Ideas

The Seduction of Scent

Scent has been used for millennia to enhance sexual attraction and mask body odour. The manufacture of scent is a billion dollar industry in today's deodorized world. Cindy Bisaillon examines the psychology and neurology of smell and the fine line between scented sophistication and our own primal animal musk....
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Scent has been used for millennia to enhance sexual attraction and mask body odour. The manufacture of scent is a billion dollar industry in today's deodorized world. Cindy Bisaillon examines the psychology and neurology of smell and the fine line between scented sophistication and our own primal animal musk.


Smell is our most primal sense. It connects us to our animal selves more than our other senses do, the part of us we tend to deny. Maybe that's why when we say the word 'smell', it has a stink to it. 'Scent' sounds more pleasant, more seductive.

The seduction of scent surrounds us in thousands of ways. A multi-billion dollar scent industry helps persuade us to mask our own natural smells. We've become obsessed with smelling clean and fresh. Our world has been de-odourized, only to be re-odourized, in ways that are often subliminal. Trendy clothing stores are scented with specially designed fragrances to put us in a buying mood. New cars are sprayed with leather scent to mask their plastic and metal, and trigger our nostalgia for how cars used to smell.  Scent plays on our emotions, and takes us into the past.

It carries a wealth of stories and sacred meanings, in an astonishing spectrum of smells both fair and foul: the scented gloves of Marie Antoinette; the stench of the Plague; the secret of Chanel No.5.


Participants in the program:

Rachel Herz, Psychologist, Cognitive Neuroscientist and Professor at Brown University. Her book, The Scent of Desire is published by Harper Collins.

David Howes, Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University and founder of the Centre for Sensory Studies. Co-author of Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell, published by Routledge.  

Susan Harvey, Professor at Brown University. Author of a book called Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination, published by University of California Press.

Carlos Benaim, Master perfumer at International Flavours and Fragrances. He's crafted perfumes for Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren and Elizabeth Taylor.

Tilar Mazzeo, Author, and Professor of English at Colby College. Her recent book, The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is published by Harper Collins.

Stacy Malkin, co-founder of Committee for Safe Cosmetics, and author of Not Just a Pretty Face, published by New Society Publishers.

Tracy Pepe. Scent designer. Her company based outside Toronto is called Nose Knows Design.


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