Dry T-Shirt Contest: I Sniffed Armpit Stains at a Pseudoscientific Singles 'Pheromone Party'

I bought a new white T-shirt, slept in it for three consecutive nights, sealed it in a Ziploc bag, then paid $30 to let men sniff my scent.

Last week, I bought a new white t-shirt, slept in it for three consecutive nights, sealed it in a Ziploc bag, then paid $30 to let several dozen men bury their faces in it and sniff my scent. One of these men was wearing a fez.

Welcome to the first public "Pheromone Party," a new social framework for facilitating contact between single people. The event—half underwear fetish party, half "It’s Just Lunch!"­—leans on the pseudoscientific record to suggest that wafting the odor of strangers’ armpits could help you figure out whether you ought to have sex with them. "I always smell my lovers, so it just doesn’t seem strange to me at all," says Judith Prays, the 25-year-old filmmaker, web developer, and rapper (rap name: Jangle Jangle) who conceived of the event. "A lot of people get weirded out by it."

Is it so weird? All you do is luxuriate in an unwashed t-shirt for a few nights, "capture your odor print," bag it, then hand it off to an event administrator, who assigns your bag a number and a gender code ("pink for girl, blue for boy") and tosses it in a pile, where the evening’s guests are invited to "smell the bags at their leisure." If you catch wind of a smell that speaks to you, a photographer snaps your photo with the bag, then shoots the image over to a running slideshow of bag-sniffers that’s projected on the wall throughout the party. If you see someone holding your bag you’d like to talk to, you then … just talk to them.

"It’s about the science, but it’s also a pretext for conversation," Prays admits.

And if you’re the type of person who has chosen to spend a Thursday night paying to smell other people’s dirty laundry as an excuse to speak to them, you could probably use a little help in the socialization department. Take me, for example: My friends and I spent the hours leading up to the party self-consciously sniffing each others’ shirt bags, worrying that no boys would bond with our Beefy-T's, and furiously examining the junk science of self-appointed pheromone "experts" (select studies have shown that human underarm secretions could affect the female menstrual cycle, trigger brain activity, change moods, and even "raise the octane" of your novelty sexual aftershave).

Then we arrived, and waded into an absinthe-fueled pack of bag-sniffing dudes. The crowd was overwhelmingly male. Many were crowded around a mountain of plastic bags, pawing for a stray female bag, sniffing it deeply, then discarding it or clinging to it for dear life and filing dutifully into the lengthy photo line. One guy told me that he'd caught a whiff of his ideal bag, but couldn't wrestle it out of the hands of the other man who'd already claimed it. Another man grabbed a stray bag and passed it around in ridicule. "It's been smelled so many times, you have to dig to the bottom to get anything," he told me, sticking it toward my face. "It smells like patchouli."

Meanwhile, the women in attendance picked through the massive pile of man bags, presenting their favorite scents to their friends and wondering whether the one immaculately folded t-shirt was basically cheating. It was as if Hanes and Ziploc had been commissioned to enact a horrible pantomime of the traditional sexual economy. (Though you could smell whichever bag you wanted, this was predominantly a hetero affair). One observer described it as a "dry T-shirt contest."

Yeah, I sniffed a few. Most of them smelled like shirts, or else bags. A couple of them smelled like bed snacks. Old Spice was well-represented. And then I smelled him. Just kidding! When I located Prays at the party, I told her I didn't find myself sexually attracted to any of the bags. "Let me ask you a question," she responded. "How open are you, sexually?"

Not very. Isn't that why we were all there? Because it's easier for us to get close to a bag than it is a real live person—like the sweet guy in line in front of us, or the dude who looked kind of like House, M.D., or the aforementioned man with the fez? At the end of the party, when everyone was finally drunk and conversing freely, one woman nestled her face deep into a man’s pit. "He smells so goooood," she cooed into his leather jacket. "Smell him!" she commanded the women around her. "Smell him!" Did we have to? We had already figured out how to talk to him like a real person.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less