Smell undoubtedly contributes to a person’s attractiveness, but could it be the sole deciding factor in choosing a partner? Well, the creators of this New York matchmaking service decided to find out. At ‘Smell Dating’, the world’s “first mail odor dating service”, single people are paired up based on their reaction to each other’s body odor.
Created by Tega Brain, artist and teacher at New York’s School for Poetic Computation, and Sam Lavigne, an editor and researcher at New York University, Smell Dating is described more as an art project than a business. They based the project on the science behind pheromones, which are chemical signals that different species send out to attract mates. “Unlike sight and sound, smell is interpreted first in terms of memory and emotion before being mapped to language,” the project website reads. “When it comes to long-term romantic partnership, it may actually be riskier to ignore the powerful signal of scent than to rely on it.”
The duo started with 100 clients, collecting a one time fee of $25. Then they sent each of them a T-shirt to wear for three days without bathing or wearing deodorant. The smelly garments were then sent back to the company’s ‘sweat shop’ at NYU. Once the used T-shirts were sent back to them, Brain and Lavigne proceeded to cut each shirt into small pieces, creating packages of 10 mixed swatches. These were shipped back to the clients, and this time, they were asked to sniff the contents and identify the odor they naturally leaned towards. “If someone whose smell you like likes the smell of you too, we’ll facilitate an exchange of contact information,” the website explains. “The rest is up to you.”
While the website states that the first round of Smell Dating is closed, it’s not clear if the exercise resulted in any matches. But Reuters reports that many of the participants were quite excited about the service. Like 25-year-old NYU graduate student Jesse Donaldson, who hoped that it would succeed where other popular matchmaking services had failed. “I’m like so many other people in New York City, using Tinder, using OK Cupid,” he told the news agency. “And my main issue with these things is you feel like you’re shopping for somebody as opposed to making a genuine connection with another human being.”
“Most normal dating services, you rely on profile pictures, assumptions that come from visual information,” Brain explained. “You either really like the smell of someone or you don’t. It’s much more innate.”
“We wanted to see if people would be interested in meeting other people just based on this one bit of information rather than this avalanche of information that you usually get,” Lavigne added.
But Brain and Lavigne aren’t the first to come up with the idea of olfactory dating. Pheromone Parties were all the rage a couple of years ago, with young men and women sniffing random bags stuffed with T-shirts, previously worn by participants three nights in a row. Some scientists did downplay the trend back then, calling it a surefire way to get you sex, but not real relationships.