Love Pongs: Pheromones, Stinky Feet & Other Sexual Scents

CygnusRex

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#1
Chanel are wasting their time

Smelling out your perfect mate Dec 20 2004

Paul Carey, Western Mail

WE may all think that we choose our perfect partners based on their appearance, personality or even the size of their wallet, but research by a Welsh expert reveals the key to finding your soul-mate is the way they smell.

Professor Tim Jacob, head of the smell research laboratory at Cardiff University, claims that in finding our perfect partner, we are reacting to the subtle odour we are all born with.

He claims this phenomenon is nature's way of ensuring that children are born with the strongest immune systems possible to fight off disease.

And when it comes to finding your husband or wife, the research reveals that opposites do attract.

"This is a subtle smell - it's not the sweaty body odour someone has after doing hard manual labour for a few days without washing," he said.

"This is an inherent smell that we all carry - you can't change it by washing or perfume."

In a review, commissioned by the decongestant manufacturer Sudafed, Prof Jacob has found that every person is born with a certain odour-type, which is dependent on their immuno-type, or immunogenetic status - the body's own defence mechanism against disease and illness.

Odour-types are not the same as pheromones, which some believe play an important role in social and chemical interaction.

Sniffer dogs use odour-types to distinguish individuals, but research has also revealed that humans not only use smell to distinguish between individuals but we actively select our mates based on odour-type.

Unlike any of the other senses, smell has direct access to the more primitive parts of the brain, which are linked to mood, emotion and memory - brain-imaging techniques have shown that smell can activate parts of the brain without being consciously perceived.

The main source of human odour is the apocrine - sweat - glands, which are found around the nipples, sternum, genitals, underarms, hair follicles, cheeks, eyelids, ears and scalp.

When people kiss they are also "tasting" a person's odour-type, which in turn will help determine whether that person could be their perfect mate.

Prof Jacob said there are thousands of different immuno and odour-types, but rather than seek out people with a similar smell, humans prefer to bond with people with a different odour-type, to ensure any children born as a result of their union will inherit two different immuno-types, bolstering their natural defence systems against disease.

Research has shown that women prefer male odours that are different from their own genetic makeup - the smell from men with the same genetic make-up was found to be unpleasant.

Marriages between people with similar genetic make-up are not as frequent as expected and a high degree of genetic similarity between parents could even increase the chances of miscarriage.

"Diversity is key - nature is trying to bring together two people who will provide immuno diversity to their offspring, therefore the child will have the benefit of both parents and increased disease resistance," he said.

It is thought that women are most sensitive to smell at ovulation - an ideal time to smell out their perfect partner.

Prof Jacob added, "Smell is the most underrated of the major senses. It's one of the most important senses we have, but most people do not understand the true significance of smell.

"Smell can trigger memories, evoke disgust, pleasure or change our mood, it can act as a warning or can be a sign of illness.

"We are now beginning to understand the mechanisms by which smell can influence our first impressions of potential partners.

"So the sensory shutdown associated with a cold or flu infection can have more far-reaching consequences than had ever previously been considered."
Source
 

Electric_Monk

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#3
I'm sure I've read all this stuff years ago. Except that time round they were also saying it was a mechanism to stop incest ;)
 

elffriend

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#4
Well as I am still single then I guess I must be giving off the wrong kind of smell :shock:
 

escargot

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#5
So a good excuse for marrying my ugly rancid-smelling ex might be a heavy cold. Hmmm. :lol:
 

MrRING

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#9
Foot Stink Sexuality

I ran accros this interesting article and it got me to wondering:

THE FOOT FETISH

The foot fetish is the most common of all fetishes, so common, in fact, that it should probably be considered part of the "norm." Humans may very well be predisposed to eroticizing feet because feet have apocrine sweat glands... the same type of pheromone-producing sweat glands shared by armpits and the genital region. These smells play a huge role in sexual attraction for most mammals and humans are no different. It's quite possible that when proto-humans walked on all fours in the African veldt, foot odors were used to mark our paths and indicate our health and sexual availability. Unfortunately, in our culture feet have become taboo -- they symbolize dirtiness, animalness, ugliness and all of the things that we must keep under control and keep invisible... and maybe that's part of their appeal.

(snip)

There are so many variations on the foot fetish that they can be hard to count. While most straight male foot fetishists prefer small female feet with high arches, some want smelly feet with callouses -- feet that have really been lived in. There are gay male, straight female and gay female foot fetishists as well.

Of course, the foot fetish overlaps with the shoe fetish and its subfetishes. Shoes are simply containers for all of the foot odors, as well as psychologically powerful as symbols of power and status. Some shoe fetishists have very speicifc ideas about what types of footwear excite them. Though the most common are women's high heeled shoes, even espadrilles, sneakers and clogs have their fans. Several websites are devoted exclusively to women's loafers with metal taps on the heels and toes. Among gay male shoe fetishists, there are jackboot fans and motorcycle boot fans. In these cases, as in many others, the foot fetish is combined with a leather fetish.

(snip)

Another subset of the foot fetish is the pantyhose and stocking fetish. Panyhose and stockings are perfect receptacles for foot stink, and "cook" the smells to a heady ripeness. To hear a panyhose fan wax lyrical about his fetish is akin to listening to a wine connoisseur discuss the aromatic "bouquet" of his preferred Bordeaux.
http://www.deviantdesires.com/kink/kinkmain.html

So, is it possible that foot stink really used to be one of our most prominent human mating ritual, pre-civilization? Also, I know that me and my brothers all went through a short period during puberty where our feet stank to high heaven for seemingly no reason... if this was a common occurance for most people in puberty, could this "super foot stank" have been some kind of mating musk?

Or just stinky feet?
 

rynner2

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#10
Interesting ideas here, although I must admit that feet have never turned me on!

In fact, my ex had very unpleasantly smelly feet (a fact I like to repeat on about every third thread!) 8)

(Mind you, both of us were into professional sailing back then, which involved a lot of welly boot wearing..)
 

ignatiusII

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#11
Had a friend back in my university days, who had a major foot fetish. Come the summer months, when most of the females on campus took to wearing sandals, he was literally drooling at the veritable conucopia of exposed female foot flesh. My tastes in female anatomy run well above the ankles however, and as such I could never quite understand his prediliction for what is probably one of the uglier parts of the human body. My views to the contrary were roundly ignored by my friend. ''man - don't you think that's HOT? girl's feet - and they SMELL!" ''Um, er, no, actually, I don't. Kinda gross. And why does the smell turn you on?'' ''Don't you get it, man? they aren't supposed to smell - but they DO!'' Different strokes, I guess. Eww.
 

gattino

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#12
Pheromones in a bottle..

I notice ads for pheromone sprays etc still appear in the back of the Fortean Times.

I've no idea what I mean by etc. But by pheremones of course I mean
those unsmellable smellies that are meant to make the wearer sexually inrresitable. "scientifically proven!" These have appeared from time to time in experiments on tv shows for the last 15 or 20 years...but with such infrequency for somethign with such an extraordinary claim, that it begsthe question...DO they work? Or have they long since been poo-pooed (pardon the aromatic pun) as wishful thinking?

