Study Finds You Can Actually Smell Another Person’s Sex

Wrap your nose around this: Sex smells… At least according to a new study published in Current Biology.

Wen Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences used two different types of pheromones: androstadienone, found in male semen and sweat, and estratetraenol, found in female urine. Participants of varying sexual orientations were asked to watch videos of abstract human figures and to identify whether they were male or female.

When exposed to androstadienone, both homosexual men and heterosexual women were more likely to suggest that the figure was a man. Interestingly, the pheromone had no effect on heterosexual men.

When exposed to estratetraenol, heterosexual men were more likely to perceive the figure as female. Meanwhile, heterosexual women showed no effect to estratetraenol. Lesbian and bisexual women, however, showed a response somewhere in between.

“The study shows that people subconsciously extract gender information from chemosensory cues [that depend] on their gender and sexual orientation,” Zhou said.

In other words, humans can sense another person’s biological sex based on their pheromones. More specifically, they can sense a person they might be attracted to.

This is bad news for conservative zealots who still insist being gay is a choice, as well as alleged “ex-gays” who claim to have willingly changed their sexual orientations. Of course, neither of those groups have ever been too concerned with science, so whatever.

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  • ingyaom

    Who designed this study?

  • Mezaien

    @ingyaom: Hahahaah how funny! of course I can smell another man sex if he still sit on my face.

  • ChuckGG

    I agree with this, from personal experience. Also, as a gay man, I do not find the scent of women at all attractive. Nothing against them personally, of course, but I do note the distinction. There was no mention in the story about the reaction of gay men to the female pheromones.

  • michael mellor

    Why weren’t bisexual men tested? In any case, the study is flawed. Categories like heterosexual and homosexual are not precise. These sexual studies are a waste of time and money.

  • toberlin

    Why some people don’t like D*ck some don’t like Vagina?In Germany you say”I can’t smell him/her”=”I don’t like him/her”.This is just another Studie that shows that the Reason to be sexual attracted to a certain gender is in your Genes ..

  • toberlin

    …of course the are other Influences before and after birth.I ‘m straight without any bi tendencies.For sure not because of moral /shame reasons.


    Did they really not test bi men? Be fascinating to know which gender they specified whilst introducing both pheromones simultaneously, and if it correlated to their expressed Kinsey number.

    Am I some freakish outlier for finding the acrid smell of semen universally unpleasant in the extreme? What if anything does that say about me?

  • Aranos

    Don’t make too hasty conclusions. This study does not proove that the ability to smell anyones biological sex is innate. In another, similar study on the subject, scientists said this ability is propably something you learn – this means you learn to recognize the smell of the sex you are attracted to. For example, if you are born gay, you learn to recognize the smell of men because you’re attracted to them.

  • Ridpathos

    @ChuckGG: Interesting idea. I think that I wouldn’t show any difference to the smell of estratetraenol similar to how straight women don’t show any difference to it. I’m not put off by it, I just don’t notice it.

    @PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID: Interesting. I don’t find that semen has much of a smell at all.

  • Ridpathos

    @Aranos: What was their basis for their extrapolation?

  • EGO

    @ChuckGG: Hey-hey, me too, since I was a baby. Women are like pretty flowers, and uh, I don’t have sex with flowers! :>)

  • xzall

    That link is just a summary of the study but it does look like they tested bisexuals.

    “Homosexual males exhibit a response pattern akin to that of heterosexual females, whereas bisexual or homosexual females fall in between heterosexual males and females”

  • blondeboyz

    Facinating. It’s definitely genetic no matter what the naysayers say.

  • sejjo

    Well, of course we can smell each other’s sex – we’re animals.

  • dayz3d

    @sejjo: I’m picturing the scene from Doctor Dolittle when he’s a kid sniffing the guys butt replying, “I was just saying hello.” ROFL. But anyways I agree with you, we are animals; just because they’re not a conscious odor like bacon sizzling on the grill, doesn’t mean we can’t smell pheromones-we do. Like anything else we all know what we like and strive for it.

  • Stache99

    That perfectly explains my arousal in locker rooms.

  • Stefano

    So heterosexual women just have to wear a parfum with androstadienone when they are among gays and voilà !!! All gay men will have sexe with them. I knew they find a cure for homosexuality. LOL

  • Tracy Pope

    Full Text, Images/Data, References, Related Articles, and Comments are the tabs next to the *Summary* tab. It’s entirety is a long slog but interesting.

    In the full text of this article they state: “It could be argued that the above effects are not pheromonal in nature but rather result from learned associations between walking gaits and chemical cues for the gender one is attracted to. To examine this alternative, we conducted a supplemental experiment using…”

    Can you provide a link to the study you’re referring to? It’s something I’d enjoy reading.


    Interesting, because generally when I detect a “smell” on guy, I usually have to respond to an emergency text to leave immediatley to attend to an emergency……… :p

  • bottom72

    I love the smell of a blue collar man after a hard days work.

  • Throbert McGee

    Very interesting! My personal suspicion is that there is no “gay gene” as such, but mildly abnormal hormone levels during pregnancy cause things to go slightly awry in the process that normally hard-wires the fetal brain to be erotically responsive to the OPPOSITE sex.

    So, it could be that gay men and women had the sex-pheromone-receptor region of their li’l fetal brains “wired backwards from normal,” due to factors that science still doesn’t understand. Might be genes, but more likely it’s related to something a bit atypical in the mother’s health during the pregnancy.

    (Say, hypothetically, women carrying a male fetus who come down with influenza and run a high fever during the 2nd-3rd months of pregnancy are more likely to have a son who grows up to be homosexual, because the fever knocked her uterine hormone levels askew — something more or less like that, though I just made up that example.)

  • Throbert McGee

    Say it loud: “I’ve got an Abby-Normal brain, and I’m proud!”

Comments are closed.