Why Women Smell Like Grapefruit And Men Smell Like Cheese

Sex-specific scents and the attractive power of smell.

woman smelling man puhhha / Shutterstock

Just when you thought that men and women couldn't get any more different, now it turns out that each gender comes with its own specific scent. And, well, let's just say that they're probably not the delightful smells that you think they are.

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So, if you've ever smelled your man and thought, "Baby, I'd love to eat you on a cracker," then science can explain why that is.


In a groundbreaking 2009 study, Swiss researchers took sweat samples from both men's and women's armpits (um, eww), mixed them with the enzymes from bacteria that are normally found there, and discovered that men smell like cheese and women smell like grapefruits or onions.


That's right: grapefruit or onion. Two totally different scents that couldn't be further from each other, but who am I to argue with science? 

So, if your man's ever been tempted to sprinkle sugar on you in the morning or sauté you in olive oil for taco night, then you have those pheromones to blame.

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In the updated edition of The Joy of Sex, a woman's natural scent is listed as one of the key ingredients to, well... joyful sex. 

It reads, "A woman's personal perfume can be a long-range weapon (nothing seduces a man more reliably, and this can happen subliminally), but at the same time a skillful man can read it if he's an olfactory type, and if he knows her, to determine when she's sexually excited."


The book points out that our perceptions of smell vary greatly. Some women can smell when they're pregnant. Some kids don't understand the point of blind man's bluff because, "they know by smell who's touching them," and some of us don't recognize lovers' scents at all, in the same way not everyone can smell asparagus in urine.

Now, if all this talk of body by-products hasn't already killed your mood forever, then apparently the group of sniffers that the scientists assembled found the female armpit odor to be worse smelling than the male scent.

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Maybe that's because women, in general, do a better job of masking unpleasant odors with deodorant or perfume.


The Swiss company that sponsored the study researches fragrances and flavors for food and cosmetics companies. And after finding out what men and women smell like, they were hoping to enter the market for deodorants that would combat these particular scents.

As a researcher from the study noted, "We could make inhibitors that neutralize the precursors, or block the bacterial enzymes that do the conversion."

So, a year or two from now, perhaps there will be new deodorants on the market with names like Grapefruit Be-Gone!, or Onion, Oh-No-You-Didn't. If not, there are always other sexy scents to use as old standbys.


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Genevieve Lill is the Editor-in-Chief of Simplemost.