This summer, I have a public service announcement: sweating is hot.
I will admit that I'm biased — I'm kind of a sweaty person. I've tried a lot of deodorants in my life, including the "all-natural" one my mom once sent me, claiming it was the best deodorant she'd ever used. When that hippie bullshit left me smelly and sweat-soaked at the end of an eighty-degree day, I called her on her claim. "Well," she sniffed, "I guess I just don't sweat that much." Because I clearly can't rely on family, I took a stranger's advice and bought some "clinical strength" deodorant. It works great! I sweat way less now, so much less that I've become concerned that I will Pay a Price for this new freedom. So I read with eagerness Nina Shen Rastogi's Slate column on the health and environmental impact of deodorants.
Turns out that my newly beloved sweat-stopper probably won't give me cancer or Alzheimer's, and since it's not in a can, it's not the worst choice for the environment, either. However, it could make me less sexy. Writes Rastogi, "neutralizing your essence might harm you in the romance department: A body odor researcher quoted in the Times notes that there's experimental evidence to suggest that humans prefer mates with different immune systems, and that armpit odor is one way of signaling that difference." Which is no surprise to me, since male sweating is pretty much the hottest thing ever.
I know people who claim not to notice other people's smell, and of course, those without a sense of smell do often manage to date and fuck. However, how a guy smells is a main factor in whether I'm attracted to him, and I'm here to tell you: bad-smelling guys smell good. Partly it's because people sweat a lot during sex, so the smell of sweat turns me on by association. But mostly it's because an actual male body usually smells sexier and more interesting than deodorant — with the possible exception of this one brand worn by a guy I liked in high school, which I've never been able to identify but immediately swoon over every time I smell it. But while That One deodorant/perfume/whatever is different for everybody (and everybody has one), I'd wager lots and lots of women are turned on by male stink, and it's time for us to speak out.
Of course, I'm a total hypocrite, because I hate actually sweating and daily slather on the Clinical Strength to avoid it. This is probably partially due to the perception that sweating is unfeminine, which as a feminist I should be working against. But sorry, I'm not quite there yet. Also, I still brush my teeth. And guys, especially of the hippie bullshit variety: you should too. I want to smell your sweat, but your mouth bacteria are a bridge (ha?) too far.
Should I Stay Funky? [Slate]