Has anyone here ever tried them? Is there an official scientific consensus on these bottled products? Will someone take me to dinner on Saturday?
 

IamSundog

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#13
I've never tried bottled pheromones because I already have to beat the women off with a stick.
 

uair01

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#14
In the book "Spam Kings" one of the big spammers sold this stuff.
I guess that's all that needs to be said ...

But what's really Fortean is that there must be a lot of desperate single males who decide to try the stuff. (When I was a single male I was pretty desperate too ;) )
 

IamSundog

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#15
One has to assume that there's no such thing, or that they don't work, because otherwise they would be a billion dollar industry.

Has anybody here read the short story "Bitch" by Roald Dahl? Incredibly funny story about a pheremone that works EXTREMELY well, on men, and a plot to use it to publicly embarrass the U.S. President.
 

uair01

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#16
IamSundog said:
Incredibly funny story about a pheremone that works EXTREMELY well
There's a well known book called "The perfume" where the perfume-designer gets eaten alife by a crowd, because he has developed a totally irresistible perfume. Forgot the name of the author ...
 

MrRING

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#17
Another series of experts weigh in with their nostrils:

http://www.sirc.org/publik/smell_attract.html
The Smell Report
Sexual attraction

The attractive powers of pheromones (scented sex hormones) have often been exaggerated - not least by advertisers trying to sell pheromone-based scents and sprays which they claim will make men irresistible to women.

Widely publicised research findings on female sensitivity to male pheromones have also led some men to believe that the odour of their natural sweat is highly attractive to women. Women are indeed highly sensitive to male pheromones, particularly around ovulation, but many popular assumptions about the effects of these pheromones are the result of misinterpretation and over-simplification of the research results.

All male pheromones are not equally attractive, and some of the myths stem from an understandable confusion over their names. The male pheromone androstenone is not the same as androstenol. Androstenol is the scent produced by fresh male sweat, and is attractive to females. Androstenone is produced by male sweat after exposure to oxygen - i.e. when less fresh - and is perceived as highly unpleasant by females (except during ovulation, when their responses change from ‘negative’ to ‘neutral’).

So, men who believe that their ‘macho’, sweaty body-odour is attractive to women are deluding themselves, unless they are constantly producing fresh sweat and either naked or changing their clothes every 20 minutes to remove any trace of the oxidised sweat. Generally, the female-repelling androstenone is the more prominent male body odour, as the fresh-sweat odour of androstenol disappears very quickly. In terms of scent, the sweaty macho-man is therefore likely to be unattractive to most women, most of the time - at best, he may elicit a grudging ‘neutral’ response from women who happen to be ovulating (which of course excludes all those taking oral contraceptives).

Although the male pheromone androstenol has been shown to be attractive to women, men’s use of pheromone-based scents to attract women may not have the desired effect. An experiment in which a pheromone-sprayed chair in a dentist’s waiting room was most frequently chosen by women is often cited in support of the attractive power of male pheromones. The problem with this conclusion is that the pheromone in question can only be detected at a distance of about 18 inches, so the women would have to have selected the chair and sat down before becoming aware of its scent.

A further difficulty in this context is that although pheromone-based scents may have an arousing effect on women, the women will not be aware of the source of their arousal. A man wearing pheromone scent at a crowded party will still have to compete with the other men present for the attention of the women. Only in a strictly one-to-one, intimate encounter could the arousing effect of the scent actually benefit the man wearing it - and to achieve such an encounter, the man must presumably be capable of attracting the woman by some other means. In the context of social situations, it is perhaps also worth noting that androstenol has been shown to be attractive to men, as well as women!

Another experiment showed, however, that daily use of pleasant-smelling colognes significantly improves the mood of middle-aged men, reducing mood disturbances such as tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion which are associated with the ‘mid-life crisis’. This personal sense of well-being, good humour and confidence, which will inevitably be reflected in behaviour, may be of more help in attracting potential partners than the fickle and unreliable effects of pheromone-sprays.

Similar mood-improvements have been observed in studies of the effects of perfume use on middle-aged women. Women at mid-life, particularly post-menopausal women taking hormone treatments, tend to suffer fewer mood disturbances than middle-aged men. (Contrary to popular opinion, the so-called ‘male menopause’ seems to involve more pronounced emotional disorders than the female version.) But regular use of pleasant fragrances still had a significant beneficial effect on the emotional well-being of mid-life females, and another study showed that young women experience equally positive effects. Again, the cheering effect of pleasant fragrances may also make women more attractive to potential partners.

Women who believe that the use of ‘sexy’ perfumes will attract men, however, may be misguided. Women’s sensitivity to musk, an ingredient commonly used in perfumes, is 1000 times greater than men’s. ‘Sexy’ perfumes containing musk are therefore much more likely to arouse the woman wearing them than any potential male partners. But by making a woman feel more sensual, the perfume may affect her behaviour and thus indirectly increase her attractiveness.

A number of women’s magazines have recently carried good-news reports claiming that the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’ - some use the more scientific-sounding euphemism ‘increase penile blood-flow’. A few reports also mention lavender.

In fact, the study in question - conducted by the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago - discovered only that ‘in those with a normal olfactory ability, a variety of odours can increase penile blood-flow’. These odours included pumpkin pie, liquorice, doughnuts and lavender, and various combinations of these, as well as oriental spice and cola. The most effective were a lavender/ pumpkin pie mixture, a doughnut/ black liquorice mixture and a pumpkin pie/doughnut mixture - but the results depended on other factors such as whether the participants’ partners wore cologne and how many times they had had intercourse in the last month.. In short, the only reliable conclusion to be drawn from this is, as the authors themselves admit, that all sorts of smells can increase penile blood flow.

Even this is not very surprising, as any strong odour will have a stimulating effect, which will cause a general increase in blood flow to the extremities - inevitably including the penis. A very powerful odour, such as smelling-salts, can even revive someone from a dead faint. If your partner is actually asleep or unconscious, this old-fashioned remedy may be more effective than the lavender/pumpkin pie mixture - and probably no more offensive.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#18
the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’

Attention lads! It's time to sniff the Garibaldi! :shock:
 

stu neville

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#19
uair01 said:
There's a well known book called "The perfume" where the perfume-designer gets eaten alife by a crowd, because he has developed a totally irresistible perfume. Forgot the name of the author ...
Patrick Suskind. Great book!
JamesWhitehead said:
the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’

Attention lads! It's time to sniff the Garibaldi! :shock:
[Homer Simpson](drooling)MMMMMM Cinnamon buns....[/Homer Simpson]
 
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#20
Peek Freen's Trotsky Assortment

JamesWhitehead said:
the smell of cinnamon buns has been proven to ‘boost male erections’

Attention lads! It's time to sniff the Garibaldi! :shock:
Revolutionary biscuits of Italy rise up out of your box!! :shock:
 

MrRING

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#21
Many good articles here, I'm including one:

http://www.mum.org/Odor.htm
Stinkin' Synchin' [this title is Anne Kitchell's, not the MUM director's]

The menstrual cycle not only produces odors, rumored to serve as attractive cues, but reacts to external odors as well. One often hears of females living in close proximity undergoing the synchronization of their menstruation onset times. In an article published by Russell et al. (1980), it was stated that "menstrual synchrony is not due to changes in food, awareness of menstrual timing or lunar cycles, and [it is] suggested that the only significant factors seem to be the amount of time the women spend together and the lengths of their cycles." They conducted a really cool experiment in an attempt to demonstrate if the olfactory cues of one very "regular" woman could influence the timing of menstrual onset in other women.

