KEITH KELSEN’S SCENT NARRATIVE: SCENT OF THE SEXES

All research shows that there is a big difference in perception of smell between men and women. According to the Smell Report, “Women who believe that the use of ‘sexy’ perfumes will attract men, may be misguided...‘Sexy’ perfumes containing musk are therefore much more likely to arouse the woman wearing them…But by making a woman feel more sensual, the perfume may affect her behaviour and thus indirectly increase her attractiveness.”

In reading Kate Fox’s break though research called the “Smell Report” I was reminded of the research we have done about the differences in scent by sex.  Our work has shown preferences that are enjoyed by both and those that are uniquely appreciated by one or the other sex.

All research shows that there is a big difference in perception of smell between men and women.  Women consistently have a more acute sense of smell than men.  While studies show that the peak of sensitivity is around age 8, people go outside the boundaries, some having acute sense of smell even late in life.  It is generally believed that both sexes experience a decline in ability with age.  However the bulk of research shows that throughout time, women out pace men consistently in the ability for smell.

Dr. Fox’s work as an Anthropologist doesn’t define if it is a stronger survival skill or a DNA structure.  One researcher has claimed that the superior olfactory ability of females is evident even in newborn babies. Another study suggests that sex-difference findings may not be entirely reliable, and that sex differences in olfactory prowess may apply to some odors but not others.

For this writing, we are going to focus on Dr. Fox’s work.  According to her,  “Women are also significantly more likely than men to suffer from ‘cacosmia’ – feeling ill from the smell of common environmental chemicals such as paint and perfume. (As to) sexual attraction, the attractive powers of pheromones (scented sex hormones) have often been exaggerated – not least by advertisers trying to sell pheromone-based scents and sprays which they claim will make men irresistible to women. Widely publicized research findings on female sensitivity to male pheromones have also led some men to believe that the odour of their natural sweat is highly attractive to women. Women are indeed highly sensitive to male pheromones, particularly around ovulation, but many popular assumptions about the effects of these pheromones are the result of misinterpretation and over-simplification of the research results.”

The attraction seems to stem from the male production of androstenol. Androstenol is the scent produced by fresh male sweat, and is attractive to females vs. Androstenone produced by male sweat after exposure to oxygen – i.e. when less fresh – and is perceived as highly unpleasant by females (except during ovulation, when their responses change from ‘negative’ to ‘neutral’). [1]

Even though the male pheromone androstenol has been shown to be attractive to women, it is only in close proximity.  Artificially produced scents that are attributed to being attractive require the male to be in an area away from other males, yet within 18” of the woman.  “A man wearing pheromone scent at a crowded party will still have to compete with the other men present for the attention of the women. Only in a strictly one-to-one, intimate encounter could the arousing effect of the scent actually benefit the man wearing it – and to achieve such an encounter, the man must presumably be capable of attracting the woman by some other means.”[2]

According to Dr. Fox, “Women who believe that the use of ‘sexy’ perfumes will attract men, however, may be misguided. Women’s sensitivity to musk, an ingredient commonly used in perfumes, is 1000 times greater than men’s. ‘Sexy’ perfumes containing musk are therefore much more likely to arouse the woman wearing them than any potential male partners. But by making a woman feel more sensual, the perfume may affect her behaviour and thus indirectly increase her attractiveness.”

In the reverse, it has been proven that smelling good elevates the wearers mood, thus giving off an approachability.

…the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’…

–Dr. Kate Fox,
author of the Smell Report

Her research found in anecdotal reports and articles in various Women’s Magazines reported claims that “the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’ – some use the more scientific sounding euphemism ‘increase penile blood-flow’…In fact, the study in question – conducted by the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago – discovered only that ‘in those with a normal olfactory ability, a variety of odors can increase penile blood-flow’. These odors included pumpkin pie, licorice, doughnuts and lavender…”

Certainly scent plays a big role in the differences of the sexes.  How that works out in the long run will be yet another unanswered question of the ages.  Cinnamon buns ho!

Keith Kelsen
CEO and Founder Inhalio – Contact


[1] The Smell Report, Dr. Kate Fox

[2] The Smell Report

Leave a comment