Symposium by Dr. Winnifred Cutler at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting

Copyright ©2004. American Psychiatric Association meeting - Symposium.

Winnifred Cutler, Ph.D.

Presenting as part of Dr. Barbara Bartlik's symposium, WOMEN'S SEXUALITY UPDATE: OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO PLEASURE, Dr. Winnifred Cutler gave her presentation during the May 1-6, 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in New York.

Barbara D. Bartlik, M.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dept. of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology, at Weill - Cornell Medical College in New York City.

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Dr. Bartlik introduced her symposium:

"Winnifred Cutler, earned her B.S. in Psychology cum laude from Ursinus College in 1973, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, followed by postdoctoral work at Stanford University where she launched the Stanford Menopause Study. In 1985 she co-founded the Women's Wellness Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Her six books include Hysterectomy: Before And After and a textbook for physicians on menopause.Her discoveries include: lunar-menstrual “phase-locking”, bone loss from hysterectomy, and benefits of stable weekly sex which include enhanced fertility, elevated estrogen levels and delayed aging. In 1999, the American College of Ob/Gyns, invited Dr. Cutler to present a 90-minute lecture on "Pheromones as Sex-Attractants" at its annual convention in Philadelphia.

Dr. Cutler developed her proprietary pheromone fragrance additives and has marketed them as cosmetics since 1993. Three double-blind, placebo-controlled, studies demonstrated that her products can increase sexual attractiveness.

Athena Institute awards research grants for studies in hysterectomy and associated sexual deficits. The Athena Institute is located in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

I regularly recommend her book Hysterectomy: Before and After, to my patients and they have found it extremely helpful. I think it’s the best book written on the subject.

Anecdotally many of my patients who are single women on the older end of child-bearing years use pheromones and are impressed with their effects – Dr. Cutler’s pheromones.

How Sexual Attractiveness, Pheromones, Fertility, and Hysterectomy are Related.

Thank you,Dr. Bartlik. With that you won’t be surprised to know … that my birthday is Oct 13 and the name of the product is Athena Pheromone 10:13 for women. The men's product, Athena Pheromone 10x is manufactured by the Athena Institute as well. Athena Institute is a biomedical research institute, that Dr. Bartlik has just described to you and …and I am the founder of the institute.

In 1959, the first presentation of the word pheromone appeared in the literature published in Nature. And this was an essay published by two biologists, Carlson and Luscher who realized from their years of study and astute observations that there was something going on between animals for which no phenomenon had yet been identified.

They chose the word pheromones which means to carry hormones and they suggested pheromones be identified as substances which have the chemical makeup of hormones, but are excreted unlike hormones which are secreted into the body. That these substances elicit some behavioral response in other animals – that the effect of pheromones are not on the self, like hormones are, they’re on another being to promote the reproductive survival of the species.

The Four Classes of Pheromones:

Now 44 years later, I can say that after many thousands of published studies, including several in humans, we now know and recognize 4 behavioral actions of pheromones: male territorial can think of the dog that marks its territory with urine to say ‘keep out of this territory. The females within these boundaries are mine and I will fight for them’.

The next are mother infant bonds, these pheromones are excreted off the breasts of a lactating female and excreted off of the surface of the baby and aid in infant/mother bonding and recognition.

There are synchrony fertility essences, the idea that women who live together cycle together, and then finally the main topic of this talk is opposite sex attractant pheromones.

With that, I take you to 1967 when Alan Treloar published with his colleague’s a conclusive study that showed us what the life history is of menstruation in women - having collected data prospectively from 25 thousand menstrual cycle years of women, their daughters and their granddaughters.

…What he revealed was the 3 broad stages of menstruation in the life of a woman, the 7 puberty years, the 7 premenopausal years, and the central 20 years of peak fertility.

Menstrual Synchrony Studies and Lunar Influences on Cycles:

…Within that range, the average menstrual cycle length is about 29.5 days, not the 28 days of the oral contraceptive, but the 29.5 days of the lunar cycle. And Treloar established that with his 25,000 cycle years of menstruation data.

Other studies are showing that women who have a cycle of about 29.5 days are the most fertile women, and the closer that any menstrual cycle is in a particular month to 29.5 days, the more likely that cycle is to yield a fertile outcome...

Which brings me to what you heard was my discovery of lunar influences on fertility of women. When I was at the University of Pennsylvania collecting large quantities of prospective cycle data from women,…

I better stop and explain what a cycle is for those of you who don’t know… If a woman starts bleeding on January 1 which begins her menstrual cycle and then bleeds for 2 days or 4 or ten, stops bleeding, and begins again on January 30, her cycle length is – guess what – 29 days.

