Love at First Scent

Pin it


Love at First Scent -A NerveCenter Discussion-    


What is it that links a couple sexually and keeps them coming back for more?


I think it is vital that you love to smell the guy you’re with. Nuzzle into his neck, and give him a foot massage before you take any vows or co-sign anything.


A firm believer in the power of personal smell, I am so with Minx on
this point. I subscribe to the theory that important biological
information is encoded in one’s natural odor (and I’m not talking post-b-ball b.o. or nice deodorant) — info that can be translated by the
sensitive nose of a potential mate. The better someone smells to you,
the more likely your genetic codes are complementary and therefore
better suited to combine to create offspring equipped with really
diverse immune systems, darwinianly fit über-kids that have more of a
chance of kicking the butts of their peers whose less compatible
parents passed on some lame, less desirable recessive genes.


Of course, if you don’t poison your body with a lot of toxins, your
natural odor will be a lot easier on the noses of those poking around
your nooks and crannies. It’s a sign of health and fitness that adds
to the attractiveness of an individual on a more instinctual
(sub/unconscious) level — i.e. if she’s a woman, she’s probably a
good host for a baby; if he’s a man, he’s probably got strong sperm.


I could have bottled the sweat of my high school love. I couldn’t,
however, get down with the stench of a really sweet, smart and interesting
interesting guy I once dated — to some chicks I’m sure his
scent would be considered as addictive as a bottle of glue, but for
me, one whiff was enough to permanently taint all his wit and charm. I
chalked it up to a combo of the above two theories. (I admit, there were
probably some other shortcomings of his I’m not mentioning because they
just wouldn’t help my point here.) But there’s nothing like personal
perfume to endear one to another.


It’s all more evo-psycho babble, but still pretty fascinating and fun.


I am in agreement re: odor. I think that you also have to be sort of “obsessed” with the other’s genitalia. Okay, getting technical here, but part of it is smell, part feel, part appearance. But I consider these things powerful issues in chemistry — if I love to be down there, I will be down there all the time — it is chemical and physical. Inseparable.


I know someone who dated a guy who couldn’t smell. He was born without a functioning olfactory apparatus. My friend did a little research and uncovered studies describing significant psychological implications of this condition. Not surprisingly, the studies show that people who can’t smell have trouble forming deep emotional ties to others. These conclusions were confirmed by my friend’s experience which, to cut to the chase, resulted in being the victim of a devastating, hurtful and callous breakup.


Elizabethan women kept apples in their armpits until soaked with sweat for their lover’s olfactory enjoyment. Napoleon asked Josephine not to wash her vagina while he was on campaign so that when he returned he could enjoy her to the fullest! Smell is the first sense that functions properly in an infant; our earliest memories are related to smell. Why do we have so few words to describe smell?


Perhaps it isn’t always related directly to an individual. Maybe ambient smells play a role in our associative little brains. For instance, I am strangely attracted to women with the smell of cigarette smoke in their hair and alcohol on their breath. This, I am sure, goes back to art college where those smells were introduced to me as an integral part of being at all-night parties. I don’t smoke, so these smells and tastes are foreign and in some instances exotic seeming. The simple joy of being in a crowded bar and being close enough to a woman to smell her hair. (Meanwhile, she can’t wait to get home and “wash that terrible smell out.”)


For me, chemistry seems characterized by vertigo — a mindless (read: unself-conscious) disorienting synergy of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching the Beloved. If I get that sensation of falling weightlessness — granted, it can be as sudden and as momentary as deja vu — I know everything’s going well.


Oh yes, it is smell without a doubt — undoctored smell that is. The natural smell of my husband can send me into a wonderful dizziness. His smell at the end of a long, hot day. His smell even after emerging from water. And, after a day of lying and rolling all over each other, I am saturated with his smell and he with mine and the combinations are mind numbing. But in addition to smell, sight no doubt plays a big roll in our chemistry. It was sight that first brought us together. An unending, unbelieving stare directly into each other’s eyes and we were blind with love. Even now, more than seven years after that first meeting, we can hold each other’s eyes across a crowded room (so cliché but so true) and be completely spellbound (even near orgasmic) with a good captivating stare.


Here’s a biblically sanctioned (sanctified?) take on smell from the Song of Solomon:

[11] Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

[12] A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

[13] Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

[14] Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

[15] A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

[16] Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.


What’s all this smell/scent stuff? Chemistry to me is animal attraction, plain and simple. I’ve had chemistry with people who have been across the room — no way of smelling ’em. I think it’s some kind of weird-ass radar that goes off between two people. Eye contact is enough to get it going. It’s like those commercials for “Impulse” in the 80’s. You know, “When a man suddenly gives you flowers . . . ” I’ve generally found that anybody I had that initial contact with has been a pretty good sexual fit. Once you get to the sexual stage, I do agree that scent can really get your motor running. My other half smells like Country Time Lemonade. Sweet, tart, able to quench my thirst.


I just started reading A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. It is so incredible. I just finished the first chapter on smell, which had amazing bits of info about the experience of smell throughout the ages. One fact that I found amazing was that, in a study, women who were given musk to smell (which our brain relates to that of testosterone) developed shorter menstrual cycles, ovulated more and found it easier to conceive. And men who live with a woman for long periods of time actually start to grow more facial hair. Amazing that a scent could actually produce a hormonal change — in both men and women.


