tagReviews & EssaysThe Smell of a Man

The Smell of a Man


"Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled ... I hugged, I snuggled into an armpit, I sniffed the subtle whiff of its tuft, I lapped up the taste of its hot hollow ...I lay still in the notch of his crotch inhaling his sweat."

W.H. Auden, A Day For A Lay

Did you think underarm odor just happened? That it was a cruel joke of nature that we should stink in a most easily smelled part of our body? Underarm odor is not a new problem that started assaulting our noses in modern times but has developed in our species for hundreds of thousands of years and is a natural signal of sexual maturity.

In adolescence when we are sexually maturing, an oily substance called apocrine is exuded by special sweat glands in the armpits (and crotch) where bacteria are waiting to consume it, releasing androstenone, our musky and peculiar smell. It's no accident that these glands are in the tufts of hair that grow in the armpit and crotch at puberty, which allows more surface for dissipating the odor. So you see, nature went to great lengths to give us our unique underarm odor.

However, the cultural indoctrination to suppress these organic realities has been with us for generations. Since Mum was marketed in 1888, the vilification of our natural scent has been perpetuated by a deodorant industry in the U.S. that now has annual sales of 1.6 billion dollars.

Each new batch of adolescents, oblivious to the odors exuding from their bodies, are informed by mothers, fathers, or health teachers to start using deodorants. These Facts of Life and Love for Teen-agers are being pushed today just as they were in 1956.

"One big change that comes with growing up is in the nature and functioning of the skin. Oil and sweat glands seem to work overtime. Body odors, now more evident, need attention too. It is necessary to make sure that certain parts of the body, especially under the arms and between the legs, get a warm soapy bath every day. Even this does not give complete protection from unpleasant odors all day long. It is good practice therefore, to use a deodorant under both arms immediately after washing. Deodorants are for the young man too. He should be willing to protect his associates from the unpleasantness of body odors."

That's the hype in America - that underarm odor is unpleasant. Unfortunately for Mr. Auden and a few others of us, a lot of gay men have bought it. Not that I can't get it up for someone who smells like Halston, but they'll never know the animal lust that comes unleashed when I smell the primal odor of a natural pit. Some of us miss that gut-driven, licking, nipping frenzy.

It hasn't always been so. In the 16th century, before underarm deodorants, the musky smell of natural body odors were appreciated by those in love. A lady would keep a peeled "love apple" in her armpit until it had absorbed her sweat, then give it to her lover to inhale (or eat?). Likewise, in later centuries, young gentlemen would carry a kerchief tucked in an armpit, then wave it in the air near their ladies, spreading their apocrine pheromone to excite her interest. And of course there's the story of Napoleon, sending the message to Josephine; "Will be home in three weeks, Don't wash." I'm afraid the Bonapartes would be a bit rank for my liking, but I've smelled some exciting modern French tourists on Miami Beach, who bathe more frequently but still forego the deodorant.

Although the majority of gay men seem to be meticulously clean (another stereotype?) there are a few, besides Auden and myself, who are quite vocal about being turned on by the natural smell of men. This is sometimes expressed in gay erotica as indicated by these excerpts from Handjobs magazine:

"Bobby was lying on his back beside him, arms above his head ... The little patch of fur at his armpit was so fragrant, he found it difficult to deny himself the pleasure of putting his nose there to savor the aroma... "Lowering his head he buried his face in the silky patch of golden hair at the groin. Inhaling deeply of the wonderfully musky aroma there..." Ben Wade. (Check out almost any story on Literotica by Shale for more such reference.)

While researching this subject I sniffed out a peculiar web site called "scent of you," that asked the question: "What role does smell play in sexual attraction for you?" The responses were varied, mostly heterosexual, but some men love their men to smell like men. Their responses follow:

"I'm Paul, a gay man from New York City, ... I find that I'm very attracted to men with strong body odors, especially under the arms. ...perhaps even an odor that other people would consider overpowering. I'm also turned on by hairy and visibly sweaty armpits."

Gustavo - USA writes, "The natural smell of a man is the sexiest thing on the planet. I love the smell of my man's armpit! I've convinced him not to use deodorant on weekends, ..." Ray - USA writes, "I love the ripe smell of the male body, when a man has not showered for three or more days. This is a big sexual turn on for me, the armpit and crotch odors are fantastic. I wish our culture in the US, was more relaxed about showering as the Europeans are, they really know how to appreciate their body odors and use it as a sexual attraction." Gray, a gay man on the east coast - USA, writes, "Nothing in the world excites me more than the smell of a sweaty man's armpits. If someone walks by me in a public place, and I smell that distinctive, sharp smell, I MUST know from whom it's coming. Because the smell of sweat is such a taboo in this country, a man who lets himself smell natural is, in essence, a rugged individualist .. and a real sexual turn-on." Finally, a man from Tel Aviv gets right to the nitty-gritty when he writes, "I love to sniff and lick sweaty smelly pits of young muscular men." To that, I'm inclined to say, "Well don't we all!" But, I have to come back to the real world where not all men, in fact where very few men, seem to share the same lust for an inviting, moist, natural smelling pit.

There were other comments on the list such as: "When I first saw this, the tears flowed. I really am not alone." Another person wrote, "... it's great to find a site where there's actually people like me." Talk about an isolated and apparently persecuted minority! This may be the forefront of a new "Pit Sniffers-Rights" movement, demanding that those of us who like the smell of natural pits deserve equal rights with the perfumed majority.

Admit now, had you not been acculturated to think of it as unpleasant, what does underarm odor actually smell like? Isn't it sort of sweet and salty, reminiscent of chicken soup, full of electrolytes craved by a certain hunger? Sometimes I give off a sauteed onion odor, other times just a faint scent of cumin, always smelling like something quite natural and edible.

The same apocrine produces crotch odors, though with less radiating ability as the underarms. The sexual odor in this area has to be smelled more intimately to be appreciated, and the apocrine glands are quite abundant on the underside of the penis, the scrotum and the perianal area including anal glands. Again, many men, even when not using some artificial fragrance still wash too soon before making out, eradicating their very personal fragrance in this personal place.

The fascinating thing about the underarm odor production is how quickly it changes. With the bacterial ecosystem in place on the skin and hair, one exudes a normal running odor that doesn't go much further than the body. With sexual excitement, the apocrine releases onto the skin and hair and immediately the odor increases significantly. I've seen it peak during excitement then diminish back to almost nothing while laying together exhausted.

For those who dare to explore the sensual realm of intimate smell, you'll discover that apocrine lingers, not only in your lover's apparel, but also on you if you rub against it. Not only can you carry the smell of your lover with you, but the essence will be a part of you as well.

I know our social obligations in America won't let us smell like some European tourists, but on a weekend, take a walk on the wild side. Do your Friday night shower, but skip the deodorant. Depending on your sexual proclivities, you should see the results that evening or by Saturday at the latest. Get a friend to try it with you, let all your juices flow and open your mind and libido to a new experience.

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