December 2017
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smelling like a human is forbidden truth, non-verbal communication


icon: "self-love (me, sitting in the crook of the trunk of a large tree, hugging myself and leaning my head back in a relaxed way)"

I learned shame about my scent from my biofamily and my first lover (who I was with for 8 years). They complained about my smell, or told me about it in lowered embarrassed voices, and so I washed it off, chemically murdered it, covered it. I learned I had to choose between the happiness of smelling like myself or the respect/admiration of others. Smelling "bad" (which for people read as female means not smelling like flowers) is associated with all manner of things that people judge for, like uncleanness, laziness, irresponsibility, lack of self-awareness, lack of 'intelligence.'

This is disappointing because frankly when I am alone I love the smell of my sweat and vulva. I can read my emotions in my smell and when my body is happy it is 'louder' and it sometimes smells like spices and sometimes smells like fresh donuts. I will draw it in deeply and feel the delight some people feel at smelling a flower. If everyone around me didn't care or liked my smell I would just wash my sweat off once a day so it was fresh and not wear anything to tone down my scent (which, if I do nothing after washing, emerges after about 3 hours). What I do now is wear deodorant that is 'natural' and doesn't mask my scent or add smell, but it tones it down a lot and keeps the spicy smell from happening. As for my vulva, I get embarrassed whenever someone might smell it unless I am in the process of having sex with them (and even then, most of the time I want to keep their face as far from my crotch as possible). The only person with whom this was not true was Kylei, because they were quite vocal in liking how I smell. Other people have commented positively on my smell, but that is just the toned-down version as I've only been willing to be "smelly" around Kylei.

I love the smell of other people's fresh happy sweat and will sometimes sniff the armpits of people I love, if they don't get weirded out by such things. I wish people weren't so violent in their rejection of this part of humanity. I think its a kind of 'privacy' in that body scent gives as much information as posture or tone of voice. People don't want to know or be known because the first brings too much responsibility (when you smell fear, loneliness, what then? you likely feel a responsibility to react) and the second takes too much risk (what if they don't like the real you?). If someone rejects their own human scent I feel sure that they will reject mine as well, or silently wish I would go erase it, so I just remove it before it has a chance to offend their sensibilities.

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Comments
kehlen_crow ══╣╠══
I agree that the level to which it is considered "proper" to mask your scent is excessive.

I, too, like both my natural scents, but I am also uncomfortable when I smell too strongly. It is difficult, too, because I perspire all the time (being too hot is my natural state), and cannot use deodorant regularly, since every single one I've tried irritates my skin.

My feelings about others' scents are strange though. Most often it's either "I don't notice any smell" or "they smell unpleasant", and only very rarely "wow, they smell nicely".
darkestgarden ══╣╠══
this is interesting.

i think part of the thing about smell is that it can be invasive and inescapable in some situations (close quarters, work settings where you can't choose to simply move elsewhere) and if it's unpleasant, or too strong (regardless of whether or not it's a "good" or "bad" smell), it can cause a lot of discomfort. body odor can make me gag and dry heave, but so can overly strong perfume.

i think too there can be a fine line between someone's natural musk and body odor, and that's probably more of a subjective thing.

i guess what i'm trying to get at is that smell, for me anyway, is more affecting than a lot of others senses, and i may be more sensitive than most? i don't have ideas about how people should smell (like you mentioned, that women are socially expected to smell like flowers) though.

that said i actually like using fragrances quite a bit, but more for their mood enhancing properties. i don't have any full size fragrances right now because they're luxuries I can't afford. but if i did, i would use them most often right before bed. there's something very cozy to me about falling asleep with a subtle but pleasant scent.
song_of_copper ══╣soap cat╠══
Very interesting topic. Animals (non-human ones) mostly communicate through scent, don’t they? I wonder if some of the strong response we have to person-smells has to do with that? (Perhaps we can subconsciously tell whether we can like or trust someone via their smell?) It seems very subjective, though, as to whether a particular individual ‘naturally smells nice’ to another person. Since society makes us spend hours and hours in close proximity with each other, maybe diluting/covering the natural smell cuts down on instinctive conflict between naturally incompatible people??

Fresh sweat on clean skin from healthy work rarely smells bad. Stale sweat from sitting around in an airless place for ages is far worse. Maybe our modern lifestyle, stuck in offices, produces bad smells. Being outdoors more and just rinsing oneself off now and again would probably be ok!

I definitely feel like liking one another’s smell is an aspect of compatibility. I’m thinking of the dramatic difference between being with my ex-partner, who did not really sweat at all and was kind of horrified by bodily-anything, and being with my husband, whose smell is wonderful to me and who responded in an enraptured way to my own smell.
con_grazia ══╣╠══
I'm with you 100 percent on all of this. I haven't been with someone sexually for a long time, but even before then I so appreciated natural smells of sweat, all body smells (although I'm not big on really smelly garlic smells - personal taste).

