A study suggests that the odour emitted in the armpits of gay and bisexual men may be distinguishable from their straight counterparts.

The study, albeit from 2005, came to some interesting conclusions about how we choose our sexual partners.


Gay men strongly preferred the body odour of other gay men in the test which investigated the role played by smell in choosing partners.

Other studies had previously looked at how straight men and women choose sexual partners in line with odour, but this was the first study which looked at how sexual orientation and different odours could be linked.

The study was run by Charles Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia.

Wysocki said the findings showed the importance of odour in how people choose sexual partners.
“Our findings support the contention that gender preference has a biological component that is reflected in both the production of different body odours and in the perception of and response to body odours,” Dr Wysocki said.

The study involved 24 people, some straight and some gay, who were subjected to a cleansing period of nine days, where they washed with unscented soap and shampoo and ate plain foods excluding garlic, cumin, and curry.

Then for one day the subjects wore cotton pads under their armpits, which were stored as a source of their body odour.

Then a panel of 82 straight and gay men and women assessed each pad, rating it in terms of pleasantness.

Scientists found that “Heterosexual males and females preferred odours from heterosexual males relative to gay males; gay males preferred odours from other gay males.

“Heterosexual males and females and lesbians over the age of 25 preferred odours from lesbians, relative to the odours from gay males; gay males preferred the odours of other gay males relative to lesbians,” they added.

Wysocki reflected on the findings, saying that most strikingly, gay men and lesbians responded differently to the samples from other gay people.

“The overall conclusions are that the body odour you most prefer or least prefer does not depend on where it comes from but it also depends on who you are, in other words, your sexual orientation,” Dr Wysocki said.

Similarly, straight men were least attracted to the samples from gay men.

“The bigger picture is that body odour is determined in part by gender orientation which is not something we can have predicted. And it’s possible that the genes involved in body odour are also involved in later life in gender orientation,” he said.