Eleven women, whose mean age was 28.5 years, none of whom were lesbians or were taking oral contraceptives, volunteered to have an odor placed on their upper lip three times a week during a four month period. The odor was extracted from the axillary region (the armpit!) of a female donor with a history of a very regular menstrual cycle. She did not use underarm deodorant or perfumed soap, nor was she allowed to wash under her arms during the odor gathering period. Odor collection involved having the donor wear 4X4 cotton pads under her arms for 24 hours. The subjects had the pads rubbed on their upper lips and asked not to wash their faces for six hours. The group of control subjects received the same treatment, with the exception that they did not receive the odor. Test subjects and control subjects had no knowledge as to which group they belonged.
The results indicated with statistical significance of p < 0.01 that odors from one woman can influence the the menstrual cycle of another. The mean difference in days between the menstrual onset of tested subjects and the donor at the beginning of the experiment was 9.2 days. This average decreased to 3.4 days by the end of the experiment with four of the five subjects synchronizing to within one day of the donor's onset. The control group averaged 8.0 days from the donor's onset in the pre-treatment month and 9.2 days in the post-treatment month.

The possibility was noted that "the mechanism of [odor] transfer did not involve the nose at all, but diffusion of chemical compounds through the skin which may occur when the sample was placed on the subject's upper lip." If compounds placed under the nose were volatile and the subject unaware of their presence, then can one properly use the term "odor" anyway?

The olfactory influences on the menstrual cycle of crab-eating monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) have been studied along the same lines as human synch experiments. Wallis et al. (1986) placed twelve female monkeys in adjacent cages allowing for the occurrence of physical contact. Only one of the females had a history of regularly-timed menstruation. A control set was established in the same manner with the exception that cages were situated far enough apart so no physical contact was possible. Within the course of the six-month study, the experimental subjects with irregular flow tended to normalize, although cycle synchronization was not observed as a trend. In the control group, irregular subjects continued to experience abnormally long cycles. The authors suggested, "Close physical contact may serve to transmit chemical and/or hormonal cues that can normalize the menstrual cycle of crab-eating monkeys."

References:
Russell, M.J., G.M. Switz, and K. Thompson. 1980. Olfactory influences on the human menstrual cycle. Pharmacol, Biochem., & Behav. 13: 737-738.
Wallis, J. 1986. The effect of female proximity and social interaction on the menstrual cycle of crab-eating monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Primates 27(1): 83-94.
Doty, R.L. 1981. Olfactory communication in humans. Chem. Senses 6(4): 351-376.
McClintock, M.K. 1971. Menstrual synchrony and suppression. Nature 229: 244-245.
 

MrRING

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#22
Looks like the human vomeronasal organ, which may or may not exist, may be the organ responsible for those sexy scents:

LINKY
In order for pheromones to be detected, a special organ, called the vomeronasal organ must be present. This organ is composed of a pair of small pits on the membranous skin inside the nostrils. Recently there has been controversy as to whether or not this organ exists in humans (Lawton 1997). Several scientists have identified what they believe to be the human vomeronasal organ, located near the bottom of the septal wall dividing the nose (Wright 1994). However, other researchers claim that this organ is not present in human adults even though it is present in human fetuses and virtually all other animal species (Lawton 1997).

Other scientists who believe that they isolated human pheromones from a sample of human skin tested the human vomeronasal organ (VNO) to see if it is functional. They designed a special electrode that could be inserted into the pits of the VNO which could detect any electrical activity that would be assumed to occur following a chemical interaction. The electrode was first tested in the olfactory cleft and responses were recorded for substances such as mint and clove oil. When the suspected pheromones were tested, no responses were recorded for the olfactory cleft. But when the electrode was placed in the VNO, responses were recorded, suggesting that neurons in the VNO were firing in response to the suspected pheromones (Wright 1994). Hormone levels in the blood also changed, suggesting that the VNO is somehow connected to the brain (Medical Industry Today 1996). The responses varied among male and female subjects, which would be expected as in the animal world, pheromones usually have an effect on only one sex. The behavioral effects are still unproven as the uncomfortable experimental apparatus makes it difficult to tell if one feels significantly different (Wright 1994).

Other researchers are trying to figure out the wiring of the VNO to the brain. The region surrounding the VNO is filled with neurons that connect to the brain, however a primary structure that is involved in the processing of information from the VNO, the accessory olfactory bulb, is not present in humans. These researchers believe that the accessory olfactory bulb does exist, but because of the enlarged frontal lobes in humans, it has become flattened and stretched thus making it difficult to see (Wright 1994). The researchers believe that the cells in the VNO send electrical impulses to the hypothalamus which stimulates the pituitary gland to release or stop releasing certain hormones (Lawton 1997). In other mammals, information from the VNO is transferred via nerve fibers to the accessory olfactory bulb and other regions of the brain such as the hypothalamus (the hypothalamus is involved in basic body functions like sleeping, eating and mating). The anterior region of the hypothalamus then alters the activity of the neuroendocrine system which is involved in reproductive physiology and behavior. Some nerve fibers may also be linked to the limbic system, which is involved in emotions.

So where is it that these pheromones come from anyway?

The most likely answer is our apocrine glands. The three types of glands that are present in humans are sebaceous glands, sweat glands and apocrine glands. Sebaceous glands exist around the body’s openings and secrete substances that kill potentially dangerous microorganisms. Sweat glands help regulate our body temperature and release water and salt. Apocrine glands in humans do not regulate body temperature as they do in other animals. They are found in large concentrations on the face, chest and wherever body hair exists. Interestingly, apocrine glands become functional after puberty which is when we would most likely be searching for a mate. In other animals apocrine glands are known to release substances which effect sexual behavior, so it seems likely that if human pheromones do exist this is where they would come from (Furlow 1996).

