Wait, no, my feet have nothing to do with olfactory pleasures. Honest. I know there’s such a thing as a foot fetish—in fact there’s a writer who sometimes submits stories to my anthologies (not that I’ve accepted any of them yet) who has an extensive list of foot fetish publications as her credits. I’m sure someone somewhere has a fetish for the smell of feet, but mine are not involved. Nor are they actually kicking me. It’s just that I’ve realized two different ways that I’ve failed to prepare properly for this current topic, and one of them is very important.
The lesser fault is that although I’ve enjoyed several books by Tom Robbins, especially Another Roadside Attraction and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, I didn’t get around to reading Jitterbug Perfume. If I had, I’d be all set to hold forth on weird convolutions of plot when perfume and immortality are driving forces in a story.
My real fault, a major lack, is that I haven’t used olfactory stimuli in my writing anywhere near as often as I should have. Even in the rare cases where my POV characters have been animals—werewolves count, right?—I’ve missed too many chances to capitalize on their superior sense of smell. I don’t know why, since in fact I’m fascinated by the way dogs, for instance, perceive the world through smell, giving them reams of information that we can’t comprehend. Our very distant ancestors probably could do so a whole lot better than we can now.
Yet all I did with my werewolf, other than mentioning the scents of the woods in autumn, and the meaty smell of a horse, and the reek of fear and hatred spilling from a killer, was this:
“Slowly, slowly she sank to the floor. Her eyes closed, freed him from the painful intensity of her gaze. She fumbled at her shirt collar, swept back her hair, and arched her smooth, vulnerable throat in symbolic submission.
He crept forward, tested her with jaws that pressed gently from nape to windpipe. Then he released her neck and laid his dark head against her shoulder, drawing in her scent in great shuddering sighs as her arms went around him and a cloud of russet hair fell forward to mingle with night-black fur.”
I missed the chance to show scent involved with their lovemaking. I know for a fact that male dogs can scent a bitch in heat for well over a mile, and wolves can probably do it from much farther, but the closest I got was an after-the-fact bit about how “Scent had told him, instinct had told him, but his brain had shut them out because it was supposed to be impossible.”
I missed just as many chances in my story told from a feline viewpoint, that of a cheetah, a companion to Cleopatra given the power by the Goddess Sekhmet to absorb the Queen’s memories and store them for her to relive. Scent should have figured in almost every scene, but I only though to use it in this one, when Cleopatra is drawn to a captive Amazon queen every bit her match. Here Mnemnet, the cheetah, observes her mistress’s reaction as the Amazon partakes of a hot bath:
“For all this show of confidence, her scent of rising arousal was tinged with nervousness. In all past matings she had seized her pleasures with never a loss of control, always holding greater goals in mind; this aura of uncertainty, of tremulous awe, was something new.”
“What if you kept on as you wished,” the other went on, “and received the same and more in return? What then? Do you imagine you could maintain mastery of body and mind while my hands and mouth and whole being showed you the depths of what you most crave? You do not know its power. The Goddess gives us this gift, and I would not profane it while a mere spoil of war.”
Outrage restored my Lady’s voice. “Do you imagine, barbarian, that I would be such clay in your hands as to allow your escape?”
“The danger,” said the other, her voice as harsh, “is not that I might escape, but that you might wish with all your being to escape with me. And if you did, and such a thing could be done, Goddess forgive me, I would take you.”
The bitter scent of lust denied rose from both women, sharper even than their voices.”
We humans do have a capacity for gathering information from scent, and sex is a major source of olfactory stimulation. I don’t know why I’ve taken so little advantage of that in my writing. I had to dig into my files and my memory to come up with any instances beyond references to “the musk of sex.” I’ve paid more attention to taste than to smell, although it’s true that the two are closely related, and sometimes taste is dependent on smell.
The one passage involving sex that sticks in my mind is only tangentially about sex, and I remember it mostly because when I read it out loud there were startled gasps, even though it was, after all, an erotica reading. I think the shock was just that someone my age and staid appearance would say such a thing in public. (I do enjoy capitalizing on that perception.) The POV character here is a young female bull rider getting some much-needed education from the sultry singer who’d performed at the rodeo:
“Right in front of my eyes and nose, close enough that I could tell she didn’t shave her private parts but did wash them with lemon soap--though not in the last few hours--was a pair of denim cutoffs so short and tight even Daisy Duke couldn’t have got away with them. Looking upward, I saw an expanse of bare midriff topped by the blue-checked shirt, unbuttoned and tied tight under full breasts half-uncovered and straining against such confinement as there was.
I wrenched my gaze upward to her face, trying to tell whether I was being challenged to release those breasts, or even unzip the shorts and give those private parts an airing.”
That story was fun to write. But I resolve to learn to provide more fun for the reader by making the most of what attention to the sense of smell can breathe into erotic stories.