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Bizarre Trend: Pheromone-Based Fragrances

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Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

Sex toys are the new Tupperware, so I wasn't surprised when my friend Joy recently invited me to a party to check out some goods from a company called Pure Romance. I was surprised by the variety of stuff it sells, though, including bath and beauty items, clothes, and something called a sex attractant.

basicinstinct.jpg
The pheromone-based fragrance, called Basic Instinct (possibly NSFW), claims it heightens your natural pheromones "to enhance romantic encounters and increase sexual desire," according to the fine print on the 10.2-milliliter bottle I skeptically bought for about $30. The saleswoman/sex consultant explained that the product brings out a woman's "natural" scent, which can vary from floral to fruity to musky.

"The concept of a human pheromone, or sexual scent of attraction, has been
debated and researched for years," according to a WebMD story first published in 1999, citing original research from the '70s. The story also said an amazing 74 percent of people who tested out a similar commercial pheromone "experienced an increase in hugging, kissing and sexual intercourse."

Too good to be true? As I tried a sample, the consultant said my pheromones are musky (not to be confused with musty!) , like vanilla and sandalwood. Apparently, this is a good thing because men like the scent of vanilla -- it reminds them of food, she said. What a great sales pitch!

Full disclosure: I do not wear perfume. I just use baby lotion because I like the clean smell; nothing is worse than smelling like sweat mixed with flowers. But I tried the "sex attractant" anyway for a few days. Here are some findings from various situations:

Bar hopping -- A night out in Wicker Park usually means good beers and too much dancing with the girls. On this night, it also meant adamantly avoiding a married man, a frat boy wearing flip flops in 30-degree weather and another wearing a sideways Colorado Rockies hat at Cans Bar, then talking hockey with the cute doorman at The Boundary. The fleeting flirtation was fun, but it was a very average night with no more or less luck than usual.

On the L -- Maybe I've read one too many Craigslist Missed Connections,
but I find the L somewhat romantic (pretty views of the skyline from the Brown Line!). You can imagine my disappointment when it was business as usual despite the sex attractant.

Running errands -- I was constantly on the lookout to see if this love
potion was working, so eye contact with strangers came easier than normal during the usual trips to the grocery store, gym and drycleaners. This placebo effect taught me one lesson: Staring at people leads them to stare back, so proceed with caution. Bonus lesson: A friendly smile usually gets one back, too.

Dinner with friends -- A tomboy's life is consistently filled with nights out with platonic man-friends. In this case, that meant three dudes, late-night wings at Mother Hubbard's and my favorite beer. As if they could feel that I needed them to notice me, one threw out a casual "What's up" and I immediately blurted out all the details of my pheromone experiment. Sadly, they all unanimously agreed that any attention I was getting that night was a result of the push-up bra and heavier-than-usual makeup. Touche.

Conclusions -- During the experiment, I really paid attention to the people
around me, ironically to see if they were paying attention to me. So yeah, my musky pheromones did not attract anyone per se, but it's nice to know that good ol' eye contact and a smile is still the best way to get noticed.

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This page contains a single entry by Ben Rubenstein published on March 31, 2010 3:27 PM.

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