More evidence for the existence of pheromones comes from research that was done almost thirty years ago and a carefully controlled experiment that was just recently published. The experiment was based on the research that showed that women living in close proximity to one another often found that their menstrual cycles would converge over a period of time. It was suspected that pheromones might be the possible cause of this phenomena. In order to test this hypothesis women in the study were exposed to the body odors of other women (Weller 1998). The odor was masked by mixing it with isopropyl alcohol, and was then swabbed onto the upper lip (Seppa 1998). The results showed that the menstrual cycles of the women either slowed down or sped up, depending on what phase the donor woman was in her cycle (Weller 1998). A control group of women who received only isopropyl alcohol showed no change in their cycle (Seppa 1998). This experiment shows that pheromones may be responsible for the convergence of menstrual cycles but it also raises a lot of questions. If pheromones are causing this change their chemical structure has yet to be identified, the reason for why they cause menstrual synchronicity is unclear and it has yet to be tested whether or not men release pheromones that can affect menstrual cycles as well. To further clarify the existence of pheromones experiments also need to be carried out on women who have no sense of smell, but a working VNO (Weller 1998).

If pheromones do exist, the synthesis of pheromones for medical conditions could be one of the first applications as the VNO provides a new pathway to the brain which could be used to treat mental disorders or even possibly a new form of birth control. In fact experiments are already underway testing synthetic pheromones that may provide relief from PMS. Pheromones might also explain why we may feel an instant attraction or dislike for someone upon first meeting them (Lawton 1997).

Evidence for attraction based on our immune system?

Sounds odd, but it seems to be true. Researchers studying the immune systems of mice found that female mice would choose a mate whose MHC genes were the least similar to her own. MHC stands for major histocompatibility complex. These genes code for special protein markers that are attached to the surface of cells and help the body recognize whether a cell belongs to an organism or if it is an invader such as a bacteria or virus. If a cell or bacteria is identified as an invader, the body’s immune system mounts a defense to kill the intruder. Different MHC molecules are good at recognizing different invaders. By a choosing a mate whose MHC molecules are different, the female mouse is ensuring that her offspring will have a wide variety of MHC molecules that which can identify a large array of invaders and thus promote survival (Furlow 1996).

Research done on human females shows that they too prefer men whose MHC genes are the least similar to their own (Richardson 1996). In an experiment, men were given an unscented T-shirt and were asked to wear it for two nights in a row. During this time they were not to use deodorants or scented soaps. Women were then presented with six shirts - three from men with similar MHC genes, and three from men with different MHC genes from their own. The results showed that the women preferred the scents of men whose MHC genes were different from their own. The scent of men with similar MHC genes often remind the women of a relative’s odor, such as a brother or father while the smells of MHC dissimilar men would often remind them of a past or current boyfriend. This suggests that body odor might have influenced past and current decisions on who to date.

It was also found that women who were taking birth control pills would often choose the T-shirts of men with similar MHC genes as smelling better. A possible explanation for this is that birth control pills trick the body into thinking its pregnant, and women on the pill often report that they prefer smells that remind them of home and relatives. Since natural preferences are reversed a woman might then be attracted to men she normally wouldn’t be - namely men with similar MHC genes (Furlow 1996).
 

MrRING

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#23
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10087165/
Q: I've heard about a new inhaled drug that works wonders for a woman's sex life. Where can I get it?

A: An experimental drug called PT-141 has been getting some buzz lately. But it's not commercially available, and it has not been proven to be a wonder drug for women, at least not yet.

Related drugs called melanocortin agonists have been written about for years and have been studied for male erectile dysfunction since the 1990s. It all started by accident, sort of, when researchers at the University of Arizona were experimenting with a natural body chemical that stimulates tanning. Legend has it that one took the compound and did, in fact, develop a tan, but also wound up with a very powerful erection.

Go figure. The brain is a complicated place.

Anyway, Palatin Technologies of New Jersey knew a good thing when they saw it. They developed PT-141 as a nasal spray that quickly affects brain chemistry so fun can be had by all.

According to Palatin CEO Carl Spana, the company is much further along in studying PT-141 as a treatment for impotence than as a treatment for women. Spana figures he’s about three years away from applying to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to treat men.

But work in women has shown some promise. “We started last year and the first study we did looked at PT-141 in premenopausal women with female sexual dysfunction and loss of desire," he says. "In that study, there were significant effects on both arousal and desire and based on that we are about to embark on an at-home study on females.”

The first study was tiny, with just 18 women. More will be included this time around and Palatin will measure “change in arousal, desire, and quantity of encounters.”

Data from lab animals was pretty convincing. In female rats, PT-141 “stimulated solicitational behaviors,” which is lab speak for “made horny girl rats.”

Still, rats are not people, and as Proctor and Gamble discovered in its attempt to get the FDA to approve a testosterone patch for female sexual dysfunction, there will be regulatory hurdles. The FDA will want to be very careful about approving a drug that affects the brain for a non-serious (unless you have it) condition like lack of sexual desire. At best, if all goes well, look for PT-141 in about four or five years.
 

MrRING

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#25
Weirdly, this article indicates that what you eat can affect your personal smell, but I don't know if it's above and beyond phermones or in combination:
The Sweet Smell of Sex

The mere scent of food and other items may be enough to sexually arouse men and women, according to research by Alan R. Hirsch, MD, FACP, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Hirsch conducted two studies that measured men and women's reaction to different smells. One study measured blood flow to the penis, and the other to the vagina.

The results: Men appeared to be turned on most by a combination of smelling lavender and pumpkin pie, and women by Good and Plenty candy and cucumber.

There's no surefire explanation for the findings, says Hirsch, who theorizes that the favored smells may remind people of their childhoods. Such nostalgia can supposedly reduce anxiety and inhibitions, thereby increasing blood flow to the genitals.

Previous research has shown that smells are important in attraction, says Barratt, but those studies have mainly focused on people's scents. "Clearly, we do know that how people smell has an effect on the sexual desire of a partner," he says, noting that a body's scent has a lot to do with the person's diet.
 

TheQuixote

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#26
Weirdly, this article indicates that what you eat can affect your personal smell, but I don't know if it's above and beyond phermones or in combination
As an aside, I saw a Channel 4 documentary on 'vampirism' a few years back. Basically the groups of people who are into blood drinking. There was a couple who talked about how they preferred their human blood donors to be vegetarians as their blood tasted better than those who had say, a more omnivore diet. Food has an influence on the taste of blood apparently.
 

MrRING

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The Scent of Eros
The goal of this text is to introduce the reader to how odours relate to human social behaviour, particularly its connection to our sexuality. This is achieved through 14 fairly short chapters, which are essentially a reprint of the material from the first edition of the text (published in 1995). In addition there is a recently added epilogue that is designed to introduce the more recent developments within the field of olfaction research. In some ways this information would have been more satisfying if it had been integrated into the main body of the text, as some of the ideas considered in the first edition have been directly addressed by more recent research. For example, the authors originally considered that MHC characteristics expressed through body odour might be involved in discriminating between individuals (p 32), a finding that is now supported by research they cite in the epilogue (p 289). However the current format does provide a form of ‘then and now’ snapshot, allowing the reader to see the original ideas of the authors, and then discover both the developments within field, and how successful the author’s predictions were.

