Sweat and body scents play a role in sex whether it’s hot and sweaty or someone is just anticipating the act.
Vigorous activity is one reason for the body to sweat, but researchers have identified two different glands that produce sweat for different reasons.
“Eccrine sweat glands serve a thermoregulatory function via evaporative heat loss. When the internal temperature of the body rises, sweat glands release water to the skin surface. … Apocrine sweat glands start to function at puberty under the stimulation of sex hormones. … Because apocrine sweat glands respond to norepinephrine, they are involved in emotional sweating due to stress, fear, pain, and sexual stimulation.”1
Sex can be a way to burn calories and work up a sweat,2 and sometimes sweaty exercise can be a prelude to arousal.3
Not all natural body odors are offensive and smelly, and some may be an aphrodisiac4 or a fetish5 with websites catering to certain body parts and their aromas. Being able to smell well may enhance sexual encounters.6
Researchers are studying whether natural body scents play a role in subconscious sexual attraction or rejection, but researchers do not agree on the existence of invisible chemical signals known as pheromones7 between humans.8
The sourced articles below should provide more information on the role sweat and other natural body scents play before, during and after sex.
Footnotes: 1. “Anatomy, Skin, Sweat Glands,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 10/27/2018; 2. “7 Craaaazy Things That Happen To Your Body Right After You Have Sex,” yourtango.com, 9/29/2017; 3. health.com, 4/4/2018; 4. “Foxsexpert: The Benefits Of Sweaty Sex,” foxnews.com, 1/14/2015; 5. “It’s Surprisingly Difficult To Sell Your Panties Online,” vice.com, 8/22/2018; 6. “Women With A Keener Sense Of Smell Might Have More Orgasms, Study Says,” brides.com, 10/18/2018; 7. “Pheromones,” sciencedirect.com, 8/7/2017; 8. “No Evidence For Human Pheromones,” acsh.org, 3/14/2017
- The Aroma Of Arousal: Effects Of Menstrual Cycle Phase And Women’s Sexual Arousal State On Men’s Responsiveness To Women’s Body Odor.
“Humans can detect aspects of identity, reproductive status, and emotional state from body odor. Women have shown a distinctive neural response to male sexually-aroused (vs. resting) sweat. The present study examined olfactory sexual arousal contagion in men. … Being able to detect the scent of sexual arousal could enhance perceiver arousal and provide information on whether to approach someone for sexual interaction.”
Heather Hoffmann, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 1/25/2019
- How Does The Female Reproductive System Work?
“Labia majora: The labia majora (‘large lips’ [folds of skin on either side of the opening to the vagina]) enclose and protect the other external reproductive organs. During puberty, hair growth occurs on the skin of the labia majora, which also contain sweat and oil-secreting glands.”
Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org, last reviewed on 1/19/2019
- The Guys Who Sell Their Used Underwear Online
“Since it’s almost always the smell that buyers are after, my standard process is three days of P90X and a 3K run. If I go to a punk show, I’ll wear them there, too, because everyone smells terrible anyway and I’ll work up a sweat. Once they dry out, I put them in a bag to ship. Some guys have a fetish about other guys wanting their underwear. I derive no satisfaction from it… but I also don’t judge!”
Quinn Myers, melmagazine.com, 1/16/2019
- Sexual Fantasies About Body Fluids: How Many People Have Them?
“The human body produces a number of different fluids—and those fluids represent a sexual turn-on for some people. From semen and sweat to blood and breast milk, almost any body fluid you can think of has the potential to become a source of sexual arousal. … 48% … Number of men who reported fantasies involving sweat … 46% Number of women who reported fantasies involving sweat … Also, remember that *fantasy* and *desire* are not synonymous. Just because someone has fantasized about something before doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do it in real life.”
Justin Lehmiller, PhD, lehmiller.com, 1/7/2019
- The Ins And Outs Of Sexual Arousal For Men
“During your orgasm, you will experience muscular spasms, which will affect all of the various groups of muscles in your body, starting at your face and moving downward from there. Contraction of the rectum will also occur. And in the case of some men (though not all men), arousal and orgasm will lead to sweating and to flushing and erection of the nipples.”
