does sex have a smell

Does sex have a specific smell? Most people would agree, and many can even detect when someone has just had sex in a room they’ve entered. But if you ask what sex smells like, you’re likely to get a range of answers or to find that people can’t really answer this question well.

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It could be that sex is a combination of smells, or that some of those scents don’t compare to other things. Keep reading if you want to know what sex smells like and the science behind those scents!

What Sex Smells Like

What does sex smell like? Well, there are some things it definitely smells of.

1. Sweat

If you break a sweat while having sex, then the salty scent might permeate a room. Some people sweat more than others, and their sweat might have a stronger smell. If you’re already sweaty, say from working out beforehand, you might notice this more.

Did you know that men’s and women’s sweat contains different elements? A man’s sweat is more likely to smell cheesy while a woman’s will have more an oniony smell to it.

2. Body Odor

When sweat evaporates, body odor is left behind. So it stands to reason that sex can smell a bit like a stinky armpit. If either you or your partner is in need of a shower, it might smell worse. Certain parts of the body, such as the butt, testicles or taint are known for smelling worse, so we advise at least scrubbing those areas if you can’t shower before sex.

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People who are overweight tend to have a stronger smell, even if they’re proactive about cleaning themselves. So you may want to take a shower specifically before sex if you’re on the heavier side.

A particular type of body odor is that funky, cheesy smell that can develop in folds of tissue or fat such as the vulva or even belly button. To combat that scent, which might be more noticeable during sexy times, make sure you’re cleaning and drying those places fully.

3. Fecal Matter

why does sex smell

This piggybacks on the former point.  You’d be surprised how many men never really scrub their butt or balls! It’s impossible to ignore when you’re going down on a guy (blow job tips here).  There’s that familiar poopy smell, a combination of sweat and fecal matter.

A similar smell is also a risk when you engage in anal activities. Although you can do an adequate job of cleansing with just a shower and a lukewarm anal douche over the toilet removes most fecal matter, there’s still that risk.

Discover more in our post about preparing for anal sex.

4. Blood or Metal

Another thing that makes a difference in how sex smells is your cycle. If you have sex while you have your period — and there’s nothing wrong with that — it might smell more metallic. You’re probably familiar with the scent, which some people describe as similar to a roll of pennies.

Either way, sex can spread the blood and make the smell stronger. It’s not bad, per se, but it might not be pleasant.

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6. Ejaculate

One of the things that sex between a man and a woman smells like is ejaculate. If your partner comes in or on you and especially if it has time to leak onto the surface beneath you, you might notice a sour or salty scent. Some might describe it as a meaty scent or musk. That’s come.

RelatedWhat Does Cum Taste Like?

It can smell — and taste — a lot stronger with certain people. If your man isn’t hydrated, his come will likely be less appetizing. But because sperm is alkaline [1] [2] [3], it will always have a specific sort of smell and taste. And when semen enters your vagina, which is naturally acidic [4] [5], a certain sex musk is to be expected.

7. Rubber

If you use condoms, a latex scent might add to the mix. However, not every condom is made from latex. If you don’t like the smell of condoms and especially if you have an allergy to latex, we recommend using a latex-alternative condom such as the female condom, which is made from nitrile [6].

8. Fish

what does sex smell like

Sex shouldn’t actually smell like fish — and neither should your vagina! If this is the case, you probably have an infection known as bacterial vaginosis. More in this post about BV.

Truthfully, sex often smells like a combination of these things. That’s what makes it so difficult to conclusively tell you what sex smells like. Plus, the way your body chemistry mixes with your current partner can mean sex smells different with him than it does with other people with whom you’ve had sex.

Some days, like those when you have an unplanned quickie (discover the art of pleasure in 15 minutes or less) or when it’s summer, and the AC has broken, the smell will be more potent. Few men will be put off; although, it might cause you anxiety about sex if you’re worried how you smell.

Read this post about sexual anxiety if you want to know how to get rid of it.

