These pheromones shape the social and sexual lives of some creatures, like invertebrates, insects and rodents, by attracting them towards evolutionarily compatible partners, which are desirable because they lead to better offspring.
It sounds like a gimmick, sure, but researchers believe that the nose plays a much larger role in our social lives than we realize. Dating has quickly become a visual enterprise; in 2005, very few Americans had tried online dating, but now 15% have, and technology like Tinder, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat reinforce the visual conventions that society says we should find attractive.
Smell Dating, then, is a throwback—a way to connect us, at long last, with our most basic, biological mating cues.
I’d never heard that you should also smell like yourself, though, until I joined a matchmaking service called Smell Dating. After 72 hours, the cotton was pickled in my essence.
For three days and nights I wore the same cotton T-shirt, through sweaty workouts and while I slept. I passed off the damp, stained tee to the New York University researchers who run Smell Dating, who saw it not as an object of disgust, but as boyfriend bait.
Researchers believe that our unique bodily scent plays a larger role in our social lives than we know.
Now, social media entrepreneurs are putting that science to the test. Everyone knows that to find true love, you have to be yourself.
Researchers agree that our sense of smell is important to human relationships, and that we are hard-wired to be drawn to people whose scent we like—be it from a bottle or their armpits.
But the idea that humans emit invisible chemicals that could drive us to a partner is hardly the consensus today. My first boyfriend had a smell I haven’t been able to shake years later, like dirt and earth and just-wet soil.
“Ew,” my friends would tell me when I’d try to describe it.
But breathing him in was powerful and delicious, and I liked the idea that his scent spoke just to me.
It’s also a highly social sense, linked to memory, emotions and interactions with other people—encouraging us to draw closer or stay away.