The Smell of Fear / The Smell of Sex

 Posted on January 09, 2009 in Uncategorized

A year and a half ago, I wrote:

Walking the halls of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, I smellfear. The accused are often afraid, as you might expect, as are theirloved ones, but theirs is not the fear I smell. The fear I smell oozes out from under doors leading to the judges'chambers, locked to keep the outside world away, and from the robes ofthe judges, concealing the firearms they carry (literally) to protectthemselves against some imagined danger. It wafts from the prosecutors,likewise armed and armored with fear.It also comes from the lives of the jurors who have been convincedthat they can't safely walk the streets of their neighborhoods, thatthere is a sexual predator lurking around every corner, and that crimeis out of control.Where does all of this fear come from, and why?

I was waxing metaphorical, but only a little bit. I have smelled fear in the courtroom, from defendants, judges, and prosecutors as well as once (to my surprise) from myself.

I thought it was that the courtroom brings out the wolf in me, but it turns out that there is solid scientific basis for believing that even humans can detect the Scent of Fear (PDF, locked but free viewing).

(This post sat in my editing program for several weeks, until I saw this Eric Berger (the Houston Chronicle's science columnist) article on the smell of sex.)

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