Why Are We Attracted to A Person's Smell?
Why You Love The Way Your Partner Smells
You’ve heard it said many times, “I just love the way he smells” or “ I just can’t get enough of her scent”. Whether you realize it or not, your sense of smell plays a vital role in bonding with the person you love.
Perhaps the clearest way to appreciate why your sense of smell is so important for intimacy and attraction is to flip the coin and understand the challenges faced by those who can’t smell.
A 2013 study conducted by the UK anosmia organization called Fifth Sense revealed that 54% of those with anosmia (having no sense of smell) said their relationships with families/friends had been affected. They often feel more disconnected from their loved ones because they can’t smell their scent. Many lose the feeling of attraction and are less interested in being intimate.
So, how is it that our sense of smell plays such a critical role in attraction, connection, and intimacy?
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CHEMISTRY
Your actual (not metaphorical) body chemistry plays a large role in determining who you’re attracted to. In fact, knowing which partner might be right or wrong for you might seem like intuition, but really your nose has the clue.
Our own unique odorprint
We all have our own distinctive set of genes (unless you have an identical twin) and that includes for our immune system. The specific set of genes (about 50) that are the genotype for your immune system are called MHC genes, and they determine your unique immune system and also your unique odorprint. It turns out that your odorprint is as unique as your fingerprint. You smell like you, and only you.
And because each of us has different MHC genes - and therefore body odor - every woman will be attracted to a different set of men. What might be appealing to one is unattractive to another.
AND IT’S LINKED TO SURVIVAL
As women and men, it’s in our evolutionary biology to ensure that our species procreates to survive. However, ultimately this survival is only ensured for the fittest among us, which is why health plays such an important role in determining our mates. And it’s our immune system that is key to our health.
Research has shown that women are more attracted to the body odor of men who have immune systems that are genetically complimentary with their own. So, naturally, every woman will find a different set of men more deliciously smelling based on her own unique immune system, and especially men who have immune systems that are best matches for children who are resistant to diseases and most healthy overall.
THE FEMALE NOSE KNOWS
It turns out that there is a time when a woman’s sense of smell is better than a man’s - during ovulation. And it’s no coincidence that biology has set it up this way. Women have a heightened sense of smell 12-14 days before their period, exactly at the time when they’re most fertile. Biologically speaking, this is the time when her sense of smell helps her find the best biological mate.
It turns out that the “complementary immune system” theory doesn’t hold true for those who are on birth control pills. In fact, the opposite showed to be true - women found those men who were most genetically similar to them to be the best smelling.
The reason for this is believed to be that the birth control pill simulates a state of pregnancy, and during pregnancy she is more vulnerable to threats and dangers. So, to feel protected, she’ll choose a mate that’s more similar rather than someone different (a stranger, if you will).
Veiled in perfume
It turns out that, with the prevalence of fragrance in our modern lives, studies are showing that women aren’t differentiating much between real body odor and fragrance. The power of fragrance has such a strong sexual pull, that no matter the scent of the man - as long as it’s pleasing - will be an alluring attraction.
It may not, in fact, be only about men and women. A 2005 study by the Monell Chemical Senses Center found that one person’s preference for another person’s body odor depended, in part, on the gender and sexual orientation of both the sender and receiver of the body odor.
This suggests that there’s not only a biological aspect but also a perception of and a response to certain body odors. Homosexual men and lesbian women showed to have patterns of body odor preferences that were different from those of heterosexual men and women. There’s still a lot that needs to be learned, but could it be that the biological ways we produce body odor differ based on gender and gender preference?
Happy Valentines Day. May you sniff your way to a beautiful relationship.