Doing the t-shirt activity was very interesting because before going in I was unsure of what to expect. First I thought the t-shirts would smell awful, but in reality they were not that bad. While I was in the lab smelling them I felt that same consciences from the other girls in the room that the shirts didn’t smell that bad. Also I thought the survey was interesting in the way that it asked questions about where we were in our menstrual cycle as well as what if any form of birth control we used. I didn’t see these questions as being important at the time of the survey, however after the activity was over and the data was presented I found it very interesting. I was able to see that where in your cycle you were played somewhat of a role in how you rated the smell of the t-shirts. I didn’t think it would I thought the type of birth control you are on would be more important because the different hormones being released could cause your body to have a different response. After doing this activity I differently find it something that is very interesting that I would like to look more into and gain more knowledge about.
The Sweaty T-Shirt activity was strange at first. I wondered why I had to basically sweat before I went to bed and wear an uncomfortable t-shirt. The jumping jacks did not have a huge strain on my nightly regiment, but did make me uncomfortable right before bed. Measuring my hands was strange. I thought they were testing the stereotype about having big hands and feet to male genital size somehow. When I came to realize that males have a special odor that we excrete that is sometimes pleasant to females, I understood the project a little better. The correlation between male symmetry and attractiveness was what the measurements were for. When the women smelled the shirts, their biology tells them that the males with the more symmetry are more attractive. This of course is dependent on their place in the menstrual cycles. If they were ovulating, their bodies would tell them to try and find a mate to reproduce with. What is interesting is that if a correlation between pleasurable male smells and their respective symmetry is found, then there is a proven biology to symmetry and male smell. All that could mean that the scents of males are formed after the body is formed which could still be in the womb or during puberty. The opportunities to look into the biology of sex are endless.
The Sweaty T-shirt Experiment was conducted to find correlations between male body odors in regards to body symmetry and the effects varying female hormone levels have on the male odor (positive, negative, or neutral). As part of the male component of the study, we were asked to wear a pre-bought T-shirt and measure the length of our fingers (body symmetry factor). We were required to sleep in the T-shirt for at least two nights—a total of 12 hours—and only shower 1 hour before we put it on. While wearing the shirt we could not: drink, smoke, wear cologne, body spray, deodorant/antiperspirant, eat “smelly” foods, or have intercourse. Additionally we were asked to exercise a little, helping some of our scent stay on the shirt. Once finished, we put the shirt in a plastic bag and returned back for the second part of the experiment for the female participants.
The smelly t-shirt activity was interesting. I had missed class the day instructions were given so all I knew was to go to the arch lab. I show up and about 16 shirts are laid out for me in bags, spread out across a big lab table. I am asked to stick my nose in each one and take a whiff. Obviously, knowing the hygienic habits of most of my male counterparts, I cringed at the thought. The shirts didn’t smell quite as awful as I thought they would. Well, a few did, but for the most part I couldn’t smell much. Maybe my nose sucks, or maybe half of them had no smell. Some smelled like soap to me, but then others smelled like rancid gym socks. A couple shirts stood out to me, as they didn’t smell like soap and they didn’t smell disgusting. They smelled like man—oddly similar to ex-boyfriend’s shirts I used to love to wear. This activity was interesting in many ways. I almost want to sign up for a dating website that uses this as a match-up guide and see who I get stuck with!
For the first part sweaty T- shirt activity males were given a standard white t-shirt and instructed to sleep in it for two consecutive nights, on one of the nights they were told to do a set of jumping jacks I am assuming to induce a stronger smell. After the two nights they were told to put the shirts in a standard zip lock bag and return it to class. For the second part of the study I was instructed to take a survey asking certain personal questions like how old I was and how many weeks I was in my cycle. I then went to Ro Jo and was directed by Lynn that I should open the different shirts on the table, smell them then rate them as having a positive smell, a negative, or no smell. When I asked why some of shirts had no smell Lynn informed me that during a certain time in a woman’s cycle smells come off differently and to varying intensities. I knew this from personal experience but never really knew that it served an actual purpose, so finding this information out was really cool. None of the shirts smelt overly bad and a few actually smelt good. I am interested to figure out the results of this activity.
