Campus / News / February 11, 2015

Students sweat it out for sexual arousal and smell study

Rarely does a library conversation get this heated.

A lot of sexual arousal has to do with what we smell, Professor and Chair of Psychology Heather Hoffman argued in her informal ‘flash’ talk “Sweating sex: aroma, attraction and arousal” on Tuesday afternoon. Nearly 30 students gathered in the reference room in the library to hear about pheromones and the relationship they play to attraction and arousal.

Hoffman talked about her study, which hypothesizes that male arousal can be linked to a woman’s pheromones, which differ based on where a woman is in her cycle. At a woman’s peak reproductive status, there are stronger levels of attraction. According to Hoffman, some European stores even sell perfumes that are made with female pheromones to heighten attraction.

Some of this arousal is more learned than it is inherent, Hoffman said. The more sexual experience a person has, the more he or she will be inclined toward a specific smell.

For her research, Hoffman is collecting sweat from naturally-cycling females. Junior Savannah Trent is one of the sweat donors. She’s been more interested in sweat and sex since she took Human Sexuality with Hoffman in the fall.

“We don’t talk a lot about pheromones in humans because we feel we’ve evolved past it. Because animals at certain times are going to attract more pheromones at different times and attract different animals, which is why mating happens,” Trent said. “So, essentially her thing is looking at sexual arousal on a more pheromone level, because you can measure arousal by surveys and stuff like that. This is a more scientific way to measure arousal.”

Sophomore Elyse McGloin also attended the talk, which made her realize her interest in sexuality.

“I think there’s not enough information about sex in the world. It’s a naive field,” McGloin said. “It’s something that’s so prevalent in our lives and it’s important to get enough information about it.”

The survey is important, Trent said, because it allows us to answer questions and make attraction more measurable.

“I think it’s interesting because you’re able to use science to try to answer questions of why are we attractive to different people?”

*Savannah Trent is a contributing writer for TKS

Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @KateMishkin

Tags:  heather hoffman psychology study sexual arousal

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