Savage Love Letter of the Day: The Scent of a Woman


Have you tried loving her up in the shower? After soaping her down, of course.
turn offs that basic have prompted me to leave sexual relationships in the past. not married, no kids or shared mortgage? just gtfo already.
What kind of underwear does she wear? If she's wearing polyester or nylon or something like that it could be contributing to the sweat problem. Cotton breaths pretty well, but if she sweats a lot you might buy her some athletic underwear to go with those chocolates and/or flowers. Several brands make breathable, moisture wicking underwear designed for runners, so those might also work for people who don't run but who do sweat a lot. The ones Under Armor makes are even pretty cute!
Is it a timing thing? She showers every morning, but they make out late at night? Or the reverse? If her head and pit smells are fine for him (or even a turn-on), then she could do a quicky bottom-half shower after work or dinner. Then she's not drying hair, putting it up, etc.

But that kind of practical problem-solving comes AFTER "using your words", and perhaps also after some positive-feedback-loop behaviors: She washes up and he spends a LONG time going down on her.
If only the bidet was standard in American bathrooms. *sigh*
In addition to Dan's and the above suggestions (except getting out of the relationship before trying the other suggestions) there's always using Tucks or other unscented cleansing pads that are suited to and manufactured for wiping/cleansing the external genital/anus regions.
What does BUTTS stand for? Are they just going to sign people off with all-caps words now, they no longer have to be contrived acronyms?
Whoops, should have read the answer.
He should get her some products like wet wipes and baby powder. Maybe more sweat resistant panties.
If LW is not comfortable communicating this directly, he could always go with the more cowardly "[pet name], we're both kind of stinky right now, let's take a shower first." Not entirely honest, but a potentially less shame inducing first pass that might raise her awareness.
Butts, If your GF showers in the morning, poops at some other time and is cursed with frequently messy poops, suggest Balneol or some other butt cleansing liquid. Poop, wipe normally, put some of this cleaning stuff on some paper, wipe with that, wipe normally again, and voila: The third best thing after a quick shower or a bidet. It leaves you pretty clean and doesn't block the plumbing like most flushable wipes do (ask me or my plumber how I know).

I mostly manage to poop only before my showers in the morning and always take a quick rinse when I'm at home, but I have a gastric issue and a hairy butt, so when I'm away from a shower and need to go, this stuff is a lifesaver. Well, it wouldn't actually kill me, but If I can't clean up, I get rashy.
Did anyone else think this is a fake letter? "Butt sweat"? Barring extreme physical circumstances preventing normal hygiene, that I think the LW would have mentioned (severe disability, morbid obesity, GI disease), it's going to be less sweaty than the average armpit.

If real, invest in a Toto toilet seat.
@13, Fresh
actually, I could imagine the smell quite vividly, sadly. Humid summer weather tends to make your ass crack sweat, and since most people can't smell their own butts, they're usually unaware of it. Most people do check their armpits to see if they need deodorant or a shirt change, but not a lot of people smell their underwear to check there's no foul scent. of course, butts and genitals are never going to smell like flowers, but most of us can tell when something is off.
Stick your hand "down there", slop it around and get it good and coated up to your elbow, hold it over her mouth and nose and watch her reaction. If she says, "Fuck, baby, I guess we better hit the shower before we both blow chunks!" your mission is accomplished. If she eagerly licks it off and then kisses you, your problem runs a little deeper.

Or you could talk about it like adults.

A pre-sex shower together is fun foreplay (and practically mandatory in hot weather, after cleaning out the goat barn or after a long day breaking out of Shawshank Prison.)
@13 I considered that this might be a fake letter, but not because of butt sweat. I'm regularly surprised by what surprises commenters. Recent examples: "Alleged 'butt sweat' must stem from extreme physical circumstances preventing normal hygiene." "If you're in the bathroom longer than 10 minutes something is seriously wrong and you should go to to a doctor."
@15: Good Lord, Donny, who've you been dating lately?!
@16 Ankylosaurus--I'm still skeptical that a normal-bodied woman who is probably not breaking rocks in the hot sun all day has foul butt sweat, but defer to your experience. But if not that, what made you think this might be fake?
In some cultures people take showers before going to sleep or before sex. A hookup with a guy from Japan almost always starts with a shower and sometimes ends with another shower.

