The Pheromone Parties (07d5f67)

It’s 7 ‘clock on a Tuesday night and I’m rifling by way of a pile of strangers’ dirty t-shirts looking for one I love the smell of. T-shirts which were slept in for three nights on the trot. I’m practically smelling someone else’s bed. I’m slightly weirded out by just what is going on at the bar hosting this peculiar evening, as the hyena-like pack of women and men around me also jostle to get a whiff of the action.
“This one smells like old cupboard,” one girl says, “oh this one’s got notes of tequila ,” says the other. “THIS ONE JUST SMELLS OFF. EURGH,” blurts their third mate, dry-retching into her handbag.
Credit: Ben Cole
Why, you ask, are people willingly nose-diving into dirty t-shirts? Everyone here is trying to find a date. Welcome to the Pheromone Parties.
Hugely popular in LA, the Pheromone Parties take the chemistry of love quite literally. Like animals, humans are drawn to hormones – chemicals we secrete through our skin – through the smell of our bodily scent The Pheromone Parties run on the (scientifically proven) premise that our pheromones are powerful enough to subliminally attract a compatible mate – hence all the t-shirt sniffing.
Here’s how it works. Each participant is told to sleep in the same t-shirt for three nights and then to place it in the freezer during the day to ‘lock in’ the pheromones. After this process is complete, you bring your t-shirt to the Pheromone Party, in a clear Ziploc bag, and get a number – pink for girls, blue for boys. All the t-shirts are then placed on a table ready to be whiffed, see:
Credit: Ben Cole
You then smell until you can smell no more and, along the way, pick the bags you like and have your picture taken with them. Those pictures are then projected onto the walls so the owner of your chosen garment can see their number, see you and, supposedly, come forth and make his/herself known. But should we throw ourselves into the awkwardness just as well as our confident American cousins? And can your whiff really get you a date through the power of pheromones alone? This is what happened when I went to go and find out.
At first, everyone (who wasn’t slowly getting drunk at the bar) just sat around the edges waiting for someone else to be ‘the first’ to take a cheeky sniff. It reminded me of those awkward school discos where nothing happened until the guy who’d learnt most of MJ’s dance moves took the plunge and started dancing. We were all a little scared – unsure of how exactly to mentally plan the awkwardness of what we were going to do – and, suddenly, it had been rammed. You couldn’t get close to the bloody things. Not the bar had seen anywhere near this much action. I jostled my way in and found my first bag.
I tentatively took an instant whiff from the mouth of the bag and realised, that yes, I’d need to get the t-shirt out of your bag and hold it close. I fully expected to immediately regret planting the t-shirt so close to my nose and mouth. It smelt like bed. I wasn’t really sure what things to label of this bed smell – was I likely to like it? This is weird, sort of gross and definitely cringe-worthy. Yet, there have been guys around me fully burying their faces into that which was, effectively, somebody else’s dirty laundry. I took another and, this time around, attempted to mimic the people close to me, burying my nose in to the t-shirt. Phew, that one had a perfume smell, not too bad. Then, the pro-sniffer left of me suddenly reeled in shock, a horrified look on his face, that one stinks of pizza!” Approach with caution was the lesson.
Credit: Ben Cole
Over the other end of the table, my bag got picked. I saw a nod of approval and the lady holding it went off to possess her picture taken. It had been an excellent confidence boost prior to the inevitable – needing to go and tell her she’d liked my bed smell. Off I went – also it was as awkward as I’d imagined. She was basically in complete shock that I’d even approached her, telling me that she never thought anyone would actually come and discover her. It made no sense considering our current situation. She revealed my ‘smell’ was a ‘comfy’ sort of smell. It still smelt like bed, this both of us admitted, but the sort of bed she could “imagine being very comfy lying in,” she said.
The complete conversation lasted about 5 minutes and we both shifted to smell more bags. Nearly how this was likely to work. But, realistically, meeting someone and keeping someone interested is approximately more than precisely how you smell. It’s about mutual interests, compatibility and sexual attraction. Just how much our pheromones influence this, I’m uncertain. Lesson number 2: don’t click here expecting miracles. Later, I came across a bag I liked, number 24, and had my picture taken alongside with the majority of the male contingent in the room; 24 was quite the hit with us guys (because it half smelt of perfume). No-one came and said hello, though, and the owner of number 24 will forever be a mystery (sad face).
I then asked two other girls, busy following their noses to the perfect date , what the perfect pheromone smell was. They both simultaneously agreed that, ‘a fresh cotton smell – fresh – but mixed with a guy’s natural scent’ was a winning combination. And very quickly afterwards I was told the criteria of an awful smell; BO, smelling of must or old house, stinking of food. What does this say about a guy’s basic hygiene?” one asked. If this is it then what’s he like on a bad day?!”
I smell guys on the bus sometimes and you may smell the scent – and then I’m like, instantly, no – he’s not the one,” the other revealed. “A waft of manliness is nice but can a boy really smell just like a man? After a sense of humour, smell is the second most important thing I notice.”
Credit: Tom Medwell
So, even if your pheromones don’t directly attract a perfect match, it looks like your smell is quite an important factor for being approached or approaching and not getting rejected. Can your natural scent allure a woman though? Maybe. But, of all the people I spoke to, chosen t-shirts smelt predominantly of aftershaves or washing powders. It seems our noses are hardwired to find, on initial contact, pure bodily smells fairly unattractive.

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