All About The Penis, Men & Male Sexuality

The senses in sex and lovemaking

Home Page

Scent and tastes

I once heard a female friend say that she was breaking up with a guy even though she loved him dearly, because she just couldn't stand his smell. This wasn't the smell of his penis she was talking about - it wasn't that he never washed under his foreskin - it was his own personal scent she couldn't stand.

And another female friend, with whom I was deeply involved, a long time ago, once told me that she had been dreaming about me in bed and woke up a bit confused about who was lying next to her (not surprisingly, as she was living with with another guy at the time).

She said that as she lay there, very sleepy and confused, she decided that the only way to surreptitiously identify this recumbent male form would be to smell him. Funnily enough, until she told me that, it had never occurred to me that different people smelt different.

Is it necessary to like someone's smell - I don't mean the smell of their penis or vulva - to really get along with them in an intimate relationship? I don't know. I do know I like the scent of my beloved. In fact, I find it deeply pleasurable. One of my greater pleasures is to go to sleep curled up behind her with my face snuggled in her long tresses, so I can enjoy her particular scent as I drift off to sleep.

Maybe we just don't get together in the first place with people who don't smell right. I remember reading once that when mothers in prison who had been separated from their babies and children were reunited on visits, the first thing the mothers did was to nuzzle and smell the kids.

And apparently babies can identify the smell of breast pads soaked in their own mother's milk from very soon after birth, so the sense of what a friendly body smells like must be deeply laid down in our subconscious. If so, maybe we are somehow programmed by the scent of those earliest days around our mothers to prefer a particular type of body scent.

And maybe this this has something to do with our choice of mate later in life. (She/he smells like our mother/father did? Or is it that we avoid people who smell like our close relatives - just to make sure we don't breed with them?)

There is another side to smelliness, of course, and that is the particular pong of the penis and scrotum, and the vulva. I think that most people find the scent and taste of their partner's genitals a stimulating one. Unless of course the owner has allowed their bits to get a bit ripe. Even then, I think I can see a certain pleasure in what I would call "dirty sex". No, I mean "naturally smelly" sex. Not overripe, unwashed sex. 

The mixture of scents from my genitals was a great turn-on for me. It was especially arousing if there was a fair amount of genital-area sweat more than a few hours old. I find it hard to describe the scent, but anyone who has ever done this knows what their genital/anal area smells like, and whether it arouses them, and anyone who hasn't can go and try it now.

If they want to. A moderately more interesting question is why these smells should be arousing? The answer probably lies in pheromones. Although science has done some interesting work on human pheromones, they haven't been extracted and isolated thus far.

Yet pheromones are very important in attracting members of the animal kingdom to an opposite sex mate, and since we are members of the animal kingdom, I guess it would be surprising if they weren't important in our reproductive process, too. I sometimes think we try and get away from how animalistic our own, human, sex can actually be.

Anyhow, the original piece of work on human pheromones was done by Martha McClintock at Harvard. She discovered that she and her female room-mates quickly developed synchronized and simultaneous menstrual cycles, a finding which has since been repeated by other enterprising scientists. But why would a groups of women living together want to menstruate at the same time?

To get the PMS out of the way all at once? As a biologist this suggests to me something like a harem type reproductive strategy, where one randy male comes into season and then impregnates all the females he can as quickly as possible. Of course, he has to compete with other males who have a go when his back is turned (one eminent biologist called them "sneaky fuckers"). Obviously for this to work, the females have to be in season at the same time. 

Women produce their own scent, a chemical signature that indicates not only who they are as an individual, but also their current reproductive and sexual state. While our noses may have lost the ability to detect these scents at great distances, I have read that men become sexually aroused when exposed to them.

One of the most exciting moments of my modest sexual career was when I had my first experience of giving oral sex to a woman. She was lying on her back on the bed with her briefs on as I kissed my way down her body - the effect of smelling and tasting her wetness, with its mixture of a faint, faint smell of pee and her own scent through the silky material of her underwear turned me on more than just about anything before or since.

There are variations in odor perception between human adult males and females. Women have an acute ability to smell musks, which are steroids very similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. And they are most sensitive to them about ten days after menstruation, which is about when a woman is ovulating and most fertile.

In addition, women on the pill, pregnant women, and post-menopausal women, are relatively insensitive to these substances. It seems that sensitivity to musk in women depends on the levels of estrogen in the blood: during ovulation, serum estrogen is at a peak, whereas levels of estrogen are low during menstruation, pregnancy, in post-menopausal women, and birth-control pill users. 

Why is this relevant? Men excrete musky odorants in abundance in their urine, and substances similar to testosterone, such as androstenone, are secreted in smegma and from the apocrine glands of the underarms and pubic area of males.

The sexual smelliness of these things apparently requires armpit and crotch bacteria to get to work and release the odorants. The scientists conclude: "The fact that men's bodies secrete these substances and that women are maximally sensitive to them when they are most fertile indicates that there may be an olfactory-sexual role for these substances in human sexuality." Well, what a surprise.

