“Eewww, I smell like a sweaty armpit!” I kept repeating to the others in the group. And it wasn’t like good sweaty armpit, you know, the kind that brings out your inner animal. This was like stale hockey bag sweaty armpit. “I totally can’t smell it,” said one of the many people I let sniff me. “Here smell me.”

We were smelling each other at a seminar on sex pheromones at the sex education conference The leaders of the seminar were supposed to be telling the room of sex educators and therapists about how male and female pheromones can be used in the treatment of menstrual disorders, anxiety and sexual dysfunction as well as for enhancing sexual attraction. Unfortunately, we never really made it past sexual attraction.

Even a room of cynical, supposed-to-know-better, sexual health professionals were being sucked in by promises of being able to lure in lovers simply by slathering oneself with pheromone juice.

No wonder the Internet is crawling with web sites hawkin’ the stuff and promising that a little douse will leave women and men lining up to do you. A tiny 15 ml bottle of pheromones sells at our seminar hosts’ web site sells for a mere $94.99 (plus $12 shipping and handling of course). Sure, why notgetsome “Lose weight without Dieting” pills while you’re at it.

I have to say I was a little surprised to find these people running a seminar at what is usually a very credible conference. But hey, if it meant I’d have men throwing themselves at me afterward (thanks to the free samples), I was game.

Pheromones, for those of you who haven’t been seduced by this sexual attraction marketing carrot, are chemicals that humans produce naturally in our sweat that researchers have found have something to do with our attractiveness to one another.

The idea came from moths. Back in 1956, German researchers identified pheromones in moths and found that minute amounts of this isolated chemical would send male moths into a “flutter dance.” It took researchers until 1980 to isolate this same chemical in humans and while it didn’t cause men to flap their wings, they (along with the people who hawk the stuff) claim it does send the opposite sex into a bit of flap when you wear it.

Of course, there is no denying the power of smell. As our seminar leaders pointed out, there’s a reason they put the bakery at the front of the grocery store. They want to trigger your hunger response.

Oddly enough, with pheromones, you can’t really smell them. Well, for some reason, some of us can and some of us can’t. And they smell different to different people. Lucky gal that I am, to me they smelled like smelly armpit. The guy next to me had the same reaction while the women in front of us couldn’t smell anything. But apparently it doesn’t matter if you can smell them or not for them to be effective.

Without boring you with the details, pheromones are detected by a complex olfactory system that sends a signal to our brain releasing hormones that affect our moods and feelings. You’ve heard the expression “you can smell the fear,” well,obviously you can’t smell fear but we can perceive it somehow. That’s pheromones at work.

Of course, if we produce pheromones naturally, why the hell do we need to spend $100 on fake ones? According to your hucksters, ahem, I mean the folk behind the podium, our culture’s obsession with hairlessness and cleanliness,means we’re washing those pheromones right out of our hair or lack of hair as the case may be.

Now before we all let ourselves become filthy little pigs in hopes of scoring some action, bacteria does eventually jump and turn things from randy-inducing to ripe. There’s a reason eau de hockey bag has never caught on as a scent.

But speaking of pigs, apparently farmers use pheromones on pigs to encourage mating. And they rarely shower or shave. Which proves the point, say our hosts, that adding to our natural pheromones can give you a leg up,so to speak.

We all left the seminar expecting a big orgy to break out at lunch.

No such luck.

Instead, I spoke to a credible sex researcher I knew at the conference to get a little perspective. It all felt like a bit of a crock.

“There are a number of factors that play into sexual attraction, and pheromones play one small role,” he offered as his more reasoned point of view. “If you’re going out to dinner and put this on, will it make you more sexually attractive, I don’t know. But it would also leave you wondering, ‘is it the pheromones, or is it me?’”

I soon realized what he meant as I walked around the rest of the afternoon smelling like a smelly armpit, all the while thinking, “Is it the pheromones or is it me?”