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Heterosexual men are able to process distinct olfactory signals linked to women’s sexual arousal, according to new research from the University of Kent’s School of Psychology.

The researchers also report that, in general, the men who participated in this research expressed stronger sexual motivation and physical attraction after smelling randomized olfactory cues from sexually aroused women. These findings (Wisman & Shrira, 2020) were published on February 5 in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the official publication of the International Academy of Sex Research.

“The present studies suggest that men are sensitive to the olfactory signals of sexual arousal released by women. This research suggests that these signals released along with corresponding visual and auditory expressions of sexual interest can produce a stronger overall signal that increases sexual motivation,” co-author Arnaud Wisman, who is a psychologist at the University of Kent, said in a news release.

“Sexual interest may entail more than meets the eye and we hope that the current findings encourage further research to examine the role of sexual olfactory signals in human communication,” he added.

For their latest research on sexual chemosignals and how men process olfactory signals of women’s sexual arousal, Wisman and co-author Ilan Shrira conducted three separate experiments involving university-age heterosexual participants.

Some of the questions Wisman and Shrira wanted to investigate include: What role do chemosignals play in sexual desire and mating preferences? Do heterosexual men have innate responses to sexual arousal conveyed via a woman’s olfactory signals? Do scent and chemosignals play a pivotal role in sexual behavior?

The first experiment tested how heterosexual men responded to the smell of cotton pads that were used to collect axillary sweat from the underarms of sexually aroused women compared to underarm sweat samples taken when the same women were exercising, or when not sexually aroused.

Twenty-four heterosexual male students, with an average age of 21.38 years, were recruited for this experiment. The researchers found that in a blind “sniff test,” the men in this study evaluated “the sweat of sexually aroused females as more attractive than their non-sexual sweat.”

For the second experiment, 32 heterosexual male students in the same age range served as the scent recipients of sexually aroused sweat samples and non-sexually aroused sweat samples from a different cohort of women.

The objective of this experiment was to see if randomized exposure to the smell of sexually aroused vs. not-sexually-aroused women affected straight men’s subjective sexual arousal. After smelling and evaluating each of the scent samples in a blind sniff test, the male participants were asked: “On a scale of one to seven, to what extent do you feel sexually aroused right now?” (1 = not at all, 7 = very much). The data analysis showed that exposure to sexual chemosignals tended to increase men’s sexual arousal.

In the third experiment, the researchers tested whether or not smelling chemosignals from a sexually aroused woman would increase a straight man’s sexual motivation. Thirty-five heterosexual male students with an average age of 23.11 years participated in this experiment. “Experiment 3 found support for the thesis that exposure to sexual chemosignals would increase sexual motivation,” the authors write.

Taken together, these findings (2020) are among the first to show that women’s sexual arousal releases a distinctive scent that can increase the sexual attraction and motivation of straight men. “Consistent with the growing evidence that emotional states can be communicated through scent, our findings provide evidence that humans can signal and process olfactory signals of sexual arousal,” the authors conclude. “Importantly, the results showed that perceiving these sexual chemosignals alters the scent receiver’s sexual arousal and their interest and preference for potential mates.”


Arnaud Wisman & Ilan Shrira. “Sexual Chemosignals: Evidence that Men Process Olfactory Signals of Women’s Sexual Arousal.” Archives of Sexual Behavior (First published: February 5, 2020) DOI: 10.1007/s10508-019-01588-8

Source: A Sexually Aroused Woman’s Scent May Attract Straight Men | Psychology Today Canada