We tell you why
Although we have invested time, money and effort in eliminating body odors, there is a phenomenon that occurs when it comes to attraction. We usually love the natural scent of our partners or the people we like.
This pheromones are chemical signals responsible for our attraction. The body releases pheromones through sweat, urine and saliva and these are picked up by a small organ called vomeronasal organ that is inside the nose. The nervous system communicates the attraction to the hypothalamus, resulting in an altered mood, an increase in the heart rate, as well as body temperature. While all this is happening, we immediately feel an impact on our emotions. Simply put: if your girlfriend likes it when you do not use deodorant it is because she feels naturally attracted to the chemicals her body secretes. You do not necessarily smell good, but she likes you and it’s one of the reasons she likes you.
Pheromones confuse scientists, since their effectiveness differs from one species to another. For example, the female silk moth releases a molecule that attracts males that are far away to mate with it. Similarly, molecules in the urine of male mice can accelerate puberty in females. It is not known how effective pheromones are in humans, nor the weight they have in our attraction to others.
There are four types of pheromones:
- Liberators: These are the hormones responsible for sexual attraction; are received almost instantaneously.
- Primers: They act slowly, alter the hormones that influence menstrual cycles and sexual development.
- Signaling: They are genetic traces of smell that allow us to identify someone by its aroma. They are useful among mothers and their children.
- Modulators: They alter the mood, are usually good to reduce anxiety.
In some species, pheromones are also used to communicate territory or signal an alarm. Many insects create a mark around their eggs, which tells other females to lay eggs elsewhere. Whether it is a friendly warning or a threat, these signals are understood by other members of that species.
That makes them so interesting, pheromones not only play a role in attraction, but in the way the members of a species interact.
Usually, women who live or work together experience a synchronization in their menstrual periods. A 1998 study by Martha McClintock states that pheromones released by skin and sweat are responsible for this phenomenon, and that women are communicating subconsciously. Pheromones accelerate or slow ovulation of women until they are in tune (many scientists have refuted this study, while others defend it).
In terms of attraction, pheromones can also play against you. There is a chance that they will repel other people, or have no effect, not just attract them. And it is not necessarily mutual. You might feel attracted to someone else’s pheromones, but that person might not react to yours or, worse, you might have a negative reaction. All this happens subconsciously, so it’s not a recommendation for you to stop using deodorant only to find out who you attract. Pheromones are released by hair and skin, not only when you sweat and even if she tolerates, or adores, your scent, yet you will have to conquer it in the traditional way.
When you are attracted to someone, or when you exude confidence, it is likely that your pheromones work in your favor. For men, androsterone is behind this chemical signal, and for women it is estrogen. In heterosexual individuals, these hormones attract each other and can have significant effects on a potential partner (for example, male pheromones can accelerate a woman’s menstrual cycle or even increase her fertility). While your physical appeal plays a fundamental role, the chemical signals are also important, meaning you could attract someone who seems “out of your reach” or vice versa.
A 2008 study analyzed the response of homosexual individuals to synthetic androsterone and estrogen and found that homosexual men have the same response to androsterone as heterosexual women; similarly, women’s anterior hypothalamus – the part of the brain responsible for stimulation – responds to estrogen positively, just as a heterosexual man would. However, homosexual men were also attracted to estrogen.
A 2005 study used pheromones in the sweat of homo and heterosexual men and women to measure attraction. Homosexual men and women were more attracted to the pheromones of their homosexual counterparts. Heterosexual men and women – as well as homosexual women – preferred the sweat of heterosexual men over homosexuals. The same thing happened with the sweat of the homosexual women: the three groups preferred the female heterosexual sweat. Heterosexual men were indifferent to the sweat of straight and homosexual women, and homosexual men preferred the sweat of heterosexual women than heterosexual men.
Sexuality is aligned with the response to pheromones and attraction to potential partners. If you are a gay man and you know a pair of identical twins – one homosexual and one heterosexual – you could subconsciously know which of them has the same preference yet without any direct indication.
This is how pheromones work: attraction is often subconscious, though not as unexplained as it may seem.