How Our Sense Of Smell Affects Monogamy, Because Human Beings Weren't Always This Way, Says Science

No one has ever rolled up to a date hoping that they would reek of body odor or something worse, because we know that how we smell to our fellow human beings is important, especially if we’re trying to make a great first impression. But a new book suggests that we’re not exactly smelling everything we can in the members of the opposite sex, and that, in fact once upon a time, we could smell far more than we do now. According to Adam’s Nose and the Making of Mankind’s author, Professor Michael Stoddart, our sense of smell evolved to make us monogamous.

Humans used to be able to smell pheromones, but that is no longer the case. As time evolved our ability to smell and detect pheromones was “disabled,” as a means to keep the species going. The theory is that with that aspect of our senses becoming inactive monogamy was able to exist by withstanding the “sexual pressures of communal living.” The proof of this is confirmed by the fact that of the 5,400 mammals who live on this earth in a communal atmosphere, we, the human race, is the only one who can do so and keep our monogamy in tact, well, to a degree.

The removal of this ability from our senses not only contributes to our penchant for monogamy, but keeps us acting relatively civil and using our brain, evolving forward as a society, as opposed to being completely dependent on smells that want us to have sex 24/7. As Stoddart explained, in breaking the link between sex and smell it allowed “our puny ancestors to find ways to hunt cooperatively to kill the large mammals on the grassy plains of Africa. Without the link being broken, we would not be here today."

Today, covering up our natural smells is just part of our routine. We shower regularly, use deodorant, and by 2018 it’s projected that $45 billion will be spent on perfumes. And while we may try to erase our natural smell, we do opt for the “musky” smells of animals, because of the “primeval urge” to smell like something, but not necessarily smell human.

But for those of you looking to get back in touch with your very basic instinct of being drawn to someone by our biological makeup, there’s still hope. Experiments like the “sweaty t-shirt” test let us go back to our roots and find our match based on our genes. It may not be as entertaining as swiping left or right on Tinder, but it’s definitely more accurate.

Images: MyMoralAmnesia/Flickr; Giphy(2)