Sweet Smell of Success is Actually Lily of the Valley
by Mad Dog
Once they figured
out that sperm not only had tails but also rudimentary noses, the
scientists set out to discover what smells sperm might like.
||Human sperm are funny
things. See, you’re laughing already. Well, you are if you’re
younger than twelve years old or a guy, anyway. Sperm are those teeny
tiny tadpole-like cells which somehow manage to swim upstream against
all odds, desperately hoping to find an egg to invade. Kind of like a
single-minded mongoose that just happens to be able to get you pregnant.
Not to imply that male mongooses have fertility problems. Far be it for
me to say something like that about any creature that has sharp teeth
which are at crotch height when they sit up. But back to sperm. Yes,
they really are funny things. They’re highly motivated, singular and
plural at the same time, and love the smell of lily of the valley. Then
again, who doesn’t?
The idea that sperm might be
attracted to certain smells has been around since, oh, a couple of weeks
ago when some researchers published a paper in the journal Science
(motto: “Caution: May cause drowsiness”). It started when they
discovered that there are receptors in a sperm’s membranes which are
very similar to the sensory nerves of the nose. [Insert
pre-adolescent joke here.] I think I speak for most of us when I say
I don’t want to know what led them down that path of thinking, though
I suspect it started after they squandered their previous grant money
trying to discover if dandruff has taste buds.
Once they figured out that sperm not
only had tails but also rudimentary noses, the scientists set out to
discover what smells sperm might like. No, they didn’t perform the
experiments the way you’re thinking they did, so get that smirk off
your face. They put the sperm in thin glass tubes and noticed that when
they liked a smell—the sperm, not the researchers—their little tails
started beating faster, propelling them towards the source. Scientists
are such teases.
If it had turned
out that sperm were attracted to the smell of Budweiser, car exhaust, or
their own armpits, no one would think twice about it.
It turns out the sperm were attracted by three scents and
repelled by one. The three they liked were baking bread, roasting
chicken, and magic markers. Oddly, these are also the three most popular
flavors of Jelly Belly. Just kidding. Actually the most popular flavors
of Jelly Belly are Buttered Popcorn, Very Cherry, and Five-Day Old Tuna
Casserole. Sperm, on the other hand, are attracted to synthetic
compounds that perfume makers use to imitate the scent of lily of the
It’s true. Sperm, like men,
aren’t concerned with reality, just perception. The surprising thing
isn’t so much that the sperm were attracted to artificiality—after
all, they’re manufactured by males who as a gender think silicone,
Wonderbras, and Miss Clairol Sunny Blonde should have received Nobel
Prizes—but rather that they have decidedly feminine taste in smells.
If it had turned out that sperm were attracted to the smell of
Budweiser, car exhaust, or their own armpits, no one would think twice
about it. But this is like finding out that Adam Sandler is going to be
the next James Bond. Some things just should not be allowed to exist in
The scientists haven’t figured out
what it is about a woman’s egg that attracts male sperm but hope it
doesn’t turn out that they manufacture artificial lily of the valley
chemicals. They have figured out, however, that this discovery might
lead to a way to boost fertility. As it is you can already buy a host of
sperm alluring lily of the valley-scented items including bath gel, body
lotion, soap, and powder, so it’s only a matter of time before you see
Summer’s Eve Lily of the Valley (“Now with Sperm Attractants!”) on
your grocer’s shelf. They also say this discovery could lead to a new
form of contraception. After all, if undecanal, the compound that caused
the sperm to hold their noses and swim away as fast as they could repels
them, it would be the perfect ingredient for a new line of spray
contraceptives such as N’oh Baby!, Sperm-B-Gone, and Deep Woodie Off.
It’s sad to think of all those sperm which may not be
around to enjoy the alluring smell of artificial lily of the valley just
because parents are too lazy to do laundry.
These products might not even be necessary if we continue using
disposable diapers. It’s true. According to a study in the Archives
of Diseases in Childhood (motto: “Take two aspirin and subscribe
in the morning.”) male fertility has decreased over the past 25 years
and they blame disposable diapers. It seems the plastic-lined diapers
hold in more than just what they’re intended to hold in—they also
retain heat. This increases the temperature of the testicles—boy model
only, of course—which in turn affects their development, resulting in
a reduced number of healthy sperm later in life. It’s sad to think of
all those sperm which may not be around to enjoy the alluring smell of
artificial lily of the valley just because parents are too lazy to do
One thing the scientists haven’t
looked into is what smells eggs like. After all, it takes two to
tango—if you know what I mean, *wink*wink*—and all the artificial
lily of the valley smell in the world won’t do much good if the sperm
shows up smelling like used motor oil, yesterday’s sweat socks, or Old
Spice Tangy Corn Nuts scent. Is it me, or do I smell a big pile of grant
money looking for a mate?
©2003 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them whenever you smell lily of the valley.