Sunday, April 21, 2019

The allure of stinky feet and smelly shoes

According to Potter (1999) the odour of fetishistic objects adds to their sexual excitement. Aigremont (cited in Rossi, 1990a) believed the podophile associated the smells of feet with the smell of genitals and retifists preferred the smell of shoes. Pheromones are odourless gases produced naturally by the body and are a series of short chain aliphatic acids. They release chemicals into the body which when the aroma is picked up can sexually excite a partner. These enter the nose and cling to a receptor found in the nasal cavity. The organ is known as Jacobson's organ or the vomeronasal organ. The vomeronasal organ does not respond to any other scents. (Monti-Bloch, Jennings-White, Dolberg, & Berliner, 1994).

Pheromones are diffused directly into the hypothalamus of the brain and have no detectable odour of their own. Exposure to pheromones appears to have a significant effect on skin temperature, skin conductance, and cortical (brain) activity. Some pheromones elicit an immediate response, while others induce long-term changes in behavioural or endocrine state. Pheromones effect the autonomic nervous system, producing a "relaxation response," opposite to the fight or flight reaction. Some pheromones work better for males, while others work only for females. Many authorities believe humans lost their appreciation for pheromones because we evolved with our primary dependence on vision and not smell. However a social custom in Victorian times was for young women to hold a handkerchief under their armpit whilst dancing. The ladies would favour their partner at the end of the evening by gifting them with their sweat soaked, handkerchief.

As reported by Jacob (1999) numerous studies have been carried out suggest axillary odour contains enough chemical differences in the odour profile to allow for discrimination between individuals. The author cites Stern and McClintock (1998) who was able to show that odourless axillary compounds from the armpits of women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycles accelerated the preovulatory surge of luteinizing hormone of recipient women and shortened the menstrual cycles. Axillary compounds from the same donors, which were collected later in the menstrual cycle (at ovulation) had the opposite effect: they delayed the luteinizing hormone surge of the recipients and lengthened their menstrual cycle. Studies have also shown women prefer male odours that have Human Leucocyte Antigen types different from their own. This preference was reversed when the same female subjects were asked to repeat their rating whilst taking oral contraceptives.

Bromidrophilia describes arousal from body smell. Mysophilia refers to becoming aroused by smelling, chewing or rubbing against foul smelling objects like socks. It is possible mysophiles have increased sensitivity to pheromones produced in body excretions. Osmolagnia, Osphresiolagnia, & Ozolagnia are terms used to describe arousal from strong smells. The role of smell in linking the development of fetishism with pregenital stages has been used by psychoanalysts to offer explanation for the interest in smells that can accompany or play an important part in fetishism (Balint, 1935; Epstien, 1969, Money, 1984).

Balint M 1936 A contribution on fetishism International Journal of Psycho-Anlaysis 16 481-483.
Epstein A W 1975 The fetish object: Phylogenetic considerations Archives of Sexual Behaviour 4 (3) 303 -308.
Jacob TJC 1999 Human Pheromones School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff
Money J 1984 Paraphilias: Phenomenology & classification American Journal of Psychotherapy 38 164-179
Monti-Bloch L, Jennings-White C. Dolberg D.S. and Berliner, D.L. 1994 The human vomeronasal system. Psychoneuroendocrinology 19, 673-686.
Potter B 1999 Old shoes stolen for sniffing
Rossi WA 1990a Foot and shoe fetishism: Part 1 Current Podiatric Medicine 19-23
Stern, K. and McClintock, M.K. (1998) Regulation of ovulation by human pheromones. Nature 390, 177-179

Reviewed 21/04/2019

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