Pheromonal Influences on Sociosexual Behavior in Postmenopausal Women

Copyright © 2004 The Journal of Sex Research (Vol 41: 372-380, No.4, November 2004)

Susan Rako, M.D.
Private Practice, Newton, MA.

Joan Friebely, Ed.D.
Harvard University

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A Message To Readers from Dr. Winnifred Cutler On This Independent Study:

As a reproductive biologist and author for more than 25 years, I have often heard women complain that sometime after age 40 they became 'invisible' to men. Although the exact age seems to vary, the hormone and consequent pheromone changes around menopause seem to increase that sense of 'invisibility' .

Romantic attention and affection enhance a woman's well-being at any age, and can contribute to her overall health and happiness. The significant results of this study show that a topical pheromone, worn with perfume as directed in the protocol can increase the affection postmenopausal women receive from their male partners.

This is an important, elegant 8 week study where each woman was measured against her own baseline - in real life, real interactions. Each woman kept daily records and faxed them weekly to the researchers. I think menopausal women particularly appreciate the intimate behaviors of petting/kissing/affection which were shown to increase for the women wearing the pheromone compared to placebo.

I am encouraged by the results of this study and their implications for women's romantic lives as we age. The pheromone research I have conducted with colleagues, and the pheromone cosmetics I developed for both men and women to enhance the romance in their lives - - have now been replicated and proven effective in three rigorous, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies all published in scholarly, well-respected, peer-reviewed biomedical journals.

Drs. Rako and Friebely's scientific finding that this pheromone formulation increases the romance in postmenopausal women's lives is unprecedented in its investigation of pheromonal influence during menopause. The study showed that the increase in affection received by pheromone wearers was not by chance - it was due to the topical pheromones worn with their perfume. For complete details one should read their entire scientific paper. Here we provide their published Abstract in full, some of the Result tables, and the Discussion.

--Winnifred Cutler, Ph.D.
President and Founder
Athena Institute for Women's Wellness


Abstract (in full):

To determine whether a putative human sex-attractant pheromone increases specific sociosexual behaviors of postmenopausal women, we tested a chemically synthesized formula derived from research with underarm secretions from heterosexually active, fertile women that was recently tested on young women.

Participants (n=44, mean age = 57 years) were postmenopausal women who volunteered for a double-blind placebo-controlled study designed “to test an odorless pheromone, added to your preferred fragrance, to learn if it might increase the romance in your life.” During the experimental 6-week period, a significantly greater proportion of participants using the pheromone formula (40.9%) than placebo (13.6%) recorded an increase over their own weekly average baseline frequency of petting, kissing, and affection(p = .02).

More pheromone (68.2%) than placebo (40.9%) users experienced an increase in at least one of the four intimate sociosexual behaviors (p = .04). Sexual motivation frequency, as expressed in masturbation, was not increased in pheromone users.

These results suggest that the pheromone formulation worn with perfume for a period of 6 weeks has sex-attractant effects for postmenopausal women.

(End of Abstract)

The TABLES posted below display the data of the study; some descriptive content provided by Athena Institute:

The distribution of participants’ physical and demographic variables is outlined in Table 2:

Table 2. Initial Physical and Demographic Measures for Subjects by Treatment Group

  Pheromones n=22   Placebo
  Mean SD  


Age (years) 56.27 4.71   57.55 6.88
Height (inches) 65.18 1.82   64.36 2.50
Weight (pounds) 137.50 23.0   137.30 20.40
Body mass index 22.75 3.48   24.08 4.19
Years since last menstrual period 7.32 5.29   7.09 6.72
Education (years) 17.86 1.67   17.09 2.51


