Gracie Carroll has worked at fashion publications on both sides of the…
Perfume’s aphrodisiac powers are legendary. So, we wondered, how can we use scent to improve our love life. DEBORAH FULSANG asks psychotherapist and relationship expert Kimberly Moffit for a few sensual, scent-related tips.
THE WHALE & THE ROSE: In your position as a psychotherapist and relationship expert, how much of a role do you think scent, fragrance, plays in sex?
MOFFIT: I think as far as intimacy goes, fragrance affects us more than we realize. The best way to illustrate this is to think about being intimate with someone and the scent just doesn’t smell right—there’s something wrong like bad breath or body odour—it’s immediately noticeable and something that can be a really big turn-off.
So those are the more negative scents, but I think the positive scents can also enhance the experience. The scent of vanilla is supposedly an aphrodisiac, so it’s proven to help people get in the mood. That is why you often hear of people lighting vanilla candles when they’re wanting to get intimate, because that scent is kind of proven to spice up someone’s love life.
TW&TR: Now, when you say it’s been proven to do so, is that—I’m just wondering from a physical point of view—is that in the head or in the body? Does it actually evoke a physical response?
MOFFIT: I’ll tell you a little about the way scent works in the brain. When we sniff a scent for the very first time, there’s actually a place in our brain that processes that scent, and it’s called the olfactory bulb. When we sniff [a] scent for the first time, that connection remains in the brain pretty much forever. So when we’re older and we sniff something like vanilla or cookies, they bring back the memory which is first associated with that scent, which could be grandma’s home baking, or something that’s really pleasant.
So that’s why you can actually enhance your experience by using scents that will evoke positive feelings. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be thinking about the thing that was first associated with that scent—like grandma’s pie—but it will bring positive feelings.
TW&TR: So if there was a type of fragrance you wore when you were in love in your twenties, and you want to feel that way again, could you wear it and would that help you, well, get in that mood?
MOFFIT: Absolutely, without a doubt. We can even compare this to some of the old behavioural studies. If you’ve ever taken Psych 1o1 and you know about the dog and the salivation. That’s exactly it—it’s the triggers that happen. And scent is the same thing. Scent actually elicits sometimes a physical response so you can find yourself actually becoming aroused from certain scents because they’ve been followed by certain results in the past and your body expects those results to happen again.
TW&TR: In terms of conditioning—light certain candles, wear certain fragrance—is there anything else in terms of little tips and types of fragrance that you can suggest to improve one’s romantic mood?
MOFFIT: Well, there’s also food. It’s not just about the body spray you wear or the candles you put on, it’s also about certain foods that you cook. The scent of citrus is beautiful, but spicy foods can often be an aphrodisiac as well. So if you’re cooking something, [the scents can] also increase your appetite. I think the aromas that you cook and bake with in the home can also contribute. So there are a lot of things that you can play with: whether it’s your body sprays and perfumes, or things like your shampoo—maybe check in with your partner and see if they like the scent of your shampoo, because it’s going to make them more naturally attracted to you.
TW&TR: Is it really all just about taking the time and tuning into the little things, like the smells? Because everything is so fast these days and everyone is so busy, is it really just about noticing? About mindfulness?
MOFFIT: Yeah, that’s a really nice question. I think you’re right—especially with intimacy, but you can also relate this to other things like cooking or reading a book or taking a bubble bath—mindfulness is a wonderful thing to practice. So if you’re chopping fruit or chopping vegetables, taking in all of the scents and spices, that’s a very mindful experience, and I think we should treat intimacy the same way. You’re not just doing it to get to the end; you’re enjoying every minute of it and making sure that you take in all of the sensory experiences associated with that. And you’re right, I think paying attention to all of those little details may seem strange at first, but in the end will become very rewarding because it will enhance that experience for you.
PHOTO: iSTOCKPHOTO @ Amir Niknam Pirzadeh
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