Try this. The next time you seek to seduce a lover, take a deep breath through your nose. Do you find yourself lost in an intoxicating fragrance?

You should ... if you’re with the “right” person. Scientific research continually confirms the power of smell in seduction. Humans are biologically programmed to prefer the smell of certain potential mates over others. So if you want hot sex, your best bet may be to follow your nose.

Scent is fundamental to sexual attraction. What’s great is that smell is one of the most readily available tools we have in the mating dance. Smell’s effects are immediate, instinctive, primordial and profound.

In fact, its impact is so significant that it results in instant and measurable arousal. It is also the strongest of the senses, impacting us more than any of the others.

Strangely enough, though, people don’t give much thought to scent in seduction beyond their use of perfume or cologne. Most don’t realize that in masking the body’s natural odors with fruity or musky sprays, they may actually be hurting their game. This is because one’s distinct personal odor is a major influence in whom we have sex with and how often. In seeking out someone for sexual seduction, your sense of smell overrides everything, even looks.

What makes smell such an animalistic arouser? No one’s quite sure. So much is happening on a subconscious level that it’s hard to sort through what’s taking place. What we do know, however, is that your nose’s olfactory system is strongly associated with your emotions, learning, moods, sexual response, pleasure and memory. A simple whiff can trigger a flood of feelings, thoughts, and basic drives. It is no wonder, then, that smell has a powerful impact on sexual arousal and the desire to reproduce. That’s right — have babies.

Research has found that odors drive human mating, helping us to produce healthier offspring. By healthier, I mean the greater the variety of immunity genes a baby gets from its parents, the better it can resist more diseases. So when it comes to reproduction, women in particular seek out individuals who carry a certain set of genes, known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The more dissimilar a couple’s MHC genes, the better their offspring’s immune system.

In 1995, Swiss researcher Claus Wedekind conducted what has become known as the “sweaty t-shirt study,” showing that smell is a major factor in human attraction. Male participants wore plain cotton tees for two nights, without the use of scented soaps and deodorant.

Young women were then asked to stick their noses in cardboard boxes containing the shirts and to rate their odors. Wouldn’t you know it? ... Opposites attract. Men with immune systems different from their own smelled sexy, while those with similar immune systems were unpleasant. A study out of the University of New Mexico in 1998 found similar results.

The only exception to the rule is with women who use oral contraceptives. Taking the birth control pill appears to interfere with a woman's innate abilities to sniff out her most compatible mate, reproductively speaking. This is because the pill tricks the body into thinking it’s pregnant. So these women tend to be most attracted to the smell of men whose immune systems are similar to their own. While this has evolutionary benefits if she’s actually pregnant, as far as satisfaction in a relationship, it makes for a less reproductively compatible mate when she’s not.

Now, while we tend to hear mostly about women sniffing their way to a better mate, men actually do the same. Men have been found to use female body odor as a potential cue to ovulation. Research out of the University of Texas Austin in 2001 found that women smell and look more attractive to men at certain times of the month.

Investigators asked men to rate the t-shirts female participants wore for three consecutive nights during the late follicular (ovulatory) phase of their menstrual cycles. They were also asked to rate another t-shirt worn during the luteal (non-ovulatory) phase. Male raters judged the odors of tees worn during the follicular phase as more pleasant and sexy.

While we’re just beginning to understand the impact of smell on reproduction and attraction, humans have long suspected a link. Centuries ago, Austrian villagers kept handkerchiefs under their armpits during dances, which they later used to woo a mate. I wouldn’t recommend that you do that. Instead, think about how this information may help to explain a little — or a lot — of what’s going on in your love life.

In the Know Sex News

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Health-care system use differs by sexual orientation. A report published by Statistics Canada reveals that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals access health-care system services differently from heterosexuals. Among services highlighted in the report was lesbians and Pap smear testing. Less than two-thirds of lesbians reported having had a Pap test in the last three years of the survey, compared to the more than three-quarters of heterosexual and bisexual women who had this screening test. It’s unknown whether the lower rate among lesbians is due to past negative experiences with health-care providers, the belief that such tests are unnecessary, or the lack of the need for birth control, which often requires undergoing a Pap test.

Comprehensive sex education makes for less teen pregnancy. New research out of the University of Washington suggests that it is not harmful to teach teens about both contraceptive use and abstinence. As published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study examined the results of a 2002 national survey focusing on heterosexual teens ages 15 to 19. Teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to report having gotten pregnant or impregnating someone than those who received no sex education.

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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