Making Sex Smell Better

There are certain smells that you can’t avoid when it comes to sex. Even if you’re clean, a wild romp between the sheets can result in a smell that few people would describe as pleasant. You can take a few steps to mask the smell of sex.

  • Light a candle or some incense during the deed. Just make sure it won’t be knocked down by your flailing limbs or even a pet, which can lead to a fire.
  • Opt for scented products such as massage oil or lube. Flavored/scented lubes are great to use when going down on your man; although, any lube containing sugar can cause a yeast infection for you.
  • Spray your sheets with a fabric refresher.
  • Leave out a container of potpourri or even fresh flowers.

Sometimes trying to mask the smell of sex can result in something worse. If you’ve ever found that adding an air freshener to a smelly mix only makes it worse, then you know what we mean.

The better option is to start with clean bodies and bedding, to begin with. Being clean helps to minimize any unpleasant odors from sex.

Crisp, clean sheets feel awesome when you slide between them. Some partners will pay more attention to you than your bedding, but those who do notice will appreciate that you’re an adult with a made bed.

Smell Your Best Before Sex

smell of sex

Be hydrated. Now, you might be wondering what that has to do with how sex smells, but hear us out. Bodily fluids such as ejaculate, sweat, and even urine smell less strongly when you’re better hydrated. Plus, drinking enough water is good for your skin and overall health!

Getting in the water is also a good option. Showering before sex reduces chances that you or your partner will be the cause of stink, and you can suds up together as a form of foreplay. Then, you can relax because you know you’ll smell — and taste good!

Showering before sex also helps to make your partner smell better, but there might be a time when you need to suggest that he does a little washing up or a better job during those activities. Sometimes people aren’t aware of their body odors, and this conversation can be a difficult one. We suggest checking out our tips to talking about the sensitive subject of sex to go about it the right way.

If you’re showering solo, take the time to rinse between your folds. You don’t need (and in fact shouldn’t use) scented products around your vagina because it already self-cleans. In fact, using vaginal washes or douches can even lead to an infection that introduces a new source of the stink. A good rinse with water is all you need to feel fresh and clean.

More tips to make your vagina smell and taste good.

If you don’t have a chance to shower, a wet wipe or washcloth will generally do the trick. Keep wipes in your purse or sex kit with your condoms if you stay over at someone else’s place. Give yourself time to air dry because wipes can leave a residual smell or taste. Although it’s almost certainly better than body odor, no one wants to taste like a baby wipe!

Your favorite perfume or body spray is the perfect topping. If you wear one specifically for sex, he’ll associate that smell with pleasure and arousal.

ReadHow to Smell Good and Drive Him Wild

Can Condoms Help?

Even if you’re not worried about getting pregnant or spreading STIs, you might find that using a condom during sex keeps it less smelly and messy. Ejaculating into a condom results in a smaller wet spot on the bed (so you don’t have to fight over who sleeps in it!), doesn’t let the smell of cum permeate the room and means you don’t have to do that awkward waddle-like-a-penguin to the bathroom to clean up ejaculate. You know exactly what we’re talking about!

Yes, sex can smell weird and sometimes unpleasant. That doesn’t mean you should avoid sex or even get wrapped up in your self-consciousness. Instead, take a few moments to freshen up. And if sex smells a little bit every once in a while, take a deep breath and don’t make a big deal out of it!

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Lisa has a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) in Human Sexuality from Widener University's Center for Human Sexuality Studies. She is continuing her studies at the University as a doctoral candidate. Lisa is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapist (ASSECT). She has guest taught human sexuality at several universities including Montclair State, Kean University, and Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Lisa's passion for the field is rooted in her belief that all human beings should understand what healthy sex is, regardless of culture, body or ability.

Her particular areas of expertise focus on: desire in long-term relationship, the intersection of technology and sexuality and its affect on individuals and couples, body image and its influence on sexuality, the impact of the past on single people in America, and modern (online) dating. Her research focuses on marriage from antiquity to present day, modern romance and contemporary dating websites.