Love at First Sniff: Pheromone Dating

something in the air, alright.

something in the air, alright.

No matter what OKCupid or would like us to believe, dating is not a perfect science.

If that were the case, then that 93% compatibility on screen would translate perfectly into 93% compatibility in person every single time, and anyone who’s ever met a potential match offline and discovered that the person is, in fact, the last person in the world they’d like to pursue a romantic relationship with can attest that percentages and algorithms and compatibility scores can often be misleading. Maybe it’s these same people, jaded from one too many promising dates that turned out to be complete wastes of time, who have decided to remove the heart and mind from the romantic equation and leave finding the perfect mate up to pure biology and Mother Nature.  At least to begin with.

Because the newest trend in dating these days is attending pheromone-dating parties, which banks on humans biologically predisposition to detect pheromones in potential partners that trigger sexual attraction and a desire to engage in mating.

Pheromone parties (which are currently taking place in Los Angeles, among other places) ask each participant to sleep in a shirt for three nights prior to the shin-dig and then bring it to the event in a plastic baggie. The bags are labeled anonymously with numbers on either pink or blue labels to distinguish between genders. That’s when the fun begins: potential suitors take sniffs of each shirt and then decide which ones they’d like to get more than just a whiff of. When the magic hits, the guests pose for photos with the chosen bag and those photos are projected on the wall to encourage further connection.

To successfully odor-print the shirt, it is suggested to avoid eating pungent food that could alter your scent dramatically, such as garlic. Staying hygienic while wearing the shirt is a polite choice, but dowsing it in fragrances or deodorants is a no-no, as is engaging in intimate contact while wearing the shirt (after all, you don’t want to mislead your potential connection by mixing your pheromones with that of another person). Armpits should not be shaved during imprinting (oh no), and freezing the shirt after imprinting it can help to keep it fresh (seriously). If that all sounds doable and not too freaky, then you might have found yourself a new weekend activity.

Since participants are not required to disclose their sexual preferences, you don’t even know exactly if you will be choosing a shirt that came off the back of someone who will be interested in you at all. For that reason, experimentation is suggested and you can take photos with as many T-shirts as you gosh darn please. And who knows? Maybe that person might smell so delicious that their gender or your sexual orientation might not even matter.

If your stomach is churning just thinking about purposefully inhaling other people’s body smells, then this might not be the thing for you. Also, it might be important to recognize that, while human scent plays a role in the process of attraction (who wants to date someone that smells like a compost heap?), no one human sex pheromone has been discovered by the scientific community that can be said to be definitively responsible for making your heart pitter-patter. And since any kind of dating and intimate contact necessarily involves getting a whiff of what your potential partner smells like anyway, it can be difficult to isolate the level of impact that pheromones, whether they exist in reality or in our imaginations, play in the complicated and multifaceted mechanisms of desire and attraction.

Still, it’s not the craziest dating tactic out there (like choosing your partners based solely on astrological compatibility) and while it might not be the most romantic tale of how you met your beau, hey, you can at least say that it was “scientifically” meant to be.

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