Although I also use a natural deodorant (salt-sticky thing), I shower maybe once a week at most. Number one, I work at home so am not very physically active. Number two, I have never understood for people who take frequent showers how you could possibly get dirty so fast! I know some people like to shower for other reasons (waking up, warming up before bed in winter, etc). I got in the habit of not taking showers often when my partner and I lived in a 17-foot RV for four years with our two cats and two dogs, traveling around the SW. That was a long time ago, but it has stuck with me. It's a joke among friends and family. They just roll their eyes and go along with it. BUT.... I absolutely have the lowest water bill in my neighborhood!

Seriously, so with you on natural body smells. What you cover it up with could never be as good as your own body odor, in my opinion.

Edit: I had to edit it after reading the other answers, because I remembered something. While not vegan, I don't eat meat. Meat eaters do tend to have a particular body odor that can sometimes bother me.
delicatexflower ══╣butterfly╠══

smell has always been a sensitive subject with me. i was bullied badly in school for how i smelled. my mom never told me the "importance of deodorant." but since i didn't use deodorant, i became closer to a natural smell. i didn't notice.. it wasn't as bad as the kids (and teachers--who got involved since the kids teased me so bad, i told the teachers and they just made it worse--) to this day, i don't think someone smell makes them dirty, it is simple their smell. i really hate the stigma that smell has with being dirty, though :(
anrui_ichido ══╣╠══
lilywolfsolomon ══╣╠══
Slowly catching up, having been in a bit of a funk. This reminds me of a quote from Kenneth Cohen's Honoring the Medicine that I read years ago: "Olfactory sensitivity is fundamental to physical and social survival. Inuit people can smell different qualities of sea, ice, and weather... Lovers breathe and smell each other to kindle their passion. Wrong choices are made because human scents are masked by perfume and deodorants. Divorces occur because of olfactory incompatabilities."

I don't mind other people's odors but since I have these issues with taking up space and especially taking up space in ways I can't control it does really bother me when someone is bothered by my scent. It takes a lot of trust to let myself be smelly around someone. So when I smell someone's odor in a social setting I don't mind it at all except for the fact that I'm worried it might be me and that the space I'm taking up is then disturbing people. And at the same time I'm grateful when someone has chosen to go out like that, I kind of relax when I'm in a group and I smell someone and no one seems to care. And I'm like, go you.

So, when I do these intense immersions into transparency and sensuality and glorious clothing optional spaces where all of me is welcome, it's sort of also a rewilding in a way: after a bit people start talking about their shit and what it looks like while sitting together and enjoying delicious food. I mean, okay, it's not like that conversation happens frequently, only once actually, but we noticed that we were supposed to care and we were supposed to lose our appetites and yet we just no longer cared and kept devouring delicious food and laughing about how we could talk about this stuff at the table. It's like we just forget that that's something that's not usually discussed so openly because we've been so open with each other, because we don't need to wear clothes around each other, because we can be sexual around each other. I think the requirement to wear clothes actually holds a hell of a lot of other taboos in place, it keeps us constantly concerned even unconsciously about what is appropriate to reveal about ourselves and... yeah. I think the Eden story is whispering a precious secret in our ears if we were only attuned enough to hear it...

So after a while in that kind of environment people actually seem to tune into our more wild natures where we notice and appreciate natural scents and pheromones and... I think rewilding doesn't take long if the conditions are right for it. I think totally reconditioning our reactions to scent can happen in a few days.

Mmmh, you know, reminds me once again of this memoir piece I wrote and I'm trying to write again and... I'm tired of keeping it in, though part of me feels that doing so will help build energy to write. But fuck it. At Gratifly I was just distraught and disconnected and someone I didn't know was like, "Come here," and then held me and started sniffing me sensually and just moaning and it was like the most animal thing ever, and I was covered in all sorts of scents I was self-conscious about but they loved me up. It woke me up, truly. It made me feel so... welcome to take up space, and to be alive and to show my animal nature. Like, it was going to take SO MUCH for me to finally not be self-conscious, and this person was like a deity that just appeared and KNEW, all they had to do is fully take in and enjoy my scents and... gah, the most intimate thing, and I didn't realize till just now how it just woke me up, being smelled. I didn't realize how important that is, not just being seen and heard, but being smelled in my uniqueness. "Mmmmh, I wanted to get a whiff of his [sic] pheromones," they said to their friends when they let go. That's the rawness I long for. I'm sooooooo tired of all the crap that we have to hide and are supposed to feel ashamed about!!!!! GRRRR!

