May 20, 2013

Gay Peter Pan-isms: No interest in cologne or perfume

I've started to get back into cologne for the first time in awhile, and whether it's browsing through the men's fragrance area in a department store or reading through online forums to get opinions on stuff I can't sample in person, it's striking how minimal the gay presence has been -- like, practically non-existent. Not just on the customer side, but on the store assistant side as well. It's either normal men or women who take care of that part of a department store.

Furthermore, you don't see them in the world of perfume either. That's a woman-only domain, on the customer and service sides alike.

This is in stark contrast to many other areas of apparel, grooming, etc., where if there's a sizable queer presence in your city, you can bet on over half the "men" in H&M being gay during any given visit. Gays also express interest in all kinds of female fashion and beauty -- styling hair, make-up, clothing and accessory design, and so on -- but not in fragrance. They like the idea of playing dress-up because they're infantilized. Somehow fragrance doesn't play so central of a role in dress-up games -- too overpowering.

They just don't like the stuff. Here is a short thread from Yahoo! Answers asking what the best cologne for gay men is. Unlike other questions that ask what your favorite cologne is, which will restrict respondents to those who actually do like to wear it themselves or smell it on others, this more open-ended question allows for more general and less personal answers, like this revealing one from a real-life homosexual:

"In my experience, gay men aren't that into cologne. I've known some who wear it but mostly not."

Looking around the answers of the small minority that is into it, they go for the standard unassertive effervescent stuff that is sold to awkward teenagers in Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc. At a forum for users of "powerhouse" fragrances -- i.e., ones that last long, project far, and smell in some way imposing -- there's no apparent gay presence at all. Looks like metalheads from the '80s are the only detectable over-represented group there, not airheaded faggots.

All of this points to the gay fear of self-assertion, part of their broader syndrome of infantilization. You're too afraid to take up lots of space when you're just a little dork, but that all changes when puberty hits. You start to compete more with other males, and you also want to assert yourself more around girls. The same is true for females: they get more catty and boy-crazy during puberty, and assert themselves more.

Part of that naturally expresses itself as a sudden interest in fragrances, both to wear yourself and to smell on others. They don't bother putting sample strips of cologne or perfume into Highlights magazine, or advertise on Nickelodeon. When I started out as a teenager, it was Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated where you first learned about cologne. I'm sure there was something similar for girls reading Seventeen or whatever to learn about perfume.

Not to mention the rite of passage of going to the cologne / perfume section of the department store and actually getting to sample all of the dozens of scents they had there. Dude, what if we run into some babes at the food court? Better spray on a little Obsession first at Hecht's. You never know...

Gays never felt that normal inclination that both heterosexual guys and girls felt as they matured into adolescents. Sure, some normal people don't find it attractive either, but not across the entire demographic group. The only group that is unequivocally uninterested in and even mildly weirded out by personal fragrances, especially the more assertive ones, are children.

This goes to show that it's not helpful to see gays as hyper-masculine (lol) or as feminized -- which is plausible in some cases, but not all. Females tend to be more juvenile than males in appearance, mindset, and behavior, so many cases will support both the idea that gays are infantilized and that gays are feminized. The crucial cases pit the two against each other, and infantilization always wins.

Most notably, gays have no nurturing or parenting instinct, whether of a mothering or a fathering kind, even when they're well into middle age. Here we see another example where both guys and girls, in their own sex-specific ways, develop an interest in fragrance during adolescence, while gays remain stunted in childhood.

That's true for other aspects of how both normal boys and girls start to change their appearance during adolescence, both to compete against same-sex rivals and to attract mates. Hairstyles get bigger, jewelry begins to accumulate, and designs or patterns get bolder. Gays wear minimal haircuts, don't adorn their bodies, and rarely wear striking patterns like plaid, geometric prints, and so on, only feeling comfortable to go as far as stripes and the odd gingham shirt. Their childish nature keeps them from being very assertive.


  1. Agnostic, I am excited to tell you that i found a norwegian throwback 80s band which i have had stuck in my head. I bet you will like it. Search youtube for Donkeyboy, specifically 'Ambition' and 'Sometimes'. Not to mention the cutest vocalist.