… I did ( a series of studies) that showed that, across the month if we took an almanac and asked 'when is the full moon', in this case it was in autumn of 1977, and 'what number of women who are menstruating every 29.5 days, start their periods at the full moon' ?

We found a very beautiful cycle that the highest likelihood of menstruation is at the full moon, and the highest likelihood of ovulation therefore is at the new moon. This was subsequently replicated. It matters because it suggests to me that the fertility cycles of women are in some way controlled by the lunar rhythm.

Briefly I want to tell you about the influence of women on women, the pheromones off women on women... The first study was Martha McClintock’s 1971 study published in Nature. I met Martha when I was starting as a graduate student at Penn, she was leaving, and she described to me, that she had noticed that the trash cans in Radcliffe’s dorms filled up with menstrual products at certain times, and at other times the trash cans weren’t full. That led her to what became the landmark study showing that as women came back to college in September and lived together over the months, they began to cycle together. That was the phenomenon. Olfactory influences were shown to be responsible for that, she suggested it in her paper but had no data for that…

In 1980, Russell and his colleagues published the first study in which they had observed a female graduate student who had hairy underarms and a strong odor, and women who claimed that when they came into the lab to work with her, they started menstruating in phase with her. He collected her sweat, applied it above the upper lip of other women, and found the sweat did it (caused the menstrual synchrony).

Six years later, in a double blind placebo controlled study, George Preti and I replicated that study at U Penn… ours was very rigorous and therefore was given the credit that really belongs in part to people that preceded us. In 1999, Weller in Israel published what I consider to be the most conclusive study of menstrual synchrony. He studied office workers and showed that women who worked together in close space menstruate on almost the same day as each other, unless they don’t like each other.

Sex Attractant Pheromones:
Sexual Behavior Affects Fertility

Now, I want to tell you the influence of men on women, which is the main focus of my interest. This was the first study that suggested that possibility of sex-attractant pheromones. I had been collecting menstrual cycle data prospectively, that means women were keeping records and turning those records into me and I was studying them, and at the end of the first study of 60 women… I asked them to group themselves, and tell me “ How often do you have sex, would you say you never miss a week?” In which case I called them “weekly”, and analyzed what their average menstrual cycle length for that whole semester had been, and found (lo and behold) every single person had a cycle close to 29.5 days. (An optimally fertile cycle length)

Those who classified themselves as abstinent, the “nevers”, they ranged, there were a lot in the middle but also a lot of short cyclers and long cyclers, by then I was learning that short and long cyclers are subfertile cyclers.

Sporadic activity produced even worse results in terms of the likelihood of being in the fertile range. Replicated a year later, with 248 women collected and this time we didn’t ask them to tell us how often they thought they had intercourse, instead we looked at their records that they recorded daily and turned in.

Since that time, approximately 13 studies have been conducted (I did a lot of them and they were very time consuming) … in 1985 one study had 83 women keep a record of their same behaviors as before but every day they took their basal body temperature and recorded it and we had a nurse that analyzed blind whether she showed a fertile or infertile pattern …

90 percent of those who recorded they had weekly sexual behavior, had a fertile Basal Body Temperature rhythm vs. 55 percent of the women recording sporadic sexual behavior. That’s the guy who's here one week, gone the next, you’ve probably had experience with that one way or another… they mess up a woman’s endocrine system, I’ve subsequently learned. And 45 percent of the abstinent women were fertile in that month that they were abstinent.

Infertility and Age of First Coitus are Related:

The 13 interpersonal experiments are like that in their findings... and another relevant study investigated infertility at age of first coitus reviewing 792 patient records from the infertility service at the UPenn Gyn department.

We found that in those women who were infertile, the more serious the pathology, the later their recorded first coital age. Those who had no pathology, the wives of the faculty, the people that were using that gyn service, gave the youngest first coital age… the ones that were not infertile. We suggested in that paper that there was a critical period for the onset of sexual contact, and it was within the first 7 years of menstruation. Think back to Treloar and his 7 years.

