Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Way to a Woman's Heart Is Through Her Nose

Researcher Presents the Chemistry of Love

By Carrie Gress

ROME, FEB. 7, 2008 ( Little holds the attention of Catholic young adults more than a discussion about religion and sexuality.

Vicki Thorn, the founder of the post-abortion healing group Project Rachel, got the undivided attention of 60 young adults Wednesday as she explained to them the biology and chemistry behind Pope John Paul II's theology of the body.

Although Karol Wojtyla didn't have the advantage of the current research on the biology and chemistry of sexuality, Thorn says he looked into what was available in the 1960s and 70s, and drew from it for his own writings about love, sexuality and God.

The last month has seen a rush of articles about the science behind sexuality. Magazines including Time, Psychology Today and Scientific American all chimed in about the chemical forces at work when people select a mate, including what seems to be the not-so-insignificant role of how a person smells.

Odor attracts

Rachel Herz, a researcher and psychologist, said in Psychology Today, "Body odor is an external manifestation of the immune system, and the smells we think are attractive come from the people who are most genetically compatible with us."

Thorn, who has been doing work on this topic for years, is taking many of these secular findings and considering them through a Catholic lens. One of the many topics Thorn covered was the connection between pheromones and chemical contraception. She pointed out yet another harmful effect of the pill because of the role pheromones play in mate selection.

When a woman is on the pill, explained Thorn, her physical chemistry changes as the body is duped into thinking it is pregnant. As a result, the type of man she is attracted to is one with pheromones that are similar to her own, like her father's or her brother's. Her body, through her nose, is trying to help her to surround herself with protection, safety, familiarity.

On the other hand, Thorn continued, a woman not using chemical contraception, will be attracted to a man that has a different genetic make up than her own, or her family's, since mates that are genetically too similar can cause difficulties in conceiving, or affect the health of the children.

"It makes sense that God would order our bodies this way." Thorn said, "But we have been tinkering with things we shouldn't be tinkering with."

Changing perceptions

Problems arise when a woman goes off chemical contraception. Her body will return to the pre-pill chemistry, and she may have difficulty with what she perceives as a different scent of her husband.

This may have something to do with why, as Herz said in Psychology Today: "One of the most common things women tell marriage counselors is, 'I can't stand his smell.'"

While Thorn is working on two books on the topic of the science behind sex, one for teens and another for engaged couples, she says she is not giving up her work with helping people to heal physically and spiritually from abortion. She added that her recent research has been encouraged by those she has helped in the past.

"I gave this information to the women I was counseling, and they made me promise to tell others," said Thorn. "'We have never heard this before,' they told me. 'We wish we had known it before.'"

To order Thorn's CDs and DVDs on the topic, email her at: