A Sex Therapist Breaks Down the Power of Scent

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Photo: Courtesy photo

Scarlett Johansson's lips are sexily parted. She's wearing a black lacy something. Her eyes? Smoky black and completely "come hither." Photographed by the classically unsexy photographer Terry Richardson, she sexily stars in an ad for Desire, Dolce & Gabbana's newest fragrance. And to celebrate the launch, the perfume team brought in sex therapist Dr. Stephen Snyder to shed some doctorly light on which smells are sexiest.

"I spent a lot of time with people in the office who want to create desire, and basically you can’t do it," he says, referencing the efficacy of pheromones and the power of a dude's Brut. "If a fragrance is announcing desire, what it’s doing is altering you to pay attention to the potential, for inviting you to experience aspects of your desire." So it's not necessarily a specific note (vanilla, say, or musk) that brainwashes the sniffer into pulling a Magic Mike party in your pants, but your own confidence, happiness, and relaxation vibes that specific perfumes can evoke, thereby making you send off sexy signals. For others, it's not even a scent that does the trick: It could be a swipe of red lipstick, mussed-up tousled hair, or wearing your own favorite pair of Hanes. Those are the things that'll make sexy times happen, not because you rubbed a certain smell all over yourself. 

Despite that, here's the breakdown on some notes within Dolce & Gabbana's Desire that evokes the sensual:

Tuberose:
"This is a hypnotic scent; it draws you in and takes you captive. It stops you in your tracks, so that it’s hard to think about anything else and that’s going to really evoke the desire. Especially with e-mails and stuff all day long, people just want to be able to stop, and to shut off and just be taken over."

Caramel and Vanilla:
"These are the edibles that literally get your mouth watering a little bit. When young men come to me and ask me what women want in bed, I say that she wants you to hunger for her and feel your hunger, and have you just eat her up like a cupcake. Hunger is very much a part of desire, obviously."

Sandalwood:
"The aspect of this, the quality of specialness or of sacredness, really peaks desire."

Musk:
"It's not an aphrodisiac as we used to think in the seventies, but it’s rather something that is a relaxing part of the scent. Sexual arousal and desire are part of the relaxation response."

Now, Axe has some explaining to do.