Dr. Michael's - Primate Pheromone Studies

Finally, in a 1983 study, we showed how regular, weekly sex doubles the estrogen of the perimenopausal era. All of this, was a body of work that was going on without our knowledge of Richard Michael, a psychiatrist at Emory University… we subsequently went back to look at the literature, and this is the highlight of his many published studies I consider most important, all of which established primate pheromones which he named the copulins…

Dr. Michael said that ovarian hormones affect the sexual behavior… that primate sex pheromones were of a vaginal origin. He established that, first by his observation on the behavior of the female. She ‘presents', she solicits her sexual contact by putting her attractive rear end in the face of the male, and if that attractive rear end is glistening with stuff, he will generally respond positively and they will copulate. She produces this substance that Michael studied and identified, named them the copulins, and told us what their chemistry was. He found when he hysterectomized and bilateral ovariectomized these animals, they still wanted sex, they still presented for it, but the males ignored them.

Unless he smeared some of the substance/copulins from one of the sexually attractive females, onto the unattractive rear end of a post-hysterectomized female, she then became sexually attractive immediately and there was copulation.

This was really startling work, and Naomi Morris and her colleagues at the University of Illinois got some of the monkey copulins from Richard Michael and reported it did not work in humans. They tried various kinds of experiments, didn’t’ work. (Monkey pheromones do not work as sex-attractants for humans).

Human Pheromone Studies:
Menstrual Synchrony and Sexual Attraction

That leads me to tell you about the studies that we did that did work.

We had a reason to look in the underarm as you can now imagine, and our investigation led to the publication in 1986 of 2 studies that are detailed here, and if anybody wants to read them you can go to our website,, all the references are there…

we showed that human auxillary secretions influenced menstrual cycles and we did it by first finding sexually active heterosexual attractive donors, on UPenn’s campus. The subjects had to meet criteria, and they underwent physical exams, many conditions were met…

…the main (elite) ones were that they agreed to wear no perfumes in the underarm, no shaving in their underarm, no deodorants, they would wash once a day with ivory soap, and they agreed to wear cotton pads in their underarms for six hours a day three times a week, each time collecting sweat, putting it in a jar, bringing it into the lab where it was labeled, and frozen, for a year. The women had one extra criteria, no oral contraceptives which could disrupt their fertility,

A year later, when those frozen samples were thawed, we batched the women’s samples together by day of the menstrual cycle to create10 batches. A day one batch, a day three, a day five, …but we only selected five of the most elite of twelve cycles of data available from the collections, and those were the ones where the women were menstruating at the full moon.

I was looking for the most effective potential pheromonal substance, in a world in which I didn’t know if there were pheromones or where they were, so I tried to weight the deck as heavily as I could with the most fertile sexually attractive men and women we could find.

The men’s sweat batches were all pooled together. When we thawed it out a year later and extracted it ,we got rid of the sweat, the bacteria, and the odor, we had a clear fluid extracted in alcohol.

Now we went to phase 2 of the experiment. The recipients, the female experimental subjects, a year later who were to come into the lab 3 times a week and present their face to have a technician to spread some alcohol or some putative pheromone spiked alcohol on their upper lip, and they would agree to not wash it off for six hours.

This was the basic experiment. The women who began the experiment told us, and had been keeping records, that they had a cycle which was about every 29.5 days, in which case, they were going to receive female essence batched to see if we could produce the synchrony effect. Those who had aberrant lengths, short and long cycles, were diverted to the male essence experiment. We were going to see if three times a week of male essence did anything. They kept records just like I’ve shown you before, and the results of that study was that pheromone essences, but not placebo, altered the menstrual cycle lengths.

My Sex-Attractant Discovery:

What we found was male essence three times a week was as good as a man sexually once a week for this one effect of menstrual cycle length. Female essence caused synchrony. While I was waiting for this study to be published I went back and looked at the sexual behavior of the recipients… This was a post hoc review, I didn’t have the hypothesis in advance but I was always interested in studying the sexual behavior of women and we had the data.

So I asked the question “how many of these women who were getting female essence or placebo who had regular cycles at the beginning of that experiment were having weekly sex?” I divided the 14 weeks of data that we had available into the first 3 weeks and asked and found of the pheromone group, 36 percent recorded, not reported, but actually recorded, never missed a non-menstruating week of intercourse, and of the placebo group 11 percent. That was not significantly different, but it was interesting in the first 3 weeks of receiving this stuff on the upper lip three times a week.

In the last ten weeks the same group of people you can see a startling change, that the pheromone group for ten successive weeks never missed a week for 73 percent of that group and it stayed at 11 percent for placebo. That was my first inkling that maybe pheromones affected the sexual behavior of women, not just their cycles, but I didn’t know if it made them more attractive or more receptive.