Japan and Korea have bidet toilet seats in public restrooms. In the mideast it's common to have a spray shower attached to the water supply for the toilet in public restrooms. Everyone washes up completely after #2 no matter where they have to go. #WashThatAss #NoSkidMarks
I have an uneasy feeling that this proposed discussion is going to result in tears.
Twitter @20: Yeah, me too. There really isn't a terribly kind way to say "honey, your butt stinks."
I think MiscKitty @3 had a good suggestion re: what sort of underwear she's wearing. If it's not cotton, he should buy her some cotton undies to see if that helps.
In the past, to avoid using words, I employed mimes, clowns, and magicians, but that often led to miscommunications that not even jugglers, puppeteers, and acrobats could undo.

The problem, as @20/TwitterEgg and @21/BiDanFan note is that unless you can hire Merlin to cast an enchanting spell, conversations like these rarely go well. That's the problem, and Dan's advice, while broadly sensible, doesn't come close to any set of words that can do this with gentleness and grace.
But after they break up over her embarrassment, her next partner will reap the benefits of her hard-won knowledge. Pay it forward, BUTTS!
Surely it's on a par with accepting each other's farts. Before she sits down on the bed, put a hand towel down. Or bring out a toilet roll and leave it near where she sits down.
Taking a leaf from your mime suggestion,
SA, @22.
I am a big lover of rituals. (Lapsed Catholic here, probably no great surprise to others of my ilk.) Why not initiate a standard pre-sex ritual where you shower or bathe together, to get rid of any residual stank? It's a great way to relax after a long day, it helps to get both partners into a more sensual mood, and it's far less harsh than telling the one you love that their smell disgusts you. Plus, who knows, you may have an occasional problem "down there" yourself, LW. It's a lot easier to smell your partner's butt and genitalia odors than your own. Bathing in advance will eliminate all potential odor problems, and it will greatly enhance your sexual pleasure even if you smell like roses (or think you do).

On a lighter note, both DonnyK @15 and Will @17's response to DonnyK made me giggle.
I hope LW gives his gf a good hygiene example by keeping himself clean. Does he shower, or at least uses a wet towel prior to sex? Does his butt, sweaty or not, smell any better? Does he ever sniff his fingers after scratching his testicles to find out what others may have to deal with?

MiscKitty @ 3
“If she's wearing polyester or nylon or something like that it could be contributing to the sweat problem.”
Agreed, as those fabrics don’t discriminate genitalia. Lace and some styles that supposedly help ventilation can be just as annoying and smell inducing. There’s a reason Dan defines thongs as “butt floss.”

This could also be a vagina problem. Sometimes the biology in the vagina can get out of wack which creates an odor the owner of the vagina doesn't notice but is noticeable to anyone who happens to be in bed with them. Getting up out of bed would be one of those circumstances.

The vagina is a finicky beast, so this really has nothing to do with cleanliness.... And could even be the partner's "fault" as sexual interactions can definitely change the delicate balance that exists.
I kind of agree with you WoofCandy @28. Keeping one's arse clean and non offensive has got to be up there in the dating rule book.
Biggie @27: The difference between vagina odour and butt odour is generally pretty obvious. If she smells like arse, it's probably her arse.

Look at me using British terms... Having lived outside of the US for 15 years, it's not just my vocabulary that's changed. All these suggestions of multiple showers -- pre-sex, and hopefully after-sex -- are making me balk at the waste of water and damage to the environment. I suppose if you live in the swampy South it makes sense, but Americans are generally seen as being unduly hygiene-obsessed as it is. Surely breathable clothing, effective wiping, and maybe a spritz of Summer's Eve body spray would be sufficient most seasons of the year?

