Men’s body odor influences women’s mate choice and individual variation among traits affects hedonic perceptions of this odor (e.g., immune system characteristics). Previous research by Sergeant (2002) indicated that one such characteristic is sexual orientation: body odor from homosexual men was perceived by heterosexual women as more hedonically pleasing than that of heterosexual men. The current study re-examined the influence of men’s sexual orientation on women’s perceptions of body odor. Homosexual (n=10) and heterosexual (n=9) men produced samples of body odor using T-shirts under equivalent environmental conditions. Heterosexual women (n=35) rated these samples, and a set of unused T-shirts, using a series of hedonic scales. Women rated the body odor of homosexual men as being comparatively more pleasant, sexier, and more preferable than that of heterosexual men but not significantly different from the unused T-shirts. This finding was consistent with contemporary research demonstrating that an individual’s sexual orientation significantly impacts their olfactory function, both in terms of body odor production and olfactory perceptions of certain compounds.
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Ideally, all participants would rate every body odor sample (both heterosexual and homosexual). This was unfeasible, since all of the samples would have to be used continuously over the testing period of 10 days. This would have significantly degraded the strength of a sample’s odor. Instead, participants were presented with a limited number of samples, but ones that were as fresh as possible.
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Sergeant, M.J.T., Dickins, T.E., Davies, M.N.O. et al. Women’s Hedonic Ratings of Body Odor of Heterosexual and Homosexual Men. Arch Sex Behav 36, 395–401 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-006-9126-3
- Body odor
- Sexual orientation