Media Attention and Developing Athena Pheromone Products:

About that time in 1986, when the grant money ran out at Penn I founded the Athena Institute to continue the work I was doing at Penn with women’s wellness programs. About 3 months after I left Penn, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, and the Washington Post, front page broke the story of the underarm sweat studies that I just described to you, the one showing menstrual cycle changes, because it was the first proof that human beings, like the rest of the world of animals, did indeed make pheromones naturally if they were fertile.

And that began 7 years of developmental work, my quest to see if I could create, could synthesize, a formula that could be a sex attractant. In 1993, Revlon through its liaisons asked to meet with me and I came to New York three times with these little vials in hand, and, explained to them ‘well you take this vial and you put it in this perfume and you sell it’. They were interested, but decided not to do it.

Our Pheromone Product is Launched...

But now I had some vials of my formula I had made, and gave one of them to a member of the Athena Institute board of directors, a very attractive woman at about the age 55 years old at the time, and we worked out what proportion of a vial should go in one sized bottle, and I said just put the perfume on regularly, but wear a dab under your nose 3 times a week. She did. Two months later when I saw her she said “Oh Winnifred, you won’ t believe what’s happening”. And the anecdotal stories she told me were stunning. She said “Men are congregating around me everywhere I go, I’m going to lose all my girlfriends!”

I decided to do a test of this. We placed an ad in a women’s business owners newspaper in Philadelphia. Offering women business owners (because I was a women's business owner by then with Athena Institute) an opportunity to participate and test a pheromone added to their preferred fragrance to see if it made more romance in their lives. They had to agree to fax their observations once a week to our office.

One of the people who signed up for that test was a Philadelphia. Inquirer reporter, and she got such stunning results in the face of her colleagues… they saw this boyfriend who rode a motorcycle who wasn’t very nice to her; took her to McDonalds, showed up at the last minute. This boyfriend started sending her flowers and taking her to fancy restaurants, buying her presents, and her colleagues saw his behavior change. They came to me because they had interviewed me about my wellness program and the books I wrote on menopause and hysterectomy, and they asked to speak with me and to speak to some of the other research subjects who were sending similar astonishing faxes to us. They did, they broke a story, it went on the Knight Ridder newswire, and the media came after me for vials they could test themselves.

Media Tests with Twins Show Products Work...

Even today, (ten years later) as recently as a month ago, the media keeps doing these tests. Often they will get identical twins, ABC news did this, and give one twin our pheromone in her perfume for three weeks and the other the plain perfume for three weeks, take them into a singles bar with a hidden camera, and tell them to sit at the bar and not to make the first move. They quantified that in the course of that time, they were both dressed identically, one twin would go back to the ladies room and the other would come out (switch). In the course of that period of time, the sister who was wearing the pheromone got three times as many men approaching her.

Anyway, the first media blitz back in 1993 started us selling before we were advertising. And Dr. Clark Bundren, a gynecologist and professor at the University of Oklahoma called and said he had he had studied pheromones as an undergraduate. He wanted to test my pheromone formula on his hysterectomized patients who complained that although they recovered from vaginal dryness with the hormone therapy and are interested in sex with the testosterone therapy, they felt their husbands were not attracted to them anymore. Dr. Bundren tested our pheromones, but eventually stopped his test because he said it worked in 73 percent of the women.

Athena Pheromones tested in Double-Blind Studies...

We still had no double blind placebo controlled study…until these three which I now want to tell you about. The three studies were proper scholarly, double blind placebo controlled trials. The first two have been published, the third has been presented at scientific meetings...

Every person in all the studies had a daily calendar for recording their experienced behaviors, for instance, did they have petting kissing or affection yesterday? Calendars were faxed or mailed in weekly.

This first one in Philadelphia included 38 men ( and was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 1998). Of the pheromone people 41 percent in 6 weeks showed an average weekly frequency higher than their average baseline frequency versus 14 percent of the placebo.

In the second double-blind study, San Francisco regularly menstruating women of about 27 years of age, 58 percent versus 24 percent testing the women’s formula Athena Pheromone 10:13, got positive results. And in the Boston study, post-menopausal women around 57 years old, the only particular behavior that was significant, was kissing petting and affection,

The behavior of ‘Sleeping next to a romantic partner’, was recorded by significantly more pheromone than placebo men, the behavior ‘sexual intercourse’ recorded by significantly more pheromone women than placebo (young women, reproductive age women) In the men and young women’s studies, ‘sexual intercourse’ recorded by 47 percent more pheromone users than ten or 6 percent placebo users.

