Passeé Smells

Words by Maria Gil Ulldemolins


“Oh hell, no!” I screamed. My friend and I had rented a little house by the Mediterranean on our holiday. The previous visitors had left one of those celebrity magazines that showcase celebrity thighs and gives them speech bubbles (the celebrities, not the thighs). As someone who prides herself in never buying these magazines, I immediately took it and opened it eagerly.

Our sight became the sense in vogue, and smelling started being considered oh so passé.

“Oh dear,” said my friend, “That’s a non-subtle pussy eating allegory if there ever was one.” He has a degree in Audio-visual Communications. And a great mean streak I really love. In front of us there was a full-page ad featuring two dancers, a man and a woman. He was holding her as she bent backwards, and his head bowed down to her crotch. The ad was for sanitary pads. Smell-controlling sanitary pads.

Sigmund Freud (of course I’d bring up Freud) stated that back in the good old times when we were more animal than human, and walked on all fours, our sense of smell was a lot more important. We’d go around smelling each other’s rears and our noses would be perfectly aligned to do that. Then we evolved – boom, we stood upright. Note that evolving is not a neutral verb, it implies a moral judgement, it signifies bettering. So now we’ve lost the nose-bum connection and our gonads lay out visible, full frontal. Our sight became the sense in vogue, and smelling started being considered oh so passé. In these new circumstances, which organ became more apparent than before? Yes, you guessed it, this is Freud’s theory after all – the penis! This can also be a drinking game, every time Freud mentions “penis”, take a shot. In contrast, which organ remained “unevolved”, “primitive”, more “hidden”? Vaginas. Culturally, we have then decided that vaginas smell, and that’s nasty and backwards. We have also decided that women are the perfect consumers. And that a good way to get us to spend our money is to shame us into purchasing. That’s why we have an inordinate amount of media telling us what we should be looking like. And what we should be smelling like. Anywhere you look, you’ll have crazy rules shouting out from magazine covers and blog titles; make-up must dos, wardrobe malfunctions to avoid, this season’s must haves... You know the drill. The ad with the passionate, deodorized dancers belongs to this same party.

Here’s the breaking news: vaginas smell. Everything down there smells. So do balls, and nobody is urging men to use deodorizing condoms to be socially acceptable. Imagine them, there’d be different fragrances like “Sports Fresh” or “Super Spice”. One of the reasons those don’t exist might be that because unless you have a dancing partner sticking his head between your legs, these smells are intimate. It’s not like spraying lots of Angel in a crowded tube. The need to deodorize them is superfluous, because unless you are a freak of nature, you will not be smelling your workmate’s menses, nor the shop assistant’s. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. And if you are smelling them because you have your nose pushed against some lady’s genitals, looking at them, feeling them, maybe even tasting them, I bet you can be pretty darn OK with smelling them, too.

Maria does not burn bras for a living (they are expensive and her boobs are not naturally perky). She’s actually an independent Innovation and Creativity consultant and did her MA dissertation on the Feminine Image of the Contemporary Western Sense of Smell. You can follow her on twitter @nosideup

This article appeared in ODOU issue 3
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