Good point, CMD @26, that this LW had better make sure his own bum smells of roses before bringing this up with his lady friend.
Sweat is one thing, and you don't need to shower just before sex, but pooping and sex should be separated by a shower. Always. No matter how much you wipe, everyone has a poop smell detectable in the general crotch area until they shower. Alll gay men know this. I find it hard to believe this isn't common knowledge in the general population.
Dan, first please forgive me for being off-topic, but......again on this week's edition of Savage Love (Get Out), I have posted comments that are not showing up. Have I been yanked from Savage Love or locked out? I don't believe I have been trolling, unless someone reported me. Once again, the number of comments has reached 100, if that means anything.
@13: You've clearly never worked in an office environment where people sit on non-breathable chairs all day, then stand up and walk their buttsweat smells all over creation. The bigger the ass, the worse the smell, too.
@32 - Griz, I'm sure it's not you. Probably whatever they did to glitch it up last week is making it happen again. Until the tech-savvy youth are put onto the case, I wouldn't worry overmuch.
Auntie Griz @32: I noticed something was weird. On the main page it says there are 103 comments, but on the thread there are only 100. Perhaps each commenter has a per-thread limit? Or it might be a glitch in the Matrix.

Cocky @31: Pooping and butt sex should always be separated by a shower, okay, sure, but honestly, I have never experienced poop smells disrupting sex, and I know I've had at least one partner who poops three times a day (but certainly does not shower after each one). Is your rule *just* because rimming may take place? And does this not kill spontaneity? What if one goes out clubbing, has to poop, then pulls a cute guy? Does he ask to use his shower first?

Speaking as a non-gay-man, cunnilingus puts one's face closer to the anus than fellatio, but I've never been bothered by poop smells during either activity. Perhaps the fragrant scent of pussy can overcome whatever lingering fecal aromas remain, or perhaps women, with their less-hairy butt cracks, are better at wiping.

And I'm glad I haven't got a date tonight because this thread has completely killed my boner. :)
I'm strongly of the opinion that if your partner's sweat smell is a turn-off, you are best served by looking for a new partner. Lots of sexy stuff makes people sweat (as well as non-sexy stuff, and as BUTTS notes, the problem is there outside of sexytimes, too, like when GF is sitting on the bed and then stands up - it's possibly a problem just being in GF's vacinity), and ideally that will be more arousing, or at least neutral. That said, if it smells bad to you, BUTTS, it smells bad to you, and it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker for you. You can probably adapt/desensitize over time, if desired (people get used to all kinds of smells - people work on pig farms, for example, and early city streets were literal open sewers, both of which I promise smell worse than your girlfriend's butt), and there are other helpful suggestions upthread for reducing sweat and making sure hygiene is good (that goes for you, too, as CMDwannabe notes).

