Get ready to take your dating game up a notch in 2015 — or at least glean some amusing "science-y" tidbits on the workings of sex appeal. The Real Science Of Sex Appeal: Why We Love, Lust, and Long For Each Other, out on January 6, is the latest in a series of books from the team at HowStuffWorks.com. It promises to deliver "scientifically proven ways to become more successful at dating" based on the "steamy science of love and sex." It's a lighthearted look (quizzes, sidebars, and trivia are included) at how aphrodisiacs work, whether the phenomenon of love at first sight has any scientific basis, and why music is one of the best salves for a broken heart.
The sexy-scent findings are among the most entertaining highlighted in the book. As the New York Post pointed out, you probably don't think of pumpkin pie as as a mood-setter. According to The Real Science Of Sex Appeal, though, the research of Alan Hirsch, MD (director at the Smell & Taste Treatment And Research Foundation) indicates it might be. Back in the '90s, Dr. Hirsch measured penile blood flow in 31 men as they smelled 46 different scents. Apparently, smelling pumpkin pie increased penile blood flow — used as a measurement for male arousal — by 40%. Lavender increased it by the same percentage, but cheese pizza only increased it by 5%. Dr. Hirsch later surveyed 30 women and measured their vaginal blood flow as they smelled everything from charcoal BBQ smoke to cucumber to Good & Plenty licorice candy. While the pumpkin-pie scent was deemed a turn-on for women as well, the Good-&-Plenty-and-cucumber combination was named the winning aphrodisiac: On average, participants' vaginal blood flow increased 13% as they smelled it.
Let's take these findings with several large grains of salt, though, keeping in mind that blood flow does not equate neatly to desire to have sex (especially not in women). Researchers also aren't sure why the smell of food is a turn-on in the first place. Of course, if all we get from this study is an excuse to consume more pie and candy (and cucumbers?), that sounds pretty good to us. Pick up a copy of The Real Science Of Sex Appeal next month for more sexy science.