And to think it all began with The Church Without Pants

Monday, October 3, 2011

Smell Theory - It's kinda like String Theory, only a little closer to home

Long before pheromones were household topics and Josh Harris gave up dating to advocate a thinly camouflaged form of aristocratic European courtship rituals, I was talking with friends about “Smell Determined Behavior” and throwing out dating and courtship altogether. Since everyone in college was (and still is) interested in relationships and most are interested in being in relationships - especially the kind that lead to something more - I simply wondered about the nature of the commitments we were making with each other that set us apart as a “couple” and the effects these commitments had on our other relationships. I concluded that whether we call it “dating”, "going together," or being an “item” or a “couple” (what we now know on Facebook as being "in a relationship") is not only unnecessary, but that it runs counter to developing true intimacy and reduces both genders to mere sexual objects. (I’ll write more about this in another post.)

As for Smell Determined Behaviors, or my “smell theory of relationships” as it was known then, the concept came about simply by extrapolating what I knew of animal behaviors and our own vestigial sense of smell, and melding that information with a little personal experience. Smell Determined Behavior, or SDB, is quite primitive in its origin and can be thought of as a variant on the more [in]famous SBD (Silent But Deadly) phenomenon that also induces us to behave in a predictable manner. You’re beginning to understand, aren’t you … Simply put, we all know that animals often make behavioral decisions based on what they smell. In most cases the odor originates from another living creature. For example, scents are used as territorial markers (Who’s place is this and do I dare go there?), to issue challenges (I think I can take that), or as calls to mate (I want to bear your children!). These scents are now known as pheromones. They are powerful and in some cases irresistible.

Moving up the food chain half a link or so we come to humankind and our puny noses. Our sense of smell is poorly developed compared to that of most other mammals and our noses are relatively small and far from the ground where most odors settle. And yet we’ve all met someone who reeks from last night’s dinner. We don’t even need to ask what they ate. So, our noses do function, but can they detect the scents emitted from glands and pores that we usually keep hidden from view and well masked with other scents?

I think they can and even though most of us go through life happily oblivious to most of the scents or odors around us, there will be occasions where even our lousy noses catch a hint of something we really like (or don’t). And if that happens, how many of these scents might we process to the point that they will influence our decisions?

Which brings me back to relationships and long-term commitments.

I can’t help but wonder, whether we are consciously aware of these scents or not, how many of our long term relationship choices simply come down to the fact that I just can’t (consciously or subconsciously) imagine myself sleeping next to, or waking up to that smell.

Every day.

For the rest of my life.

Think about it.


  1. ... or maybe that's your conscious speaking, dude.

    There are some scents, however, that remind me of situations or people that I've been in or met, and they lead to such a visceral reaction that I'd have to say that the olfactory gland is directly linked to memory, and as I am one who learns my doing, that's clearly a red flag for my conscious. I have a very strong sense of smell. Conscious, on the other hand...? Debatable.


Thanks for commenting on my posts. I will receive a message that you've sent a comment but I get to approve what actually gets posted. So, even though you are allowed to make fun of me, remember I have final say on what gets posted. If you are posting as "Anonymous" please include your name in your post so I know who you are. Thanks again and happy reading!