According to new research published in the Journal of Hormones and Behaviour, the more in love you are with your guy, the better the chances you’ll pick his smelly armpit out of a crowd.
The research involved having women sniff the T-shirts of boyfriends, male friends and strangers who had been wearing them for a week. Women in love were able to pick out their boyfriend’s body odour 5.2 out of seven tries.
The researchers call it the “deflection theory,” and argue that the more in love you are with your guy, the less likely you’ll identify with the body odour of a male friend or stranger and be tempted to stray.
This isn’t the first research on the role smell plays in attraction. American scientist Jim Kohl has been sniffing around the relationship between sex and smells for well over a decade. He says you could like everything about someone but if you don’t like the way they smell, forget it. Especially if he or she smells like someone you’ve turned up your nose at in the past.
“In reality,” says Kohl, “we make the odour association first and the visual association thereafter.” Blame it on TV — we’ve become a visual society, plus the fact that walking up to someone and taking a big whiff might be considered a tad impolite.
Researchers at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago did a study years ago that revealed that 90 per cent of patients who had lost their sense of smell as a result of head trauma had sexual dysfunction.
They then decided to test floral and perfume smells on men to see how different odours might affect sexual response. One researcher threw in a fake cinnamon bun smell for fun and surprisingly, it got the most, er, enthusiastic response. They decided to test a whole slew of food odours and discovered that most food smells tested increased penile blood flow.
But, before you go spreading cinnamon toast all over your body girls, considering the guys in the study got most turned on by pumpkin pie, researchers admit it could just be a case of feel-good nostalgia.
Kohl agrees that a big part of smell response goes back to memory and learned associations. He calls this “olfactory imprinting” and likens it to visual imprinting for a duck. “If the first thing a baby duck sees is its mother, it will follow her around. If it sees a basketball, it’ll follow that. Same with olfactory imprinting.”
Following this logic, if you like the smell some guy leaves on your pillow, then you’ll probably start following him around, too.
– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit www.joseyvogels.com.