The text itself covers a broad range of topics, such as the production of artificial odours and perfumes, how certain conditions such as (Kallman’s Syndrome and Turner’s syndrome) can affect the detection of body odour, and the neural and hormonal mechanisms that mediate odour related behaviour. To summarise this last point briefly, pheromones are supposed to stimulate the release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which both acts as a neurotransmitter and stimulates the release of luteinising hormone (LH). LH in turn stimulates the release of testosterone via the pituitary gland, which then has subsequent behavioural effects. This information is portrayed in such a way that a more general audience can follow the line of reasoning, quite an accomplishment given the complicated nature of neuroanatomy and endocrinology.

This scientific approach to the research is also complimented with interesting anecdotes and speculative reasoning to illustrate particular points; such as the preference that Napoleon demonstrated for the body odour of Josephine, or the practice among some Mediterranean cultures of using love apples (a slice of apple placed in the armpit to absorb odour) to lure a potential suitor. However the problem with this use of anecdotes and speculation is that while it can often be used to illustrate a scientific point, some speculation lacks sufficient scientific support to be convincing. For example, the authors suggest that the reason large breasts are considered attractive by men is that they have been classically conditioned to link breasts with pleasure (p 281-283). This sense of pleasure is supposedly based on the pheromones that a mother releases while breast-feeding, a time when the infant would view breasts as being large (relative to their size at that age). These maternal pheromones would then affect the hormonal conditions in a male brain (though not female) leading to the preferences later in life. While this is an intriguing idea, there is only one study offered in support, which shows that if the mother of a male rat is scented with lemons during the male’s infant years, then this preference for a lemon scented females will carry into his adult mating behaviour (Fillion & Blass, 1986). While anecdotes and speculative reasoning are certainly intellectually stimulating, the examples given are sometimes less than convincing. If classical conditioning could be involved in a preference for big breasts, it could also be argued that stimulation would occur in the presence of milk, in feeding situations, or could be generalised to other stimuli; ideas the authors do not consider.

Critical reasoning
This occasional lack of corroborating evidence is compounded by a lack of critical reasoning on the part of the authors. The use of the term pheromone is an excellent example. The authors introduce this in the context of Karlson and Lusher’s (1959) original definition, which can be loosely reduced to a substance involved in chemical communication between two individual organisms, usually of the same species that produces a specific behaviour or effect on development. However other characteristics of pheromones are highly debated. Does a signal have to be unconsciously received to be a pheromone? Does it have to produce an innate response? Does there have to be an evolutionary advantage to both the sender and receiver? None of these questions are addressed in the text. Based on these criteria the question of whether humans can actually transmit and receive pheromones is also fiercely debated within the field of olfaction research (Ben-Ari, 1998), yet this debate is also not addressed by the authors. Given the confusion regarding the term pheromone and its questionable application to humans, it would have been more appropriate to either actively defend the concept of human pheromones, or to use a less esoteric term such as olfactory cue or chemical message.

Homosexuality
One area I found to be particularly engaging was the author’s consideration of sexual orientation. In addition to giving some consideration to the biological basis of human homosexuality, reviewing the classic papers by the likes of LeVay (1991) and Hamer et al (1993), there is also some discussion of how pheromones may play a role in the origins of same-sex behaviour. The authors draw upon animal studies (Bakker et al, 1996) demonstrating that if a male’s ability to distinguish between the sexes, using odour, is disrupted, this leads to the development of “bi-sexual behaviour” later in life (p 291). It is then suggested that this same process could be applied to humans (especially in males), to explain the range of sexual behaviours that we demonstrate. Though this issue is perhaps better explored by Kohl in some of his more academic papers (Kohl, 2002), the basic idea is that higher levels of oestrogens among homosexual males during development could result in an atypical reaction to the olfactory cues of females, which would in turn alter the neural and hormonal processes associated with attraction and reproduction. What would have been more interesting would be to see this idea extended to include a more thorough analysis of how an individual’s sexual orientation can affect behaviour associated with body odour. Trevathan (1993), for example, found that the process of menstrual synchronisation among cohabiting women was not observed among lesbian couples, a possible result of the nature of their relationship.

Conclusion
The Scent of Eros is certainly an engaging text that informs the reader about the majority of key studies performed on human olfaction. Where it is let down is a lack of supporting evidence for some of the ideas considered, and a lack of critical consideration for some of the evidence that is presented. A reader unfamiliar with olfaction research could come away from this text unaware of several key debates within the field, and take it for granted that humans do possess a functional VNO, and that the term pheromone can be applied legitimately in research concerning human olfaction. In short this lack of a critical approach undermines the validity of the book’s contents. However it should be remembered that this book is aimed at a general audience, and as a result the authors may have felt it inappropriate to address the debates within olfaction research for such an audience. For a more academic consideration of the field by the authors, I would recommend Kohl’s more recent review paper (Kohl et al, 2001), which addresses the issues outlined above.
 

MrRING

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#28
Good article at Psychology Today. Here is a good bit:
CAN YOU SMELL THAT SMELL?

Since humans show little interest in one another's urine, few researchers thought that the story of MHC in rodent attraction could shed light on human interactions. But then someone made an eyebrow-raising discovery: Human volunteers can discriminate between mice that differ genetically only in their MHC. If human noses could detect small differences in the immune systems of mice (mice!) by giving the critters a sniff, excited researchers realized, we may well be able to detect the aromatic by-products of the immune system in human body odor as well!

A team led by Claus Wedekind at the University of Bern in Switzerland decided to see whether MHC differences in men's apocrine gland secretions affected women's ratings on male smells. The team recruited just under 100 college students. Males and females were sought from different schools, to reduce the chances that they knew each other. The men were given untreated cotton T-shirts to wear as they slept alone for two consecutive nights. They were told not to eat spicy foods; not to use deodorants, cologne, or perfumed soaps; and to avoid smoking, drinking, and sex during the two-day experiment. During the day, their sweaty shirts were kept in sealed plastic containers.

And then came the big smell test. For two weeks prior, women had used a nasal spray to protect the delicate mucous membranes lining the nose. Around the time they were ovulating (when their sense of smell is enhanced), the women were put alone in a room and presented with boxes containing the male volunteers' shirts. First they sniffed a new, unworn shirt to control for the scent of the shirts themselves. Then the women were asked to rate each man's shirt for "sexiness," "pleasantness," and "intensity of smell."

SEXY GENES

It was found, by Wedekind and his team, that how women rate a man's body odor pleasantness and sexiness depends upon how much of their MHC profile is shared. Overall, women prefer those scents exuded by men whose MHC profiles varied the most from their own. Hence, any given man's odor could be pleasingly alluring to one woman, yet an offensive turnoff to another.

Raters said that the smells they preferred reminded them of current or ex-lovers about twice as often as did the smells of men who have MHC profiles similar to their own, suggesting that smell had played a role in past decisions about who to date. MHC-similar men's smells were more often described as being like a brother's or father's body odor... as would be expected if the components of smell being rated are MHC determined.

Somewhat more surprising is that women's evaluations of body odor intensities did not differ between MHC-similar and MHC-dissimilar men. Body scent for MHC-dissimilar men was rated as less sexy and less pleasant the stronger it was, but intensity did not affect the women's already low ratings for MHC-similar men's smells.