The only differences in the studies related to gender was formal dates and informal dates. When men wore the pheromone, they did not show more formal dates, they did show more informal, that is last minute getting together with a woman without an appointment. When women wore the pheromone, they showed more formal dates, and no difference in informal. And my bottom line conclusion is when a man becomes sexually attractive enough, he doesn’t have to ask out in advance. Now when a woman is sexually attractive, she can command an advance date, This is my interpretation, I can’t prove that.

The one bottom line result or summary questions is if we ask how many pheromone users had an increase over their baseline in at least one sociosexual behavior. In the men, the reproductive age men, 74 percent, versus 38 percent placebo. In the reproductive age women 74 versus 24 percent had an increase in at least three behaviors. In this San Francisco study, the women were exposed to pheromones for much longer period of time due to menstrual cycle needs, they had an extra 50 percent longer use, and that’s probably why they got 3 behaviors, not just one.

And for the Boston post menopausal women, 68 percent got an increase versus 41 percent. These were significant differences. Pheromones cause more sexual behavior and we concluded that they cause women or men who use them to be more sexually attractive because masturbation did not increase. And that was one of the behavior categories, there was no change in pheromone users for masturbation frequency. If that had increased, we would have assumed maybe the libido increases when pheromones were used, but that was not the case, it was the sociosexual contact that increased.

Conclusion: Future Studies

We’re hoping to have future pheromone studies, and these are the array of ones that we’re looking for, we’re close with one group to fund a study with post-hysterectomized women who would like to test at a university based center, Breast cancer patients who do not feel attractive anymore we think would be a prime group to test the pheromones in –those with other surgeries, like prostate surgery.

A study of fertile couples with no detectable pathology, if they have more sex, they’re likely to be more fertile, and infertile couples undergoing treatments that stop them from being sexual, couples in marital therapy, cognitive or other, to increase the romance in their relationship, while they’re undergoing their therapeutic process and they’re learning how to talk to each other...pheromones can only help, we think.

Thank you very much for your attention.


Dr. Cutler fielded questions from the audience:

Q: Are there any studies planned for Viagra rubbing under your nose?
A: There would be no reason for us to think that viagra makes people more sexually attractive, in fact, it can be the case that while it can make a man ripe and ready it may not necessarily make him more attractive, it depends on the dynamic of the couple.

I created a formula for men, Athena Pheromone 10x , in each case, I created the formula from my analysis of those underarm essences which have about 150 different molecules, what I believed was if you were going to cook a great cake .. now what would be the ideal formula, it would have no odor that would do this.

Q: Is there any work on homosexuality?
A: To my disappointment, no, I was very close with a group of scholars that were going to do a study in homosexuals, but then they chose not to go forward. Athena’s open to the possibility of there being studies.

Q: Effect of marriage on pheromones?
A; Oh great question, yes, there has been a naturalistic study.
Cohabitating with a male does produce a later onset of menopause and it is assumed it is a marital effect that’s the only thing so far.

Q: What evolutionary advantage is there to women cycling together?
A: I’m not an evolutionary psychiatrist, psychologist, or anthropologist, but I can see certain evolutionary advantages if there was a time when the males had to go out and fight and then they came home and they thought it would be nice if all the females were fertile at the same time, that’s just one example.

Q: Why did you do the study on the lip as opposed to elsewhere?
A: We did it that way, and that’s a great question... The reason we did it that way, was we followed prior good scientists, and we tried to take advantage of what was already known, even when it is only partial knowledge, and what we knew was it worked with Richard Russell who originally put it on the upper lip, and we just followed that chain.

Q: Was there any attempt to determine if these people entering the experiments naturally putting out a lot of pheromones?

A: We knew that we started with men and women who were highly fertile and in heterosexual relationships. We can infer from the data, but we can not prove from the data, that when people are in regular sexual relationships, they emit more pheromones than they otherwise would.

And, the reason is the fertile cycle. Estrogen, in each month it rises, it falls, it rises, it falls, and progesterone is low and then after ovulation rises once and falls, that is required for fertility. And a fertile person is who puts out pheromones. When you disrupt the fertility with ovariectomy, you seem to abolish the pheromones, so we have that implication. We also tested whether the pheromonal people receiving the pheromones changed their estrogen or progesterone or testosterone levels, they did not. So, that is what we know, which is very limited.