Jerry Kennard, verywellhealth.com, 12/31/2018
- Anatomy, Skin, Sweat Glands
“Eccrine sweat glands serve a thermoregulatory function via evaporative heat loss. When the internal temperature of the body rises, sweat glands release water to the skin surface. … Apocrine sweat glands start to function at puberty under the stimulation of sex hormones. … Because apocrine sweat glands respond to norepinephrine, they are involved in emotional sweating due to stress, fear, pain, and sexual stimulation.”
Bonnie D. Hodge, Robert T. Brodell, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 10/27/2018
- Women With A Keener Sense Of Smell Might Have More Orgasms, Study Says
“In an interview with The Sun, psychotherapist Phillip Hodson offered an interesting point. ‘The findings suggest having a head cold and blocked nose may make arousal more difficult. Clearing the nose may be a useful strategy. I know from my own sex therapy practice that you can improve sexual response among healthy women and men by getting them to consciously smell their partners.'”
Kimberly Lawson, brides.com, 10/18/2018
- A Beginner’s Guide To Female Orgasms
“What happens to your body when you orgasm?
Apart from the aforementioned contractions, lots of other things are going on, like: ‘Your pain threshold more than doubles … your skin becomes flushed, it can make you sweat or tremble, your pupils dilate and some people even say their vision increases,’ [Sex educator] Georgia [Grace] says.”
Nat Tencic, abc.net.au, 10/8/2018
- Buying Sweaty Socks And Sniffing Sports Bras: Inside The Sweat Fetish Community
“There’s no specific term for sweat fetishes. The closest options are olfactophilia or osmophilia, which are fetishes for odours emanating from the body, maschalagnia, a fetish for armpits, or salophilia, which is finding pleasure and arousal in salty things. But the lack of an official term doesn’t mean sweat fetishes aren’t popular. Pornhub tells Metro.co.uk that over 5,000 videos on their site feature the tags ‘sweat’ or ‘sweaty’, and these are viewed an average of 300,000 times a month. On Instagram, the #sweat tag has more than 11 million posts – a mix of workout videos and fitspiration with sexualised selfies and adverts for sweat-drenched socks.”
Ellen Scott, metro.co.uk, 9/21/2018
- 5 Things Science Has To Say About Sweaty Men
“Sweat doesn’t just contain chemicals to rev women up. Data indicates it can also help women relax, and potentially stimulate their fertility. Researchers discovered that when women smelled male armpit odors, it sped up the release of hormones associated with ovulation. Interestingly, the women also reported being more relaxed. This may not be a good reason to shove smelly armpits in stressed women’s faces, but it does make a case for sweaty sex — especially if you’re trying to conceive.”
Lauren Vinopal, fatherly.com, 9/18/2018
- The Scent Of Attractiveness: Levels Of Reproductive Hormones Explain Individual Differences In Women’s Body Odour
“Specifically, women’s body odours were rated as being more attractive the higher their oestradiol levels and the lower their progesterone levels were. … From an evolutionary point of view, female attractiveness is thought to provide cues to various desirable qualities that males may seek in mates. Having high oestradiol levels is one of the desirable traits that men may seek in a woman, since oestradiol is positively related to a woman’s reproductive potential …”
Lobmaier Janek S., Fischbacher Urs, Wirthmüller Urs and Knoch Daria, 285 Proc. R. Soc. B., royalsocietypublishing.org, 9/12/2018
- It’s Surprisingly Difficult To Sell Your Panties Online
“Panty selling is a logistically limited practice to start with. Most buyers only want intimates that have been worn for at least one to three days, and there are ‘only so many pairs of knickers you can wear per week,’ says Misssmithxxx , a British seller active on PantyTrust and her own website since 2013. Some providers, eager to up their sales figures, or avoid the yeast and bacteria risks of not changing undies, try to mass-produce artificially scented pairs. But seasoned sellers agree this rarely works. ‘Buyers are sophisticated fetishists,’ says Goddess Virgin, a dominatrix who has sold used underwear on PantyDeal since 2015. ‘They… will know if you’re trying to take a short cut. They are true connoisseurs, [and have noses] much like the trained senses of a sommelier.'”
