Your “Fertile” Smell Is Affecting My Testosterone Levels!

The effect of women’s body odors on men’s testosterone levels.

Posted Oct 19, 2010


Within my evolutionary consumption research stream, I have conducted a wide range of empirical studies, some of which seek to demonstrate the links between our hormones and our behaviors as consumers. Some of you might recall one of my early posts (see here) wherein I discussed one of my recent publications (with John Vongas) on the effects of conspicuous consumption (driving a Porsche) on men's testosterone (T) levels (for some of my other posts that have dealt with T, see here, here, here, and here). Along with my doctoral student Eric Stenstrom, I have been investigating the effects of the menstrual cycle on women's consumption patterns. Be on the lookout for a future post where I'll be discussing some of our findings. You may wish to check out some of my earlier posts dealing with the menstrual cycle here, here, and here.

In today's post, I'd like to discuss a recent publication that incorporates both the menstrual cycle and men's T levels in two elegant studies. Saul L. Miller and Jon K. Maner wanted to establish whether men's testosterone levels were responsive to women's body odors, and if so whether the effect (if any) depended on where the women were in their menstrual cycles. Miller and Maner collected pre- and post-smell salivary assays from the men (in order to measure their T levels).

Across two studies, men's T levels were higher in the ovulation condition (i.e., when smelling the body odor of women who were in the fertile phase of their cycles) as compared to the non-ovulation counterparts. Interestingly though (and surprising to me), this was not due to an increase in men's T levels across the pre and post conditions. Rather, men's T levels decreased statistically in the non-ovulation conditions whereas they did not in the ovulation conditions. Of course, the evolutionary argument regarding the T effect is that it makes adaptive sense for men to augment their pursuit of fertile women, which in this case is instantiated via their higher post-smell T levels (since T is associated with libidinal drive).

This is yet another manifestation of the myriad of ways by which women take control of men's perceptual and endocrinological systems. We are your infinite prisoners!

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