Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry

Article Title

Olfaction and Sexuality


A patient who describes himself as "sanitary" told me of his concern with odors. Whenever he thinks about establishing a sexual relationship , he develops a fear that his partner may smell offensive, especially around her genital area. He describes signs and symptoms of sympathetic overactivity when he engages in foreplay, and is afraid that he might be impotent if he smells anything offensive. In fact, he has to insert a finger into his partner's vagina during foreplay, to test the nature of the odor. He feels relieved when the smell is neutral or perfumed, and demonstrates enhanced sexual performance. The patient, who uses deodorants extensively, reports pleasurable sensations when he sits in the bath and smells his own flatus bubbling through the water. Between the ages of five and seven, he recalls smelling his mother's flatus; he is anxious and embarrassed when he describes this incident in therapy. This anxiety is qualitatively similar to the anxiety he experiences during foreplay.

This brief vignette highlights the importance of odors in the sphere of human sexuality. It also suggests that odors now considered repulsive were stimulating in an earlier developmental period. Since olfaction plays a role in human development, many psychiatric patients report interesting olfactory symptoms. This article focuses on the relationship between olfaction and human sexuality.

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