Mark Hay, vice.com, 8/22/2018
- Men With Armpit Fetishes Talk About Hair, Smells And Keeping Secrets
“Smell certainly plays a role for many in the maschalagnia [sexually aroused by armpits] community. … Dev’s distinction between body odour and armpit pheromones (or, better put, semiochemicals) is key in understanding why a pair of musky pits might arouse the lusty thrusts that Wesley describes. When we exercise, we sweat through endocrine glands, which can end up creating the sort of stench best avoided in an early-morning elevator. However, our underarms produce more than one type of odour.
‘One thing that is of particular interest in the armpit region is the presence of apocrine sweat glands,’ explains Mark Sergeant, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University who specializes in the psychology of smell and human sexual behaviour. These glands are well-placed to deliver odours, especially during sex, where there’s plenty of possibilities to get intimate around the chest and the neck. We sweat through them when we experience emotions such as embarrassment, stress or pain, but, as Sergeant outlines, that’s not all. ‘The apocrine glands are activated in response to mental/emotional states, potentially including sexual arousal.'”
Richard Greenhill, vice.com, 6/4/2018
- Women With A Stronger Sense Of Smell Have More Orgasms
“The authors of this study suggest that certain body odors, including vaginal secretions, semen, and sweat, may ‘enrich the sexual experience’ by triggering greater sexual arousal. The researchers never came out and used the word ‘pheromones’ in their paper (I suspect because the question of whether human pheromones truly exist continues to be a controversial subject among scientists); however, their reasoning suggests that a pheromone-like effect might be taking place.”
Justin Lehmiller, PhD, tonic.vice.com, 6/1/2018
- Scientists Study The Effect Of Smell On Sexual Arousal
“‘Our data suggest a positive influence of olfactory sensitivity on the sex life of young and healthy participants,’ the researchers write. ‘The perception of body odors such as vaginal fluids, sperm and sweat seems to enrich the sexual experience’ by increasing sexual arousal, they add.”
Emma Young for BPS Research Digest, technologynetworks.com, 5/30/201
- Can You Tell When A Man Is Ready To Ejaculate?
“Of course the more you have sex with someone the better you can become at ‘reading’ their body. You may notice other signs, like a particular spot where they get extra sweaty, or a way their body moves, or their breathing, or maybe they start to hum just before ejaculation. If you’re perceptive you can probably figure out the signs. But the easier way to do this, and the one that works right away, is just to ask.”
Cory Silverberg, liveabout.com, 3/14/2018
- You Might Not Agree, But Science Says You’re Attracted To Body Odor
“Here’s some truth about B.O. and attraction, says [Lindsey Bordone, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center]: It’s not the odor you’re actually attracted to. You might just be more forgiving of it because you’re attracted to the other person and the overall, underlying scent that is uniquely theirs. ‘A recurring hypothesis regarding body odor and sexual attraction is that a person’s immune system influences what he or she perceives as attractive, and also influences what their own unadulterated scent would be minus all of the personal-care products.'”
Adam Hurly, gq.com, 3/12/2018
- Why You Love The Way Your Partner Smells
“Humans, explains Dr. Claus Wedekind of the University of Bern, have been genetically programmed to discern—from smell alone—whether potential partners may be closely related to them, and reject or accept them on this basis. … Dr Wedekind’s smelly t-shirt study has subsequently been supported by a generation of researchers, although there is still dispute on the details. For example, a debate continues around whether we prefer to find partners that are merely MHC dissimilar, or as different as possible from our own MHC types. ‘Some time ago it was realized that, at least in humans, optimal difference, rather than maximal, may be the best strategy,’ says Professor Charles Wysocki of the University of Pennsylvania via email. … ‘Our ecology nowadays doesn’t fit the ecology that existed when this evolutionary mechanism evolved. If you meet someone with a similar MHC type to you, they’re very likely not your relative,’ Wedekind says. ‘So this mechanism has lost its evolutionary function, but it’s still there.'”