Contra other commenters worried about the conversation, I would say that being able to talk (or otherwise clearly communicate) about the bodies that you're mashing together for sexytimes needs to be an absolute minimum for a sexual relationship; if you can't talk about sex or sex-/body-related issues, there are potentially serious problems in your relationship that need to be addressed. You might want to frame this as an opportunity to practice how to have conversations about other issues that might prompt unpleasant feelings and reactions in you or your partner: finances, procreation, division of household labor, moving for school or a career, (ir)religious values, which way to hang the toilet paper roll, etc. All couples (thruples, quadruples, dodecauples, whatever) need to have these kinds of discussions sometimes, so it's important for anyone seeking close partnership(s) to be able to raise issues that might prompt unhappy reactions and have those issues raised to them. Learn by doing, and stick to "I" statements as much as possible: "I know this is awkward to talk about, but I sometimes find your butt/crotch smell to be very strong and unpleasant, and I don't want that to kill our sex life or shared times, so can we talk about things to try to deal with that?" versus, "Your butt stinks and you need to fix that!" Good luck!
Oh God- please don't get her flowers and chocolates to tell her her ass stinks. It will likely be humiliating enough - why associate a nice act with that memory for the rest of her life?
stirwise @ 33
Sorry, or not, but never encountered that issue in any work environment I had. I also think you may be referring to lower back sweat, which is different.
Improper ventilation and cooling system at work is not necessarily butt-size related.
@32, @34, @35 – Yes! Main Comments are totally whacked. Sorry, Griz, tried to reply a half dozen times. Ppblfffft!
@BiDanFan, yeah, I definitely would ask to take a shower first in the situation you describe (going home with someone unshowered after bathroom) even if it is just going to be fellatio. Some people are not that sensitive to smells, but many will definitely notice the fecal smell wafting out as soon as the person opens his or her legs. Even fellatio is often accompanied by some ball licking or anal touching, during or after which many people will definitely notice. i personally have instantly lost all feelings of attraction to guys who hooked up while dirty (by which I don't mean just sweat). I do not have experience of cunnilingus, so I won't comment on that.
@John, I woud agree, rather keep looking until one encounters a partner whose clean sweat is a turn-on. If not, the sex is going to be doomed eventually.
@13 and others who have trouble believing that stinky butt sweat is a common thing... Depends entirely on where you live and/or what sort of activities/work you do in the course of a typical day. I spent a decade living in a very humid place, and even though I had an indoor air conditioned job, just the walk to the bus was enough to make my butt sweat to the point that my cheeks would chafe in the summer if I didn't use baby powder. They don't make deodorant for your butt, so yes, it stinks by the end of the day if you live in a humid place, no matter what you do. If you also have to take a dump during the day (post morning shower) then yes your ass likely smells like shit at the end of the day. We've had the discussion here before about oral sex and the smell of poop, and it seems it's something some people have experienced several times and others have never experienced. I suspect climate has a lot to do with it. If you live in a humid place and spend any time outdoors at all (even just walking to the bus like I said) or if you poop during the day, then you need to wash your ass/crotch before sex. You don't have to go have a full shower- just pop your butt in under the faucet and rinse off.

As for how to solve the problem, yes of course use your words. I think if LW is worried about causing offense, there are two things he could do. First, make it about both of them. Suggest they both freshen up before sex. Second, reassure her that she doesn't stink in general (she's not walking around with BO and offended everyone by smelling like ass), it's just that he is sticking his face very close to her butt and her butt smells like a butt if it's not been recently rinsed.
Cocky @40: Well, I'd be interested to hear from other gay men to find out whether this is indeed a universal preference, or whether you just have a particularly sensitive nose. (Capricornius may disagree, but in my experience fellatio is not typically accompanied by butt play; some like it, but not enough that it can be presumed to be a default activity, certainly not with a new hookup with whom you haven't discussed anal play.)
Would it not be more water-efficient for a blowjob recipient who felt unclean to just warn a lover away from the area? ("No butt stuff please, my tummy's a bit funny" usually gets the point across effectively and discreetly.) What about using wet wipes?
I personally would find it strange if a hookup asked to use my shower first. Unless it was an extremely sweaty club, I'd wonder why they hadn't showered before going out for the night. I guess if this ever happens, I'll know why.
Emma @42: "You don't have to go have a full shower- just pop your butt in under the faucet and rinse off."
I think this sounds like a solution that will make both Cocky and me happy. (On further thought, if someone did say "I'm feeling a bit sweaty, do you mind if I shower first," I reckon I wouldn't find that too strange. So long as it was a quick rinse, as Emma says.)
And it has been many years since I lived in a humid climate, so thanks for the reminder of why I left! :)
@BDF A gross discussion so a gross comment, but I have the misfortune of having frequent minor GI problems- not severe enough that I need medical intervention but I do have days in which I poop multiple times. You just can't always shower right after a BM, and when it happens before sex, for sure I have gone into other people's bathrooms and freshened up with soap and water from their sink or (yes) with wet wipes. I would never let someone go down on me if I had not properly cleaned myself since the last BM. Would you really find that weird if a hook up asked to freshen up and jumped in your shower for a couple of minutes? A full on shower would be weird (especially if it involved washing hair, rinsing off makeup) but using the faucet to wash your nether regions takes less than a minute. If I were trying to do it discreetly, I'd just use the sink.

In my own LTR, it's the standard that we wash up before mid-day or end-day sex butt/oral stuff or BM or not just because it's humid here. It's been so long since I had random hookups that I just can't remember if this would be a big deal or not, but I don't think I'd have trouble asking someone if I could jump in the shower first. Maybe?

