So much scientific research, especially when it comes to sex hormones, seems to boil down to one essential question: clever or creepy? And, as with so much scientific research, this proposed experiment could well be both.
Thomas David Kehoe from Casa Futura Technologies has designed an experiment that will involve giving young women a scrunchie to wear for a week, then sending it to men with low testosterone levels. Low testosterone affects sex drive, sperm production, hair loss, and mood and Kehoe’s aim is to find a long-term solution that doesn’t involve medication or side effects.
Female study participants (who need to be 18-30 and not pregnant or on the pill) will be paid $25 to wear a scrunchie during the week before they ovulate. The scrunchies will then be sent on to the male subjects who will – here comes the creepy bit – dampen one before wiping it on their upper lips. (And then enjoying a nice Chianti?) (I kid. Mostly.) The men will be divided into groups receiving different numbers of scrunchies (4, 8, or a time-consuming 15 per month), while a control group gets fresh ones.
Kehoe has previously built an electronic device to help stutterers, and says that his own testosterone more than doubled after taking a dance class with a dozen women, leading him to believe that young women’s sweat can increase male testosterone. Animal studies have found increases in testosterone in males after exposure to females’ bodily secretions. (Isn’t ‘secretions’ a lovely word?)
But so far, human studies have found no conclusive evidence that men’s testosterone levels increase when they smell women’s sweat. However, this study will focus on long-term rather than short-term results, and rubbing the scrunchie directly on the upper lip will increase its potential effects. (Why everyone can’t just take dance classes isn’t immediately clear.)
Kehoe also suggests that if there are enough subjects, a trial group could have the women sending photos to the men, or even corresponding via email. ‘It’s possible that the combination of visual and olfactory cues will be more powerful than scent alone,’ he says. But how does that conversation go? ‘So you’re the man who’s been licking my scrunchies! How was work?’
The research isn’t certain to go ahead: it’s one of around 180 prospective projects on Experiment.com, a crowdfunding site that’s basically Kickstarter for scientists. Whether you want to donate or not, the site provides a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse into what researchers are thinking about and interested in. And there are lemurs.
Kehoe so far has $156 towards his $2,140 goal with 24 days to go. If he’s successful, he’d better get a move on: scrunchies might be a hot accessory this summer, but you know how quickly fashion moves on.
Image via Ralph Hockens’ Flickr.