Love Stinks: Nature's Little Known Secret to Getting Past 1st Base

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If you want to take a relationship beyond 1st base this Valentine’s Day, skip the cologne and perfume and find out about nature’s little known secret that the answer to getting past first base lies directly beneath a couple’s noses telling us that love stinks.

Nature shows us that getting past 1st base is literally a matter of the scientific fact that love stinks and that the nose inclusive with its related sensory structures is the second most important organ of the male and female body when it comes to reproduction.

Just to be clear, the use of “love stinks” in this article is more than an allusion to the dissatisfaction some find in the ultimate social networking game we refer to as dating and mating, but more accurately physically personifies the airborne hormones called pheromones that play an incredibly basic role in practically all species from flies to man—sexual intercourse.

The noble nose owes its status to the evolutionary phenomenon of pheromones as airborne chemical messengers that are emitted from specialized glands to elicit a response in another animal of the same species. The word “pheromone” comes from the Greek words “pherin” which means “I carry” and “hormone” which means “to excite,” that together translates as “I carry excitement.” And it does.

Nature provides numerous examples of pheromone-derived excitement such as with male pigs that exhale a strong waft of breath that contains a complex mix of pheromones such as 5-alpha-androstenol—a potent steroid that female pigs react strongly to. In fact, it is because of the female pig response to this pheromone that female pigs are used to hunt the delicacy known as truffles, which just happen to exude a chemical identical to 5-alpha-androstenol.

Another relevant example in the animal world that shows a close relationship to human behavior (whether most of us realize it or not) is the practice of flehmen in stallions. Flehmen is the act of flaring the nostrils and curling the lips a stallion exhibits when it is near a mare that is in estrous.

Reportedly, this reproductive gesture increases the male’s exposure to pheromones released by a mare signaling that she is hormonally and behaviorally receptive to some horsing around.

In man, the effect of pheromone exchange between both opposite and same sexes is revealed physiologically and behaviorally. Women who live together or are in constant close contact with each other are known to eventually begin to sync with their menstrual cycles. In addition, some studies show that if a woman has irregular cycles that just the simple application of a man’s pheromone-laden sweat beneath her nostrils can induce regular cycling.

Behaviorally, scientists believe that the idea that pheromone communication between men and women also takes place is a reasonable answer for such things as feelings of love, first impressions, gut reaction, choices in a mate (or not), especially when such feelings or choices defy logic, and to some—common sense.

Pheromone communication between the sexes is believed to be right under our noses. More specifically, in a pair of tiny pits within the nose that lead to the vomeronasal organ (VMO). The VMO consists of chemosensory cells that when exposed to chemical messengers such as pheromones from another person will send other chemical messages in turn past the thinking part of the brain (the cerebral cortex) straight to the primitive part of our brain (the hypothalamus).

The hypothalamus controls metabolism, hormone production, appetite, fear, aggression, anxiety…and our sex drive. A stimulated hypothalamus then takes us both physically and mentally down paths that are distant from the influences of clearer thinking that come from the cerebral cortex and societal conformity in some instances.

The connection this line of thought takes us to the thesis that love stinks and that nature’s little known secret to getting past 1st base is linked to pheromones, is that physically getting to first base on a date brings a couple into a very close pheromone connection.

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While the armpits and groin are potent pheromone emitting regions of the human body, it turns out that the nasal sulcus—a region of skin between the upper lip and the base of the nostrils—also releases a significant amount of pheromone exchange between a man and a woman during a kiss.

Therefore, nature’s secret to getting past 1st base may be dependent on how well things went pheromone-wise while on 1st base. Was the exchange mutually pleasant, or did one of the two find the other stinks?

A recent study involving pheromone response and sexual attraction in young male fruit flies with relatively old female fruit flies provokes some interesting speculation with this thought that one sex may find another's pheromones stinks to them.

In the study, researchers found that if you put both young and old female fruit flies in a special container and then add a male to the container, that the male had a preference for checking out the younger female fruit fly. Furthermore, that the experiment yielded the same results with females when they placed a female in a container that held a young male and an old male.

Extending their findings further, the researchers then removed pheromones from both sexes of different ages using an organic wash and then switched their pheromone profiles by applying old-fly pheromone to young flies and young-fly pheromone to old flies. What they found was that the level of sexual attractiveness appeared to be dependent upon the type of pheromone a fly (young or old) carried with them.

The researchers attributed this behavior to a pheromone difference they discovered that occurs between young and old fruit flies. They discovered that the profiles of different pheromones that fruit flies produce, called cuticular hydrocarbons, actually change with age. The pheromones in fruit flies are structured in a chain configuration that lengthens as the fruit fly grows older. It appears that shorter chains in younger fruit flies make their pheromones more sexually attractive, whereas longer chains in older fruit flies are less so. The exact reason why is undetermined as of yet.

According to Scott D. Pletcher, Ph.D., senior author of the study, "Our research showed this attractiveness was driven by the production of this cuticular hydrocarbon," says Pletcher. “We found in the end that regardless of the age of the fly, the choosing flies really went crazy for the flies that carried the young pheromone."

One hypothesis is that pheromone-driven sexual attractiveness may be a result of a perception of good health and thereby a preferable choice of one potential mate over another.

"We're excited about these results because they may help us leverage our knowledge of the mechanisms that drive the aging process. This research indicates that the mechanisms important for aging also influence outward attractiveness," says Pletcher. "Our hope is we can take a trait like attractiveness and study the connection between attractiveness and health."

Whether there is a connection between the study’s findings in fruit flies and what happens in humans remains to be seen. However, it does add to the significance that pheromones do play an important role in reproductive behavior and perpetuation of the species.

And isn’t that what we are really thinking about when we try to get past 1st base?

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference Source: “Aging modulates cuticular hydrocarbons and sexual attractiveness in Drosophila melanogaster”; Journal of Experimental Biology 215, 814-821, March1, 2012; Tsuang-Han Kuo, Joanne Y. Yew, Tatyana Y. Fedina, Klaus Dreisewerd, Herman A. Dierick and Scott D. Pletcher

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