Why it's Best not to Wear Perfume Nor Take the Pill when Looking for a Mate {Fragrant Reading}



Fine perfume might be more intellectual and spiritual in nature than instinctual after all. A few years back - in 2008 - there were a series of articles on olfaction and attraction shedding light on enduring sexual attraction thanks to new research on the role of the contraceptive pill. It is required reading if you wish to grasp some of the potentially thwarted "chemistry" at work when choosing not only a compatible mate, but a long-term one...

The research resulted in the practical advice not to be on the contraceptive pill when dating - and even in order to perfect the approach, not to wear fragrances in the first few weeks of getting to know someone so as to be able to olfactorily ascertain the soundness of the basis for your sexual attraction. It has to do with MHC genes compatibility - they should be not too similar, but not too dissimilar as well. These are as unique as a finger prints so there are no obvious visual predictors such as the color of skin, or race. Only your nose will tell, provided no pill is involved and perfumes do not blur the olfactory message too much although a link has been found between perfume preferences and the Major histocompatibility complex. If you and someone else consistently show similar cologne preferences, this tends to mean you have similiar MHC genes, and so are not biologically compatible actually. They should stay great buddies of yours. 

The explanation for the reason the contraceptive pill changes perception of a prospective mate scent for women is that it fools the body into thinking it is pregnant and so pushes them to be attracted to men who have a similar set of MHC genes, in other words, who are more like relatives. This is because they would ideally be seeking out support from kin in their vulnerable state. Not taking the pill allows them to pick out healthily dissimilar sets of MHC genes in men. A consequence of pill-taking then would be that once in a long-term relationship and stopping to take the pill would be the time when a number of women are turned off by the natural smell of their partners who they now unconsciously perceive as not having the right set of MHC genes which promise healthy kids with a wider spectrum of resistance to diseases. There is even a theory now that the pill might a posteriori explain the high rate of divorce in modern society. Selecting the wrong biological partner has also implications for fertility and rate of miscarriages with more difficulty in conceiving. 

Men also are sensitive to the influence of pill-taking on a woman's scent as researchers have found out in a study on exotic dancers that pill-taking makes them come across as less sexy. 

Required reading:

Scents & Sensibilty in Pschology Today

More reading:

The Pill Makes Women Pick Bad Mates


The Art & Science of Kissing

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