There are times I feel too sensitive for certain scents. If I'm repelled by a certain scent at one time I may well be attracted to it at another time, it's simply my sensitivity and state of consciousness. And while I'm sure I do have hangups around this taboo I'm totally willing to decondition myself because this is what I value.
raidingparty ══╣╠══
I shower about every other day, and very rarely on vacation or weekends. Water bill was less than $10 one month! :D

Underarms are weird: In general, I like the active smell but I rarely like the smell that stays on my clothes the next day.
My sweetheart smells so tasty!
We're also mostly vegetarian. I've heard other stories about cinnamon, pineapple juice, tea, and so on.

I remember thinking some people smell/taste like lemongrass and some smell/taste like marinara. Only one smelled unpleasant, and there were probably other issues there.

I think there's a question of intensity there: A whiff of humanity, (even excrement!) can be intriguing, but there's not only a taboo but a biological revulsion to exposure to CAUTION: BACTERIA AT WORK!
wolfteaparty ══╣Last Unicorn╠══
Natural body smells have become quite a source of anxiety and shame for me. I was terribly bullied when I was growing up, and I was treated like I stunk and had a disease. One of my abusive exes made shaming comments that made me feel disgusting, so I have some shame issues left over from that and the bullying. And there was a recent incident in my life that humiliated me. So, unfortunately, I tend to bathe obsessively and chemically wash away scents, even to the point of putting on deodorant twice a day since the incident happened and left me afraid. I know it has probably gotten to the point where it's not good for me. All the bathing is drying out my skin, for instance, and I think it's best for us to not bathe every day for the sake of our skin not drying out.

There have been some cases where other people's body odor has been strong enough to make me nauseous. However, I have come to understand that there must be an evolutionary reason why we have body smells, like the chemical messages and pheromones, and there's no getting around the fact that our sex organs are going to carry a scent that in most cases will be a turn-on to partners (as much as my ex tried to make me feel gross).
butterbyitself ══╣╠══
callmebee ══╣╠══
First: I shower once to twice a week. I loathe bathing, was never forced to bathe as a child (when it was suggested, I just did it because it wasn't ever forced on me), so as an adult I only bathe when my head is itchy (when it was short that took a loooooong time, now its after about 4 days) and I LOVE head smell. Like, hair. Scalp.

There have only been two people who's smell I don't, my bio-sibling and an ex co-worker.

My bio-sibling especially overwhelmed me for a long time. It was so repulsive that I could hardly stand being around them. Looking back I think it was their inherently ill body (serious thyroid issues) and the hormonal imbalances I was probably reacting to. They had their thyroid removed (cancer) and then immediately got pregnant. Since then, their smell has actually been rather pleasant to me. We've never been close, but something about "mother" smell is very appealing to me.

The ex co-worker. . . I can't even put into words the absolute hatred I had of this person. From the first moment we met, I knew they were Not Good. I can't put it into better words, but they smelled. . . Wrong. Eventually I had to fire them because they had no-call no-showed too many times (we're more lenient than most) and it was making work too difficult for everyone else. They had a lot of "problems" all the time, a cousin who committed suicide on this person's second shift, a child so ill they were in the hospital and might die, breast cancer, etc. The list was almost too much to handle. . . and it all felt off to me. It was primal. She smelled wrong.

A few months later, we found out that all of her stories had been bold faced lies. I think she was doing meth, honestly. She just smelled so very, very wrong.

My co-workers instantly understood because they all smell each other. Regularly. Exactly how you described, they'll lift their arms up and all smell each other's armpits. I was really excited when I read that you do that, because I've never heard of anyone else doing so. I've always thought it was kind of beautiful, it was this expression of appreciating each other on a very base level. As if there was not a single part of each other they do not love. They're a little, intimate band of misfits who have found a home in each other, and have welcomed me into their home even though I don't smell their armpits, I do let them smell mine though :o)

Anyway, I thought this was a particularly interesting topic. I think smell is one of the things that bonds us, humans, to the animal world. I mean, we are animals, so it would make sense that smelling each other is a thing.

I personally like scented deodorants, but I'm incredibly particular about them. My body chemistry reacts to certain scents in certain ways that I love. Its very personal though. I like it, and I don't expect or desire anyone else to change their scent. Its similar to how I see makeup. I like it, its fun to paint myself and to be able to modify my face in subtle, controlled, ways. I don't expect anyone else to use it, and I think people are beautiful with, or without it.

As always, thanks for bringing up an interesting topic and giving people the freedom to express their own opinions :o)
toll_booth ══╣╠══
My FWB likes to smell me. The first couple of times I realized she was doing this, I merely tolerated it, but now I realize how important it is to her. Doesn't bother me a bit now. :)
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.