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Are 'Pheromone Parties' New Trend in Biological Matchmaking?

Are 'Pheromone Parties' New Trend in Biological Matchmaking?

“We’re beasts, we’re human beings, were animals."

First impressions often include nice eyes, a great laugh or a beautiful smile, but a relatively new dating technique could eliminate all physical and personality snap judgements and pair partners based on smell preferences.

It's called a Pheromone Party. Participants are asked to wear the same shirt to bed -- sans deodorant or perfume -- for three nights. The shirts are placed in their own bag, then passed around at a party were the guests choose their date by most the attractive smell. If we're basing this solely on pheromones though, the smell itself shouldn't really make too much of a difference on preference and what participants would really be attracted to more subconsciously is a chemical being inhaled.

Several articles have been swirling about the trend since the beginning of the year. The Daily reports founder Judith Prays, 25, as saying the parties are about romance, noting that "intellectual connection is not always the most important thing in a relationship.” Prays is clear to say these parties are more about "hooking up." The Daily has a case-in-point example:

The most popular girl with gentlemen’s noses was Sara Nachlis, 25, whose shirt was chosen by nine different guys. “I guess I just smell pretty,” she explained, though she herself was far more discerning.

“I took my time and picked only one shirt,” said Nachlis. “This very handsome boy came up to me and told me that was his shirt. We started talking and I was attracted to him, but didn’t find him very interesting. I ended up making out with him at the party, and now I never want to talk to him again. There is an attraction that comes with pheromones, but it’s not what I’m looking to base a relationship on.”

There is some scientific backing behind the pheromone parties. Biologically, pheromones are chemical signals exhibited by many animals, including some mammals, that often are related to sexual attraction. Live Science reports though the science on human pheromones has yet to be confirmed to an extent, given that research has not yet pin-pointed that a chemical produced is responsible for a specific outcome with relation to another person:

"We can demonstrate the effects of what are putatively pheromones, but we haven't been able to pin down the chemical identity and show this particular compound or small set of compounds are responsible for outcome A, B and C," said Charles Wysocki, a behavioral neuroscientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia [...].

Releaser pheromones trigger a behavioral response (such as wooing a mate), while so-called primer pheromones cause physiological changes.


But without any actual chemicals identified as pheromones, scientists can't test effects on humans, so the jury is out as to whether we communicate via pheromones.

Earlier this year, The Daily recounted the 2010 party Prays threw to test the concept that had about 40 attendees. Of these, The Daily reported, 12 of the guests "hooked up" and of those half started relationships. This month, the KCRW radio station in Los Angeles reports artist Mya Stark, who had heard of Prays's parties, threw a second smaller party in L.A. KCRW has more:

Mya Stark says she’s had her share of dating fails, and thinks people are looking for another way to meet. “We’re trying to match up with our other subcultures, which just seems like it can be a recipe for disaster,” Stark said. “I want to be surprised by looking at the picture of who I’m attracted to, and be like, ‘what? I would never!’ I’m sure I’m ignoring and neglecting so many awesome people.”

Scott Thrift, an artist who lives in Brooklyn, attended the first pheromone party, and met a woman there he dated for six months. He says the party’s a fun time, but it’s also a lesson in evolutionary biology. “I think that there is truth to this,” Thrift said. “We’re beasts, we’re human beings, were animals. And we do a really good job of convincing each other that we’re not. And this party really just puts it in your face, literally.”

Watch The Daily's account of the April event (Warning: Some graphic language):

Here are some of the tips and considerations the Pheromone Party website gives participants:

  1. Minimize consumption of spices, garlic, and onions during the collection phase.
  2. Engage in hygiene but minimize use of fragrant products.
  3. Don’t shave your armpits.
  4. Don't engage in intimate contact while wearing the shirt.
  5. Use a plain, white, cotton tshirt.
  6. Sleep in the shirt for at least 3 nights before the party.
  7. Put your shirt in the freezer when you wake up. Let it warm up before you put it back on. Store it in the freezer until the party.

Still, since her original 2010 party, Prays may be revising her stance on the parties in general, which seem to encourage the culture of "hooking up." KCRW reports Prays saying she has recently become more observant of her Jewish faith, which has caused her to question the purpose of meeting people under these conditions.

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