Pheromones are a curious phenomenon. Though scientists have examined their presence in animals and mating, research on the role they play in humans and human relationships is, to put it frankly, all over the place. There was this study, which found that male pheromones gathered from their armpits helped regulate women’s periods (weird). Or this one, which found that babies as young as three days old would turn their faces to clothes worn by their own mothers, and ignore others (sweet). And, of course, there’s the fact that you always somehow happen to get your period the same time as your roommate (annoying)…yeah, that’s pheromones, too.
How It Happened
After stumbling across an old article about pheromones in one of my internet blackouts (pretty sure I had started off looking for rose perfumes), I did some highly scientific research that consisted of me Googling “pheromone studies,” and came across this website called The Athena Institute, which was founded by someone named Dr. Winnifred Cutler. After I got over the fact that the site didn't appear to have been updated since the early aughts (seriously, click on it—please), I realized I had stumbled on a pheromone gold mine.
Turns out, the Stanford-educated Dr. Cutler was quite the trailblazer in female pheromone research, being one of the first discover the link between pheromones and what she calls “sexual attractiveness” (or, as we might rephrase in our modern age: “Does this person want to go home with me?”). Not only did she carry out a ton of research in the field, she actually created a chemical copy of the pheromones that “sexually attractive women in their late 20s and early 30s naturally emit” (their words, not mine).
Priced at $99 for what seemed like a tiny vial of clear liquid that could be water (or vodka) for all I knew, I scoffed at the gimmickiness and did what any smart, level-headed woman in her 20s would do: I bought it immediately.
When it arrived, I actually thought the bottle had leaked out in transit—it was tiny, like, the size of my thumb, and was only filled up halfway. But it was sealed, so my only conclusion was that this pheromone potion was so powerful that two ounces (or however much was in the vial) was all it would take to make me the hottest bitch in the room. After undoing the stopper, I inhaled eagerly—and was disappointed. It smelled like….nothing, with a touch of rubbing alcohol. The instructions said to empty the bottle into one of my perfume bottles and to apply—not spray—directly on my neck, wrists, and behind my ears.
But sadly, none of my perfumes had caps that came off. My heart heaved with annoyance and grief. Here was this potion that promised me the world (or rather, my boyfriend) at my feet, and yet I couldn’t use it. I felt like Cinderella without the other glass slipper, her prince slowly coming closer and closer in the horizon (but actually though—my boyfriend was driving home from work and I needed this pheromone spray on me so he would offer to cook me dinner).
Determined not to give up, I decided to just apply the pheromone potion directly on my skin. Right afterwards, I heard a knock at my door—the prince arrives! I eagerly threw open the door, screamed “HI BRYN!” and stared at him with a crazed smile. He gave me a strange look, kissed me briefly on the cheek and said something about how he needed to pee, then brushed past me to beeline straight to my bathroom. I was crushed. A toilet was more appealing than me. The potion was a fraud.
Later that evening, however, things changed. I’m lucky to be with someone who is always open with compliments and affection, but I swear that night he seemed especially appreciative. At one point, he gazed at me and—I kid you not—asked, “How are you so pretty? You’re like a model!” to which I may have laughed maniacally and screamed “IT’S THE POTION! THE POTION WORKED!” He gave me another strange look and went back to watching Last Week Tonight.
I used the pheromone concoction for the rest of the week, and felt like a new woman each day I put it on. I openly chatted up everyone from my doorman to the parking attendant at my work, reveling in my newfound secret powers of “sexual attractiveness.” My boyfriend was ever attentive, doting, and affectionate, as always (perhaps the results would have been more dramatic if I had been dating someone who sucked). In the end, I stopped using the pheromones because I was alarmed at how quickly it seemed to be disappearing.
And also, because I was probably aware that part of the reason I seemed to be reveling in its powers was because of the placebo effect (this study from 2002 explains it). I decided to bestow the last few drops to a single coworker, and told her to try and follow the proper instructions to make it last longer. Would I pay $99 for a pheromone potion again? Probably not. Did I get great story material and maybe-possibly enjoy the feeling of having a secret superpower no else knew about? Yes, yes I did indeed.
What do you think—are bottled pheromones legit or just a gimmick? Sound off below!