectionately been called “scratchn’ sniff,” spent hours in candle stores and stolen several significant others’ clothes to snort their aroma like a cocaine addict. If you’ve ever frolicked through Bath & Body Works like me, you’ll know that certain

smells change our mood. Lavender, which is commonly sprayed during yoga classes or massages, promotes sleep and relaxation. Sage and lemon alleviate depression and increase appetite. Like sage, mint stimulates the senses and promotes a feeling of well-being. In some old wives’ tales, cinnamon has been hung above doorways to induce prosperity and provide the home with protection.Is it any coincidence that men’s most popular cologne smells, cinnamon and mint, are associated with security? Women’s perfume tends to have a more fruity smell like peaches, however, men are less likely to notice if you smell like rain. And really, rain is a scent? Unlike the movie “Love Potion No. 9,” the concept of smell in relation to sexual attraction is not an enchanting fragrance, buta biological trait caused by our immune system to improve our chance of survival.

Scientists have found that apocrine glands secrete and protestestosterone, a hormone known to induce sexual behavior. The glands cover our hands, cheeks, scalp, nipples, and wherever else we possess hair, but they are only functional after puberty when we begin to experience desire. Men have larger apocrine glands that secrete most actively during nervousness or excitement. The bacteria from sweat turn the secretions into aromas. Because men secrete more than women, they become unable to notice, just like they didn’t notice that the trash needed to be taken out two weeks ago. However, women have a heightened sense of smell, again according to Psychology Today.

Karl Grammer, a scientist in Austria, found that women have a strong favorable reaction to androtestosterone around ovulation when their attractions are heightened and they have a higher chance of becoming pregnant. Major histocompatibility complex(MHC) is our gene coding and immune system. In a study, a female mouse was offered two suitors. She chose the mouse whose MHC least overlapped with her own. By choosing genes different from hers, she prevented inbreeding and provided her offspring with better genes and a stronger immune system. Perhaps women’s strong sense of smell could be from the need to evaluate her partner carefully. After all, a nine-month-long painful mistake and a kid with one eye isn’t exactly the American dream.

In fact, Swiss researchers have found that oral contraceptives reverse our natural attractions, making a woman desire similar MHC. In some cases, women have met their husband while they were on the pill, and when they started having problems trying to conceive, she noticed he smelled different. They had similar MHC. In a study of 100 college students, MHC can be seen as a major factor in women’s attractions. The University of Bern had men sleep alone in T-shirts for two consecutive nights. They were asked to refrain from smoking, sex, drinking, spicy foods, cologne and deodorant, then keep the shirts in a container during the day. The women volunteers were given a nasal spray to protect mucous membranes in their nose for two weeks before the test. Then the women were asked to rate each man’s shirt for sexiness, pleasantness, and intensity of smell.

Each of the women’s categorizations depended upon how much MHC they shared. Women who had similar MHC as the volunteer’s shirt described him as smelling “brotherly,” while some women described shirts as sexy if they smelled like an ex-boyfriend or a current lover.

Besides improving an offspring’s chance of survival, a woman’s heightened sense of smell can also tell if her mate is crazy. Does that cute boy from lit class smell like skittles? Watch yourself, lady.

I think that women should go home and have a smell down with their partners. Slam him on the couch and roll around, letting your nose wander. Make it silly. After all, nobody would have guessed the key to a woman’s heart was through her nose.

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