I have washed my feet in people's bathtubs before hook ups because when I was young I had a waitressing job (bar) that required me to wear shoes that made my feet stink when I took them off. No one ever seemed to mind. Generally, it was my experience that people are excited to have a hookup and they are happy to accommodate any simple and non-time consuming request (can I use your mouthwash, do you mind if I rinse off my feet since I've been in these shoes working all day, would you open us a beer, etc). I can't imagine asking someone if I could use their shower to clean my ass because that would be a mood killer, but I'm sure some discreet request to freshen up wouldn't be too hard to manage.
Oops sorry cross posted. Wonder why it's fun and disgusting to talk about butt sweat? ha ha
Maybe it's different because I'm in a LTR, but quick showers before sex are a frequent (though not always) activity. Just like to be squeaky clean and tasty before any licking (anywhere) starts, especially in the summertime. This was a mandatory activity back in the day before they banned smoking in bars & everyone would come home reeking of cigarettes and alcohol, smokers or not.
Donny, Griz re the daily thread:
The comments are back! Dan himself wrote back to me (squee!) and said the glitch has been fixed. There are now page numbers. It looks like the first 100 comments go on page 1, the next 100 on page 2, etc. So, fixed!
@48 – Yeah...Still not totally fixed.
@38: Nope, it's butt sweat. Smells distinctly like that ass-crack swamp-ass sweat that everyone gets on occasion. And, after 20 years of working in various office environments I have ample evidence that the size of the ass correlates with the strength of the smell. This is not to denigrate big-ass-havers, it's just a thing that happens.
BDF @30, I get your environmental concerns regarding the over-showering habits of Americans, and particularly the excess water usage by those of us who enjoy pre-sex showering together. But honestly, I think I'd prefer the odor of all-natural ass stank to the lab-produced, artificial scents of Summer's Eve, Axe, and similar "body spray" products. Particularly if they are being used to MASK unwashed body odor - ewwww! What LW needs - what we all need, really- is a bidet, like the more ecologically aware Europeans. It solves the problem with much less water usage, much less toilet paper usage, and NO irritating chemical scents.
First: a wet washcloth. Or if the prospect of laundering it is just more than you can face, unscented baby wipes.

Second: I still can't believe how much angst there is over the concept that one's butt might from time to time be less than pristine. Shit happens. People need to get a grip.

After finishing mourning the loss of the illusion of perfection of your existence, develop a habit of discreetly excusing yourself to the bathroom in the opening bars of a romantic interlude. Who the hell cares whether you are going in to use it for real or just freshen up? And why is it such a freaking big deal? People should just assume that yes, if someone is getting ready to put their face near your nethers, there's a 99.9-3/4% chance that the atmosphere down there could be improved enough by a quick wash that it would be polite and worthwhile to do so, to make the experience more pleasant for them. Most likely warranted too, unless you've showered within the last half hour.
@52 " I still can't believe how much angst there is over the concept that one's butt might from time to time be less than pristine. " The horror is purely retroactive.

I think the LW should just be grateful the conversation he is going to have to have is not a taste problem and not vaginal. Could absolutely be worse.

Also - we have scent glands around our anus that are best described as musky. It is not any more likely to be disgusting than similar scent from armpits, vaginas, balls, cock, feet or scalp. The question is though - if you like someone's body scents, do you automatically like their (clean) butt scent? Or not?
1) Being in a LTR of almost a decade in which we feel secure in our attraction and love, we have no problem sniffing each other and saying, "Honey, your breath/armpits/genitals/butt/feet/whatever are kind of stinky right now." It is never meant or taken as an insult, just a byproduct of being human and all over each other. The other person gets up and washes without hurt feelings. 2) I will never ever ever ever ever understand why Americans like to fool ourselves into believing that toilet paper is sufficient to clean our butts. It's not and never will be. At least babies get the minimum dignity of baby wipes. But nothing is lovelier than a bidet. SIGH. In fact, if we had universal bidets, we might even be able to skip our daily shower habits thus pleasing the water watchers. My mom used to tell us kids to "wash up" before bedtime. What she meant was, "Wash your face, pits, and butt."