Sirin Kal, vice.com, 3/9/2018
- 7 Craaaazy Things That Happen To Your Body Right After You Have Sex
“You may find yourself sweating heavily for a long period after a vigorous session.
‘As with all forms of exercise, sexual activity causes your body temperature to rise. Your heart will slow down after sex and deliver less blood to the skin. As the heat accumulates in your muscles, it causes your blood temperature to rise, which is why you may sweat much more after sex than during,’ says cardiovascular surgeon David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates.”
Aly Walansky, yourtango.com, 9/29/2017
- Preliminary Evidence Of Olfactory Signals Of Women’s Fertility Increasing Social Avoidance Behavior Towards Women In Pair-Bonded Men
“Previous studies suggest that women’s body odor is perceived as more attractive during ovulation and that exposure to women’s chemical signals of high fertility leads to increased mating motivation. Given that pair-bonded men react differently than single men to unfamiliar women, we investigated whether women’s chemical signals of fertility influence approach behavior among pair-bonded and single men. … The results suggest that exposure to fertility cues from unfamiliar women may trigger social avoidance in pair-bonded men, an outcome that may result from identifying such cues as threats to their relationship.”
Chen Oren, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 9/8/2017
- Men Who Eat Fruits And Vegetables Smell More Attractive
“NPR did a little more digging, and discovered that the connection between your diet and your body odor isn’t as straight forward as you might think: While your breath might smell like the food you eat, your sweat doesn’t (it actually only starts to smell when the bacteria on the surface of your skin metabolizes the matter that comes out of the sweat glands). Even so, as NPR points out, a 2006 study came to similar conclusions: Women preferred the smell of men who ate a non-meat diet.”
Elisabeth Sherman, foodandwine.com, 8/14/2017
- Underwear Sniffing: That’s A Thing.
“There are many sexual fetishes around the world but did you know that people actually get it off by sniffing soiled underwear?
Yep. That’s an actual thing. Bromidrophilia is the scientific word for it. Bromidrophilia refers to an individual who finds the natural body odors of a person to be the most arousing erotic stimulus imaginable.
Urban Dictionary on the other hand gives a more explicit but easily understandable definition of a ‘Panty Sniffer’. Literally, ‘A person who sniffs women’s underwear for sexual gratification.’
According to psychologist and sexologist – Dr. Marelize Swart, a person who develops a fetish for sniffing panties could be traced to a younger time when that person sniffed a panty (his/her mom’s or sister’s or any female panty for that matter) and then developed a liking for that.”
Zuhaa Isaacs, tyi.co.za, 5/29/2017
- How To Make Your Vagina Taste Good (And Smell Good, Too!)
“Your vagina has a natural odor and taste. It’s a bit musky and can smell like sweat because of how easily sweat can collect in that area … Sometimes the odor will be more pungent, such as after a workout.”
Adriana, badgirlsbible.com, 5/4/2017
- Why The Smell Of Your Vagina Can Be A Turn On For Your Partners
“According to Amanda Luterman, a psychotherapist who specializes in sexuality, there’s ‘no question’ that vaginal odors can be arousing. ‘It’s not supposed to smell like skin, an arm, or an elbow,’ she says. ‘It’s supposed to smell like the inside of a person’s otherwise unseen — that’s the intimacy of it.’ And many people are turned on by sniffing genitals precisely because the scent is 100% natural, so it can bring up primal, animalistic urges, says Galen Fous, a kink-positive sex therapist and fetish sex educator.”
Sophie Saint Thomas, refinery29.com, 4/25/2017
- No Evidence For Human Pheromones
“The existence of human pheromones is hotly debated. Ask any woman who has lived in a college dorm and she is likely to tell you that they exist because the women synced their menstrual cycles when living together. But, anecdotal evidence not withstanding, the scientific evidence for pheromones in humans is lacking.
