Dark & sinful: Fragrance, pheromones and the chemicals between us

click to enlarge Calvin Klein's old-school CK One ad. - adforum.com
adforum.com
Calvin Klein's old-school CK One ad.


Remember CK One? The unisex fragrance? Ads with equally waifish male and female models? I wore it in college. And I wore this huge Eddie Bauer sweater every day for about six months — a sweater saying, fuck off, don’t look at my body; I’m in a women’s studies class; I don’t sexualize myself with clothes in my size. I still had to smell good and trendy, though, and that meant dousing my wrists with CK One. All equality, androgyny, and shit. For me, it was cool like Love’s Baby Soft was in middle school. Cool like Eternity at prom. But political. Grown up.


I’m pretty sure I never heard the word pheromone until college. I’m completely sure that, once, a guy put his face under my arm while we were making out, and he said, Mmm. Your musk is sexy. No one should ever say the word “musk” again.

I like the idea of pheromones because they shed light on those times when you’re crazy attracted — and I mean climb-on-top-of-me-now attracted — to someone who couldn’t be any further from your type: i.e. a guy who rocked Ed Hardy in 2014, and still, for some reason, I danced on him and dreamed about him, count it, four times.

Smithsonian Magazine, which has to be legit, explains that pheromones are actually airborne. Scary. I don’t want to be in the middle of Winn Dixie, trying to convince myself I won’t eat the entire box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the car on the way home, when all of a sudden I get the whiff: the whiff, according to the magazine, that could make me present my rear to a man, with the (and I quote) “patois of ‘Let’s start a family.’”

I’m rear-presenting — what if I can’t see him? I’m just backing my thing up until someone rams me with a cart?

The patois-using article also reported that heterosexual men are turned off by the smell of a woman’s tears, tears that may contain the same pheromones they find in sweat. Someone did an experiment in which a group of women watched a sad movie. The testers collected the women’s tears and, later, let men smell them. The tears lowered the men’s testosterone levels and reduced their sexual arousal.

There are so many things wrong with this study, I don’t know where to begin. I’ll settle on a single question: How aroused were the men before smelling the tears? Had they achieved some kind of group-wide arousal stasis so the testers could measure any deviation?

I’m way out of my depth here. But clearly, the science surrounding pheromones still has some explaining to do. I do know celebrity-endorsed perfumes and colognes are way overpriced (though, sometimes, you do get that free gift in a shitty makeup case) and they wear off by lunch; and, be honest, sometimes we smell like an amalgam of a baby’s breath and a wet, decaying forest.

We don’t have to get au naturel. But we don’t have to walk into the mist before we head out the door — that ain’t going to get you laid. Just put your hands in the air and, maybe, you’ve got a chance. 

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