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Lindsey: This is Lollipop, a striped skunk from Animal Wonders. Check it out! Lollipop was born like other skunks, with two glands on either side of her anus. They were removed so she could be handled by people without spraying her skunk stink on them, a stink that is there to communicate "Back off!" Sorry about your bum, Lollipop, thanks for letting me hold you!

Human beings do a lot to remove their own smells, or at least cover them up. Showering, shaving, wearing cologne, perfume, deodorant, body sprays and scented lotions. But these smells are important! They communicate. In some cultures where they're not so obsessed with masking them, people actually increase exposure to these natural body scents.

Take, for example, parts of Europe where some women dab a bit of vagina juice behind the ear and on the neck to attract or arouse partners. It works! We don't definitively know why or how, but multiple studies suggest pheromones, a type of hormone or chemical messenger that communicates with other bodies.

As in you may know from watching this video, there are hormones involved in telling my body to release an egg, menstruate and so on. Messages from a part of me sent to another part of me. Pheromones are sent from a part of me to a part of you, they communicate between bodies, not just within them.

This is actually quite common among living organisms. Plants, bacteria, insects, mammals, many of them like skunks that say, "Sexy time is over here!" There's a wasp whose pheromone chemistry actually suppresses the sexual behavior of other wasps so it can have a monopoly on mating.

Human pheromones are thought to communicate all sorts of sexual info. A person's sexual orientation, political beliefs, genetic diversity and fertility. Before going in depth, here's an early reminder to stay curious. Because a lot of research on this concludes A, and another set of research disputes it, saying B.

For example, the debate on menstrual synchronicity, the idea that menstruating females in close quarters will start bleeding at similar times. While studying at Harvard, Martha McClintock first observed this in the 70's while living in the dorms, lots of women in close quarters, and she related it to her ideas of pheromones in mice.

Later researches Pretty and Cutler tried putting sweat from one woman on the upper lip of the others, and found 80% of them changed cycles to be more in line with the person whose sweat they wore. As in 80% of you who menstruate would have my menstrual cycle timing if you got up in my armpit secretions, and if was Nick's armpit, bio-sex male, your cycle would adjust to be more regular, more fertile. Irregular cycle? Now you know what to do. Get up in Nick's armpit!

What do you think, Lollipop? Are humans so strange? *laughs* Partner selection. Dr. McDermott, of Brown University, found that scent communicates political compatibility. Here's the study, 10 liberals and 11 conservatives eliminated fragrances from their regimes. No smoking, no perfumes, no scented soaps or shampoos, deodorants, close contact with pets or having sex for 24 hours while a gauze pad was stuck to their under arm to collect their smells. Then, 125 people without any information about scents donors went from pad, to neutralizer, to pad, to neutralizer and so on, ranking the samples on a scale of attraction from 1 to 5.

The findings? Liberals like the smell of liberals and dislike the smells of conservatives, and visa-versa. And check this out, one study published in Psychological Science, and another in Behavioral Brain Research Journal found our odors also carry information about gender and sexual orientation. We're attracted to the smells of compatible sexual orientations, such as lesbians like lesbian smell, gay men like gay men smell, hetero men like hetero women smell and hetero women like hetero men smell. Skeptical? Try it out with your friends or classmates. Everybody wears plain cotton t-shirts for their workouts or a few nights sleep, then they put them in zip lock bags with an assigned number known only to the moderator, who also has this number marked on an anonymous demographic  info. Whatever you want to test, politics, sexual orientation, gender, if this person is into cats, wants kids, cares about the environment...

Bags get passed around, people take a whiff, rank them, then the big reveal! Is the alluring scent of number 14 really compatible with you? There's actually an organization that will coordinate this for you. It's like match making via the nostrils. And it works because noses are sniffing out similarities and differences. One of the most useful messages pheromones send is genetics. Don't mate with your brother, or cousin or anyone in your lineage because your offspring will have weaker immune systems if mom and dad are duplicating immune systems, rather than diversifying them.

Arousal. Sense of smell is powerful and sexually, that's not just coordinating Shark Week or picking partners. Smells trigger erotic memories and they can turn you on. More on this when we talk about why vaginas smell. Stay curious!

Thank you to everyone who made this episode possible, and to Lollipop and Jessi for helping out. Sexplanations and Animal Wonders are funded by generous contributions from and need your support. Every bit helps, and anything pledged before April 30th will be matched! Are you good down there? Oh my gosh, you has actually crawled into the chair. Okay. Nope, we're good.