However, just because human pheromones have not been identified yet does not mean that they don’t exist. Most other species use them for social cues such as mating – why not humans? Following that line of thinking, scientists are still looking for them – using interesting experimental setups to do it.”
Julianna LeMieux, acsh.org, 3/14/2017
- 5 Health Benefits Of Having Post-Workout Sex
“Get ready for your mind to be blown: Exercise increases blood flow, including to your sexual organs. Blood flow to your lady parts means increased sexual response, says Kim Vandegeest-Wallace, Ph.D., psychologist and sex therapist for the University of Kansas Health System. And it’s for this reason that many women report reaching orgasm more easily after a workout, she says. Talk about a win-win.
But blood flow isn’t the only reason sweating boosts your libido. Exercise—especially strength training—is a surefire way to kick testosterone (the hormone responsible for both your sex drive and muscle growth) into high gear. Yup, this is exactly why strength training is the best workout to boost your sex drive, and the optimal time to utilize that high testosterone level is within an hour of your workout.”
Lauren Mazzo, shape.com, 2/14/2017
- Do Pheromones Affect Humans?
“In an Israeli study conducted by neurobiologist Noam Sobel, women were shown a sad movie and when they cried, their tears were collected. These were later held under men’s noses. Their smell didn’t elicit empathy. Instead, the men’s testosterone levels dropped. Researchers concluded that the men’s bodies figured that sex was not in the cards. Even so, Sobel and her team deduced that if there is a pheromone that turns us off, there must be one that turns us on.”
Philip Perry, bigthink.com, 1/25/2017
- The A To Z Of Sexual Fetishes
“I is for Idriphrodisa
When the smell of sweat – particularly from the genital are – turns you on.”
Glamour, glamourmagazine.co.uk, 12/20/2016
- 101 Sex Tips That Will Have You Turned On For Days
“A recent study from the University of California found that sniffing male sweat elevated a chemical that causes arousal in women for up to a full hour afterward.”
Colleen Oakley, womenshealthsa.co.za, 12/9/2016
- Experts Reveal Exactly What Causes That Post-Sex Smell
“Smell. The smell that happens after you have sex is different for every couple, because it depends on each person’s individual scent down there. According to Women’s Health, the smell is a combination of vaginal lubrication and semen. It usually, on average, smells like a mixture of sweat, body odor, that kind of distinct smell that skin has, genital odor, and then.. body fluid. It’s an indescribable melting pot of odors that you would be able to recognize anywhere on Earth.”
Alexandra Romero, rebelcircus.com, 11/2/2016
- Sexual Arousal In Men
“Stage 4: resolution phase of sex
The man now has a recovery phase, when the penis and testicles shrink back to their normal size. He is breathing heavily and fast, his heart is beating rapidly, and he might be sweating.”
National Health Service, nhs.uk, last reviewed 6/16/2016
- 9 Embarrassing Questions You Have About Your Armpits
“It does have a purpose! ‘Underarm hair reduces friction between the upper and lower arm during vigorous labor or motion, covers exposed parts of the body with vital arteries, and facilitates the release of sex pheromones,’ explains Marta Camkiran, esthetician at Haven Spa.”
Sam Escobar, goodhousekeeping.com, 4/20/2016
- The Connection Between Scent And Sexual Attraction
“In experiments where women have been presented with men’s natural body odors, there are certain traits that tend to rate as smelling better. The potential scent attraction that’s received the most attention is that women seem to favor the smells of men who have immune genes that differ from their own. The theory is that women might be sniffing out men’s major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a group of genes that effect the immune system. Following evolutionary theory, this makes sense. Women would want to mate with men who have different genes because that’s more likely to result in offspring who can weather more diverse threats. Many studies have been done on MHC and scent preference, but Gildersleeve says evidence about whether it impacts partner choice is still mixed.”
