Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Scent of Desire

It's an overcast day, grey and rainy--the kind of day that fills me with an ineffable yearning for something, or someone. As I sipped my coffee this morning, my thoughts drifted to a man I know, and I wondered how he would smell. (And no, this man is not my husband. As I have mentioned, even good ol' house-buildin', church goin' Jimmy Carter entertained "lust in his heart." As far as lust in the heart goes, I allow myself free rein.) I had a desire to press my nose to this man's neck and deeply inhale his scent. The idea was strangely pleasing to me. (In real life, I can see this exploratory neck-sniffing being a bit problematic as I scarcely know the man and, at the very least, highly socially awkward.)

I have no desire to mate with this man (okay, maybe I sort of do--and no, mom, dear husband and various other concerned friends and family, I won't), but my sense of smell is eager to work its biological duty to detect if he would be a suitable mate. When we smell someone, we are sniffing out their genetic make-up and determining if they will be a good match for producing genetically sound offspring. (Read more about it here if you're feeling sciencey.) You want someone who is dissimilar enough to you so it's not like inbreeding, but similar enough so it's not outbreeding. (I'm too lazy to look up the word "outbreeding," so you can handle that one. What do you want? I'm working for free here.) There's no universal foxy scent, though if there is one, I'm quite sure it is exactly how Javier Bardem smells. As the article puts it, "One woman's Romeo is another women's raunchy." Our efforts to disguise our natural scents with various sprays, perfumes and the like are mucking about with our biological wisdom.

Our sense of smell resides in the primitive, reptilian potions of our brain and most of the information we gleam from scent comes to us subconsciously. But as I've talked to women about their sex lives, I've found that some women are quite aware of much they rely on their sense of smell. Mara, for example, is so attuned to her sense of smell that she can actually smell her husband's desire. "If he's naked, I can smell a certain level of arousal, almost a cum smell," Mara reported in her In Bed With Married Women True Wife's Tale. (Mara, btw, loved her TWT. "Wow!" she wrote, "I want to have sex with me.") Another woman can't stand men who have what she intriguingly terms "the peppery smell."

Another woman I interviewed described her tepid sex life and mentioned in passing that she didn't like the way her husband smelled. (For the record, her children are delightful and not at all genetic mutants.) Later she wrote back, entirely screwing up my theory about the uselessness of body sprays, etc...:
I don't think we have a natural pheromone connection. My first really serious boyfriend had the pheromones that made me absolutely crazy and it didn't matter if he was sweaty or filthy or dressed up or whatever . . .  he was just hot to me. This will sound bizarre but recently my husband started taking showers just before bed and piling on the scented body wash and he smells so much better to me. He feels fresher and more in the mood.  I love the way he smells and it makes me feel much more aroused.  We kiss a lot more and sleep with less clothing. He says he's going to shower every night now.  
So--you there!--help me get me attention away from my inappropriate neck-smelling reveries. Tell me what role scent plays in your sex life. Do you like how your mate smells? Have you even been attracted (or not attracted) to someone because of their scent? And does anyone have any idea what the hell "the peppery smell" might be?

*Postscript: If you like reading swoony prose about the senses, I highly recommend Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses.

xoxo
jill
(photo: www.flickr.com/photos/mysteriouskyn/135998094/ )

PS.  This is an old as fuck rerun. Do not be alarmed.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love this. Gets me thinking of the cultural and historical differences in the scent of desire. Apparently, Napoleon once wrote to his wife, Josephine, "Home in three days. Don't wash." Oh, those romantic, filthy French!

FreeFlying said...

I don't want to chime in on this because I'm just going to end up being all cheesy sounding with my "I love the way my husband smells." But I had to comment because I love this post. I love the confession of wanting to put your nose in someone's neck. Have SO been there. And the concept of manufactured scents messing with our natural attraction signals. It makes me wonder why I'm still using the Burberry bought off the side of the street that basically just makes me smell like lemons. Who the hell is attracted to lemons?

http://operatingonrandom.blogspot.com

CkretsGalore said...

I know exactly what she's talking about with the Peppery smell and I'm totally turned off by it as well. I really don't know what it might be mind you.
I love the way my fiance smells and he rarely uses sprays. Even when he gets stinky he doesn't repulse me.
There have been some in the past that have and even if they look attractive I just can't get past it.

The Barreness said...

Oh boy...

You really ought to know better than to ask me about my sex life.

So many smells. So many sprays. So many...

Scent is incredibly powerful, though I'm a little diappointted to learn why - what with my insides being a firm No Kids Zone.

Not sure of a peppery smell either, as I really don't think I've ever met a man whose smell turned me off. (The unshowered variety aside, of course. BO not cool.)

But really what I'd now like to do is to explore the "primitive, reptilian potions of my brain", cuz that sounded interesting...

- B x

Lesley said...

Usually my nose doesn't serve me well in the business of picking up subtle scents, or most scents at all, unless they are hideously overpowering... however, my husband has the most amazing sense of smell of anyone I've ever encountered. He smells Everything!! Sometimes I will like how he smells at his neck but hate the smell below the belt, even freshly washed.

jill hamilton said...

Well, what I did not post because it icked me out too much was that supposedly the ideal genetic make-up scent for each of us is our father's scent.
I think in that case, I might go for the lemon scent instead.

Belinda said...

My husband and I love to smell each others' unwashed hair. Gross? It seems to be the most personal smell that we both love about each other.

jill hamilton said...

I wanted to add two comments I got on this topic from a mom n' sex group I'm on at Cafe Mom...

Mommyscrazy3 wrote: I used to work with this older guy... he wasn't cute or anything but the scent of him made me wet! He used to wear the cologne Romance........... yum

KittyKrazy wrote: I also worked with a man who smelled so good all the time I couldn't stand it. I just had to hug him or get close to him. I think he wore a scent called Devin. Oh it smelled heavenly.

jill hamilton said...

whoops, forgot jennie495 who wrote: nothing nastier than a guy who reeks of bo. as if i want your smelly armpit funk rubbing all over me. ew ew ew! and what the hell is with the anti-deodorant guys? do they really think that's sexy?

bogart4017 said...

My wife has the most wonderful natural smell. It drives me nuts and it keeps her flatbacking most of the week!

Anonymous said...

I'm so late to this post! But so totally addicted to this blog! I wanted to share my experiences with smell and physical attraction, because something weird happened for me and I was wondering if there was an answer.

My sense of smell is super important to me when choosing someone, but with my ex boyfriend, I decided to take a chance since we were friends. I couldn't stand his smell (peppery?) and the first kiss was an absolute disaster. But after the first time of doing a little more, something ridiculous happened, I couldn't smell that smell on him anymore! It was definitely there all along until we got physical (I anguished about it a lot), and then just magically disappeared after the first time as though to make room for happiness. I can't figure out what in the world happened, but maybe I should have stuck to my initial instinct because it all ended in a huge metaphorical car crash anyways.

jill Hamilton said...

That is beyond fascinating, anon. and maybe you Were getting the peppery warning!

Anonymous said...

Haha! I think so! It was as though my receptors were like "well, you've made your choice, we won't bother warning you anymore. good luck." :P

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