That strong odor turned raters off even with MHC-dissimilar men may be due to the fact odor is a useful indicator of disease. From diabetes to viral infection to schizophrenia, unusually sweet or strong body odors are a warning cue that ancestral females in search of good genes for their offspring may have been designed to heed. (In the case of schizophrenia, the issue is confounded--while some schizophrenics do actually have an unusually sweet smell, many suffer from delusions of foul smells emanating from their bodies.)

Nobody yet knows what roles MHC may play in male evaluations of female attractiveness. Females' superior sense of smell, however, may well be due to their need to more carefully evaluate a potential mates merits--a poor mate choice for male ancestors may have meant as little as a few minutes wasted, whereas a human females mistake could result in a nine-month-long "morning after" and a child unlikely to survive.

Perfumers who really want to provide that sexy allure to their male customers will apparently need to get a genetic fingerprint of the special someone before they can tailor a scent that she will find attractive. But before men contemplate fooling women in this way, they should consider the possible consequences.
and
HOW TO SMELL A MATE

How does body odor affect a woman's sexiness? Scientists don't know for sure, but they do know that a man's allure depends in part on how many immune system genes he shares with a potential mate.

Since it's known that women can detect genetic compatibility by smell--it's not that men can't but that so far no one knows--the onus is on females to sniff out a suitable squire.

Choosing a genetically compatible partner can be difficult it today's perfume rich postindustrial jungle, and getting your immune system genes profiled can be expensive. Before you run to a doctor for blood work to see whether your mate is a suitable match--and sire for your future children--try listening to your nose. (Unfortunately, the sniff test will only work if you're not taking birth control pills.)

1. Declare a deception-free day for the nostrils. Have your beau shower with fragrance-free soap and wear clean cotton clothing for a day, away from smokers and the perfumed masses. Be sure you don't have a cold, and that you yourself haven't been around smokers for a few days.

2. After he spends a day and a night in his cotton clothes, before he tosses them in the direction of the hamper, wrestle them from him and have a "smelldown." Make it a romantic experience. If your man's shirt doesn't offend, you should be safe. (Find the scent alluring or sexy? Even better! That attraction is nature's way of telling you he's a safe contributor to your offspring's genetic ensemble.)

3. If your man's odor reminds you of your father or of a brother, you may want to consider getting in touch with your doctor and ask about genetic tests before trying to conceive a child. Tell the doctor you're concerned that you may share a close MHC or "HLA" profile. (HLA, for human leukocyte antigen, is a technical tag for human MHC.) Meanwhile, a deceptively pleasing gift of cologne might be in order.

4. Genetic incompatibility is not the only reason you may find his odor offensive. Does his body scent seem unusually intense? He might have a medical condition that explains the smell. Ask him to bring it up at his next medical checkup. A very sweet scent is sometimes evidence of diabetes or schizophrenia--both of which appear to be heritable. It is wise to discuss these issues with each other, and with a doctor, before having kids.

5. Before you decide that your relationship stinks, check your mate's diet. A taste for spicy foods or an overindulgence in garlic can cause strong body odors.

6. If your mate still offends, don't head for the hills just yet. Some clothing detergents can prove to be a bad mix with a fella's scent. Ask that the next time he visits the laundry, he change brands--and give the stinker a second chance!
 

MrRING

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Do Old Men Smell?
By: Calvin Sims

Behold, the Fragrant Japanese Man!

SAKA, Japan -- Daijiro Karasawa, a 49-year-old auditor, never gave the matter much thought until he witnessed a small drama on the bullet train.

Karasawa saw two college women laughing and holding their noses as a businessman, about his age, walked down the aisle looking for a seat. A few days later, a defensive Karasawa bought a designer cologne that he now rubs on his wrists and behind his ears before his frequent trips between Osaka and Tokyo.

"I am a very clean person, and in my mind I know that I don't smell," Karasawa said. "But I'm wearing fragrance for the first time in my life, to eliminate any chance that I might offend someone."

Karasawa volunteered the information after a reporter asked him to translate a newspaper ad for a line of cosmetics boasting a secret ingredient that supposedly reduces a body odor that afflicts older people. The experience of Karasawa is like that of many other men in this hyper-hygienic nation.

The trend started after Japan's largest cosmetics maker, Shiseido, discovered a substance that causes body odor in people over 40, and particularly middle-aged men. That discovery has led to a whole range of lucrative products. For Shiseido, the product introduction, which it says is not limited in appeal to men over 40, was one of the most successful in its history.

Shoji Nakamura, the Shiseido perfumer who discovered the offending agent, called noneal, said, "Our data shows that older women and men produce the same amount but that we smell more odor coming from men, because they tend to be less hygienic."

In September, Shiseido introduced a line of shampoos, lotions and deodorants to curb the breakdown of the fatty acid in skin that causes noneal. Noneal, described as having a "greasy, grassy odor," is rarely found in the body odor of people in their 20s and 30s, the researchers say, but increases in volume and strength with aging.

Shiseido said that sales of the new product line, called Care Garden, had been more than five times its initial target. "It's mainly salary men in their 50s who are buying it," said Kyoko Asakura, manager for Matsumoto Kiyoshi, a discount drugstore in the Ginza, Tokyo's premier shopping district. "Many of them come into the store and shyly ask for the product that takes away old man's smell."

Like Americans, Japanese are happy to make consumer products companies rich by spending money on every sort of nostrum to bolster one's social appeal. Everywhere one looks in Japan, for instance, in magazines, newspapers and store windows and on billboards and television, there are advertisements for products that rid the body of odor.

Elizabeth Arden is marketing the Lip Lip Hooray line of lipsticks that contains citric acid, which the company says neutralizes the sulfuric compounds that can cause halitosis. The SSK Corp. has a line of T-shirts that contain deodorant fibers that it says eliminates odors when exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Not everyone thinks Japan's preoccupation is healthy. Koichiro Fujita, a professor of immunology at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, said that while the Japanese have long been attentive to personal hygiene, they have become "slaves to smell," snarled by the barrage of advertising by deodorant producers.

"The marketers have brainwashed people to be afraid of their own smell, which is supposed to be something natural, something that as a living creature is a way of asserting I am here," Fujita said. "Our country is suffering from super cleanliness syndrome, and it's so extreme that even elementary school children are afraid they will be teased or bullied."

Fujita said that too much cleanliness actually reduced the body's ability to fight infections and that some bacteria was valuable. His book, "Cleanliness Is a Sickness," has sold 30,000 copies.

But Harueko Kato, a sociologist at Tokyo Women's Christian University, sees nothing to complain about.

"Before these products were created, the norm for Japanese men was to wear that awful smelling hair tonic," and that was the extent of their grooming, she said. "Today, whether it's in the office, subway trains, or at home, Japanese men want to be liked, so they are trying to improve their image, and I think it's great."
 
