Pheromones are mysterious, unscented love-chemicals that send signals about your moods, your sexual orientation, and your genetic makeup. Animals use these chemicals to attract potential mates; humans have them too, but as this Washington Post story points out, "we have no idea what they are or how they work." Marketers use that ambiguity to make products that contain pheromones, promising to assist in bagging a special someone. There are a ton of pheromone products on the market. Some you'll find in $6 deodorant at Walgreens, while others are very expensive and promise the moon. Take Athena Institute's 10X unscented aftershave additive for men, for instance. Product creator and Athena Institute President and Founder Dr. Winnifred Cutler has, according to the company's website, a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, done postdoctoral behavioral endocrinology work at Stanford, and spent over 25 years researching reproductive biology. She's also an "author of eight books and over 35 scientific articles." Her 10X formula is a whopping $100 for one-sixth of an ounce, the idea being that you mix it into your favorite aftershave, apply a dab, and boom—you're transmogrified from an ugly simpleton into an unstoppable whirlwind of seduction.
Doubters of the products efficacy need look no further than the customer testimonials provided on the company's site. ("Names changed, of course!" it reads.) Mike* from Florida writes, "Hi Doc! This is your favorite customer down here in Florida. I would like two more vials [his 49th order] of the Athena 10X. No need to thank me. Are you kidding? I thank you for inventing the product. I am the one to do the thanking."
Don* from Texas, Larry* from Ohio, and another guy named Don* also from Texas all have similar things to say, but it's Roger* from Internet whose praise rings loudest: "Just wanted to say that I went into the camera store the other day and was astounded when two women started making eyes at me and started flirting with me. Amazing. It was so funny how they were acting…Then all the women at work have started being VERY nice to me." On top of these obviously very real endorsements of the product the company insists their pheromones effectiveness have been proven in "three double blind, placebo-controlled studies." Despite all this, I decided to test 10X myself. I went out three times, to a host of different places, to find out if pheromones really would make me irresistible to women.
Experiment 1: The New Museum
Raph: Sneakerhead Comedian
Aliyah: Raph's Daughter, World's Cutest Four-Year Old
Clark: Genius Computer Scientist
Kristina: International Businesswoman
My Look: Your Dad's Friend
Right before heading into the museum to meet with my friends/wingmen, I applied a touch of the pheromones behind my ears.
The exhibits themselves were large projections of hallucinatory Swedish video art. In practice, this meant lots of museum-goers swaying in one spot, nodding while watching washed-out footage of sea anemones and close-ups of six-inch heels walking on subway grates. In what was surely a sign from Athena herself, the soundtrack to the subway piece was an instrumental cover of the sexiest song of all time, Chris Isaacs' "Wicked Game."
It was time to the let the pheromones do their work.
For this first test, I posted up at the exhibit's entrance. I'd let my love potion radiate off my skin, sure that hundreds of bewitched mega-babes roaming the museum would soon run straight for me.
They did not.
I walked up to the museum's second floor. This time, I circulated through the exhibits to let the pheromones waft through the crowd. I knew the phalanx of Asian tourists wearing surgical face masks would prove immune to my scent-based charms, but I was disappointed that even the non-masked patrons didn't glance, or even sniff, in my direction.
My wingmen cased the place, looking out for lonely singles eager to be olfactorily transported to a world of true love. They found none.
On the museum's top floor, I wandered into what should've been a love goldmine: The entire floor was taken up by video projected onto the ceiling, while the ground was filled with beds for strangers to lay on and watch the videos. Beds! Beds everywhere! Free, publicly accessible…disease-festering…germ apartments, filled by a mix of angry art students and passed-out old men.
For some reason, the pheromones didn't turn me into the type of person who's eager to climb into strange beds with strange women/crotchety retirees. We left the museum.
SUCCESS RATE: 0%. TOTAL FAILURE.
• It wouldn't be enough to let the pheromones work on their own since they're only effective at close range. For my next test, I'd have to approach women and then let my secret sex-scent work its magic.
A Brief Discourse on Method
To be totally truthful, I didn't follow the pheromone's instructions to the letter. For one, they recommend that you put them on every single day. I didn't even consider doing this because I'd mixed them into a bottle of Aqua Velva, which made me smell like a 14-year old gearing up to finger blast his first girlfriend on a paintball course.
Secondly, the pheromone's creators admit that some users need to wear their wonder tonic for up to six months before seeing any improvement in their sex lives. No thanks.
So I'm sorry if this taints your view of my experiments. But this isn't the British medical journal The Lancet. It's not even The New England Journal of Tricking Women Into Boinking You. I'm just a single lonesome man and I'm doing the best I can.
Experiment #2: A Classy Manhattan Hotel Bar
David: TV Writer
Rachel: Author, Relationship Expert
My Look: Vagrant Who Found an H&M Gift Card Then Immediately Spilled Mayonnaise on His Pants
I knew it would take an extreme level of sophistication for a woman to truly appreciate the passionate stench I was giving off, so my friends Rachel and David suggested meeting up at a hotel bar. The sleek watering hole was positively bursting with gold fixtures, luxurious leather seats, and literally two women.
Maybe it was because it was a Tuesday night, but there've been Men's Rights conventions that had more women at them than this hotel bar. And the women at the bar were swarmed by sweaty, divorced businessmen forming inescapable conversation circles around them. (The only upside was that everyone, not just me, smelled like desperation.) One such circle I could overhear scattered when it was revealed that the blonde in the center was waiting for her boyfriend, "the heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune."
