Perfume has been a major player in the game of Love and Sex for centuries. Perfume not only makes us happy, evokes memories, and expresses individuality, but it is also often marked by the presence of pheromones and their analogues.
Pheromones are externally secreted triggered hormones that stimulate sexual appetite. Analogues to human pheromones like musk and civit have been used in perfumes since their discovery in the sixteenth century. They mimic human hormones and make the wearer “smell sexy”.
For that reason, perfume has been said to play a role in perpetuating the human race. The biological urge to create stronger offspring leads humans to sniff out complementary immune systems in potential partners. Scent, argues Dr. Rachel Herz of Brown University Medical School, is the most important requirement for intimacy for women. Her research indicates that women may fall in love not with a man’s looks, bank account or social status, but with his body odor. In other words, we fall in love at first sniff.
But all is not fair in the game of Love and Sex. The human nose can be tricked! And this drives the perfume industry. Women are particularly susceptible to scents, especially at ovulation. Men can take advantage of this by modifying their personal scent with perfume, cologne, or body spray.
Geza Schoen, an enterprising German perfumer has created the scent Molecule 01 based on a single molecule, Iso E Super, supposed to have pheromone-like actions on both the wearer and anyone within sniffing range. Two other perfumes making waves on the market are Sécrétions magnifiques created by Antoine Lie, and Cruel Intentions by Kilian Hennessy. Sécrétions magnifiques blends accents of milk and blood making it “as real as olfactory coitus that sends one into raptures, to the pinnacle of sensual pleasure”. Cruel Intentions presents “an orgy in a perfume bottle ”.
These scents hark back to nineteenth century traditions in French perfumery, when vaginal and anal smells reigned. Jacques Guerlain created Jicky (1889) and Shalimar (1925) because he believed that perfumes should smell like the underside of his mistress. This tradition continued into the twentieth century with bestselling perfumes such as Dior’s Miss Dior (1947) and Dioressence (1969), which smelled like sweaty armpits and animalic and fecal notes respectively.
So, what makes a scent sexy? What smells are erotic? As it turns out, North Americans and Europeans prefer different smells. Harry Fremont, a New York City perfumer, favours a chypre base with notes of patchouli and moss. In Europe, musks are more popular. Antoine Lie, the creator of Sécrétions magnifiques, likes chypre with notes of amber or lily of the valley which bring a warm carnal aspect to the perfume. To get a semen effect he would add a salty jasmine note; to get a sweaty feel he would blend in cumin or cassis-bud.
What does your favorite perfume evoke for you? Does it inspire emotion and imagination, bring back special memories, or express a little of yourself? Could it even be your personal weapon in the olfactory game of Love and Sex?
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