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. Here's a link for you: