The title for this post comes from a Lady Gaga interview about her perfume, Fame, in which she endeared herself to perfume lovers everywhere by proclaiming, “I wanted [Fame] to smell slutty, to be totally honest. I don’t think that women need to smell, you know, interesting. I have an interesting mind, but I wanted to smell like a slut.” (I am only too happy to assure her that I find Fame deeply uninteresting.)
I feel the same way about slutty perfumes as I do about slutty behavior: if it makes you happy, then get it guuuuurrrll. You crazy kids can do whatever you want as long as it’s with consenting, of-age partners. However, as important as sexuality is, I just can’t bring myself to call it more important than having an interesting mind. I guess I would argue that while women don’t need to smell interesting, we certainly need the option to be there. Gaga is welcome to wear her fruit punch perfume as long as I get to keep my Dzing! and OJ Woman. Why perpetuate this perfume Madonna/whore complex, anyway? Are we really going to front like sluttiness and an interesting mind cannot happily coexist? (Tell it to Hedy Lamarr, Gaga.)
So I turn the question over to you, gentle readers: should women smell interesting? How interesting do you want to smell?
13 thoughts on “Should Women Smell Interesting?”
Hmm, women should smell the way they want to smell. What one person finds an interesting smell, another person might not like at all. I think it’s more important that women have interesting, intelligent minds.
Too right! Interesting, intelligent minds above all!
Women (men and any other species who want to live in a society) shouldn’t stink – either of a perfume or an unwashed body. Other than that I do not really care.
I do care about the oversexualized image pushed by our society onto women and I abhor Gaga for choosing that imagery for her perfume: she could afford NOT to sell the perfume with her body – no matter how dull it is; but it’s a topic for a separate discussion.
This comment convinced me that maybe we should question Gaga’s claim to an interesting mind, considering how dull and unoriginal both the advertising and the perfume itself were.
I agree. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but Lady Gaga could sell anything. Why did her perfume have to be so boring, after she made a point of telling us how it would smell like blood and semen and other unusual things? Was her quote a reaction to critics saying her perfume wasn’t interesting?
I agree with what Undina wrote.
I’d also like to add that with perfume, there’s always going to be questions about the sexuality of perfume – one, there is a strong cultural association, for better or worse, of perfume with seduction, and it’s marketed that way. But even if we lessened that cultural association, perfume is about and of the body – it’s something that wafts from your body and announces your presence. So perfume is always going to be strongly associated with bodies and maybe even with sex. That’s part of what I love about perfume – how sexy and powerful it can make me feel, how it announces my presence.
However, I have a lot of problems even when perfumistas refer to perfumes as slutty, blah blah blah… Despite perfume blogging being a largely female-dominated discourse, I think we tend to recycle a lot of misogynistic and specifically victim-blaming, slut-shaming type of language into our perfume reviews, and it really bothers me.
This is a corollary to what I wrote about perfume and orientalism on Beauty on the Outside the other day. We should be smarter about our perfume writing, and more critical of cultural imperatives. YET… I don’t think the perfume/bodies/sex association is ever totally going to go away. It’s inherently part of the discussion. We just need to not be oppressive about it.
I was so relieved when the “slutty perfumes” poll on Now Smell This a little while back was so positive- I was really holding my breath! My favorite comment was “We all need to be slutty at one time or another, and I am a grandmother!!!” http://www.nstperfume.com/2012/09/22/lazy-weekend-poll-slutty-perfumes/
Very well said Susan, I agree with everything you said. I admittedly have a thing for overtly sexual perfumes myself, MKK/Musc Ravageur and the like. I wear them for my own personal enjoyment, not as an indication to those around me.
Hey lovely Arielle,
I reckon I can do slutty in everything from CHANEL 19 to Carnal Flower, but if I wanted to I could do prim school ma’am in them too. I decide with my accessories how the world will perceive the wafts, mostly anyway. I can’t really chose their thoughts but the cues and clues I give can.
Generally I think perfume and fashion should reflect the wearer’s interests. A woman should smell interesting if being interesting is the most important thing to her. And if being slutty is the most important thing, then gosh, I guess you want everyone to know you’re slutty. It is possible to be both slutty and interesting, as seen in Carnal Flower. But I wouldn’t even call Gaga’s perfume slutty. It wasn’t distinctive enough for that.
long time reader and first time commenter, i just wanted to say i love your sex-positive, non judgmental response to gaga’s comments. this is why i love your blog!
I would’t even say that Fame smells slutty, really. It just smells like jam.
I knooooow!!! It doesn’t smell slutty OR interesting! As far as I’m concerned, Coty really dropped the ball on this one. Fame could have been a really epic celebrity scent, and instead it’s just staunchly middle of the road.