I have a confession to make. I wear Axe deodorant, in the “Phoenix” scent. You know, the stuff that’s marketed to frat boys.
No one has ever complained about the way my armpits smell while wearing this product. Nevertheless, my men friends seem incredibly traumatized to find this product in my bathroom. It even triggered the following fight (slightly paraphrased) with an ex-boyfriend, who assumed it was evidence planted by a fictional secret lover:
BF (brandishing the bottle of Axe with a suspicious glare): “WHO DOES THIS BELONG TO?”
BF: “LIAR!!!!This is manwhore deodorant! HAVE YOU BEEN CHEATING ON ME WITH SOME LINCOLN PARK MANWHORE?”
Me: “No. I just like the way it smells. Deal with it.”
For the record, I don’t watch "Entourage" or read Maxim, but I do have a penchant for sniffing the armpits of attractive men.
Axe smells like a laboratory formulated version of a sexy man’s armpit. Lots of men’s products claim to contain “pheromones” (is that even scientifically possible?) but Axe is the only one that perfectly captures that amazing sweaty T-shirt smell.
If Johnny Depp was an android gigolo in the 23rd century, I imagine his armpits would smell like this.
To be honest, I probably would never have purchased Axe based on the advertising alone. I discovered it back in 2007, when I was dating a hot, super-intellectual younger man who cooked me steak dinners and was fantastic in bed. He was a dapper androgyne with long black hair and a lip ring, not exactly Axe’s target demographic.
Nevertheless, he wore the Axe phoenix spray, and he always smelled incredible.
When I slept over at his place I’d use it on myself and then spend the rest of the day sniffing my armpits in a state of erotic bliss.
Before I got hooked on Axe, I used that liquid rock hippie deodorant. Let’s face it: women’s deodorants often smell sickly sweet and infantilizing (why would anyone over the age of 12 voluntarily want to smell like baby powder? Gag.)
I once purchased Secret Platinum’s “Vanilla Chai”-scented deodorant out of sick curiosity, but tossed it after a friend told me it made me “smell like a Barbie.” Smelling like cheap scented plastic is not a turn on for me.
I do enjoy many traditionally “feminine” florals like rose, jasmine and violet (Stella is my go-to perfume), but generally I prefer “manly” musks, woody, earthy and citrus scents over cloying vanillas and powdery, fruity scents. I do enjoy Axe’s archetypically masculine scent, but I worry I’m sending out the wrong message by wearing a product designed to attract straight women.
I’m really into androgyny, but will I turn off my male partners with my “manly” smell? I broached this topic while sipping champagne with my gays at a Kate Bush theme night at a bar.
“When you wear perfume, you want to smell fuckable,” Sergio (not his real name) explained to me. “Market research shows that women find florals sexy, whereas men like woodier scents.” (Actually, I read somewhere that men are most turned on by the smells of cinnamon rolls and vanilla, so really I should just be stuffing baked goods down my bra.)
This begs the following question: By wanting to smell “fuckable,” are we wearing scents that actually turn us on, or scents we think will turn other people on?
And do straight men actually spend money on fancy perfume? I felt slightly subversive for preferring Clinique’s Happy for Men as a teenager, but have women been the secret target demographic for these so-called men’s fragrances all along? Sephora even sells a Kate Walsh fragrance called “Boyfriend,” which I presume is for women who want to keep their heteronormativity intact by buying a women’s fragrance that self-consciously smells like a men’s fragrance.
Sergio used to sell perfume for a major cosmetics company, and he confirmed that yes, straight men actually do buy fancy cologne. The interesting distinction that Sergio noticed was that these men assertively selected fragrances for themselves, while his female customers often wanted Sergio to “tell them” what would make them smell sexy.
In this regard, I’m probably a bit more like the stereotypical man. I’ll pick out my own damn fragrance, thanks.
So, dear readers, do you think there’s actually any biological basis in associating scent with gender? (And if so, what would genderqueer smell like?) Do you prefer “masculine” or “feminine” scents? Would you rather smell like someone you’d want to fuck, or someone that your target sexual demographic would hypothetically want to fuck?
Do you think I’m creep for supporting an icky company that happens to make a deodorant that smells irresistibly like a dirty, sweaty boy? Tell me in the comments!