My wingmen and I moved to the lobby's back bar, only to find a similar situation. Rachel offered to strike up a conversation with one of the few ladies present, but I got scared and insisted we grab drinks and sit next to a fireplace to bide our time. Perhaps sensing the futility/pitiableness of our quest, Rachel left.
At this point, I knew I had to actually talk to a woman. I had to. I approached a brunette in a blue dress at the bar. Our entire conversation went as follows:
Me: "What are you drinking?"
Her: "A vodka and cranberry juice."
Me: "I got too drunk on those once and now I can't drink cranberry juice at all."
Her: "That's too bad about cranberry juice." [TO BARTENDER] "Am I allowed to drink this in my room?" [SHE EXITS]
David and I left the bar soon after.
SUCCESS RATE: -0%. TECHNICALLY, A ZERO CAN'T BE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE, BUT THIS FELT LIKE A REAL DEFEAT.
• If I wanted to truly test these pheromones, I needed to use them the way their makers intended: By getting wasted and hitting on as many girls as I could.
Experiment #3: Brooklyn Bar Crawl
Barry: Dapper Actor
Rick: Roguish Adventurer
My Look: Balding Tablecloth
This was going to be a long night. I prepared by eating a corned beef sandwich.
Bar #1 - The Casual Date Spot, 9 PM
I picked a laid-back Williamsburg joint to start and planned to hit up several nearby bars as the night progressed. With two dependable, fun-loving wingmen by my side, I had a feeling that everything was about to get very, very sexy.
Immediately, Barry got sick and had to go home. We were not off to a great start.
Rick and I grabbed a table near the front. And for the first time since I'd started taking the pheromones…a woman approached us! They worked! The damn pheromones worked! But then it turned out that the girl had actually recognized Rick from a one-off Tinder date that had been painfully boring. The pheromones had not worked—in fact, instead of attracting eager women, they'd started to attract women who actively hated us.
Rick and I spent the next hour drinking in silence.
But, then another woman approached us! She was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. In a gorgeous French accent, she said, "Do either of you have a cigarette?" Now, did she really want a cigarette? Or was she subconsciously beguiled by my sex-musk? Judging by the cigarette she eventually found and then smoked, she probably was just looking for a cigarette. But maybe she was, at least in some way, also looking for true love. Judging by the way she started making out with a bearded guy in a beanie right after coming in from her cigarette, she might have found it.
Rick and I continued to drink.
Eventually, as the bar filled up, we did start having normal, non-pathetic conversations with the women there. We talked to a very sweet fashion designer and a pair of cool TV producers. No love connections, but at least I was feeling like a human being and not a smelly lump of aftershave and sadness.
Also, we drank more.
Before moving on to the next bar, we stopped to chat with a girl celebrating her birthday. We approached her group—the bday gal, a female friend, and two gay companions. This was a mistake. You see, her friend was married and the birthday girl was so drunk, Rick and I absolutely looked like exactly what we were: Two gross bros trying to hit on uninterested women. I have never experienced such withering looks in my life. Seriously. This was Nuremberg-jurors-staring-down-Eichmann-level scorn. And we deserved it.
Nevertheless, the birthday girl gifted me a paper party crown. We finished our drinks and as we left. I put the crown around my neck.
Bar #2 - The Rock Club, 12 AM
As soon as we entered, I overheard a girl make fun of my crown. I threw it in the trash. Rick and I then grabbed giant beers.
I'm not sure why the bar has such a rep as a rock hotspot. Sure, some of the girls were dressed in leather jackets but most of the guys looked like French henchmen from an unmade Taken sequel. One girl at the bar had obviously just gone to her hairdresser and said, "Give me the Angelina Jolie from Gone in 60 Seconds."
What I'm trying to say is, we didn't fit in.
We tried! We really did. We chatted a pair of very nice gals, but overall this wasn't the place for us and no amount of pheromones could fix that.
Bar #3 - The Hook-Up Dance Club, 2 AM
IndieBK.com called this bar, "the hottest meat market in Williamsburg." Now, I just made up that quote and that website, but if that site did exist, that's how they would describe it. Knowing that, I decided to splash on a little bit more of my Aqua Velva-enhanced attractant. Considering that any amount of Aqua Velva is too much, I put on way, way too much.
We were surprised to find almost no one on the dance floor, but being in the mood for fun, hoping to meet women, and extremely inebriated, we danced our asses off. At this point, instead of giving off unscented pheromones, I must've smelled like sweated-out corned beef and the rotten hull of an old wooden ship.
We spotted two girls on the dance floor. They were very pretty and kind European roommates. But they had zero interest in talking to us. I was fading fast.
Bar #4 - The Bar With Only One Pool Table But Everyone at the Entire Bar Is Taking the Pool Game Terrifyingly Seriously, 3 AM
Rick got a text to meet up with some friends at a fourth bar. I lasted for about 15 minutes, but by the time the third pool player had been ejected for fighting, I decided to call it a night.
When the evening started, I'd felt like Lance Armstrong: An American hero, climbing the mountain of greatness through sheer force of will. But by this point, I was feeling more like Lance Armstrong: A lying, chemical-abusing cheater that everyone in the world hates.
SUCCESS RATE: 100%, FOR I LEARNED THAT TRUE HAPPINESS COMES FROM WITHIN. JUST KIDDING, THIS ALSO GETS A 0% BECAUSE NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME.
• Look, pheromones don't work. Everyone knows it. I knew it, you knew it, the people who make the pheromones know it.
• Drinking all the time is awful for your skin.
• Finally, there's simply no substitute for the world's most powerful aphrodisiac: Confidence. After this experiment, I sorely lack it.
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