While getting eaten out is hailed as the pinnacle of female pleasure, if you’re a woman who’s insecure about smells, it can be hard to enjoy and relax without bathing first. While there’s nothing wrong with hot showers and good hygiene, the vagina, a self-cleansing organ, really doesn’t need to be filled with suds to function healthily. The common fear that your vagina smells "bad" is rooted in sexist, old-fashioned culture rather than fact. “Any body part can have a bad odor if there is an infection or if the individual practices poor hygiene,” says Dr. Michael Aaron, an NYC-based sex therapist and author of the upcoming book Modern Sexuality. “But nothing about vagina makes it intrinsically smelly except for ignorant assumptions of sex negative people.”
Rest assured, any man worth your time won’t mock your scent. Beyond understanding that the smell of vagina is normal, many guys are incredibly turned on by the scent.
“Lots of men enjoy the smell of a vagina, particularly when the woman is aroused and lubricated,” explains Dr. Aaron. “People release pheromones, a unique scent that may often be sexually stimulating.”
To learn more about what’s so stimulating about the scent of pussy, Cosmopolitan.com spoke to five men who can’t get enough.
Whoever I’m sleeping with is happy that I have no qualms spending a lot of time going down on her. I always volunteer to go down on women… I mean… some men don’t? Though I have met the rare woman who said their clit was too sensitive for oral. The whole concept that some men don’t love the smell of vagina kind of surprises me… I guess I’ve been walking around assuming we all did, as I suppose it’s something in our chemistry that the smell is just meant to make you want to have sex… It just adds to the attraction!"
Matt, 35, a computer programmer in Brooklyn
Thinks it smells like: “Sweat and white wine”
"The first time I got to third base, when I was in college, I kept licking my fingers because it tasted incredible. But even before I had actually done anything with a woman, simply from fantasizing in high school, I knew that I was really turned on by the idea of going down on women—specifically tasting and smelling the whole situation.
Now, as a polyamorous adult living in Brooklyn, while I don’t always say outright that I love the smell of vagina with new partners, I think they get the idea that I’m into it when I turn them over, bury my nose in them, and just go nuts. There’s not really much left to talk about after that. The way my partners feel about their own scent differs from person to person. I’m assuming that those ladies who, while maintaining some level of bush and an active lifestyle, are willing to wear jeans all day in the summer then come over and sit on my face probably think pretty highly of it to let it rip like that. But I notice that some women definitely take steps to minimize, like keeping it completely bare or giving it a surreptitious wipe down before we get busy. I’m down with whatever makes the woman most comfortable.
The other morning, I woke up after a sleepover with a girl and needed to go grocery shopping on my way home. I guess I hadn’t washed my hands, which, sorry fellow Trader Joe’s shoppers, but I was picking up a piece of fruit to smell the ripeness and instead got a big whiff of leftover pussy on my fingers. I loved it!
There’s nothing about it I don’t like. Literally, nothing."
Andrew, 29, a filmmaker in New Jersey
Thinks it smells like: “A passport to heaven.”
"My first memory of the smell of a woman is when a friend dominated me. I was 20, we had rented a local hotel room together in New Jersey. I was curious about dominance and submission, and upon discovering my kink, my friend, a domme, agreed to teach me. She teased me, denied me, and punished me — and forced me to smell her pussy by sitting on my face. It was very rewarding, because I took all the pain she wanted me to feel for her pleasure. I became hooked on the smell.
While I am kinky, and integrate the smell into BDSM scenes, I don’t think BDSM is the reason I love the smell of vagina, it just makes it better. As BDSM goes, I love being under a woman’s control and making her pleasure my main goal over my own pleasure. Today, ten years after that first BDSM experience and whiff of vagina in the hotel room, as a submissive man, the smell of it still makes me want to please the woman who’s in control of me. It gets me really hard when a woman leans down sitting near or on my face with her vagina — so close to my mouth [I can smell it] even if I have a gag on. Pleasing her is a great fulfillment even if I don’t get any pleasure in return. It’s always about her pleasure.
My partners know that I love the sweet scent of the women who’s having her way with me. Getting to smell her is my way of being rewarded."
Jack, photographer, 30, New York
Thinks it smells: "Majestic, glorious, enrapturing."
"When I first found out about the magic of a woman’s scent, I was in my neighbor’s apartment, at about about 12-years-old. She and I would hang out after school as we lived in the same building. She was much older than me. The first time I was in front of her hamper alone, I noticed she had a pair of white cotton panties on top of the hamper. There I am at her wicker hamper, I lift the lid, and there in front of me are a pair of white cotton panties. I couldn’t help myself; I knelt down and put my nose and mouth right up to it and inhaled deeply. I couldn’t understand how she smelled so amazing. She smelled like a butterscotch river cutting through a field of wildflowers, along with the soft powdery muskiness that was the scent of her skin. I understood instantly that this was most amazing thing in the world. I felt so guilty afterwards, but also tremendously grateful that I had experienced her secret beauty.
Today, at age 30, I have the same desires as I ever have—which is to smell my partners during sex. They know I worship the scent, and I’m thankful they let me. Key components of partner’s scents seem to be buttery, creamy, and yogurt-y notes, sometimes like cheesecake. Lemon notes are common, with varying intensity. If she’s a coffee drinker, that will be expressed, it can be a real treat to know she went to Starbucks! Black coffee and espresso makes a woman smell rich and nutty, sometimes bitter though, though just like dark chocolate. Bitterness in a woman’s flavor is an acquired taste. A woman can have sharp herbal or floral flavors, so many more dozens of combinations, and you never know why.
Sexually, nothing has ever come close to how much I enjoy the aromas and flavors of womanhood. I just find it so magical. When I smell a woman’s natural scent I’m driven into a primal state. I try to use my caresses, with hand, mouth, and member, to bring them as much happiness as I derive from this connection."
John, 23, a real estate agent in Baltimore, Maryland
Thinks it smells like: “A salty ocean breeze.”
The thing I like the most about the smell of vaginas is the natural scent. You could be running outside for an hour and not shower and the natural scent is a turn on. Your lover is smelling you and not some fancy perfume. My football coach always told me: 'If it smells like fish it is a dish; If it smells like cologne leave it alone.'
In high school, I was with this girl who ran track. We would fool around after she had practice. She was extremely sweaty. We would make out and then I would eat her out. She had a little bit of hair around her vagina. The thing that I remember most of it was the sweat and the natural scent of her. It was her and nothing else.
I am not bothered by smelly or fishy type [smells]. This one girl I dated in college had a vagina that lightly smelled like fish and I use to love eating it out. The smell would remind me of the ocean, which is very relaxing! Have you ever gone to the beach before sunrise to do some fishing? Imagine that. You’re relaxing and enjoying the salty ocean breeze smell as you hear waves crashing.
My love for the smell has only grown. Today, whenever I smell vagina, I feel extremely horny—and hungry! I absolutely think my sex life is better than that of guys who don’t love smelling a vagina, because as a man, I will do much more than just fuck. I’ll lick it and eat it out. Sometimes, I even get a little kinky and bring out the whip cream and chocolate syrup (I told you smelling pussy makes me hungry!). I know I did a great job when she is laying there sweating and can barley move."
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.