Please don't cry – it upsets a man's sex drive

Scientists discover that women's tears contain a chemical that lowers male hormones

Smelling the tears of a woman can quell a man's sexual desire, according to a study that determined female crying can have a direct chemical impact on male libido.

Scientists have found evidence to suggest that tears from a weeping woman contain a chemical signal that can have a subconscious effect on a man's sexual desire, even if he is not a witness to the crying.

The findings suggest a functional role for crying in humans, who are unique in the animal kingdom by expressing emotion with weeping eyes. Crying among women may be a way of controlling male desire and sexual aggression, the researchers suggested.

Biologists have never been able to come up with a satisfactory reason for the emotional tears produced during crying, as opposed to the protective tears produced to keep the eyes moist and free of dust and debris. Although tears were obviously being used as an emotional signal, there was no obvious function attached to them, said the scientists, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. "Despite psychological theories on the meaning of tears and biological theories describing tears as an adaptation related to their eye-protective nature, or a mechanism for expelling toxic substances, the functional significance of emotional tears remains unknown," the scientists say in a report to be published in the journal Science.

However, following a series of experiments involving men who were asked to sniff tissues soaked in the tears of weeping women, the researchers now believe that they have found convincing evidence to support the idea that female emotional tears contain some kind of chemical signal, or pheromone, that can directly affect a man's emotional state.

One of the studies involved asking men to rate a series of photographs of women's faces according to their sadness or sexual attractiveness. Sometimes the men were exposed to the tears of weeping women, and sometimes they were given tissues soaked in saline solution that had been carefully collected after being dribbled down the women's cheeks – to simulate any body odour that may be picked up.

None of the men said they were able to detect any difference in smell between the tissues soaked in tears and those soaked in the saline solution, and none knew that what they were given to sniff contained a woman's tears.

Professor Noam Sobel, who led the research team, said that a significant decline in the men's estimation of the women's sexual attractiveness only occurred after they had been exposed to the tears. Further studies showed that tears also resulted in a decline of testosterone in the men's saliva, as well as their own judgement about their state of sexual arousal.

A final part of the study investigated the brain activity of the men using functional magnetic resonance – a type of brain scanner. Again, the scientists found that men had lower activity in parts of the brain associated with sexual arousal after sniffing a woman's tears.

Professor Sobel said: "These effects materialised despite that subjects did not see a woman cry, nor were they aware of the compound source. Moreover, in Western culture, exposure to tears is usually in close proximity. We hug a crying loved one, often placing our nose near teary cheeks, typically generating a pronounced nasal inhalation as we embrace."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement