Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1403-1408

First online:

Pleasantness of the Odor of Androstenone as a Function of Sexual Intercourse Experience in Women and Men

  • Antti KnaapilaAffiliated withMonell Chemical Senses Center Email author 
  • , Hely TuorilaAffiliated withDepartment of Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki
  • , Eero VuoksimaaAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health, University of Helsinki
  • , Kaisu Keskitalo-VuokkoAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health, University of Helsinki
  • , Richard J. RoseAffiliated withDepartment of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Indiana University
  • , Jaakko KaprioAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health, University of HelsinkiDepartment of Mental Health and Alcohol Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and WelfareInstitute for Molecular Medicine, University of Helsinki
  • , Karri SilventoinenAffiliated withPopulation Research Unit, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki

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Androstenone (5α-androst-16-en-3-one) and other androstenes, body odor components occurring in apocrine secretions, may play a role in human chemosignaling. We hypothesized that the odor of androstenone may gain hedonic value from sexual intercourse experiences via associative learning. Young adults (N = 397, 61.5% women, age 21–24 years, randomly sampled regarding sexual experience) rated the intensity and pleasantness of the odors of androstenone, cinnamon, chocolate, isovaleric acid, lemon, and turpentine. Among women who were able to perceive androstenone, the odor was rated as more pleasant (less unpleasant) by those who had had experienced sexual intercourse with at least one partner (n = 175) than by those who reported never having experienced intercourse (n = 12, p = .006). The difference was specific to women. The results suggest that, among women, sexual experience may modify the pleasantness of the odor of androstenone.


Androstenes Associative learning Body odor Evaluative conditioning Olfaction Smell