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Smell Etiquette

How do you deal if your body (especially crotch) odour — or flavour — makes you feel self-conscious, or if a partner smells bad… or just not to your taste?


Our bodies sure are messy, inconvenient packages sometimes, aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just will ourselves to smell like a fresh spring breeze?

Well, maybe, maybe not. The latest hetero dating trend is the pheromone party, where singles sleep in the same shirt for three days, Ziploc it, and then sniff the “opposite” sex’s bags to see what gets their juices flowing. This is actually about their subconscious response to pheromones, which are odourless, but you just can’t sniff ’em without also sniffing the person’s scent.  

I’m certainly not advocating for the pink-and-blue-bag approach, but it’s no secret that we often follow our noses when it comes to attraction. So I wonder if your odour is actually a problem to others — or just to you. Women especially are often told that we’re supposed to smell pretty all the time; douches, deodorants and perfumes galore are all designed to make us feel ashamed of our bodies and their natural scents. But plenty of folks out there adore, and even fetishize, the smell of sweaty armpits or recently worn underwear.

If you can bracket out internalized body shame and still find your own body smells offensive, you can do the basics: wash regularly, brush your teeth, wear clothing and skivvies made of natural fibres. Next, see a natural health practitioner to take stock of your diet and organ function.

Sometimes bad personal odour is a result of our bodies not eliminating waste properly — your liver or kidneys may be sluggish, for instance.

Or you may be overdoing the curry, garlic, alcohol or cigarettes. Wheat and dairy sensitivities can mess with your system, too. Hormone imbalances, chronic anxiety and stress can also lend a certain sharpness to your scent. Or you may also have a bacterial infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, or an STI — so see your regular doc, too. In short, consider all the possibilities with the help of a professional or two. Your smell is a sign of what’s going on inside, so while it might be quicker to try masking your scent, I’d encourage you to dig deeper instead.

As for dealing with other people’s smells, that depends. With a long-term lover, I might gently say I’d noticed they weren’t smelling quite right, and encourage them to look into it because I care about their health. For an occasional fuck-buddy, I’d explain that I’m sensitive to smells and, nothing personal, but could we clean up first? With a one-night stand, I’d just invite them to take a hot sexy shower with me before we get down to business.

But if someone’s scent totally turns you off, you are allowed to simply say “I’m not feeling this after all.” You don’t owe anybody a sexy time.

ANDREA ZANIN The Sex Geek blogs at sexgeek.wordpress.com.