I was pretty excited when I read this latest research: "Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have found that exposure to male perspiration has marked psychological and physiological effects on women: it can brighten women's moods, reducing tension and increasing relaxation, and also has a direct effect on the release of luteinizing hormone, which affects the length and timing of the menstrual cycle." 

Two researchers put sweaty extracts from the underarms of male volunteers on the upper lip of 18 women aged 25 to 45 for six hours. The women subsequently reported feeling less tense and more relaxed - a bit surprising, really, considering they had male armpit sweat smeared on their faces, but that just shows we don't always know how we're being affected by the scents of the people around us.

What's more, after the women were exposed to the male underarm extract, further tests showed blood levels of the women's luteinizing hormone (one which plays a key role in ovulation) changed in response to the male aromas. In other words - women were more likely to ovulate quicker when exposed to sweaty male smells. Now, with that level of sophistication in our scent systems, who could doubt the smell of your partner is pretty damn' important?

"This may open the door to pharmacological approaches to manage onset of ovulation or the effects of premenstrual syndrome or even natural products to aid relaxation," Wysocki said. "By determining how pheromones impact mood and endocrine response, we might be able to build a better male odor: molecules that more effectively manipulate the effects we observed."

Richard Udry researched the connection between intercourse, orgasm and stage of the woman's menstrual cycle. He found that women have intercourse about six times more frequently at about the time of ovulation, just when their sensitivity to the male musk odor is highest. In addition, the women are much more likely to have an orgasm at these times.

Conversely, women were several times less likely to have sex or an orgasm during the two to three days after menstruation, which is when women's sensitivity to the musky smell of men is lowest. Coupled with women's odor sensitivity, this could all mean we are strongly sexually motivated by smells, whether we realize it or not. A pheromonal reference to sniff at can be found here.

There are some jolly articles on scent and taste on the Net. I wanted to write about the taste of semen, but I couldn't bring myself to taste my own, even in the interests of popular science. And my beloved refused to comment, other than to say it was "OK"!

Now, this is much more like it. The glorious taste of a woman: "Men aren't the only ones who can make themselves sweet for their lovers." Why did I find this article so arousing? Could it be I love oral sex? 

Oddly, considering all the women I have known have loved oral sex (receiving it, I mean; they may have loved giving it to me as well, but I forgot to ask), many men report that women are resistant to the idea of a guy getting his tongue out and giving them a good licking. Maybe women have a lingering suspicion that their genitals are dirty?

Who knows? But that fishy taste is no more a woman thing than a man thing, as any guy who hasn't washed for a couple of days will know very well. Anyhow, one guy came up with the term snacking for cunnilingus, which I kind of like (the expression, I mean. I know I like cunnilingus). Then he wrote an article on it. Snacking: "Men want to go down on women! Why don't women want us to?" And you thought snackin' was all about Dunkin' Donuts. Think again. And here is the female response to this provocative piece.

Finally, in this panoply of tasty human juices, I give you The quest for sweet semen: "I learned how to transform funky spunk into delicious joy juice - but ultimately decided not to." Spoil sport. 

And what of sight? 

Men look at women. We all know that, and I'd say, well, that's how men are, that's how we work, and there's no harm in it. But, really, is it acceptable that men do this ogling thing?

I don't think the question has any easy answers. Women dress to impress, and decorate themselves with cosmetics and jewelry for two reasons: to look good and feel good about themselves. Or so my partner claims.

Personally I think it's so that I will notice her (and perhaps also, other men). And when you think about it, this is how the mating game has always been played - and largely still is. Men approach women whom they like the look of; even though a man may not be able to say why a particular women attracts him, he knows when she does. And usually, he shows it by looking at her.

The Male Gaze that lies at the root of the mating game may be a bit different to the ogling I described above. Or it may not. It may even be another aspect of the sexist staring and open assessment of women that was a feature of previous generations. But in all of these attempts to bridge the gap between the sexes, men are looking at women. 

If sex or romance might be on the agenda, two people who are attracted to each other will usually glance at each other, first in turn, then for very brief moments they will catch each other's eye, then they will stare for longer, and finally one of them will go over to talk to the other (if they're brave enough).

You see the same thing in apes. It's called Copulatory Gaze. A male and female baboon will trade these looks until they are comfortable enough to stare into each other's eyes simultaneously. After that the courtship can begin.

And as a man, you'll know that it feels as if this desire to look at women is hard-wired into our brains. While your partner may disapprove (and you can of course choose not to look), it's probably true that "just looking" is the evolutionary response of men to the fact that a woman's body and face once represented the original advert for sex.

Nowadays, of course, advertisers know that the association of an attractive woman and a product they want to sell is often hard for men to resist...

And whether this male gazing, be it in the form of furtive peeping or open leering, is desirable, it does fulfill a male need: it's fact that men are more aroused by visual stimuli than women are. For example, the sight of her breasts or bottom matters a lot more to him than the sight of his penis to her, or so it seems. 

Maybe what really matters is that men are discreet and non-threatening in the way they look at women. And it's certainly not a clever or respectful idea to do it to deliberately intimidate women, for example in a professional setting. Whether or not a woman finds it flattering depends on the circumstance and context. 