Taylor Kubota, mensjournal.com, 2/22/2016
- 4 Scientifically-Proven Ways Smell Is Linked To Sexual Attraction
“Although a piece in Salon says the science behind Smell Dating’s particular pairing method is considered somewhat controversial, there are a variety of studies on the ways scent intersects with our sexuality. Here are four facts about our sense of smell and our mating behavior. …
[1.] Most Heterosexual Women Prefer The Scent Of Men With Different Genes …
[2.] Birth Control Can Change A Woman’s Sense Of Smell …
[3.] Sexual Orientation Impacts Your Sense Of Smell …
[4.] Some Women Prefer The Scent Of High Testosterone …”
Kristen Sollee, bustle.com, 2/22/2016
- The Phenomenon Of Men Who Buy Used Panties
“Did you know that men all over the world are buying women’s used panties? Why would men want to purchase used underwear, you wonder? The reasons are as obvious as you’d think, but there are some surprising ones, too. …”
Dream Dommu, rebelcircus.com, 2/19/2016
- Eproctophilia Explained
“Olfactophilia is a paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from smells and odours. Typically, the erotic focus relates to body odours of a sexual partner, including genital odours. One arguably bizarre sub-type of olfactophilia is eproctophilia. This refers to a condition in which people are sexually attracted to flatulence.”
Mark D. Griffiths, PhD, psychologytoday.com, 2/17/2016
- What Is With The Dudes Who Want To Roll In Women’s Sweat At The Gym?
“It’s hard not to suspect this guy has some sexual thing about sweat. It’s not a super common or well-known fetish—like those for feet, peeing on people, or sniffing dirty panties—but virtually anything can be a fetish, and this one definitely has some members. Obviously, it’s no cause for concern when people practice their interest in sweat consensually, but not a lot of women (me especially) want to watch some guy slide around in their sweat after they work out. … ‘More than likely, the sweat is a type of aphrodisiac,’ said Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and author who is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). According to Kerner, it contributes to the man’s arousal ‘and may even help his workout, believe it or not.’ … Kerner pointed out that, because ‘fetish’ is a pretty rigid term that implies someone can only get aroused one way, we can’t be sure if the men at the gym have an actual fetish or just a ‘strong interest.'”
Rachel Berkeley, vice.com, 12/10/2015
- 7 Surprising Facts About Female Orgasm
“Fact #2: It’s possible to have an orgasm and not know it.
Not all orgasms involve the classic signs — sweating, rapid breathing, and muscle contractions. They can be much more subtle and mild, producing the sensation of gentle relaxation after arousal. ‘Many women have bought into the ‘mind-blowing rockets and volcanos’ model learned from romance novels and other unscientific sources,’ Queen says. ‘Some orgasms are toe-curling and even transcendent, but some are gentle blips.'”
Michelle Konstantinovsky, onemedical.com, 5/11/2015
- Foxsexpert: The Benefits Of Sweaty Sex
[1.] Means more calories and fat are being burned during a vigorous sex session;
[2.] Allows for more slithery sex as your bodies slide all over one another;
[3.] Makes for a body suctioning effect that enhances feelings of ‘we’re one’ during sex;
[4.] Offers new sensations that appease our need for variety, like salty kisses;
[5.] Puts a twist in your routine as it taps into your inner instinct of raw, uninhibited sex;
[6.] Can have the two of you resembling the wet sleekness of ‘Sports Illustrated’ swimsuit models, with slicked back hair or shiny skin;
[7.] Releases more of our natural scents, particularly those around the groin, which can be an aphrodisiac, even if on a subconscious level.
Embracing sweaty sex and its many benefits work in every couple’s favor to help them realize more action year-round.”
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright, foxnews.com, 1/14/2015
- Bromidrophilia: Beauty Is In The Nose Of The Besniffer
“‘Coming home soon; don’t wash,’ Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote to his wife, Joséphine. It’s unclear from this snippet of a love note if the most famous Emperor in French history had a certifiable case of bromidrophilia—a paraphilia in which the individual finds the natural body odors of attractive people to be the most arousing erotic stimulus imaginable.”
Jesse Bering, blogs.scientificamerican.com, 8/6/2013