The distribution of participants’ relationship status is shown in Table 3

Table 3. Initial Relationship Status For Subjects by Treatment Group

Relationship Status Pheromone
Married 27.3 22.7
Cohabiting 4.5 0
Divorced/separated, dating exclusively 4.5 9.0
Divorced/separated, dating nonexclusively 22.7 27.3
Divorced/separated, not dating 22.7 18.1
Never married, dating exclusively 0.0 9.0
Never married, not dating 9.0 9.0
Widowed, dating exclusively 4.5 0.0
Widowed, not dating 4.5 4.5
Group Totals 99.7 99.6


Table 4: The distribution of sociosexual behaviors between the groups is shown. These BASELINE behaviors were recorded while each subject was wearing her chosen fragrance - but before the test period when either pheromone or placebo was added to her fragrance and worn daily. There were no significant differences at baseline (before pheromones were added) in any of the recorded behaviors.

Table 4. Baseline Frequency of Sociosexual Behaviors for Placebo and Pheromone Groups

Average Days Per Week
Sociosexual Behavior
Formal Dating 0.93 0.48 1.41
Petting, Kissing, Affection 1.57 1.34 <1
Sleeping Next to a Romantic Partner 1.98 2.05 <1
Sexual Intercourse 0.25 0.43 <1
Self Stimulation 0.41 0.43 <1


Table 5 shows that Athena Pheromones in perfume increased the amount of petting, kissing, and affection for a significantly greater proportion of pheromone users than placebo users.

Table 5. Percentage of Subjects with an Increase Over Baseline for Intimate Sociosexual Behaviors by Treatment Group

statistic significance
Sociosexual Behavior % % x2 p<
Formal Dating 31.8 18.2 1.09 ns
Petting, Kissing, Affection 40.9 13.6 4.13 0.02
Sleeping Next to a Romantic Partner 18.2 18.2 0 ns
Sexual Intercourse 31.8 27.3 .11 ns


Table 6 shows that the two significant non-chance predictors of being in the group that showed an increase in sexual behavior were experimental group (p = .04), and social status (p = .01). So being in the pheromone group and being married or cohabiting or dating, each independently increased a woman’s chances of being in the group that showed increased sociosexual behaviors during the experimental period.

Table 6. Association of Predictor Variables with Increasing at Least One Intimate Behavior

Predictor Variables Odds Ratio 95% Confidence Interval p value
Pheromone vs. placebo 7.3 1.14-46.68 0.04
Cohabiting vs. noncohabiting 5.42 1.45-20.26 0.01
Spring vs. Fall 0.23 0.04 - 1.39 ns
Education 0.88 0.59-1.30 ns
HRT use 0.72 0.34-1.54 ns
Menopausal age 1.07 0.91-1.25 ns


Discussion (in full):

Our findings are consistent with the recent study of 36 reproductive-aged women (McCoy & Pitino, 2002) that reported that sociosexual behaviors increased over baseline among more pheromone users than placebo users. Using the same experimental substance and protocol employed in that study with our sample of postmenopausal women, we found significant effects, albeit more modest ones than in younger women. We found that the topical application of pheromone mixed with fragrance was associated with increases in sociosexual behaviors for a statistically significant greater proportion of pheromone users versus placebo users: 68.2% of women using pheromone compared to 40.9% of women using fragrance with placebo.

This 68% effect is comparable to that reported by Stern and McClintock (1998), who found that underarm extracts influenced the timing of ovulation in 68% of the women who tested them via daily application, shifting the day of ovulation modestly to 1.7 days earlier using pooled extracts of preovulatory sweat or 1.4 days later with postovulatory sweat extracts. In our study, one specific behavior, petting, kissing, and affection, was significantly different between the two groups: 40.9% of those who used pheromone compared with 13.6% of those who used placebo increased over their own baselines.

