About 2 million people in the United States can’t smell anything. That’s got to be great if, say, you’re walking past a dumpster, but not-so-great if you’re looking for love. Research suggests that men who can’t smell have fewer sex partners than men with fully functioning nostrils. About five times fewer.
A team of researchers had already found a correlation between not having a sense of smell and having feelings of insecurity. (There are a few possibilities about why: either we can’t check ourselves for odor or we take comfort from certain smells.) A more recent study from the same researchers compared 32 people who couldn’t smell–22 women and 10 men–with a control group, asking both groups about the number of sexual partners they’d had. The question was, if people are insecure because they can’t smell, will that insecurity affect their sex lives, too?
Well, something‘s affecting their sex lives. The men, on average, had way fewer partners than the men in the control group. Curiously, the women without a sense of smell had about the same number of partners as the control group women. But compared with the control group (and the men), the women ranked themselves as more insecure in their current romantic relationship.
So what’s going on here? Why didn’t men and women react to their own inability to smell the same way? Good question! And it’s hard to say, as Research Digest points out.
Here are a few theories on why the results came out the way they did.
- While women without a sense of smell seemed to lack confidence in relationships, according to the study, the men apparently lacked social confidence. That might make them more timid in social situations, and explain the below-typical number of sex partners. (Although that’s discounting the opposite: that these men are more secure in their relationships. In fact, men in the study rated their relationship security slightly higher than the male control group did.)
- There’s evidence that a specific smell may be more heavily associated with a relationship for women than it is for men. That would explain why lacking a sense of smell would coorelate more with women feeling insecure in a relationship than men.
- It’s important to remember, and even the researchers admit, that this was a study with a very small sample size. It’s entirely possible that a larger group would show different results.
But the results here are a little sad. Don’t be self-conscious, non-smellers of either gender. There could be a silver lining.