Your B.O. is turning me on
by Vanessa Redux
Ever got a whiff of someone’s B.O., specifically from their armpit, and wondered why you weren’t really all that turned off by it, and realized that you probably wouldn’t kick them out of bed, especially if they happened to lay off the Old Spice? Well, the fact that you were imagining being in bed with this person should point your bawdy gumshoes to certain clues as to why. Pheromones of the human variety are one of the mysterious, invisible and veritably indefinable aspects of sex and attraction that exist. Ask the person next to you what they are and you’re not likely to get a straight answer, but ask what they do and it seems pretty elementary.
This is probably, partially because no one can agree on how human pheromones function, what their purpose is or whether they exist at all.Without getting too complex I’ll explain why this is interesting and also pretty hilarious. Pheromones were discovered in insects in the ’50s and there are a variety of types. Some pheromones say, “Hey, there’s some food over here,” others scream, “Come hit this, NOW!” They are essentially secreted chemicals that are detected by other creatures of the same species and affect behaviour or physiology. However, in studying humans there is quite a bit of a debate and a hell of lot of bamboozling. There have been a few wellcontrolled and peer-reviewed studies that have suggested pheromones actually exist within human physiology.
Martha McClintock conducted a study that showed a connection between women being exposed to others’ perspiration regularly and having their menstrual cycles become synchronized. The study was eventually found to be inconclusive, but I can tell you from experience that when Aunt Flow visits you and your roommates the same time every month you have to wonder what kind of cruel joke evolution had in mind. As the wonderful animals that we are, we have two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine is the sweat that keeps you cool by evaporating off your skin. Supposedly, apocrine glands are much more mischievous. These glands are located around the hairy bits on your body.
No, not your scalp or your eyelashes; the nasty, stinky, fun bits. Well, according to Christophe Soligo of the University College of London, stinky and nasty is no coincidence. The glands and the hair make a great breeding ground for bacteria. A study was conducted in which women were to smell men’s shirts the men had been asked to wear for four days and rank them in terms of how attractive they smelled. Those savvy lasses, it turned out, were seemingly able to detect genetic differences between the lads in a genetic complex called Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC).
Remarkably, the ladies went for the gentlemen whose MHC was most different from their own, which makes sense because if they had offspring, the kid would have a solid chance of fighting off more diseases. Don’t be mistaken, MHC isn’t a pheromone, and the next time you sniff the good stink take a moment and think about that. There are certainly plenty of companies out there that will sell you some of these mythical, magical chemicals if you’re so inclined, but I must concede that I did attempt to find the source of these supposed sachets to no avail. I’m not sure how one would go about collecting mysterious human secretions to sell to lonely strangers, but I can try to imagine. I happened to run into a forum where there were discussions about whether pheromones are effective or not.
One was titled “What is the odour of your healthy vagina while ovulating.” The guy claimed he made perfume and wanted women to answer so he could add some “under-notes” to his next aroma. The only people who responded were men. No wonder people need magic to attract the opposite sex.