Perhaps the evening was a bit inchoate in detail, but the aim in its principles was clear and coherent enough. This was going to be a pheromone party. The group was more like an over-eager group of chemistry majors rather than seasoned, queer, Brooklyn, horny-pokers.
A pheromone party needs a few things. First, a guest list of fervent freaks. Second, each guest must arrive with a t-shirt that they’ve slept in for three nights prior to the party. Last, a large ziplock bag labeled with a number— not guests’ names in an effort to keep things anonymous.
My intention for the party was merely to collect the data in regards to who was drawn to whom. Since falling in love for the first time, scent has been the largest factor for unleashing my animalistic and sexual qualities. Upon investigating human scents and attraction, I learned about these things called pheromones. “Substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they release a specific reaction. In high school, I used my school’s library to learn about the subject matter. What I found, and still continue to find, is a lack of research in regards to studying pheromones and their relationship to queerness. While plenty of information exists about gender-specific and biological reasons to explain why we are attracted to whom we are attracted to in the classical heteronormative sense, little has been written about gender bending or queer humans.
Cleaning up the aftermath on a Thursday morning, I found a few pages of scribbled notes from last night’s festivities. Words on the page like, “Kinda piss, kinda good.” “FML Mexican food.” “Smells like a shirt, neutral.” “Would party, yay.”
These are some examples of field notes from Wednesday’s experiment/party. My first attempt at hosting, I bailed; I was hungover. I let my guest list down and even some folks who didn’t get the memo showed up to my door when I was already in deep REM—to them I am sorry. I then rescheduled for the following week at 10pm. I get off work around 9:45, so it was already a precarious squeeze. A co-worker explained that she had fractured her pinky toe and wanted to see if she could get cut before me. I declined her offer with, “Tonight I’m having a pheromone party.” “Ambitious,” she murmured and walked away.
The guest list had 28 potential attendees all with a number and letter for them to label their ziplock bag that encased the stink shirt. The first two guests arrived at 9:50; I was in the middle of lighting candles. There was beer, popcorn, salsa, chips, and strong margaritas. As it struck closer to 10 pm a slew of cancelations lit up my phone ranging from, “I’m too nauseous” to “my girlfriend is uncomfortable having me go to this party.” Grateful to those brave enough to share their scent—certified freaks alike— nine folks sat in a circle with a pencil and pad to sniff and pass each shirt around the circle, and then log scent notes with a simple Y, for “yes, I like” and N, for “no, thank you” — and room for any personal notes. The cast of characters was varied, queer, intrigued and as invested in the experiment as the person to their left.
After passing the bags around one 360 rotation, we then rattled off our notes on each bag. Then we revealed our numbers. What we learned: it turns out you can’t detect your own pheromones. One gay male could not detect any smell in the other men’s shirts, and could only smell odor from the females’ shirts. 7A was a notable favorite— her scent was described to be similar to “fruit loops.” I consider her attendance a success in that she left with exchanged social media handles from another guest, who really clearly enjoyed whatever memory that cereal stench evoked for him. Another guest worked out in his shirt because he forgot about the party until that day. I’d call his scent, “hell no.” Everyone wanted another go with the shirts, now with each guests’ number revealed—eyebrows were raised and laughter was audible.
Overall the findings proved that lesbians prefer the smell of folks who’s sex was also assigned women at birth, bisexuals & pansexuals like the smell of all types of people and (dare I say, unsurprisingly) gay men are happy to rub their noses in some of the strongest body odors of other fellas. Was anyone surprised by these findings? No, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel knowing that whatever lack of queer science there is, there are ways to conduct the research yourself.