tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Science of attraction - sometimes it's right

My games arrived! That puts Mighty Ape up there with Home of Poi in terms of Whoah!Fast! delivery. So now I am the proud owner of:

Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 plus expansions
Planescape: Torment
The Witcher
The Bard's Tale.

One day I'll really splash out and buy a first person shooter. I was thinking Mass Effect might be quite good, after having watched Dr Wheel playing last night - it has characteristics that appeal to me in that it isn't all just running around mindlessly blowing away enemies like, say, Unreal Tournament seems to be (it might have hidden depths, but I never got past KILLMAIMDESTROY and got bored really fast).

I've been having a conversation over in email land, in which the other person is telling me that strength of one's immune system is related to muscle mass, and that men with strong immune systems have a pheromone that makes them more attractive, but that this also makes them more likely to cheat. And that 'effeminate' men with smaller muscle mass are more loyal. Additionally, women are genetically programmed to be attracted to this pheromone thing because it indicates a 'strong' immune system for the making of healthy babies.

To which my bullshit-o-meter went "EVODEVOBOLLOCKSALERT!"

But I also know that there are smells on men I find attractive, and smells I don't. Part of the problem in my previous relationship was that he 'smelled wrong'. I couldn't put my finger on why, and I put it down to an illness that required medication changing his body smell - but my frontal brain could not override my sense of smell telling me there was something not right with this person, and that not-right-smell was a turnoff, and that affected the relationship.

(i can also usually detect changes in people's body smell when they are sick)

Dr Wheel, on the other hand, smells awesome. I could literally sniff him for hours. Sometimes he smells like pies and sometimes he smells like cookies, but he always smells like something really nice that I like, and I am happy to have my nose within his miasma even after adventures in the desert where we haven't showered for a week. Yes folks, even his week-old armpits smell good to me.

[/TMI] - also, please don't call the men in the white coats, I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

So I thought, maybe there's something in this immune system business, even if the rest is utter bollocks. Logic says that if strength of immune system is dictated by muscle mass, women would be consistenly sicker than men. They aren't. etc. But there are definitely men I like the smell of and men I don't, attraction is definitely governed in a large part by how someone smells, and while colognes and deodorants are all very well, it's the underlying individual body smell that makes the difference.

Dr Wheel, who thankfully is ok with me sniffing him on a regular basis, said he read somewhere that it's to do with the relationship between immune systems - if your immune systems combined would work in your offspring, you're more likely to like each other's smell. This sounds much more plausible to me, so I went looking.

(I have to know!)

There was this, in which scientists have found that smell is a major sense involved in detection of major histocompatibility complex (the collection of immune system cells that helps determine 'self' from 'non-self' in tissues, and is related to the rejection of foreign bodies and whatnot). Then, in that bastion of intellectual thought, the LA Times, I found this - look out, you have to scroll past a bunch of stuff about a dating site to get to page 2 where the information starts. This article suggests that the nose detects the mhc makeup of others, and the smells you find less tolerable are the ones from people with a genetic makeup that is 'too similar' to yours, in that breeding would be a bad idea.

In the words of the article, "A good armpit musk, then, might be the spicy perfume of genetic diversity, an evolutionary come-hither call."

O.o So, Dr Wheel has a very different genetic makeup from me, and that makes him smell delicious. But for someone else with a genetic makeup similar to his, he might smell like old socks. I find this hard to imagine, but there you go.

And the article did find some relationship between smell and faithfulness, but this seemed to be on the side of the women - women were more likely to cheat on immune-system-similar mates, yet the smell incompatibility seemed less likely to affect a man's view of a relationship.

Which is probably why Dr Wheel smiles tolerantly but with some puzzlement while I sniff him. ;-)

So while there's a genetic reason for people finding each other attractive or not through smell, this has everything to do with genetic compatibility and (so far) nothing to do with the so-called 'alpha-ness' of the male or with his immune system being 'stronger'. Evo-devos, please note.

PS If you're embarrassed by reading about how I like to sniff my partner, think of it as character building. ;-)

In other news, how useful is EndNote? Is it worth me getting it?
Tags: better living through chemistry, nice smells, things that might interest joel ;-)
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