  2. Not really picking up an '80s vibe from either of those... no catchy riffs, whether for guitar, bass, or keyboard, and no tribal-sounding drums. And no loudness to the vocals. Doesn't make you want to get up and move.

    It sounds like minimalist indie pop, just in '80s drag.

    The only recent song with and '80s feel to it is "Treasure" by Bruno Mars. Zero hipster appeal there, but oh well, still has the most infectious bass groove of the past 20 years.

  3. Well you've touched on another important topic to me, fragrance. I'm an amateur collector, having roughly 100 fragrances at home many are in 1mL sample vials, as it can be an expensive hobby for someone on a modest salary). You may be onto something here. There are plenty of straight guys on the online forums who are into cologne/perfume. I don't know anyone in my real, personal life who is as into it as I am, and I'm straight of course. I do have to say though that it seems to be a unique hobby for a straight male. That's what women have told me. I mention it on some online profiles and that's often a question women as me about. I'm not sure if it makes me seem gay or not, but it's part of who I am, so why hide it? I've even entertained making it a career at one point. is a good information source. and as well as are good for sampling the hard-to-find niche scents.

  4. You're in for a treat once I get around to writing up some posts on the change in scents over time. You probably already know the basic story, but having a quantitative supporting "appendix" I guess is even better -- shows that you weren't crazy.

    And most people don't remember scents that well, unlike music or movies or something. I'll have to try to describe the changes as best as possible, since I can't communicate scents directly through smell-o-vision just yet.

    It was so cool to see yet another area of art/culture where the '70s and especially the '80s kicked so much ass. And in similar ways as elsewhere -- high contrast, primitive meets modern, mystery, emotion, excitement, belonging to a group and enjoying the heady atmosphere of a crowd...

    Yeah, the '80s were the good old days for cologne and perfume too.

  5. If I were going to try to sample 100 or more, I'd definitely try to get small samples. But I'm going more on what I know I like, hearing about new things that most people with my tastes say is great, and basic instinct.

    I just picked up Antaeus this weekend at Nordstrom, and I could pick up Drakkar Noir and Boss Number One in real life too, though I'm holding off on those for a little. Tonight I'm going to blind-buy Ted Lapidus Pour Homme and Quorum from Amazon. Then see if I can score a vintage bottle of Kouros off ebay.

    I'm goin' all in baby!

  6. " I do have to say though that it seems to be a unique hobby for a straight male. "

    You're right, when I was collecting data on how fragrances have changed over time, I started with just people's own recollections. Women could remember quite a bit, and noted if they still wore what was big in high school, but few or none of them referred to anything like a "collection" of perfumes.

    Women just are not as Romantic as men are, they throw away sublime stuff without batting an eyelash because it's old or taking up space or whatever. And it was your mom who threw out or gave away all your cool toys when you were little, wasn't it?

    Even if they wouldn't have kept a collection to preserve personal memories, they just don't get into the excitement of trying out so many new things. Too far away from the ordinary is unsettling for them.

    The downside is that it leads us to not only try out so many new books, movies, albums, fragrances, etc., but to hold onto them and get accused of being pack rats. Hey, don't throw out what still rocks, honey!

  7. What do you think of the old theories that homosexuality is caused by a weak father?


  8. Sweet! I'm looking forward to these posts. I need to update myself a little more on the history, but I know a little bit. I haven't tried many new ones lately as money is tight. But it's a great pleasure.

    I've heard it said that scent is perhaps the closest sense linked to memory. So it makes sense that I'm so into it, as I'm a very sentimental person. Even prone to living in the past some. Which is one reason why your blog is so great; our experiences mirror each others' closely. I think a lot of people have difficulty describing the smells that remind them of life events, but they can recall movies and music more clearly. Hell, I can recall where I bought 90% of my cds. I think largely it's an issue of people being unable to remember the names of the fragrances. There are some smells/tastes from the late 80s I'm trying to think of, but have no way of finding them other than through trial-and-error. Things like a hairspray or flavor of Kool-Aid.

