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Chemical in Women's Tears May Be Sexual Turnoff

Study Shows Men’s Sexual Interest Is Reduced After Sniffing Women’s Tears
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 6, 2011 -- Chemicals in the tears of women may give off signals that decrease the testosterone levels of men and reduce their sexual interest, new research indicates.

In a study of 24 men, Israeli researchers had the volunteers sniff either tears collected from women who had watched a sad movie or drops of saline that were trickled down the faces of the same women. They were then asked to view pictures of women’s faces that had emotionally neutral expressions.

The experiments were double-blind, which means neither the men nor the researchers knew about whether the liquid was saline or tears.

The results, though, seemed clear: Men who sniffed tears were more likely than those who smelled saline to consider the women in the photographs less sexually attractive.

And the men who sniffed tears also experienced drops in their levels of physiological arousal and testosterone levels measured in saliva.

Role of ‘Chemosignals’

Men who also sniffed the tears of women and then watched a sad movie showed less activity in the parts of the brain that are typically associated with sexual arousal.

“Subjective ratings of attributed sexual appeal, together with objective measures of psychophysiological arousal, testosterone expression and brain activity, jointly suggest that women’s emotional tears contain a chemosignal that reduces sexual arousal in men,” the researchers write. “We have thus identified an emotionally relevant function for tears.”

The effects occurred even though the men didn’t see women cry and weren’t aware of the source of the liquids they sniffed.

All mammals, including people, use chemosignals, the researchers say. The most common of these examined up to now has been sweat.

The researchers haven’t yet looked to see whether tears from men, and maybe the tears from children, might emit similar chemical signals.

The study is published online in the journal Science.

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