Smell is an important indicator of sexual attraction, and science is starting to understand why.
One of the first studies to look at sexual attraction and smell was conducted by Claude Wedekind in the 1990’s. He asked over 40 men to wear t-shirts for three days at a time. The men deliberately avoided using deodorants or anything else that could mask their natural smell. A panel of women were then invited to smell the t-shirts and give their verdicts on which ones smelled the best.
What the researcher found was that women chose the men with a major histocompatabilty complex most different from their own. The major histocompatability complex is a series of genes that relate to our immune system. This is consistent with mate choice findings in other species.
What appears to be happening is that choosing a mate with a completely different immune system makes evolutionary sense. On the one hand it is more likely that any offspring will develop a healthy immune system and therefore survive. On the other hand, selecting a partner with a radically different major histocompatability complex means that you are more likely to avoid a kin member and the biological risks associated with inbreeding.
The implications of this research are clear. Pay attention to the smell of your partner. If it works for you, then you are more likely to be both fertile with that person, and produce healthy offspring. As an aside, the same mechanism seems to work for gay and lesbian couples.
A couple of caveats need to be mentioned before you go drawing conclusions about the smell of your partner. The first is that as a general finding, women tend to dislike the smell of men except for the week that they are the most fertile. My guess therefore, is that this is the time to test if a women finds you hot. The second is that women on the contraceptive pill give out smells that fool the body into thinking they are pregnant and therefore unavailable for sex. This strategy is therefore best avoided if you partner is on the pill.
My view is that whatever the science says, if you find your partners smell offensive, then you are unlikely to make it last anyway. So get sniffing, take note, and be warned!
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