    Yeah the 80s are known for their "big and powerful" fragrances. The only one you mention I have is Kouros (you're in the big leagues dude! The spinoffs like the Summer version and Body Kouros are among my faves as well). Lot of civet going on there...I love it. I known Drakkar Noir right off the bat. My sister's ex-husband wore that as his go-to. I've heard a lot about Antaeus, Quorum, and Boss Number One, but haven't bought those yet. Who knows, I'm sure I've smelled them on someone at some point though.

    Most people have a cologne or perfume, but aren't really "collectors" like I consider myself to be. It's a fun hobby, I hope you can get into it. I definitely feel every bit of a Romantic as any given woman. And you're right, it was my mom who tried to give away my toys. But I wouldn't let her, haha. Most of them are in the attic at home. How can I part with those memories? I do have a pack rat tendency, as you probably gather. She does do well with pictures though, and is undergoing the huge task of organizing family photos from the past 50 years or so.

    Haha wow, then you go and mention the pack rat thing (I was replying paragraph-by-paragraph). You read my mind sometimes. That leads me to another point - people seem to view music as throwaway. I'm like, if something was good 30 years ago, how can it not be good now? Off to play some basketball with the guys...trying to break out of the cocoon!

  9. FWG,
    Curious if you're interested in the vintage and antique fragrances.
    I don't know much about that niche, but given the $$ I've seen full bottles bring versus empty ones of old rareties, I've assumed that they must be a particularly obsessed group of collectors.

    Personally, I wear rose essential oil, neat. I tried to get my husband interested in cologne and ordered a handful of samplings from Creed once, but not even theirs would make him budge from his dislike. Too bad as I loved them all and would have been willing to pay the $$$.

    1. Dahlia,

      Thanks for asking. I'm interested ins anything with a scent to it! I would love to get my hands on some really old stuff. I haven't went in that direction too much yet because of my previously mentioned constraints. Some older ones are quite pricey. And then there are those who collect the old bottles and display them as decoration.

      Rose is a good smell. Some people just aren't too into it, and that's fine. I do have to say nice on the Creed though! I love their offerings. Some of the most expensive stuff out there, but it's quality.

  10. Hey agnostic, off topic, but have you watched Soul Train line dances? Lots of fun.

  11. completely off topic but do you know if there is publicly available on the homicide rate broken down by age for years prior to 1976? i'm trying to see if there is any truth to the "lead paint caused the crime wave" idea that's been making the rounds among lefties; the data since 1976 doesn't support it but i'd prefer to see data from when crime spiked as well.

  12. I don't know off the top of my head about crime rates by age prior to 1976, no.

    Crime waves are multiple / recurrent, whereas there was only one wave of lead paint. We need a dynamic systems approach to model cycles, not coming up with a unique culprit for each crime wave.

    It's as though every time we get really cold weather -- what did we do wrong *this* time? Nothing: the weather cycles between hot and cold by itself.

  13. they claim that the early 20th century crime wave was caused by lead wile the late 20th century crime wave was caused by leaded gas:

    i looked at murder rates broken down by age from 1976-2004 and the theory didn't hold up. the theory states that crime was low in the 50s because the people who were born in the 1930s who weren't exposed to as much lead as the young people who followed them. if people born in the 30s were less prone to crime then the homicide rate among 35-50 year old should have started raising in the late 70s and not started to fall until very recently, in reality it has fallen continuously since 1980.

    likewise if people born after 1972 are less prone to crime the homicide rate for people 14-17 should have started to decline in 1987-1989 instead teenage homicide tripled during the period. and didn't peak until 1993.

    it seems that in general the reduction in crime has been much stronger among older age groups than younger ones: the 2002 homicide rate for 14-17 is 70% of what it was in 1980 18-24 85%, 25-34 57%, 35-49 39%, over 50 39%. this is the opposite of what the lead-crime theory would predict.

    the reason i'm looking for the data from when crime went up is i'd like to see if was across all age groups or if it was limited to young people. if it happened across all age groups then that would be more evidence against the lead-crime theory.

    one thing the does seem strange to me is the late 80s/90s surge in crime among people under 25. this surge went against the trend for older people. I've often seen it blamed on crack but teen crack usage dropped sharply after the death of Len Bias in 1986 so the timing isn't right for that either.

    my source for the crime data is: page 19

  14. I dunno, somebody has to tell guys that they are supposed to wear cologne - either a father, older brother, or some other older guy.

