One of the more compelling moments in The X Files illustrates the many myths and conceptions surrounding pheromones and their role in attraction.
The scene involves a seductive female who picks up a young man in a nightclub. She captivates him – there’s just something so alluring about her – to the point they end up at his pad for a good romp in the hay. And it’s a good romp – in fact it’s so amazing that it ends up killing him.
Later in the episode, called Gender Bender for reasons I won’t disclose, an unassuming Amish man pulls a similar trick on female FBI agent Dana Scully as he shakes her hand. What she doesn’t realize at the time is that he’s a powerful source of pheromones, and she’s quickly seduced to the point that she nearly blacks out.
No doubt you’ve heard the rumors about pheromones too. In true fashion, you’ll find many of them marketed as an easy way to seduce the fairer sex. Do they work? The evidence suggests yes – but only pheromones that convey health and fertility to receptive women.
Pheromones are chemicals released by organisms to get a response from members of the same species. You wouldn’t be wrong to call them behaviour-altering agents; while you’re probably most familar with sex pheromones, they can be secreted for any number of reasons, including:
We’re at the proverbial tip of the iceberg with pheromones. Most of what we know comes from watching insects and their use in the animal kingdom. For example, sea urchins release pheromones into surrounding water that tell other urchins to release sex cells. Human pheromones may have a similar mechanism, and may be just as powerful, but more studies are needed to establish how they’re processed by the body.
Scientists had believed scent played a role in attraction since the 1950s. Biologist and behavioural endocrinologist Dr. Winifred Cutler was the first to establish the presence of human pheromones in 1986 when her team removed sweat from human underarms and found that only the odorless materials that contained pheromones remained.
As you’ve probably heard, pheromones appear to work on the subconscious. Studies on animals show mammals process pheromones with a vomeronasal organ (VNO). We’re still not sure if humans have a VNO, or how our bodies interpret pheromones, but current evidence suggests we simply use smell to put them to work.
To say that pheromones affect the female biology is an understatement. A study at the University of Chicago found men have ten times more pheromones in their sweat than found in female perspiration. There’s clearly a link, and much of it’s in the brain.
A 2006 study found that lesbian and heterosexual women respond differently to pheromones. This was a Swedish study, in which researchers scanned brains of lesbian and heterosexual women along with heterosexual men while smelling two pheromone concentrations.
The results, published in the online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that sexual preference appears to sway the brain’s response to pheromones. Both the lesbian and heterosexual women showed different patterns of brain activity while smelling the pheromone concentrations.
The lesbian response was closer to that of the heterosexual men than women, suggesting that pheromones may play a role in attraction between heterosexual men and women. And that role appears to be that pheromones tell women when a man is healthy, fertile, and ready to go.
Yet their effect on the brain is only half the story. Some experts believe pheromones affect the mentstrual cycle too – a theory support by Cutler’s research in the 1970s, which found that women who had sex often had more regular menstrual cycles than women who got frisky less frequently.
Having sex often delayed lower estrogen and made women more fertile, which prompted Cutler and her team to look for the cause. Their finding: pheromones, documented in the 1986 study we discussed earlier in this article.
Pheromones may play a role in attraction between heterosexual men and women. And that role appears to be that pheromones tell women when a man is healthy, fertile, and ready to go.
It is well-documented that young women living in close proximity will adjust their menstrual cycles to coincide with those of women around them. Another study at the University of Chicago – this one led by Martha McClintock – illustrates that women increased or slowed down their menstruation when exposed to female sweat. In particular, the time of month the sample was collected, and whether it was taken before, during or after ovulation.
This was the first proof that people make and respond to pheromones, though it has yet to be determined how they’re processed by the human body.
Note that pheromones alone don’t appear to cause attraction between men and women. Rather it’s the quality of those pheromones that counts. An article in Psychology Today suggests that body odor is fundamental in picking a mate, but that smell needs to be picked up by someone with a genetically opposite immune system for sexy things to happen.
If you can look past the marketing hype, you’ll see a connection. Pheromones play a key role in attraction. Thank biology for that – it’s nature’s way of giving men the tools needed to attract a mate and ensure the human race walks lockstep well into the future.
Cutler says 74% of people who took a commercial pheromone, Athena, experienced an increase in hugging, kissing and stuff that goes on behind closed doors.
Having said this, not all pheromones tell the female species you’re its Don Juan. Pheromones are unique to each person and we’re not all George Clooney. Studies show women respond most to pheromones that meet a specific criteria – the kind that tells her you’re fit, healthy, and ready for passion.
Your best shot at using pheromones to attract the opposite sex is to do it with a pheromones supplement. But not any pheromones will do; you want pheromones that say in no uncertain terms you’re attractive to most women. Biology would have it that’s tall, dark and handsome. And that would be Nexus Pheromones.
See, there’s truth to some of the marketing behind pheromones. While nature blessed you with pheromones of your own, they may not be working for you for several reasons. You could be masking them with deodorant or your daily shower, or, let’s be blunt: your pheromones just might need a little help to attract the ladies.
Don’t stop showering (please!) or using deodorant. Your best move is to use a product like Nexus Pheromones to announce your presence and why she should choose you. Do that the next time you go out and, as they say, put a little biology on your side.