The high proportion of postmenopausal women testing the pheromone who increased in petting, kissing, and affection is consistent with other research reporting that midlife women favored touching and caressing over sexual intercourse (Basson, 2000; Bretschneider & McCoy, 1988; Mansfield & Koch, 1998; Mansfield, Koch, & Voda, 2002; Regan & Berscheid, 1996). Postmenopausal women and contemporary male intimate partners retain the capacity for affectionate and sexual contact, even when age-related changes in blood flow, hormonal levels and effects, and neural processes reduce the capacity specifically for sexual intercourse. Our findings are concordant with these well-documented age-related changes (Cutler & Genovese-Stone, 2000).

Availability of partners is a fundamental factor affecting the possibilities and probabilities of intimate behavior between individuals. The disparity in gender ratio with age is well documented. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data report that among unmarried persons between 55 and 64, there are 1.7 women for every man (Fields & Casper, 2001). Over age 64, the figure jumps to 3.1 women per man (Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994). Compounding this demographic imbalance, more women marry or cohabit with older men than with those their own age or younger. The declining male-to-female ratio limits the prospects that postmenopausal women have for finding a sexual partner (Michael et al., 1994). Our data conform to these statistics because, other than pheromone use, partner availability was the only significant independent predictor of experimental outcome in our study. Married or cohabiting participants using the test substance clearly exposed their partners to many more hours of pheromonal effect than would nondating pheromone participants.

Our posthoc analysis suggests the effects of pheromone versus placebo differ between women with and without spouses or dates. We found suggestive evidence of a pheromone effect in the subgroups. Of those who were married, sexual intercourse increased over individual baseline for 5 of the 6 pheromone users (83%), which appears higher than the 3 of 5 (60%) placebo users. Similarly, for sleeping next to a romantic partner, married pheromone users appeared more likely to increase over baseline than did married placebo users: 67% vs. 40%. And for petting, kissing, and affection, more married pheromone users increased over baseline: 67% vs. 20% of married placebo users. Although the small sample size precluded statistical confirmation, the consistently higher proportion among subgroups of pheromone users who increased intimate behaviors is noteworthy.

A similar suggestive effect of pheromones was seen in the 15 women who had no partner and were not dating when they enrolled (8 pheromone, 7 placebo): 37.5% of the pheromone users versus 0% of the placebo group experienced an increase in at least one interpersonal intimate behavior. Although the subsample was too small to provide statistical confirmation, the positive result deserves further investigation. A longer experimental period might be required for pheromones to reveal their effects in countable behaviors among postmenopausal women who are not dating at baseline. The critical variable of partner availability shown in these results suggests that future studies should recruit statistically adequate, homogenous samples of postmenopausal women.

A 9-week experimental period would also be useful to test whether pheromonal effects increase with duration of use, as McCoy and Pitino (2002) showed in a posthoc analysis of their two-cycle experimental period.

Our findings also confirm the previous results (McCoy & Pitino, 2002) for reproductive-aged women for the two subjective behaviors studied; weekly averages of informal dating and male approaches were not significantly increased for pheromone users. The previous findings of no significant increase over baseline in self-stimulation by male (Cutler et al., 1998) and female (McCoy & Pitino, 2002) pheromone users was replicated by the present study. However, unexpectedly, we found a trend for an increased incidence of self-stimulation among postmenopausal women who used placebo. It will be interesting to learn whether this finding replicates.

In conclusion, among postmenopausal women, a significantly greater proportion of those using pheromone than those using placebo showed an increase over their own baseline in intimate sociosexual behaviors. We suspect that three conditions are required for sex attractant pheromones to reveal their effects: (a) motivation to increase romance in the user; (b) a natural or synthetic formula that is effective, and (c) the social availability of partners for the pheromone users. Future double-blind placebo-controlled studies would most informatively recruit groups the size of this study or larger but homogenous in terms of availability of a partner at baseline: in other words, either all married, all single-but-dating, or all not dating at inception. A 9-week experimental period would also be useful to test whether pheromonal effects increase with duration of use.

Acknowledgements and References available in full reprint.

Please access the Journal Of Sex Research website, or medical research libraries to obtain hard copy reprint.

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