Does the existence of pheromones mean our best efforts to control ourselves, to keep or our emotions in check, may be futile? These naturally occurring molecules are intriguing because they invite us to think about ourselves in new and unexploring ways. They tempt us with tales of instant attraction, of chemical communication, of falling in love with someone based on chemistry instead of common sense.
Tell us about our logical, thinking brains and we might react with some interest. But tantalize us with tales of love, lust, and sex fueled by chemical attraction and we sit up and take notice. We have seen how the sixth sense affects the broad spectrum of our lives. Its voice is present in our decisions to plunge crazily into lust, to nurture our infants, to steer clear of a person or situation, to act out aggressively. The sixth sense and its anatomical link to the emotional core of the brain provide us with another sensory system that, in the end, makes us more feeling, it more aware, more discerning, more human. A Assuming you have an intact vomeronasal organ, you live with your sixth sense every day. From the time you wake up to when you slip once again into sleep at the end of the day, your sixth sense is working busily, nonstop.
Because it is programmed to affect you subconsciously, you may not even be aware of it until it issues forth a message or a warning that is impossible to ignore.
What if you could enhance your already industrious sixth sense by “feeding” it a substance that would make you feel better and more at ease with yourself and even more open to the intuitive capabilities of pheromone communication? Pheromones and the sixth sense have become the darlings of the perfume industry. Scent lovers can purchase perfumes and Colognes that feature pheromones on the label and make claims ranging from the believable to the ridiculous.
Whether it comes in an expensive bottle from a boutique or finds form in a dab of simple rose water to the wrist, fragrance engages us in a subtle exchange between scent molecule and factory cell.
Young and innocent?
It’s no surprise that we want to smell good, to let the world know we care about our bodies and hygiene. We want our homes, offices, and social settings to be imbued with a fragrant reminder of ourselves. The smell of our own sweat lingering on our bodies is not an acceptable part of our society, as it it is in some cultures, so we scrub ourselves clean and rcreate ourselves with scent from a bottle. The advertisement for Hugo 3,: men’s cologne makes a direct, and perhaps convincing, reference to our collective odor phobias: “The world is getting smaller.
These days, opening a fashion magazine usually becomes an unplanned journey into the world of scent: pockets of fragrance lie tucked within the pages, their molecules sneaking out to tickle your nostrils. If you pull the fragrance flap apart, the scent experience heightens. If you like the fragrance, that is even better because a successful perfume can earn many millions of dollars for the company that makes it, and perfumes are given hefty marketing budgets because the financial stakes are so high. One survey revealed that 55 percent of women use pheromone fragrances five to seven times a week. If a perfume manufacturer can convince a 3.9 woman to be eternally faithful to his product, the future indeed looks bright for his bottom line.
We are also led to believe that scent can cure a faltering love if life. In her book Love Magic, modern-day apothecary Marina Medici lists nine scents that “will bring magical help to most of the issues which might arise in your love life.” Write these down if you want to breathe new life into a romance: rose, jasmine, Melissa, Damiana, heather, a combination of apple and nutmeg, and ginseng. Coco Chanel suggested the following simple and elegant tactic: “A woman should wear perfume where she expects to be kissed.” The French even have a saying, “A woman who wears no perfume has no future.” On the other hand, if we were to follow the reasoning of Greek biographer Plutarch, we wouldn’t need bottled perfumes. Many centuries ago he wrote, “A man in love is full of perfumes and sweet odors.”
Wealthy Egyptian women wore on their heads scented wax cones that would melt during the course of an evening’s festivities and coat them in a sheen of exotic perfume. The most famous of the Egyptian fragrance hounds was Cleopatra, whose cedarwood boat ﬂoated on sails steeped in perfume. Cleopatra’s body was a study in careful scent application: on her hands, leypbi (oil of crocus, rose, and violet), and on her feet, aegjptium (a lotion containing almond oil, henna, honey, cinnamon, and orange blossoms).
Perfume’s origins have been traced to Mesopotamia, the ancient region of southwest Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers located in modern-day Iraq. Mesopotamia lacked sanitation and therefore had a horrible odor. One particularly foul-smelling ritual—the burning of sacrificial animals to appease the gods-—produced an acrid smoke that hung stubbornly in the air. Only incense could cut through the curtain of odor. The Mesopotamians also burned incense after sexual intercourse, and they believed in the healing and evil—banning powers of scent.
Fragrance held a heavenly meaning for the ancient Greeks: Their mythology told them that gods and goddesses descending to earth always arrived in a cloud of scent. After the deities had reascended to their celestial homes, wildﬂowers would grow where their feet had walked. The Greeks perfumed their bodies according to a rigorous regimen of one scent per body part. The head would be anointed with rose or apple, while the arms would receive mint and the legs, wild ivy. Upper-class Greek women were scented in a most unusual way: Their slaves took the fragrance into their mouths and sprayed their mistresses’ bodies with the perfume. Well-to-do Romans carpeted the floors of their homes in layers of rose petals, and the Roman emperor Heliogabalus bathed in water scented with an opulent rose wine.