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#30
Horn in a can:

Let us spray

Billed as libido in an atomiser, PT-141 will finally offer women the chance to turn on their sexual desire as and when they need it. Or so the science says. But there are concerns. Will sex in a spray usher in an age of 'McNookie' - quick easy couplings low on emotional nutrition? Julian Dibbell reports

Sunday April 23, 2006
The Observer

Horn of rhinoceros. Penis of tiger. Root of sea holly. Husk of the emerald-green blister beetle known as the Spanish fly. So colourful and exotic is the list of substances that have been claimed to heighten sexual appetite that it is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment on first beholding the latest entry - a small, white plastic nasal inhaler containing an odourless, colourless synthetic chemical called PT-141. Plain as it is, however, there is one thing that distinguishes PT-141 from the 4,000 years' worth of recorded medicinal aphrodisiacs that precede it: this one actually works.

And it could reach the market in as little as three years. The full range of possible risks and side effects has yet to be determined, but already this much is known: a dose of PT-141 results, in most cases, in a stirring in the loins in as little as 15 minutes. Women, according to one set of results, feel 'genital warmth, tingling and throbbing', not to mention 'a strong desire to have sex'.

Among men who have been tested with the drug more extensively, the data set is richer: 'With PT-141, you feel good,' reported anonymous patient 007: 'not only sexually aroused, you feel younger and more energetic.' According to another patient, 'It helped the libido. So you have the urge and the desire...' Tales of pharmaceutically induced sexual prowess among 58-year-olds are common enough in the age of the Little Blue Pill, but they don't typically involve quite so urgent a repertoire. Or, as patient 128 put it: 'My wife knows. She can tell the difference between Viagra and PT-141.'

The precise mechanisms by which PT-141 does its job remain unclear, but the rough idea is this: where Viagra acts on the circulatory system, helping blood flow into the penis, PT-141 goes to the brain itself. 'It's not merely allowing a sexual response to take place more easily,' explains Michael A Perelman, co-director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a sexual-medicine adviser on the PT-141 trials. 'It may be having an effect, literally, on how we think and feel.'

Palatin Technologies, the New Jersey-based maker of PT-141, has hopes of its own. Once the company gets Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the drug, Palatin plans to market it to the same people targeted by Viagra: male erectile-dysfunction patients. Approval as a treatment for female sexual dysfunction may follow. In the wake of Pfizer's failed attempts to prove Viagra works for women and amid growing recognition that it also doesn't work for large numbers of men, these two markets alone could make PT-141 a pharmaceutical blockbuster.

But let's face facts: a drug that makes you not only able but eager and willing isn't going to remain the exclusive property of the severely impaired. As with Viagra, there will be extensive off-label use of PT-141. Fast-acting and long-lasting, packaged in an easily concealed, single-use nasal inhaler, unaffected by food or alcohol consumption, PT-141 seems bound to take its place alongside cocaine, poppers and alcohol in the pantheon of club drugs.

But the potential market for PT-141 is all of us. Consider the precedent: a little more than four decades ago, it was another drug's arrival in the marketplace that triggered the sexual revolution. Before the advent of the birth-control pill, sex and procreation had been eternally, inseparably linked. After it, the link was pretty much optional. Momentous things ensued: chiefly women's liberation and the abortion controversy, all of them arguably the pill's indirect consequences, all of them reverberating to this day. And if all that can follow from a drug which simply made pregnancy less a matter of fate than of choice, what then to expect from a drug that does the same thing to passion itself?

Only when and if PT-141 reaches the market will we be in a position to even start answering that question. But, for now, there probably isn't a better way to hone the question than to turn to the rats of the Palatin Technologies research labs.

'In a rat, there's a mating ritual,' says Palatin's CEO Carl Spana. 'The female rat will approach the male head-to-head. She will wiggle her ears, she will wiggle her whiskers, she will nibble at him, and finally she'll turn and run away.' If the male chooses not to pursue her, she may return and, as one leading rat sexologist puts it, 'kick him in the face'. This tends to do the trick. The male gives chase, catches the female and climbs on top of her, at which point only two key preparations remain to be completed. First, so that the female's low-slung genitalia can be reached from above, her hindquarters will bend upward in a reflexive arching of the back called lordosis. Second, so that the male may take advantage of this invitation, his penis will emerge from its hiding place under the abdominal fur. 'And then,' Spana concludes, 'they copulate.'

Spana's familiarity with the sex life of rats is, of course, no accident: it was the lab rats of Palatin that established the drug's potential for promoting what's known in the trade as 'erectogenesis'. The experiment, repeated hundreds of times, was a straightforward one. 'You dose and you watch and you count,' Spana explains. Every time the penis of a subject rat emerged, observers marked down the event in a notebook. The subjects, all 'naive' adults whose last contact with a female was on the day their mothers weaned them, seemed to have had, if anything, slightly less curiosity about their spontaneously generated erections than the researchers. The typical reaction: 'He notices it's there, and he grooms it to detumescence,' says Annette Shadiack, Palatin's executive director of pre-clinical development. 'And then it happens again.'

The high erection count was good news for Palatin's management, who were banking on PT-141 to prove itself an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. Two years earlier, and just three years past its start-up, the company had bought the rights to develop a substance called Melanotan II. Originally isolated by University of Arizona researchers looking for a way to give Caucasians a healthy, sunblocking tan without exposing them to dangerous ultraviolet rays, Melanotan II achieved that and more: it also appeared to facilitate weight loss, increase sexual appetite and act as an anti-inflammatory, too. Quickly dubbed 'the Barbie drug', Melanotan II seemed too good to be true.

In fact, it was too good to be good. A drug with so many effects, Palatin decided, was not an effectively marketable one. So Palatin's researchers set out to isolate the individual effects in the laboratory, experimenting with variations on Melanotan II's molecular theme. The compound that became PT-141 was one of the first variations examined.

The market analysis was encouraging. As a late entrant in the market for erectile-dysfunction treatments, PT-141 stood a decent chance of mopping up the floor. By this stage in Viagra's life cycle, for instance, it was clear that the drug solved nothing for perhaps 50 per cent of impotent patients, either because their general health was too poor to risk Viagra's side effects or because it simply didn't work for them. But existing Viagra users weren't out of play either: PT-141 had a potential edge not just in ease of use, but in quality of results. ('On the five-point scale,' said patient 041, 'I would rate the erection I had as a six.') And there was a final and especially intriguing possibility: since PT-141 affects arousal through a different, more brain-centric mechanism than Viagra, might it work for women with sexual dysfunction?

It was in pursuit of this market that Shadiack approached Concordia University behavioural-neurobiology researcher Jim Pfaus, whose work with sexual response in female rats had caught her attention. Where the bulk of research into female-rat sexual behaviour has focused on lordosis - that reflexive arching of the lower back that signifies the female is ready - Pfaus has taken what might be called a more feminist approach. Instead of lordosis's almost climactic spasm, Pfaus prefers to look at foreplay: the wiggling of ears, kicking of faces, and other acts of solicitation with which female rats reveal their desire to the partner of their choice. Pfaus discovered that PT-141 significantly increases the incidence of these behaviours. He even detected an increase in the rarer phenomenon in which a female rat will throw coyness to the winds and, in a performance worthy of Kim Cattrall, mount the chosen male herself.

