Society has been babbling about pheromones for a while now.
Pheromones, we always said, were these magical, otherworldly chemicals attracting and repelling us to others like horny magnets. Kind of like the body's internal thermometer for sexual compatibility.
Whenever we had fantastic (or terrible) sex, pheromones were almost always at least partially to blame. It's all in the way they smell, we'd say.
Marketers quickly picked up on this societal tick and started claiming certain perfumes and colognes were chock full of the stuff. You're sure to get laid if you spritz on this, they'd say.
We all ran to Rite-Aid and stocked up on the anything with the word "pheromone."
Lord only knows what kind of scented water they were passing off as the chemical, because scientists now think human, sexual pheromones don't exist.
"We haven't been able to pin down the chemical identity and show this particular compound or small set of compounds are responsible for outcome A, B and C," said Charles Wysocki, a behavioral neuroscientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
In other words, there's not 100% scientific backing for the sniff and scratch type of sex we'd always relied on.
Not only may pheromones not exist, but human beings don't even have the body part required to sense them if they did—the vomeronasal organ. The vomeronasal organ is in the messenger area of the olfactory system and interprets pheromones in the animal kingdom, yet it's conspicuously absent in humans.
Scientists have divided up pheromones into two categories, releaser pheromones (which attract you to someone) and primer pheromones (that cause physiological changes). Humans do actually have primer pheromones, which is the reason your periods are sometimes synched with a female roommate or best friend you see often.
Yeah, so that mystery is explained. But what about the enigma of attraction?
"Certainly courtship and everything else is so complex in humans that it may be that the things that are really important are visual and social signals," writes Tristram Wyatt of the University of Oxford in an essay published in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Nature.
Just old-fashioned good looks and mental compatibility? Boring.
Yeah. We know.