This week’s guest blogger – Jamie Bowden-Smith – is a historian of the late 20th century and runs the Gay News Archive Project, republishing the pioneering LGBT+ newspaper of the 1970s. He tweets at @thisisrjg and if I am 100% honest with you, he is one of the people I have met through Twitter that I would most like to go for a pint with. He has both a passion and a knack for articulating the delicious details about what makes something hot, and in this blog he applies his knack to something very close to my own heart: the sexiness of smell.
The sexiness of smell
Many animals and plants release subtle smells – pheromones – to warn predators, note the presence of food or to attract a mate.
Despite many studies, there’s never been any repeatable evidence found for human pheromones. It would appear, based on our current scientific knowledge, that we don’t excrete anything subtle to attract or enrapture a mate.
That’s not to say that we don’t emit smells at all. Clearly we do, and clearly they’re often sexual in nature and just as entrancing and memorable as putative human pheromones would be.
For most animals, smell is the most important sense, the key to their interaction with the world. For primates, like humans, it tends to come low down on our priorities. Sight comes first, followed by hearing, touch and taste. The English language has far more words to describe the other senses than it does for smell: try describing the smell of coffee – the words just aren’t available. The words that we do have tend to cluster around bad smells rather than good ones, and our reactions are the same: try to describe the smell of milk and you’ll have trouble; try to describe the smell of sour milk and it’s a lot easier.
Smell, however, remains important to our brains thanks to evolution. While we consciously pay it little heed, our brains devote roughly the same amount of space to it we do with other senses. It is stored in our long-term memories just like every other sensory input, which may, possibly, make smell lie behind the feeling of déjà vu – we smell a rare smell that is strongly linked to a previous event, but fail to connect with the memory, or the fact that we’ve just smelled the same odour. Instead, we decide that the whole event is something that has happened before, a feeling that can be terrifying.
For me, smell has been important in sex since my first sexual experience. He was sat on the bed, and I was kneeling in front of him. I unzipped his jeans, revealing his erection (he identified as straight, but the prospect of a blowjob masked this immediately). As I fumbled at his pants to release his cock, the most potent thing was the smell of him.
The sweat from his groin, fresh sweat, brought on by excitement and, no doubt, fear. That smell of late teenage guys after doing sports, clean but pungent. And then his dick. As my mouth moved towards it, I inhaled. The smell of his erection was wonderful. Powerful. Sexual.
The smell of his precum, which began to leak copiously from him as I neared, was another level. Salty, warm, like the sea in some hot resort. Then the smell of his cum. He came quickly and unexpectedly in my mouth, and it leaked on to my hand. Ammonia, soap, a hint of something like garlic, a hint of something like sour milk, but, oh my, so pleasant. I came in my pants.
He was a far older guy, well past retirement. I like older guys. He was laid-back and witty, and I basked in his attention. I was removing his clothes before he even closed his front door, stumbling as I tried to take off his coat and shirt. His smell was like wood, a dark, solid and totally intoxicating smell. The sex was slow, his dick never fully hard, whilst my hard on raged. I toured his body, breathing deep of the different woody notes of him. His armpits, a delicious, almost mossy smell. His groin, a fresh, spring day forest. If I could’ve canned the smell, I’d never need porn for a wank again: a few blasts and I would be there. He came on my chest, his small dribble of spunk a lighter, smoky note to his woodland concerto.
A few years later, I found myself in B&Q, looking at garden ornaments. One was an twirly thing designed to make patterns as is blew round in the breeze. I touched it to set it spinning… and there it was, that deep wood smell on my fingers. I got hard immediately, like I was a teenager again, and just like those days, fought to surreptitiously manoeuvre my cock to one side trapped behind my belt so it wouldn’t be seen.
I bought the ornament, but never hung it in the garden.
I’m not a fan of pubs. I can’t hear well in crowds, and at all if music is playing. I tire easily from trying to appear interesting, and make up for my social awkwardness by buying and drinking too many pints of cider. Good things don’t happen for me in pubs. Usually.
He’d clearly just finished work and was coming in for a pint or two before going home for dinner. There was paint splatter on his black combat trousers and ingrained black under his nails. A builder, or a decorator, some job that involved working with his hands and his brawn. Early 50s, perhaps late 40s looking older or early 60s looking younger. He was joking with his work colleagues while drinking ale at the bar. A very handsome brute.
We made eye contact very briefly, but it seemed like nothing. I excused myself from my mates and went to the pub toilet. He did the same.
He pushed me to my knees whilst closing the cubicle door, a feat of dexterity that I don’t think I could manage. He unzipped his trousers and released his cock, and just his cock. No balls, no undoing of the top button on his trousers. Just the cock poking out of his paint-splattered combats. He pushed my head on to it.
The smell was amazing if not altogether pleasant, old sweat and old turps and old beer and various builder-y things, but I didn’t have time to take it in as he pushed his dick into my mouth and started to face-fuck me. He came quickly down the back of my throat, zipped up and was gone back into the pub before I’d even stood up, my knees wobbly, my legs trembling, the sound of the door banging closed in my ears.
And then I smelt his cum. Instead of breathing it in, the smell was in my throat, and I could smell it on breathing out. His cum was amazing, a fruity, almost citrus smell, the underlying notes of salt air helping to lift it into my nose. I continued to breathe out through my nose as I made myself presentable in the mirror, savouring the wonderful smell and its strange arrival from “the wrong end” of my nose. It would be obliterated quickly by the cider waiting for me back with my friends. He and his workmates had gone, and I had a story to tell as I sat back down.
A story that begins and ends with smell. Who needs pheromones?