The dating game has always been treacherous. The Internet has made it easier to find a match, but there’s still a lot you don’t know about the person you’re meeting online. Whether they really look like that… and what they smell like. It might not seem like much, but scientists believe our bodies release subtle chemical smells – pheromones – that can play a big role in our romantic lives.

The idea to throw a pheromone party was born out of frustration. Judith Prays is a 25 year old rapper and web developer living in Atlanta. “Basically my entire life I’d only dated intellectually,” she said. “I was looking for someone interesting and smart. I was looking for things on a piece of paper.”

She tried dating based on physical attraction instead. It resulted in her best and longest relationship. “And I was obsessed with how he smelled,” she said. “And I had heard about that experiment about pheromones.”

The so-called “sweaty T-shirt” experiment asked females to sniff t-shirts recently worn by males. Turns out the women preferred the scent of men whose immune response genes were different from their own, suggesting they might produce more healthy offspring.

“So maybe when I’m smelling someone’s t-shirt, I might be smelling a lot about their personality,” said artist and gallery owner Mya Stark. “I just don’t know it consciously.” Stark knew about the “sweaty T-shirt” experiment, and when she heard about Judith Prays’ pheromone party in New York, decided she had to bring it to LA.

Basically, here’s how the party works: each participant brings a white cotton t-shirt that they’ve slept in for three nights. The shirts are placed in Ziploc bags marked with numbers. People take turns sniffing the contents. If they like what they smell, they have their picture taken holding the bags. Then there’s a photo slideshow, and if you see someone cute holding your numbered bag they choose, you can then connect with them.

Mya Stark says she’s had her share of dating fails, and thinks people are looking for another way to meet. “We’re trying to match up with our other subcultures, which just seems like it can be a recipe for disaster,” Stark said. “I want to be suprised by looking at the picture of who I’m attracted to, and be like, ‘what? I would never!’ I’m sure I’m ignoring and neglecting so many awesome people.”

Scott Thrift, an artist who lives in Brooklyn, attended the first pheromone party, and met a woman there he dated for six months. He says the party’s a fun time, but it’s also a lesson in evolutionary biology. “I think that there is truth to this,” Thrift said. “We’re beasts, we’re human beings, were animals. And we do a really good job of convincing each other that we’re not. And this party really just puts it in your face, literally.”

Dr. Charles Wysocki, a neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadephia, said even though these parties lack the controls of a scientific experiment, there’s still a lot of science behind them. “And I think the more people learn about the real science behind these quirky pheromone parties, the more they take seriously the possible impact the sense of smell on social situations and even mate choice,” Wysocki said.

Interestingly, Judith Prays, the woman who held the first pheromone party a year a half ago, says she’s since become more observant of her Jewish faith. And that’s made her question whether she really wants to help people hook up. But then she considered God’s command: be fruitful and multiply. Which is what might just happen after a pheromone party.

The party will be held Thursday, April 5 at 8 pm at Cinefamily in Los Angeles. They’ll screen The Naked Ape afterwards.
Love In A Sweaty T-Shirt: A Pheromone Party Comes To LA by KCRW

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