And thus the case was made. Pfaus's results were powerful evidence not only of PT-141's potential as a treatment for women but of its ability to do more than just move blood around. A male rat's erection on its own doesn't say much about the rat's state of mind. A female rat's coquetry, on the other hand, says all we need to know about her intentions and desires. Rats aren't people, to be sure, and as test subjects they suffer from a frustrating inability to tell us, in words, how they experience what they're subjected to. But that has an upside, too, explains Pfaus. 'The bad thing about animals is they don't talk. The good thing is they don't lie.'

So the testimony of rats - notwithstanding that of the 900 articulate, full-grown human subjects who have since reported enhanced arousal and desire from taking PT-141 - remains the most objective evaluation the drug has yet received, or ever will.

'I see a lot of couples in my practice who don't know how to relax,' says Leonore Tiefer, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. 'That's fine - it's a big asset to them in their corporate lifestyle, where they can work 80 hours a week. They're trained to multi-task. Well, it doesn't seem that that is really doable when it comes to sex. And they're angry about that: they need it to be doable because they only have their five minutes.'

The five-minute meaningful sexual encounter: if ever there was a holy grail for the age of the tight-wired global economy - with its time-strapped labour force and its glut of bright, shiny distractions - that is it. And if ever there was a reason to be wary of the pharmaceutical industry's designs on the market for sexual healing, say critics such as Tiefer, it's the attractiveness of that simple-minded ideal.

Tiefer is one of the leading figures in a movement of academic researchers, sex therapists and women's-health activists contesting the increasing medicalisation of women's sexual problems, and when Procter & Gamble sought FDA approval in December 2004 for its 'female sexual-desire disorder' treatment - a testosterone patch called Intrinsa - her testimony helped sway the agency to deny the request. Unlike the counting of erections, assessing subjective phenomena such as desire and satisfaction is, she testified, 'subtle, complex - and arbitrary'. P&G's findings were thus too inconclusive to hold their own against the established risks of long-term testosterone use. 'Intrinsa is not a glass of chardonnay,' Tiefer remarked, 'and yet we have already seen that it may well be promoted with a giggle and a wink as "the female Viagra".'

Tiefer is just as dubious about PT-141, which, as she sees it, is merely the latest expression of a 'big wish' that 'we could just bypass everything we want to bypass' on our way to sexual happiness, skipping the complicated, often lifelong work of sorting out all the emotional, physical and autobiographical triggers that turn us off and on. Her prognosis for the discovery of a drug that will render that work unnecessary? 'Sorry, it's never going to happen.'

Even assuming that PT-141 ultimately performs as well in broad use as it has in trials, even granting that it can improve sex lives as effectively as a lifetime of erotic exploration, the deeper challenge posed by the prospect of a sexual techno-fix remains: is this really the kind of fix we want? To have desire available at any time, from the nozzle of an inhaler?

Good things would come of it, to be sure. Marriages would be saved, fun would be had. But sexual Utopia? PT-141 seems just as likely to usher in the age of McNookie: quick, easy couplings low on emotional nutrition. Sex lives tailored to the demands of a jealous office or an impatient spouse. A dark age of erotic self-ignorance tarted up in the bright-coloured packaging of a Happy Meal.

Deep in the post-industrial hinterlands of New Jersey, 100 snow-white Sprague-Dawley rats await the coming of darkness. Darkness falls each day at exactly 6pm, when an automated switch turns off the fluorescents and sets off a rustling din, like the sound of a sudden downpour, as all at once the rats rouse themselves and start to feed. They live in see-through high-rises: small Plexiglas cages stacked eight by eight in portable racks, one rat per unit, each unit connected to the outside world by its own HEPA-filtered ventilation system. Other aspects of everyday life as a lab animal at Palatin Technologies' New Jersey headquarters include immaculate bedding, healthy supplies of food and water, bone-shaped plastic chew toys and, screwed into the top of each animal's skull, a small, white, ceramic orb, the injection port through which the rats' brains are regularly dosed with a close chemical cousin of PT-141.

The drug they're testing now is an obesity drug - designed to block the appetite for food in much the same way PT-141 stimulates the appetite for sex - and its distinctly human goal of weight loss serves only to heighten the pervading Stuart Little effect here in the lab. Crowded in their little Plexiglas apartment buildings, sporting their spherical skullcaps, undergoing surgery from time to time with little rat-nose-shaped anaesthetic-gas masks strapped to their small faces - if you didn't know better, you might start to think of these sophisticated rodent urbanites as simply tiny people with fur and whiskers.

The funny thing is, it appears there's a certain humanlike subjectiveness to the sex life of lab animals as well. When Jim Pfaus tested PT-141 on his female rats, he based his experimental design partly on the work of Raul Paredes, a fellow rat sexologist testing the effects of something more elusive: personal autonomy. That's a tricky thing to measure, but it can be done. Paredes did it like this: first, he looked at rat couples living in standard, box-shaped cages and recorded the details of their sexual behaviour. Then, he altered the cages in only one particular: he divided them into two chambers with a clear wall broken only by one opening, too small for the males to get through but just right for the females. Architecturally it was a minor change, but what it did for the females was huge. It let them get away from the males whenever they chose to, and thereby made it entirely their choice whether to have sex. Paredes then observed the rats' behaviour in this altered setting. Here's what he found: the effects of giving a female rat greater personal control over her sex life are essentially the same as those of giving her PT-141. Autonomy, in other words, is as real an aphrodisiac as any substance known to science.

This doesn't surprise Leonore Tiefer, who sees evidence for it every working day, in sex lives that suffer in direct proportion to her clients' ignorance about desire in general and their own in particular. For Tiefer, striving to understand yourself is the sexiest sort of autonomy there is, and nothing betrays that autonomy like handing over the job to someone else, whether it's your lover, your doctor, or, worst of all, big pharmaceutical companies.

Jim Pfaus, not surprisingly, sees things a little differently. As it happens, Pfaus and Tiefer are friendly acquaintances, and he's sympathetic to her critiques of the industry.

'She's on a roll, and I think she has some valid points,' says Pfaus. But all the same: 'What do we tell postmenopausal women who have lost their desire, despite being in a loving and caring relationship? "Sorry, there's nothing we can do," or worse, "Sorry, but you shouldn't be having sex anyway"?'

The argument is a strong one. But so is Tiefer's. Each defends a vital sort of autonomy - the power of self-knowledge on the one hand; on the other, the freedom to grasp whatever tools of self-improvement are available to us. And if, after all the trials are done and the prescriptions are filled, PT-141 diminishes the former as much as it expands the latter, who's to say which matters more? Add up all the pluses and minuses, and in the end the sum may be zero. In short, no net change one way or the other in the world's total supply of sexual happiness.

But then, no one's asking PT-141 to change the world. It's enough to hope that someday, when you need it most, it just might get you through the night.
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine ... 09,00.html
 
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