December 20, 2007

Smell me about it

[Written by Mary]

A new dating website matches people by their body odor. They take a saliva-swab to test your DNA, and then match you up with your ideal partner. According to their website, when you share chemistry with someone, you love their body odor and they smell "sexier" to you.

My first thought was that this might be a good dating website for people who were adopted -- at least this way you'd be sure you weren't dating your long-lost brother Fred. Apparently, though, this process doesn't work if you weren't raised by your biological parents until you were about a year old. According to the website, studies performed on mice showed that "When they were free to select partners to mate with, the mice based their mating preferences for different immune systems not on their own immune system genes, but on those of the parents who raised them —- even if they were adopted." It seems that we do try to choose a mate based on the criterion that they are different from Mom & Dad. (Presumably because this will annoy the parents the most?)

Does it make sense to match people by a particular sense? Montaigne wrote that "A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband," but actually deaf people tend to congregate together, probably helped by the fact that they speak their own language. (I make that sweeping generalization based on my non-scientific observations of two people. My brother and his wife are always speaking to each other -- with their mouths full -- across the dinner table. In sign language.)

There is some evidence that people you are attracted to smell better to you than people you're not attracted to. At least, Vanilla wrote a post about how his sweat always smelled attractive to those around him. And he quoted from a scientific study that sounded impressive, so there you go.

Now if only they could segregate people on the subway by body odor, then I'd be a happy camper. Certainly it's possible to be repelled by someone based on their body odor.

What about you? Are you attracted to someone because of how they smell?


  1. Not sure...all I know is my husband smells nice. :)

  2. I think this is the basis for all the Cologne sales across the country. I once picked up a "manly" deodorant by mistake in the store. Reeked of cheap cologne. The blurb on the back talked about how using this deodorant would make you attractive to the ladies: "If you spray it, they will come."

  3. Maybe there is a male/female divide on this issue. Now that I think of it -- if you wanted to attract a man's attention, would you spray on perfume or would you wear an outfit that showed off your figure? Perhaps it's women who are attracted by how a man smells, but men seem more visually oriented.

    (Okay, so I'm just thinking aloud here. I'll get some more caffeine and ponder.)

  4. Ahhh - so that's why bathing is soooo important...and why i'm single :(

    But yes - good smelling guys usually win me over. Bad smelling guys usually knock me over :(

  5. But I can't believe you need an expensive DNA test to have someone tell you who smells good! I wonder how many people would actually fork over hard earned money for that.

    This may be TMI, but back when I was younger I dated someone who smoked and smelled like Marlboros--even though I didn't smoke and hated to breathe the smoke, somehow I found the ubiquitous tobacco smell very attractive. I sure wouldn't now! I was, like 20 or something.

  6. The Bag Lady's nose works well enough (sometimes TOO well!), she really wouldn't have to fork over any money for DNA testing...

  7. Crabby - I'm like you with hating smoking and never having smoked, but there is ONE particular cigarette brand whose smell makes me happy. It smells like my grandpa and a happy vacation I took as a teenager without my family. Otherwise - yuuuck.

    I think smell helps tip the balance. A sort-of-cute guy who smells delicious will become irresistible, but if he smells gross, he'll be totally out of the running. :D

  8. I think that the way someone smells is a part of physical attraction, but when we first start dating someone we rarely get to experience how they smell. Aren't we all careful to put on deodorant and cologne/perfume when we are going out with potential suitors?

  9. My sniffer works all too well, gee I must be related to the bag lady! Of course, I am allergic to almost everything scented out there too!

  10. Not that I really have any kind of preference, since treating me like the geek-godess that I am is more important. But, if I had to choose le body odor d'amour...

    Fresh baked apple pie - oh yeah, come to mama
    Polo for men - ok, if ya wanna
    Yesterdays socks - Not if you owned a ferrari and looked like Pierce Brosnan...although just for the sake of the last part, I would at least look twice before yaking.

    In all seriousness, I am more attracted to the smell of honesty and sincerity, than to Polo or Beckam, or whatever the cologne de jour is at the moment. I met my current BF at the rink - we play hockey. If anyone has ever smelled well loved hockey gear, then you know where I'm comin' from. Now that I think about it, maybe smell is the connection between us. I'm thinking then I should take back that thing about yesterdays socks...seems like calling the kettle...well, you know.