I once had a partner who was, at first, every image of perfection I could have wanted. We had really intense, prolonged sex. I remember one weekend away, in particular, like it was some amazing, pornographic film. He had a strong, very sexual smell that was pungent, but not unpleasant to me — at first. Within weeks, though, his emotional immaturity became evident, and we had several ridiculous arguments and breakups, in which he would refuse to see me or talk to me or even answer my calls and letters, then later retreat with self-deprecation and become increasingly sexually aggressive. Understandably, I soured on him, and as this developed, his scent became less and less attractive to me, until, in the end, it sickened me physically. It seemed greasy and it clung to his and my hands and clothes and sheets. After splitting up, I went to a crowded, smoky bar to dance and, immediately, I could smell him — he was there! My best friend later told me that the guy’s smell overpowered him when we would spend time together after I’d been with Stinky (as I came to secretly call him). It still makes me sick to remember his smell.


Jeez, those Klingons have the right idea. They go nuts over the scent of the opposite sex. Why don’t we Westerners get it? Madison Avenue would have us all smelling like a florist shop or a fruit stand rather than like humans. During WWII, some women liked to keep their boyfriend’s or husband’s unwashed undershirts in order to remember his scent while he was at war. So here’s a question: should men bother wearing after-shave, pheromone sprays, et cetera?


Personally, I think bottled, over-the-counter scents, when used in
moderation, can help to sharpen future memories rather nicely (e.g.
Nivea lotion — once applied heavily to my sunburn during a family
vacation in the Bahamas when I was in junior high — reminds me
of my first kiss on a deserted-pool-side lounge chair with some other
sunburnt, teenage, resort guest drunk on rum punch for the first
time too). Similarly, the perfumes of others can help trigger positive
(or negative, depending on the person the scent is associated with)
feelings with each fresh whiff. But never should a manufactured
fragrance overpower one’s own natural aroma; the result is just mixed
messages — for the most part, not a good thing.


I agree with Lorelei. A whiff of White Shoulders never ceases to bring the image of a dear high school friend to mind, while smelling Escape, a perfume I used to wear, reminds me of not only a relationship, but the time (early ’90s and grunge music). Scent, for me, is a wonderful scrapbook.


I’ve always been a smell-centric person, so I am inclined to believe that some animal part of us can recognize a compatible mate by their smell. But as far as I know, the scientific jury is out on whether humans have pheromones (animals have been shown to). I once conducted a pseudo-scientific blind study using a product marketed as containing human pheromones for an article I was writing. A bunch of women were handed identical vials, one with the supposed pheromone mixed with cologne, one with cologne only. We then went out to singles bars, one night wearing one scent, another night the other. Results were pretty inconclusive. In fact, I was convinced I was more alluring while wearing the scent that, it turns out, was just plain Jean Naté.


There are many false and/or temporary types of chemistry. Seeing someone from across the room and making sexual contact with them is simply lust, a temporary chemistry, and does not necessarily lead to a “chemical reaction” that brings about anything deeper. Chemistry is symbiosis. It is that uncommon experience of finding a lover (or lovers) with whom your sexual experience simultaneously satisfies and creates a deeper joy of the sensuality that is life.


So, is beauty in the nose of the beholder? I think we all have fragrances in our memory that means pleasure in one form or another. And so when we encounter them on or around another person, we are attracted. And I sense we give off odors when we are afraid, pleased, attracted, put-off or whatever. Maybe we do have some old instincts left from long ago.


I’ve been thinking about why (besides it being perhaps true, of course) that the preponderance of readers point to smell as the essence of chemistry. One explanation: smell is our least mediated sense. That is, in most cases we have less interpretation of smell sense data than we do with sight, hearing or even touch. I’m not quite sure why, but that is the way it seems experientially.


Well, I’ve always referred to the part of sexual chemistry that defies definition as “The X Factor.” You know when it’s there, and you damned sure know when it’s not.


One of the sexiest men I ever met not only smelled bad, but was more than a bit unattractive by conventional standards. He also muttered as opposed to speaking, and was fluent in seven languages. Not brilliant enough for his mind to be sufficient attraction, but no slouch either. He never wore shoes. He did wear every other article of clothing he owned all layered one atop another, and enough rosaries to supply a small convent. He had terrible breath and ugly feet.


But he had it: the elusive X Factor. He was a force of nature. Women and men both fell to his charm, except it wasn’t charm, really . . . more a watery sort of magnetism that was absolutely irresistible. When he looked at me — at anyone really — it was like being trapped without want of escape, or even fear of rescue. He had it, all right. He was a mecca of it.

Recent extracts from NerveCenter:
Lovin’ Buns

Jack Morin, Ph.D., author of Anal Pleasure and Health, stopped by NerveCenter to explain why we shouldn’t be such tight asses.

A Connection Is Made

The front woman of Elastica talks sex, drugs and Brit-pop.

Going Camp with John Waters

The cult classic filmmaker talks about good friends and bad taste.

The Art of Love

Does great sex equal bad art?

Oh God, Don’t Stop
Our members ask, Does losing your virginity mean losing your religion?

Love at First Scent

What is it that links a couple sexually? The nose knows.

The Sound of One Hand Typing

Members ask, Is it cheating if you don’t know what they look like?

Out of the Mouth of Babes

J.T. Leroy wants a bestseller, a mom and a sex change.

Sorry He Didn’t

Our members give Gladiator the Roman thumbs down.

Working Boy

Self-proclaimed whore Matt Sycamore works hard for his money.

The Porn Star Next Door

Adult film star Stacy Valentine on love, plastic surgery and money shots

Leave Your Hat On

Male stripper Tango discusses the problems with women and his remote.

  • Get published in our next NerveCenter chat! Join here for free.