A few weeks ago, my friend called me up to tell me about a story she had heard about a woman who used her own vaginal secretions as an aphrodisiac perfume to attract men.
While I was immediately disgusted (call me crazy, but I prefer Marc Jacobs), I was also intrigued. For one, why would you do that, and for another, could it actually work?
My love life ebbs and flows, and I wouldn't necessarily say it's boring, but I have noticed that the guys I really like don't usually stick around, and the ones I don't care as much for have a hard time leaving me alone. Could spritzing vagina juice on myself in place of Gypsy Water or Daisy actually take my romantic relationships to the next level? I happened to have a pretty empty weekend on my hands, so I got to researching.
After two hours of bookstore studying, the grand conclusion (according to The Joy of Sex by Dr. Alex Comfort and Aphrodisiacs by Linda Louisa Dell) is that you basically just have to stick a finger down there and then use said finger to dab your "natural perfume" on your pulse points, which seems, in my opinion, a bit uncivilized. But who am I to argue? At one point in history, this was clearly A Thing.
Example 1: "Courtesans of medieval Europe used to wear a little of their vaginal secretions as perfume to attract others, dabbing it behind their ears and necks and on their chests” (Dell).
Example 2: "Many women are unaware of the extent to which their unique cassolette [French for 'perfume box'] is their secret weapon … It's also the ideal perfume fixative, and a touch behind the ears at a dance, in advance of, or instead of, the usual bottled perfume, can be deadly” (Comfort).
Months ago, I took a perfume mixing class at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles, and decided to consult with Saskia Wilson-Brown, the founder and director of the Institute about my new research project. I reached out to Saskia via email and asked if she knew of any perfumery that specializes in creating personalized scents with clients’ own bodily fluids.
“It might be tough, as body fluids and sweat are not stable, and probably wouldn’t do well in a formula,” she told me. Nonetheless, she invited me back to the studio to play with essential oils, including some weird 'pheromone’ perfumes, in order to create a special scent (two parts natural, one part synthetic) that I could wear out for what Saskia dubbed my “murky science” experiment.
I told her I was feeling rose and cedarwood, and what did she recommend?
“I don't know if rose and cedar have pheromonal qualities. Although rose has been used as an aphrodisiac, so have cinnamon, aniseed, and benzoin." Saskia also clued me in that she had a few vials of synthetic pheromones in the lab.
Then, she continued, there are scents like pumpkin pie, lavender, licorice, and doughnuts—said to increase blood flow to a guy's junk, according to a study conducted at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
Either way, when I arrived, Saskia had laid out a dozen or so mini bottles of essential oils, including apple, vanilla, rose, anise, cinnamon leaf, cedar, cocoa, and a terribly unpleasant synthetic fragrance called “Civette,” which mimics civet musk, an anal gland discharge produced by both male and female civet cats, occasionally used in perfumes for its pheromonal qualities.
I mixed away until I narrowed it down to two fragrances, one that consisted of literally every food scent I had in front of me (the result: a Christmasy, sweet and spicy dessert aroma—guys have a soft spot for Grandma's baked goods, don't they?) and the one I ended up wearing for two days, composed of cedar, rose, and a tiny bit of Civette. I was skeptical, but Saskia thought my perfumes were pretty, and that I'd at least smell nice while conducting my dubious study.
I took my tiny perfume vial home with me in order to complete the final, most personal step. After watching a few YouTube videos and consulting the internet about how exactly to collect vaginal fluid, I used a long Q-tip to basically extract some residue from my vagina in order to use it for my perfume. Because bodily fluids may not "hold up," as Saskia told me previously, I decided that my best bet was to dip this Q-tip—saturate it, really—in the perfume I'd created, dab it on my pulse points (neck, wrists, cleavage) and then hit the town in order to see what the results would be. (Every day that you apply this perfume, you have to redo the extraction process.)
PART 1: FRIDAY
Continuing on a yearly tradition, a girlfriend and I met up to spend the afternoon creating our 2017 vision boards. Her boyfriend was on his way over too, so after a couple glasses of wine, I thought it'd be a good idea to invite an old friend of mine as well to partake in a double date. I changed out of sweats into something a little more exciting and snuck into the bathroom to apply my homemade pheromone perfume. When I applied it, I mostly just smelled the rose notes, so I felt pretty confident. The gentlemen arrived, and after not having seen the guy I had invited as my date in at least six months, he and I picked up right where we'd left off. Small talk, more wine, and we were ready to take the party from my living room to the bar.
I called a cab, threw on a jacket, and the four of us headed to a boozy neighborhood joint. The night was going just as planned with drinks, jokes, and a photo booth session. In the privacy of the photo booth, smiling snaps made way into a drunken kiss and then all of a sudden, teeth! "You bit me!" I yelled between laughs. It was funny, but it also kind of hurt.
"I can't help it," he said. "It's that scent you have."
The rest of the night was a blur, but his comment and actions were a pretty good indicator that my perfume was working.
PART 2: SATURDAY
I was too hungover to leave my house for most of the day. I did reapply the perfume and venture out to the gas station for bottled water and McDonald's for a fast-food cure-all. The cashier was a little nicer to me than normal. He usually rings me up without speaking to me, and this time I got a smile and a "Hello, how are you today?" Could he smell me? I couldn't smell me, so I didn't think he did either, but I'll take a little extra kindness wherever I can get it. It was straight back to bed from there.
PART 3: TUESDAY
After taking it easy for a couple days, I reapplied my perfume for a breakfast burrito date with a friend of a friend. Nothing he said or did indicated that he was for or against my scent, but after the date, he texted that he had fun and then invited me to an upcoming football game. I'd call it a victory, but who really knows. It could have been anything...my looks, my zodiac sign, my love of Mexican food, my personality?
Some may call this research questionable. It's true there's no hard science behind it. In all honesty, this experiment was just a little something extra for me (like a wink or a hair flip), and there's a chance that all this positively charged sexual energy was just part of the placebo effect. I didn't need this homemade science project to have good chemistry on a date. However, I will say that it gave me perspective on something that, although probably innate, I'd never thought so long and hard about until now. Tired of the same old crap in your love life? Maybe the "shake things up!" myth is a straight-up lie. Maybe, just maybe, you don't need a new lipstick or highlighter, or pre-rehearsed table talk, or even a new outfit. What you already have is more than enough.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.