Pheromones Are Bullshit

I know the idea of spending your life savings on tiny vials of mystery liquid that claim to possess the ability to make you irresistible to the gender of your choosing is very, very tempting, but according to science, pheromones are bullshit.

I could explain pheromones to you, but since you probably already know what they are, let's talk about it in terms of silkworms attracting other silkworms!

For instance, when a female silkworm moth wants to get her guy, she sprays a chemical called bombykol from her abdominal gland and her targeted male transforms into a sex slave, trailing the scent until he mounts her. It's an enviable feat. Still, it's a big leap to extrapolate from bugs to people-or even to lab mice, for that matter. No scientific study has ever proven conclusively that mammals have pheromones.

"The whole pheromone thing got picked up by the mass media," says Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Smell and Taste Research Center and author of The Great Pheromone Myth. It feeds into our need to believe, he said, that there "is all this subliminal stuff going on that is affecting us-who we mate with, who we want to be with. It's this mythical perspective." And marketers, like women's magazines, are only too happy to exploit that myth.

I don't know about you but I can definitely say I've been attracted to someone based on smell…not even a particular scent, but just something about this person that pretty much smelled like the best thing ever. So does that mean I've just been brainwashed by these "women's magazines" you speak of?

Maybe. Or maybe what I'm really attracted to is the fact that this person is not a blood relative:

One famous study from 1995-in which women were asked to sniff a bunch of sweaty T-shirts and choose the one they found most appealing-suggested that it wasn't the chemical itself that attracted women, but the way it mixed with a man's genes. (The women tended to choose T-shirts from men whose immune systems were most different from their own, suggesting that humans have an innate smell-based system to avoid mating with siblings.)

That makes sense. Nothing turns a girl on quite like "you're not my sister or brother," right?

Another theory from a study in 2004 —involving male sheep who wore some sort of lavender scent that caused female sheep to ovulate whenever they smelled lavender, whether a male was present or not— found that "females' hormonal response was an acquired behavior, rather than an innate one."

In other words, you're going to fall for whomever you fall for —provided that and maybe partially because they aren't part of your bloodline— and pheromones have little to do with it.

The Scent of a Woman [Slate]