A Relationship Expert Talks About the Connection Between Body Odor and Sexual Attraction

Dr. Aditi Paul, sex and relationships professor at Pace University, New York, says, “We are sensual beings. We have 5 senses, and all of those together lead to our feeling of attractiveness that we feel towards our partner. How many times have you gone to a club, and a guy walks by, and the sillage of his perfume is so intense that you feel a little tingle in your panties. Let’s just call a spade a spade — we are attracted to a person who smells good. Not to say that we are only attracted to the fragrance, but doesn’t it help?”

Let’s dwell deeper on the science behind the connection between body odor and sexual attraction.

How do pheromones attract the mate? 

There is a debate about whether humans secrete pheromones in the same way as animals do. Some perfume brands even try to bottle synthetic pheromones with the promise of helping you attract a mate.

One study found that women are attracted to androstenol, a natural chemical found in men’s sweat. In fact, it causes a chemical reaction in the female brain, where the levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone in your body, increase.

So if you walk past a sweaty guy in the gym and suddenly feel your heart race a little bit, now you know why! 

Does the menstrual cycle affect a woman’s pheromones or olfactory receptors? 

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Men can actually smell fertility! How crazy is that?

In a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, female participants were asked to use underarm pads at different stages of the menstrual cycle.

Next, a group of men was asked to smell the pads and rate the attractiveness of the scent.

All of the highest-rated scents were collected when the woman was fertile (during ovulation), and all of the lowest-rated scents were collected when the woman was on her period. In fact, their testosterone and cortisol levels increased when they smelled fertile armpits.

Some theories also suggest that women’s perception of smells changes during different points in the ovulation cycle.

Do birth control pills have any effect on how appealing a woman finds a man’s scent? 

How does your nose know that your partner and you are a match made in heaven? Well, the human odor involves major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, and people tend to be attracted to people with different MHC configurations.

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This may have evolutionary significance, as the genetic diversity of a couple increases the probability of having a healthy child.

However, in a new study, researchers found that after women began using birth control pills, their smell preferences shifted — making them more likely to be attracted to the scent of a genetically similar man. 

In this study, women were asked to rate the “pleasantness” of the odor of different men. Order desirability was tested with the question, “How much do you want this man to be a long-term partner based on this scent?” 

The researchers preselected three MHC-similar men and three MHC-dissimilar men for each woman.

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At the time of the first session, none of the women were using oral contraceptives. A second session took place three months after 40 women started using oral contraceptives.

The results showed that the preference of women who started using contraceptives shifted towards men with genetically similar odors.

So it’s safe to say that using a contraceptive pill might nudge you towards choosing the wrong partner for yourself.

Why do people like their partner’s body odor?

“When we are in an intimate relationship, we become used to that person’s smell. And that smell could be the fragrance of their perfume or could even be somewhat unflattering. But it brings with it a certain sense of familiarity and comfort,” Dr. Aditi said.

And it’s a fact. When you’re in a relationship, your partner’s scent becomes one of the ways you identify them, even if you’re not always fully aware of it.

We perceive their smell as pleasant and a source of positive sensations and start enjoying it. In fact, when people lose their sense of smell, the inability to detect the scent of their loved ones is most painful for them.

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