Ethics, aphrodisiacs, and pheromones

By: James V. Kohl | Published on: October 30, 2011

Q. What is the difference between an aphrodisiac and an effect of chemicals that cause sexual excitement? Should an ethical “line” be drawn in terms of what changes can be deliberately brought about in another person as a way to accomplish some goal?
A. The cosmetic industry has set the standard, albeit with products that elicit affects on behavior via some unknown mechanism, which is not modeled in any other animal species. To some sensory psychologists, human visual appeal simply exists in the absence of any biological basis. In constrast, the behavior of other animals is driven by the effect of pheromones on hormones. Because the biologically based effects of pheromones on hormones is modeled across all animal species, it is extremely likely that pheromone-enhanced products have even more potent affects on behavior than does visual enhancement.
Meanwhile, cosmetic industry experts and most people accept modulation of the perception of biologically important signals when attempts are made to enhance visual appeal. But, since no one has drawn the line at breast augmentation or labiaplasty, I’m not likely to draw the line on goal-seeking via pheromone-enhancement. That would be like telling people not to use spices to increase the appeal of food, or not to develop pheromones for use as non-invasive therapy that replaces neural stem cell transplants into the brain of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

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