    Gays notoriously have weak relationships with their fathers - I think this is more because the father disassociates, rather than the weak relationship causes gayness. So when a father sees his son is starting to act gay, he pulls back.

    Or it could be that the father offers advice, but the gay son, not caring about attracting women, doesn't follow it.


  15. "Women just are not as Romantic as men are, they throw away sublime stuff without batting an eyelash because it's old or taking up space or whatever. And it was your mom who threw out or gave away all your cool toys when you were little, wasn't it?"

    One theory argues that high levels of testosterone splits or weakens the corpus callosum, which connects the Right Brain with the Left, creating the Bicameral Mind - and the ability to entertain possibilities other than the present. So higher levels of testosterone would be more associated with romanticisim and the sublime.


  16. what did we do wrong *this* time? Nothing: the weather cycles between hot and cold by itself.

    To be pedantic, the weather isn't humans doing things. It's more like asking questions about business cycles.


    anon: one thing that might be interesting is that murder rate changes change by similar percentages among Blacks and Whites, but among Blacks its a change from around 50 homicides per 100,000 to 25 per 100,000, while among Whites around from around 5 to 2.5.

    It's the same kind of change in victimisation rates - Whites in the peak crime period are really only a little more likely to be a victim of crime, in absolute terms.

    Although the % change is similar, in absolute terms the bulk of the change is seen in Blacks (and this applies across violent crime).

    I think this is one of the reasons why the lead paint idea has some attractiveness (although wrong), as only a group within relatively specific city environments were responsible for the bulk, in absolute terms, the change.

    The changes in Whites seem likely enough to me to reflect changes in trends in extraversion and age over time (younger people and more out and about people with less hard work to do commit more crimes). The absolute changes are pretty small after all.

    But ideally you'd want the same underlying logic for Blacks, but I don't know if that cuts it there. The Black fertility boom (baby boom) was a lot larger than the White one though.

  17. Women just are not as Romantic as men are, they throw away sublime stuff without batting an eyelash because it's old or taking up space or whatever. And it was your mom who threw out or gave away all your cool toys when you were little, wasn't it?

    Shopping, looking for new fashions and hoarding clothes certainly seems much more of a female trait.

    I don't really think of men as hoarders or accumulators really. I think Mom's are probably rather more unsentimental about little boys toys than other goods (and they run the households, not Dad's so it's them who have to decide what stays and what goes).

  18. According to Paul Fussel's 'Class' male guys want to seem Upper class and lesbians want to seem matey and working class. Guy calls you a fag on the street, he means 'Supercilious coward! I challenge you!" Girl suggests her competition is a little mannish, she doesn't mean the other gal comes from the big house on the hill.
    Strong scents are flashy and thus prole. I wonder what 'hormone science' has done to the perfume industry. But then, I'm unusually triggered by the smell of fresh hot pussy.

  19. Flashy / strong scents come from the aristocracy, not proles. In fact, these days proles don't wear any scents at all.

  20. "According to Paul Fussel's 'Class' male guys want to seem Upper class and lesbians want to seem matey and working class. Guy calls you a fag on the street, he means 'Supercilious coward! I challenge you!" Girl suggests her competition is a little mannish, she doesn't mean the other gal comes from the big house on the hill.
    Strong scents are flashy and thus prole. I wonder what 'hormone science' has done to the perfume industry. But then, I'm unusually triggered by the smell of fresh hot pussy."

    I doubt this is true, in fact it seems like a bad theory. Upper class men want to have children with upper class women.


  21. Black guys need unguents to grease up given dry skin issues in a temperate climate. So, might as well scent the oil. Most white gays are turned off by blacks. So, scent isn't gay.

    Women perfume. Gays don't dig chicks. So, scent isn't gay.

    White proles aren't fans of blacks either. So, scent isn't prole.

