Saturday, January 23, 2016

Love scents: Are stinky feet sexy?

Now we all perspire (or shine), and it is a normal part of our physiology but sometimes in the presence of sweat bacteria break down on the skin and the gas gives off a nasty pong (bromidrosis). Considered antisocial today, we spend millions of dollars trying to reduce foul smells by using chemical antiperspirants (cut down the volume of sweat); or mask the smell with deodorants. Regular washing is also recommended.

In the past this was not the case and lovers reveled in each other’s body smells. It is suggested wedding in the Northern Hemisphere weddings were traditionally held in June, following the pagan custom of bathing in May. This was the only time people washed. Human sweat has long been a secret ingredient in love potions. It is well recognised smells can be a strong form of arousal and medical terms like Osmolagnia, Osphresiolagnia , and Ozolagnia all describe forms of this strange phenomena.

To the foot lover (podophile) the smell of the foot is associated with the smell of the naughty bits. Restifists, shoe fetishists, prefer the smell of shoes. In each case the smell adds allure and sexual excitement but no one is sure why this is and for most foot and shoe lovers it has much to do with behavioural conditioning often due to early experiences. Toddlers view the world from a near carpet existence and may discriminate gender by shoes or feet. As our love map is developed some irregularities may arise and inanimate objects may become embroiled in out psyche. The role of smell in linking the development of fetishism with pre-genital stages has been used by psychoanalysts to offer explanation for the interest in smells that can accompany or play an important part in fetishism. Often these take on a talisman role and people may become dependent on these fetishes to function as sexual beings. For many a passing interest in feet or shoes in a sensual way is considered normal whereas in troubled paraphilics the dependency has become an obsession. Now in reality whilst some people may be attracted to the smell of body odour caused by the breakdown of skin bacteria, bromidrophilia is quite a rare paraphilia . This is not usually the main attraction feet and shoes have to foot lovers. Instead a second set of sweat glands secrete a scentless excretion called pheromones. These are naturally produced by the body and are a series of short chain aliphatic acids which if picked up can sexually excite a partner. To do this efficiently you need to have a fairly well developed vomeronasal organ (Jacobson’s organ), up your nose. Not everybody has one and hence feet or shoes can turn some people on, and not others. Gas from the unscented sweat glands enter the nose and cling to a receptors found in the nasal cavity.

Mysophilia is a condition where people can become sexually aroused by smelling, chewing or rubbing against foul smelling objects like socks, nylons or pantyhose. Experts believe mysophiles may have increased sensitivity to pheromones produced in body excretions.

Kodis M 1998 Love scents: How Your Naatural Pheromones Influence Your Relationships, Your Moods, and Who You Love NY: Dutton
Schultz C & the editors of the Old Farmer’s Almanac 1996 The book of love: The old farmer’s almanac looks at romance, sex and marriage New York: Gramercy Books.
Trueman J 1975 The romantic story of scent London: Aldus Books

Reviewed 23/01/2016

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