Sniffing of Body Odors and Individual Significance of Olfaction Are Associated with Sexual Desire: A Cross-Cultural Study in China, India, and the USA

Arch Sex Behav. 2022 Nov;51(8):3703-3713. doi: 10.1007/s10508-022-02398-1. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Olfactory sensations contribute to sexual desire and sexual behavior. However, the degree to which individual importance of olfactory function and body odors relate to sexual desire is not known. This study was conducted to preliminarily examine these relationships among Chinese college students (N = 1903) via the Importance of Olfaction Questionnaire, the Body Odor Sniffing Questionnaire, and the Sexual Desire Inventory, which were used to measure subjective significance of olfaction, frequency of sniffing self or others, and sexual desire, respectively. Individuals who assigned higher importance to olfaction or engaged more in body odor sniffing showed stronger sexual desire. We further explored these associations in different cultures to determine whether cultural consistency existed. We conducted a second study to make cross-cultural comparisons between Indian (N = 313) and US (N = 249) populations. For both countries, a higher importance placed on olfaction and a higher prevalence of body odor sniffing were consistently associated with stronger sexual desire. In conclusion, our study confirmed that people who placed more value on olfactory function or engaged more in body odor sniffing showed stronger sexual desire. These correlations were consistent for both sexes and across different cultures, further indicating the importance of olfaction in sexuality.

Keywords: Body odor; Sexual desire; Smell; Social chemosignaling; Subjective significance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Odor
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Smell*