    Meanwhile, Fussell's book came out thirty years ago. Birnbaum's sequel was multiracial. So are today's preps. So, yes, today's aristocracy is more flashy/scented.

    Still, how successful is today's aristocracy? Paul Bremer vs Douglas MacArthur- Henry Ford versus Ralph Nader- Rockefeller vs Bloomberg- it's supermen vs bitches. Today's 'aristocracy' is, barely, a corrupted shadow oligarchy. This affects style.

  22. Flashy / strong scents come from the aristocracy, not proles. In fact, these days proles don't wear any scents at all.

    Historically, I think perfumes are common in times and places when people do not wash very much, e.g. the 18th century.

    (This is one of the reasons why they are historically less of a thing in Asia than Europe.)

    I'd imagine this is a combination of the documented phenom of scents working with "natural" body odcrs to enhance (which works less well for people with less odor) and having a concealing function as well.

    So you may get a bit of a gradient where some times and places people in the Upper Class have more norms of cleanliness. But today everyone washes a lot, so there may be less of that element.

    Also flashy scents may come from the aristocracy, but of course, warrior aristocracies (or anything like them) don't really rule any more.

  23. For scents, don't we prefer the smell of someone who is a bit genetically different from us?

  24. "Gays ... don't adorn their bodies,..."

    Gays were the first men to wear earrings. Many still do, but because the hetero male began doing so (prompted by black basketball players), some gays may have decided to go with something else.

    As for other "adornment"? Gays were also among the first to go in for ink. IT's just that their tats don't take up the whole damn arm, leg, trunk, etc.

    And what about clothes? You don't think of clothes as "adornment?" Flamboyant gays use clothes as wild adornment while others are big time into brands and labels.

  25. Curtis- I misspelled 'gay' as 'guy'.

    Me dumb.

  26. "For scents, don't we prefer the smell of someone who is a bit genetically different from us?"

    I've heard conflicting things on this.

    What's likely is that some kinds of women are more influenced by colognes than others. On this blog, Agnostic has outlined various ways that our heritage - whether our ancestors were pastoralist mountain dwellers, farmer plain dwellers, hunter-gatherer savanah(sp?) and forest dwellers, etc. - influences modern personality.

    So all those studies that say that women can tell a guy's genetics by his smell only applies to some women. If this were not the case, the cologne industry would never prosper in the first place - since women would be offended by, and discourage, the use of cologne.

    As it is, it seems that many women don't have the super-secret smelling ability, and need a man to use artificial substances to arouse them.


  27. Or I guess another possibility would be that women can smell a compatible guy, but they also like cologne. lol. Just forget what I said, I guess.

    Anyway, I've read "popular studies" that we want someone genetically similar, and others that claimed the opposite. The jury's still out.


  28. Anyway, I'd say cologne was more of a pastoralist thing.

    Pastoralists put somewhat more restriction of women's sexual choice, and sexual access was more determined by relationships between men. In that kind of environment, women would probably lose whatever instinctual smelling they had. A more powerful smell - cologne - would be needed to arouse them.

    The descendants of pastoralists also, historically, comprised the upper classes - since they usually occupied hilly or mountainous areas, not needing to farm intensively, they usually subjugated farmers and fishermen. So that goes along with cologne being more of an aristocratic thing.

    Are some women offended or turned off by cologne? I have no idea, but it might be worth looking into.


  29. Does this count as nostalgia for the New Wave?:

    "Real Bronx Tours, which took tourists from Manhattan to see life in the South Bronx "from a safe distance," said it would discontinue the tours.

    Tourists were told they'd get a look at the Bronx that reflects one of the darkest chapters of the city's history, the 1970s and '80s, when the tour website said "this borough was notorious for drugs, gangs, crime and murders.""


  30. The New York Times Perfume Critic, Chandler Burr is gay.
    His book on Sarah Jessica Parker's
    "Lovely" has a nice section on the history of Musk smells, dihydromercanols, which when they became cheap became the basis for the Fresh Laundry smell you get from detergent. Then Drakkar Noir, Paco Rabbane, and Davidoff's Cool Water begen to use them in incresing amounts, (in that order).


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