Why you should care
Because sex sells, baby.
Smells Like … Not Victory
EUGENE, SIR: I began seeing a guy about a year ago. A long-distance sort of thing. Totally hot. At least for a while. Distance was tough though and things cooled over the winter, in a winter sort of way: more couch, more TV, more red wine, more takeout. One night, I rolled into him in bed, with my head in his armpit. AND WHOA! It was the worst smell ever. It hurt my nostrils and offended every sensory fiber in my brain. I mentioned something about deodorant the next day or so, but secretly I worried: I should like the way my man smells, even au naturel , no? And, oh a sad thing: Once my man failed the smell test, I couldn’t stop smelling him. A real turnoff and I hastened to end things before summer made things worse and smellier. I didn’t tell him why, but he took it with grace. My question to you: Why did I suddenly smell him, after five months or so of sleeping together? Is it possible his scent changed, or that my olfactory sensitivity did? Why would this happen? I’m not sure I have the will to restart things — that smell was something fierce — but if I were to, what’s a good and kind way to tell him he smells? Thanks! — Stuffed Up in Alabama
Dear Wrenched by Stench:
German writer Patrick Süskind makes a really clever point in his book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer when he says that you can close your eyes to block out that which is less than desirable. You can stick your fingers in your ears to avoid hearing the obvious. But an earmark of being a being is breathing, and if you’re alive you’re going to do it and if you do it, you’re going to smell all kinds of things while you’re doing it. The curious thing in your case is what we can call “the Stink Delta.” Or, how you went from not noticing how he smelled to noticing that he smelled like socks and cigarettes.
Of course, while the masking powers of excitement and constant and continual rooting can’t be discounted, it is noteworthy that you didn’t smell him, in a Naked Lunch sense, until the coitus cooled. And while he could have changed anything from his meds to the amount of asparagus he’d been eating, I widely suspect that when the sexual smoke cleared you could smell him as he really was: stank.
But how, why and what’s going on seems to have first been pegged by a biologist named Claus Wedekind back in 1995 when he proved out that women at least pick their babies’ daddies on the basis of that stank, or if it’s not explicitly odoriferous, their smell . In a study at the University of Bern in Switzerland, Wedekind asked women to smell T-shirts that had been previously worn by a variety men. What the study showed? That women consistently chose men whose smell seemed to indicate a genetic profile widely different from theirs. Does this mean that they also thought the men smelled more flavorful? Unknown, but I do know this: There’s no lying to yourself about stink.
Deodorant is a stopgap cosmetic measure at best, and while talking to him about it might be a good-hearted countermeasure, maybe more significantly, why would you want to ignore information that’s as useful about mate suitability as sexual compatibility? You think it’s going to get better ? Then I’d recommend this: think again. Foul is as foul does, and anecdotally I’ve found smell to be a wonderfully reliable indicator of both health and relationship suitability.
One final note: A woman’s ability to make sense of smells is, according to that same study, totally compromised by taking birth control pills.
Regular As Rain — Very, Very Dull Rain
EUGENE, SIR: My husband and I have been married for 25 years, but I’d not be exaggerating if I said that we make love not that often. On holidays usually. My birthday, you know. I know he loves me and is not having affairs, and frequency is not really the issue anyway. The issue? He does it the same exact way every single time . Without fail or variation. I have suggested we try different things to spice things up and sometimes they do, but in the end, we end up back to his usual. So now I hate it. I don’t want to have an affair but this is driving me to distraction. Help. — Groundhog Day
Dear Same As It Ever Was:
I know I’m supposed to be all sympathetic and understanding and avuncular and not hostile and all, but are you freaking kidding me? You DO realize that this is, in actual fact, NOT a movie, right? The characters in this passion play can alter their outcomes by, for example, flipping the script and sitting on the husband’s face, yes? Look, I know that 25 years is a long time and that whole bit about dogs and new tricks, but the reality of it is unless you’re going to get divorced, you’re going to have to change things. Even an affair doesn’t solve the sad situation of dude not updating his game to current 2014 standards, since presumably he’s not going to stop. He’s just … not … going … to STOP. If that sentence chills you to the bone, it should since that’s your future if you don’t mix in some disrupters: lingerie on the soft end, skinema on the not-so-soft end. Something. Maybe as slight as shifting positions? Or places in the house? Anything other than just acceding to the horror of sameness might help.
Not Down With Going Down
EUGENE, SIR: I must be like the 1 percent of men in America who actually do not like blow jobs. How can I explain this in a way that doesn’t make people feel like it’s a performance issue? And just FYI, I don’t like them because the idea of someone so completely ignoring what gives them pleasure gives me the creeps. — Don’t Blow Me Down
Dear Saying No to Fellatio:
I know what you mean. What with all of that semen in your mouth, blow jobs can be messy, sloppy and less than tasty and … wait … you mean GETTING them?
Ohhhhhhh … damn. Woo hoo. Changes things completely. Um, never mind. Anyway, we’re no shrinks so we’ll not try to talk you out of or into anything and you’re not asking for us to, so we’ll stick to very specifically what you’ve asked and answer: Why explain anything anyway? I mean, sex is largely nonverbal. If someone is asking to fellate you, you might have the opportunity to explain that what you’d really prefer would be [fill in the non-blow-job blank], but how often are you ever asked this? Seems like, like advice, this is just something folks are flowing, like, for free. Or a nominal fee. But like everything else for free, you should be OK with graciously sidestepping it and getting to the business you feel comfortable with.
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