Touching the penis

Well, I like to be touched, and so does my penis. Sometimes it likes to be touched gently; sometimes it likes to be treated a bit more roughly. But it never likes to be abused. It certainly isn't turned on by the sight or thought of BDSM (the rougher edge of sex), which involves people being physically abusive to each other. 

Mostly, touching by myself is to do with having a pee or masturbating. Once a day it is about washing, though I don't jack off in the shower or the bath: the former because soap and penile skin aren't great mates - as you may have discovered if you have had a masturbate using soap as a lubricant - and the latter because semen coagulates in bathwater and then gets lodged in lumpy bits in my hair and other unexpected places. Though this isn't a problem, I find it unaesthetic. 

When things are cold or frightening, I might reach discreetly for my penis to encourage it to stop turning itself inwards and withdrawing from the world, because this anatomical modesty feels distinctly uncomfortable. Mostly I try and avoid touching it in public. I don't want to reinforce stereotypes of male behavior. ("Playing pocket billiards.") Needless to say, winter presents a few challenges. I think I might try thermals this year if it gets really cold.

Peeing involves a functional sort of touching, but I always do it affectionately. It's like saying hello to an old friend. One thing I find is that when removed from my underpants for a pee, my penis is often quite small, nestled cozily against my scrotum, but that it will grow as I have a pee. I don't think this is because I find peeing an erotic experience. I think it is because often when I get it out to pee, I am in a men's room and have just left a bar or restaurant where there were lots of attractive women. This often seems to make my penis wish to get bigger. Oh dear.

Now I suppose I am reinforcing the stereotype of the lecherous male. (One day someone will tell me how annoying or pleasing it is for women when men look at them in public places. I guess it depends what seems to be on the man's mind.

But don't women think about men like this as well? Great news - I just had an email from a woman who says it makes her feel great when men look at her and she knows they are admiring her sexuality and femininity....but, come to think of it, is that normal? Dear me, there's no end to these questions...) Generally speaking, though, I am never quite sure what size my penis will be when it comes out, unless I know it is getting erect, like in a sexual situation. Then I have a good idea what its size will be when it emerges. 

I bought a video of sensual massage to use on the beloved, which she tells me makes her feel sensuous and ready for sex. One day she volunteered to try it on me. All the tension vanished bit by bit from my aching muscles, I got a rock hard erection, I suddenly felt very sleepy, my erection went, then we had slow, loving foreplay with oodles of kissing, my erection came back, and then we has great sex.

The touch used in masturbation needs the smoothing and soothing presence of baby oil or some such substance. This makes the experience much more pleasurable, and leaves the skin much less sore afterwards.

One especially nice touch is to rub the tip of my fingers all over the head of my penis using the baby oil as a lubricant. This is even nicer when done by a partner. I laughed out loud when I read some on how to improve the quality of a masturbate.

Basically the suggestion was that you could lie on your arm till it went numb, then have a masturbate with that hand. Then it would feel like someone else was tossing you off. I don't think I want to try this, although I know what they were getting at: it's often better when someone else touches my penis. 

One of my favorite ways to touch myself when I'm lying in bed is to just rest the head of my penis in the palm of my hand, then make gentle hip thrusts which put put a little pressure on my penis. After what seems like a longish time doing this (but is probably more like a few minutes, I guess), I may feel the need for some more intense pressure to bring myself off, and switch to a more conventional masturbation hold, like wrapping my fingers and thumb around the shaft and moving my whole hand up and down. 

My penis and I like to be touched by someone else. This is especially true in the semi-sleepy early hours. To feel my partner gently reach over, round or under me, and hold my erect penis, or make it erect if it isn't already (this happens very quickly) seems extremely erotic. To be gently masturbated while dozing is even better.

It seems such a loving and excitingly erotic thing to do. It generally leads to post ejaculation cuddles, which feel specially loving, though sometimes the semen can be an unwanted mess. Often I will touch my partner in return, especially her nipples, and vulva. She likes to have a hand cupped over her vulva and pressed gently while being held from behind, curled up in the spoon position.

Often she can have an orgasm from this gentle pressure, but even if she doesn't she tells me it feels very good. I believe her. An exciting form of touch is when my beloved masturbates me while I am sleeping. If I don't wake up - I usually do - this produces some very sexy dreams. Unfortunately, the beloved is not often in these dreams, which center more on bizarre erotic fantasies or making love to people I have just dreamed up.

The best touch of all is that of the skin inside a vagina. But my penis gets touched in this way much less often than by a hand. 

Other pages on the penis and sex

Best sex positions
Fellatio - what women think
Better sex and masturbation
Pleasing a woman in bed
How To Satisfy A Woman In Bed
The penis & male pleasure
Premature ejaculation
Extended orgasm for men (1)
The senses in lovemaking
Arousal and desire
Fetish and fantasy
Sexual behavior
Intercourse with a soft penis
Men's sexual needs
The power of the penis
The nature of masculinity
Male sexual massage
Manifesting Your Reality

Other sections on the site

Penis facts and penile functions
The penis, masculinity and sex
A Cultural History Of The Penis
Penile & Other Problems