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Sense of Smell and Sexual Relationships

Lacking the ability to smell, a condition called anosmia, can affect men and women’s sexual relationships in different ways.

For men, it might limit their number of sexual partners. Women with anosmia may feel less secure in their relationships.

Smell is an important part of human communication. We can interpret a number of social cues through smell, without even realizing it. Past research suggests that men and women obtain information about mates and emotions through smell.

German researchers wanted to learn more about the differences between men and women with anosmia and their relationships. They studied 32 men and women who had been born with anosmia and compared them to 36 healthy men and women of similar ages. On average, the participants were in their late twenties or early thirties.

The researchers found that the men with anosmia had five times fewer sexual partners than the healthy men. The women with anosmia had about the same number of partners as the healthy women, but more relationship insecurity.

The researchers suggested that the men with anosmia had “less successful mating strategies” and were less likely to explore sexual relationships. It’s possible that they were unable to read social cues or lacked confidence.

Study co-author Thomas Hummel told LiveScience, "It may well be that we are exchanging much more information through body odors than we are aware of. We are governed by our noses in some ways."

The study was published in February 2013 in the journal Biological Psychology.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: Sense of Smell and Sexual Relationships


Biological Psychology

Croy, Ilona, et al.

“Men without a sense of smell exhibit a strongly reduced number of sexual relationships, women exhibit reduced partnership security – A reanalysis of previously published data”

(Full-text. February 2013)


Ghose, Tia

“Odd Reason Some Guys Have Fewer Sex Partners”

(November 29, 2012)