Sex Edition: Raging pheromones

By Keith Gillogly

A party is not a party unless there’s dancing involved. It’s the key fun factor,… A party is not a party unless there’s dancing involved. It’s the key fun factor, even more so than the proper beverages – although the two go together mutually. Give me a few drinks, and it’s time to hit the dance floor. The beverages, of course, reduce any lingering uneasiness over the ensuing flailing limbs, body twists and in my case, heavy doses of air guitar playing. I’ve even been known to hold down the dance floor solo, but that’s never a good scene.

Consider the benefits of dancing compared to, say, loitering in the corner avoiding the dance floor like it were some metal-concert mosh pit suitable for only the most daring. For the calorie-concerned, perhaps you’ll burn off a few of the beverages now sloshing around in your stomach. If you actually have rhythm, now’s your time to shine. I guarantee you’ll have more fun out on the floor, too. But here’s a benefit you might not have considered: pheromone transmission.

Pheromones are tiny chemical signaler substances produced by humans and animals such as rodents and insects. Even plants produce them. Animals and insects emit pheromones through a variety of means and for a variety of communicative purposes. In humans, pheromones are perhaps most well known because of the supposed role they play in influencing sexual attraction. Unlike in some insects, however, in humans the substance has a very limited detection range once in the air. The male body gives off pheromones, they permeate through the air and any nearby women quickly latch onto the potent yet inaudible mating call. Actually, not quite.

Here’s a bit more on the science: The pheromones involved in sexual attraction are produced during the synthesis of testosterone, Donald DeFranco, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, said. Pheromones can be spread through sweat, but they’re also present in saliva. The more a male sweats, the more pheromones he potentially transmits through the sweat and to a mild degree, as an aerosol. Nasal olfactory receptor cells in women pick up the pheromones, and then … love at first sniff? Maybe, but probably not.

“Our visual senses are much more acute than our olfactory ones. We’re not rats and mice. We don’t rely on olfactory cues for much of our social interactions,” DeFranco said. “This doesn’t mean there’s not some contribution from some olfactory cues, but I would say it’s probably less of a contribution than other cues.”

Even before the guy swallows his quota of drinks and takes that first bold step toward the dance floor, he faces a critical choice: wearing or forgoing deodorant. By traditional metric, he should be more concerned about body odor. Then again, the scent of deodorant could mask the effectiveness of his raging pheromones. In earnest, he’s probably better off sticking with the stick. Still, at least there’s a bright side should he forget to wear deodorant.

But what about the dolled-up lady dancing the night away on the now sweat-soaked dance floor? Can she get a little boost from pheromones? Nope. She’ll have to rely on her good looks and flashy dance moves.

Women also produce testosterone, but most of it is converted into estrogen, DeFranco said. There is perhaps some level of pheromones in female sweat, but they’re not able to stimulate attraction from the opposite sex.

There have only been a handful of legitimate studies on pheromones in humans in the past five to 10 years, DeFranco said. One study suggested that women do experience an uptick in arousal when exposed to male pheromones, but the feeling isn’t longstanding. Upon second and third exposure, the women in the study reported no increase in attraction.

“Your best chance to use pheromones would be to sweat a lot and get close and go for the first encounter,” DeFranco said. “If you’re on the edge, maybe [pheromones] will push you over the top and give you an attractiveness you don’t quite have.”

In the end, there’s no excuse not to get out there on the dance floor. Even if you lack the moves of the late Michael Jackson, those handy pheromones could help cover for you.

Just don’t expect any results on par with some mythical love potion — even if the emitted pheromones register, that vixen won’t assume some inescapable swooning spell just because she’s picked up your scent. But hey, maybe you’ll score her number and then some.

E-mail Keith at [email protected].

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