Gay Men Smell Like Women
Well, not quite, but just as interesting:
"For Gay Men, an Attraction to a Different Kind of Scent" [NYT]: Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women.
The new research may open the way to studying human pheromones, as well as the biological basis of sexual preference. Pheromones, chemicals emitted by one individual to evoke some behavior in another of the same species, are known to govern sexual activity in animals, but experts differ as to what role, if any, they play in making humans sexually attractive to one another.
The two chemicals in the study were a testosterone derivative produced in men's sweat and an estrogen-like compound in women's urine, both of which have long been suspected of being pheromones. Most odors cause specific smell-related regions of the human brain to light up when visualized by a form of brain imaging that tracks blood flow in the brain and therefore, by inference, sites where neurons are active. Several years ago, Dr. Savic and colleagues showed that the two chemicals activated the brain in a quite different way from ordinary scents.
The estrogen-like compound, though it activated the usual smell-related regions in women, lighted up the hypothalamus in men. This is a region in the central base of the brain that governs sexual behavior and, through its control of the pituitary gland lying just beneath it, the hormonal state of the body.
The male sweat chemical, on the other hand, did just the opposite; it activated mostly the hypothalamus in women and the smell-related regions in men. The two chemicals seemed to be leading a double life, playing the role of odor with one sex and of pheromone with another.
Somehow I doubt you needed to do research to figure out that gay men prefer the scent of male sweat over female urine. But the whole article seems a bit distasteful to me. Why do men get divided into “gay” and “straight” but women are just “women”? The way the research is presented, at least by the NYT, it seems to reflect the bias that gay men are just girls with dicks.
There is a big difference between “Gay Men Have Brains Like Straight Women” and “Gay Men Have Brains Like Women.”
[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]