Sensual Scents: A Rose By Any Other Name
By Jon Pressick, Sex in Words
Sensual Scents: Have you ever noticed the faintest scent, a passing aroma? Perhaps in a crowded street, amongst strangers. Perhaps alone, in your home. And did that distinct smell bring about memories of passion or inflame distinct desire?
on the sheets
like the last notes
of your favourite song
drifting into silence;
a ghost of absence
haunting the room”
“I emitted some civet-like female stink, a distinct perfume of sexual wanting, that he had followed to find me here in the dark.”
Smells inform so much of our daily lives, from the delightful aroma of brewed coffee first thing in the morning to a dewy summer’s eve at night. We delight in certain scents, like the top of a baby’s head and a garden full of roses. At the same time, we recoil at unpleasant odours such as rotting garbage and dead fish. While there are certain universal scents that bring joy, there are just as many that folks always hate.
This dichotomy definitely extends to sex… or so you might think. Sex is an integral part of both sexual attraction and sexual activity. While we are surrounded by a plethora of smells, those aromas particular to sex and our desires for certain people are entirely unique in our noses. Think about perfume and perspiration, cologne and cum. Strike up a conversation in room full of people and you’ll likely be surprised by what people enjoy, handle and dislike the scent of, when it comes to sex.
Before we take a deep breath of those smells we actively enjoy and desire, let’s remember that our sexuals wants are sometime influenced on a more biological level. It is believed humans excrete—as with many other animals, plants and insects—chemicals called pheromones. These undetectable scents are believed to indicate to potential sexual partners your interest. Pheromones are used for many different things in creatures big and small, from scent lines leading to food and babies find their mother’s breasts. But there has never been definite proof that there pheromones play a significant role in sexual desire in humans. Cologne and perfume manufacturers really want us to think there is a connection, but the evidence just isn’t clear yet.
“Smell preferences are wildly varied,” notes Jerome Stuart Nichols of LTASEX. “ Although, natural smells tend to be most desirable—there’s something complex, intoxicating, familiar, and consistent about them. Artificial smells may often be close enough or smell nice but they rarely intoxicate the mind and soul the way natural scents can.”
Of course, natural smells can take many forms—some desirable, some not-so-much. Many different scents from our environments can bring about an aromatic aphrodisiac effect for some people. Some of the most popular are lavender, vanilla, the ocean. These are the types of sensual scents—floral pureness, earthiness and freshness that we most commonly associate with sexual attraction as captured by countless romance novels.
However, our connection to natural scent is much closer to home than traipsing through the garden or strolling by the sea. While some people spend an exceptional amount of time, energy and money trying to cover up our natural smells, it could be this projection out into potential partners’ noses that might attract someone else to your body.
Sweat, musk, perspiration, body odour—call it what you will, but our obvious, personal smells are one of the key points of attraction. They can either make you completely delectable or entirely disgusting. And you just might be surprised to learn that our natural scents are more desired than you think.
On the most basic level, people associate our bodies sensual scents with passion. You may work up a sweat through hard work, but that labour can also denote an intensity and power. Again, while it is as yet unproven, pheromones could be at play here. A strong, but pleasing, natural smell is also connected to health. A person who partakes in balanced diet with plenty of water and exercise will smell “cleaner.” Detecting that aroma can attract you to someone deemed healthy, fit, and potentially, a better sex partner and/or mate.
At the same time, there are those who seek out and desire strong odors for sexual pleasure. And not just strong, but some scents that some would deem awful. Pungent feet and putrid armpits top the list of smell fetishes that get some folks all worked up into a titillated tizzy. Often these desires are linked to the body part or object associated with the fetish, such as shoes and feet. In fact, there is a healthy trade in selling worn socks and underwear that have captured that particular scent. The item can be sealed in a plastic bag and shipped to the customer. And that person can open and sniff to their lusty libido’s delight.
But attraction to aroma is not always as basic as direct contact. Sometimes our desires are connected to past events or situations, and those smells have left an indelible imprint on our sexual response system.
“Any preference for strong smells is brought about by a linking of that smell to an emotion and feeling – usually through repeat exposure” explains Jerome. “Take for example the scent haduken of a men’s locker room. I hate the smell but as a young gay kid, I was smelling that while getting to see other boy’s bodies. I was swimming in that smell when I was also erotising the male form in my most formative years. So, while I hate the smell, it makes me feel excited. So, I like that smell and anything similar. Genetics and upbringing come into play but generally, experiencing happy or positive emotions while smelling anything will result in a preference for that smell and intensity.”
As with all things relating to sex, scent is definitely one of those experiences that is unique to each person. There is no definitive aroma that universally binds us in appreciation. Our sexual emission are even debatable. You’d think everyone would love the smell of cum—both female and male—to reinforce our drive to procreate. But opinions on the smells emitted from our genitals are just as divisive as any other smell you’ll encounter. Some people love the smell of spermy ejaculate and lubrication while others are completely averse to them. Spunk most often is compared to bleach, but vaginal secretions get called much worse. Even if you don’t like it, let’s drop the fish comparisons, okay?
In the collection of human senses, smell just might be the most under appreciated. Sure, lots of people try hard to smell sexy, but more and more we’re learning that natural aromas are awesome. Sure, a perfume or cologne might get you noticed, but too much of those odours will interfere with the scent of coffee the next morning…
– Jon Pressick
About the writer: Jon Pressick is a sex-related media mogul. He is also a writer, the editor of the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press, co-host and producer of Sex City Radio, event organizer, workshop facilitator, (very occasional) burlesque performer and general sexual gadabout. Jon Pressick also won the prestigious 2010 TNT Favourite Adult Journalist Award and has been named as one of Broken Pencil’s “50 People and Places We Love.”
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