While a little bit gross, this activity was really fun and really, really fascinating. I understood it so much more than the Disgust Study we did earlier. Upon smelling all of the tee-shirts, I generally caught the scent of vinegar (immediately denoting a BAD smell for me). Only a few times did I find the tee-shirts to not smell at all or even smell good! Maybe this relates to my birth control? I did not expect our surveys to be centered around birth control so it makes me think that my pill plays a large role in how attractive other men are. It would definitely make sense seeing as, upon starting my pill, I lost almost any and all interest in sex or men in general. So, maybe, the pill makes the natural pheromones of men generally smell worse? Another thing I would be interested in seeing would be the effect a relationship makes in the activity. Would being in a relationship (long term) change a woman’s answers? I know whenever I am dating someone that they smell especially good to me, more so than normal. It would be cool to take two women, on the same pill, and compare (if one is in a relationship and the other is not).
Overall, I found the sweaty t-shirt activity to be incredibly interesting. I have learned a great deal in class thus far, and am looking forward to what I will continue to learn regarding sexuality and why/how humans behave in certain ways. Smelling the t-shirts was not even half as unpleasant as I originally thought it was going to be. In my opinion, the majority of the shirts I smelled reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, so it was a very nostalgic activity for me to take part in. Men can have a certain smell that seems to just exude “sex”, or what might make me think of sex. There were a few t-shirts that smelled like what I would assume is what that individual’s house or apartment smells like; very “indoorsy” and clean. There was also one t-shirt in particular that had a horrible stench to it. It smelled sour, almost like the individual had consumed a large amount of liquor before sweating it out profusely all over himself. Besides the one t-shirt that smelled totally foul, I found the rest to have a pleasant odor to them due to the fact that it reminded me of—and not to get too personal—the first person I was truly in love with.
In order to complete this activity I had to smell approximately twenty t-shirts worn by my classmates and determine which shirts had an attractive smell, an unattractive smell or no discernible smell. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to this activity. In the end, I was surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. I’m guessing the guys who participated are reasonably responsible (they were the ones who actually completed their part of the activity) and probably shower regularly! I didn’t think any of the shirts actually had a pleasant smell. Most were neutral but a few were unpleasant. It’s possible that the smell of the plastic bags may have interfered with my ability to smell the shirts. I am assuming we were required to participate in this activity in order to determine the role smell plays in sexual attraction and how a woman’s menstrual cycle affects her choices. I was very interested to see that when this activity was discussed in “The Science of Sex Appeal,” women found that the shirts worn by males related to them were determined to be the least appealing. I was also surprised to learn that our immune system is involved in this process.
Since I am a male I was given a plain white T-shirt in class and told to wear it at least 2 nights then seal it back in its Ziploc bag. While wearing the shirt it had to be on for a minimum of six hours for two nights. If I was going to choose to shower while conducting this experiment. I had to take a shower precisely 1 hour before putting on the T-shirt. Before getting into bed with the shirt I would have to do 30 jumping jacks before going to bed, so that some of my body odor would stick to the shirt. I was not allowed to drink, smoke, wear cologne,body spray, deodorant, eat smelly foods, and zero sex with the shirt on. While doing all of this I also had to measure the length of my fingers for my left and right hands and record the information on a questionnaire online. The females role is to smell the t-shirts to test if she is grossed out by the smell or attracted by the body odor depending on hormone changes. I unfortunately was not able to follow the instructions 100%. The only thing I broke was “no deodorant” because I break out in that area if I do not wear any. Gross, right?
Whereas the “disgust” activity was purely sight, the t-shirt activity gave important insight into how crucial the other senses can be in terms of attraction. Upon starting the activity, when taking the survey, I did not expect to ascertain any noticeable difference in attraction to certain smells. I mean, all boys have generally the same body odor, right? NOPE. Some of those boys need to take showers a bit more regularly, or figure out how to sweat less…maybe turn on a fan before going to sleep. There were several shirts that had definite negative smells, several with definite positive, and several with no smell at all, for me. While the positive smells smelled good, I found myself more drawn to the shirts that did not have much smell at all. I don’t know whether this is indicative of my “type” or what, but I think those shirts acted as a neutralizer after smelling strong body odors either positively or negatively. I also wonder if my nose became desensitized after smelling several of the shirts, and if I would rate the same shirts differently if I did them a second time. I would bet yes. I am interested to see how birth control weighs in to the results. Would it really alter sense of smell that much? Or does it have to do with libido levels over all? I do remember not being attracted to anything quite as much when I was on birth control.