When it comes to grooming, there are many different views on what constitutes “manly” — some prefer a clean-shaven underarm while others appreciate the look of natural, hairy pits. And then there are those who get really turned on by licking, sniffing, and even having sex with other people’s armpits. This stinky kink is called maschalagnia and it’s surprisingly popular in the gay community. The question is, why do gay men like armpits so much?
One theory is that pits are powerhouses of scent. They’re laden with pheromones that convey information about our personality and sexuality, and they’re particularly potent in males. In addition, our armpits often pick up the smell of other people, especially if they’re sweaty.
In fact, a study out of Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center found that when men walked into a room filled with the pheromone androstanol, heterosexual women were more likely to think the wire figures in the connected-dots style were masculine, indicating that humans are sensitive to certain body odors. And a separate study found that gay and bisexual men can detect and respond to their own or other males’ armpit scent, suggesting sexual attraction is an innate response to specific smells.
Whether it’s a symbol of masculinity, a way to connect with other men, or an early-adolescent curiosity that can sometimes dip into fetish territory, the popularity of the armpit selfie is an intriguing convergence of biology and aesthetics, social media dynamics, and cultural commentary. While the armpit trend may be temporary, it’s a reflection of our ever-evolving understanding of attraction and connection.