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Female body odour is a potential cue to ovulation

D. Singh, P. M. Bronstad


Human body odours have been reported to influence female mate choice. Women prefer the odours of immunocompatible men and, during their fertile period, judge the body odours of men with symmetrical bodies—which is indicative of genetic quality—as sexy and pleasant. The reproductive success of men largely depends on mating with fertile women, but it is not known whether men can detect a woman's fertile period. We asked women who had regular menstrual cycles and who were not using hormonal contraceptives to wear a T–shirt for three consecutive nights during their late follicular (ovulatory) phase and another T–shirt during the luteal (non-ovulatory) phase of their menstrual cycle. Male raters judged the odours of T–shirts worn during the follicular phase as more pleasant and sexy than odours from T–shirts worn during the luteal phase. The odour differences between the follicular and luteal phases did not dissipate quickly over time as male raters were able to detect and judge follicular phase body odours as more pleasant and sexy than the odours from the luteal phase even after the T–shirts were kept at room temperature for one week. These findings suggest that ovulation may not be concealed and that men could use ovulation–linked odours in their mate selection.

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