It is the small things that make or break a long-standing relationship. That is what crossed my mind as I listened to Dan and Joyce. Dan was a 36-year-old biology teacher and his wife, Joyce, was 32. They had been married for seven years and had one child. They came to the Sexology Clinic after a week of serious disagreement: Joyce had bought Dan a perfume.
“I feel demeaned. I am offended. If she wants me to shower more than once a day I can do that, but she does not have to buy a perfume to pass a message that I no longer smell good!” Dan shouted as he explained the genesis of their conflict.
“This is unfair, I just bought you a gift! Do you have to go to the extent of denying me sex because of this?” Joyce shouted back, her eyes welling up with tears.
The story was that during their courtship, Joyce repeatedly told Dan that she loved his natural body odour. She would hold him for hours on end because of this. Dan enjoyed this whole experience which boosted his ego and confidence.
“So would you say I am mistaken, doctor?” Dan asked rhetorically, looking at me straight in the face, “Tell me, have I gone out of my mind? How can it be that suddenly I no longer smell good?”
Well, there is a relationship between smell and sexual attraction. If you keep animals, you may have observed that bulls actually put their noses on cows’ vaginas and in ecstasy lift their heads up, sniffing as they enjoy the sweet smell. Dogs and cats travel long distances to meet females on heat guided by pheromones, the attractive sex hormones produced by these animals during ovulation.
The issue of pheromones has however been contentious when you talk of human species. In one study, men were made to smell vaginal secretions from different women and their body reactions recorded. It was shown that secretions from ovulating women made men have a surge in testosterone, meaning that men’s bodies may be able to detect and positively respond to ovulating women.
In another study, it was shown that women are attracted to men with high testosterone levels when they are ovulating, that they find body odour from such men more pleasing than from men with lower testosterone.
The studies on body odour and sexuality have however been non-conclusive. Further, the human brain has no ability to detect pheromones. This natural disadvantage implies that there is nothing sexually stimulating about the way a man or woman smells.
“I don’t believe that!” Dan croaked throwing his hands in the air.
The only thing that has been proven is that body smell is closely tied to body immunity and women tend to be more pleased by the smell of men with immunity that significantly differs from theirs. This is important in reproduction since the offspring of such a union is likely to have much stronger immunity. Smell does not necessarily cause one to want to have sex with another.
That said, a good smell does have its place in making us feel good. This is the basis of aromatherapy. If your mate has worn a pleasantly smelling perfume this may elevate your mood and give you a sense of happiness.
“And that is why I am saying that my body smell caused Joyce happiness and is an important factor and foundation of this relationship!” Dan said.
“But surely, you cannot say that the reason I married you is because of your body odour!” Joyce replied.
Well, Dan’s body scent was pleasing to Joyce when they were courting just the same way a flower or air freshener would be pleasant to her. The good feeling elevated her mood. There is a possibility that Dan had a different immunity from Joyce, making her more attracted to the body scent as a prospective father of her children. In those early days of their relationship Dan must have had a higher level of testosterone, making the attraction greater when Joyce was ovulating.
But days do change and testosterone levels fall. We acquire new body smells as hormone levels change. A good smelling perfume is good for maintaining the pleasant smell and is not a bad gift from a loved one.
If you thought looking attractive was the prime factor to impress someone on a date, then you might be wrong. According to a recent study, it is how you smell that makes you sexually attractive, and interestingly, physical appearance, intellect and money take the back seat.
Astonished? Well, we were too! As per a report published in the Daily Star, extra-marital dating site Victoria Milan conducted a survey of 5,071 cheating adults from 12 countries to ascertain how big a role odour plays in such situations.
And the results were quite beguiling. 78 per cent of women preferred to go home alone rather than sleep with a man who smelled bad. However, men have other priorities too. Five in every 10 male participants said they’ll bear any stench once they have a woman in the bedroom.