    *sheepish grin*

  11. Napoleon supposedly wrote home to his wife, "don't wash - I'm coming home."
    So I guess this dating website has taken a normal human reaction, judging someone on their smell, and given it a high-tech twist by adding the DNA aspect to it.

    I guess I'll stick to sniffing my dates -- or wait, Vanilla is right. Got to get to know them first.

    Ah, I have the solution! I'll let my dog sniff them. That way, I'll know if they pass the smell test and also I can ascertain whether they're the dog-lover type or not. (And if not, who cares what they smell like, frankly.)

  12. Okay, this is gonna sound really weird, but it's probably based on the DNA thing, though there is an easier way perhaps that DNA testing... it's hair color. I'm a dark brunette, and I have always preferred the way brunets smell. It has nothing to do with personality or perfumes or anything else except maybe diet. I married two dark blonds, and one brunet. The brunet smelled the best, even if really sweaty and in need of a shower. The first blond ate crap food and smelled like it (so there's something there too) and never smelled good without cologne. The current one smells fine, but when he needs to shower it is not a "good" smell to me in any way, though if he's clean his exercise sweat is very pleasant at first. He also eats a good diet. Brown haired people smell spicier or earthier to me, blondes often have a less pleasant scent to my nose. NO OFFENSE MEANT TO ANY LIGHTER HAIRED PEOPLE! :-D I always assumed the reverse would be true, that blond-ish people would prefer the scent of blondes, and would think I stink. :) Red heads were always sort of neutral if natural and fine if they were brunets "passing".

    My personal reasoning for hair color was based on this- I had horses for years. It's been observed that lots of horses that are other colors than gray don't like grays, and gray horses can really stink! They just smell way different. They'll get chased away or won't have as many buddies in a pasture situation. They are pretty sour smelling to me when they sweat, and even when clean have an undercurrent. Bay horses (red to brown with black legs, manes and tails) have different smells from chestnuts and palominos too. I could always identify any of my horses by their scent if my eyes were closed, they were all so distinctive. My buckskin smelled really nice. One bay was strong but also nice. My palomino (blonde or yellow color, white mane and tail) had a strong but not unpleasant scent, he was very "horsey". Black horses smell great. But I never smelled a gray horse that didn't stink to me, sort of like sweatsocks or gym clothes with a little stale lemon in there.

    I agree with Mary NACN and think this is more a woman's domain, men have a less powerful sense of smell and use it less, and I'm betting visual cues are waaay more important.

  13. I think that the way someone smells actually has little to do with cologne--most people have a natural scent that comes through, and is actually nicer than cologne in many cases.

    I met my last serious boyfriend in Iraq and was certainly not wearing perfume. I was in uniform (although not dirty or unshowered), it was about 130ยบ, and we didn't have much A/C. He said I walked into his office and smelled nice. Go figure. But I know what he means--someone's natural smell can be quite lovely. Or utterly repugnant, in the case of a boss I once had--my stomach would churn whenever he walked in the room before I ever saw him. My sister said she knew it was time to divorce her husband when she could no longer stomach his smell.

    It's a powerful thing. But a DNA test? How does that work? We're supposed to be attracted to people with different genetic makeup, so do they just find the person with the DNA most unlike your own? I don't get it.

  14. I've read studies before about how the smell of your parter (i.e their pheromones) slowly "imprints" itself in a woman's brain over the course of your relationship.

    In real life, my boyfriend and I have actually had this conversation. I love his smell no matter how fresh out of the shower or sweaty and disgusting after work, and I also find it extremely distinct. I swear if you gave me 10 tshirts worn by 10 different men I could easily tell you which one was his. On his side however, he says he has no such 'scent memory' of me.

    But I would definitely put SOME merit into this dna testing thing, I have read (maybe it was the same study?) that 'love at first sight' and initial attraction are actually all based on pheromones.

  15. I have to say, as a brunette, that I quite like TK's theory :)

    Kristen, I'm impressed with your boyfriend! If it were 130 degrees out, I don't think I'd care how /anyone/ smelled, I'd be too busy thinking about A/C.

    Sara, I do remember vaguely reading about women in a study who were asking to sniff different men's t-shirts. I wonder if they ever duplicated the study with men? If Kristen's BF is an example, some men do use smell as a criterion as well. It would be interesting to research this...

  16. Vanilla- Yes, you're right, I think that everyone tries to smell good on a date, so they use cologne, or perfume, however, it doesn't hide your natural smell that first attracted your date in the first place.


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