Armpits have been turning gay men on for centuries.
“The sweat sizzling under my armpits always turns me to stone,” he says Patrick O’Rourkewho is not ashamed to describe how much he turns a man on.
Patrick lives in Ireland and happened to get in touch with me 23 and me. He is a fourth cousin who was desperate to learn more about his gay heritage and to connect with others in the community. I happen to know from his Instagram that he’s obsessed with men’s armpits, so I urged him to say more, hoping to understand why this particular feature of the body is so attractive to some queer men.
“For me, armpits embody masculinity,” he says. “The armpit hair and musky smell are the ultimate representation of a ‘man,’ and if you’re attracted to men, what could appeal to you better than that?”
He goes on to explain that many scenarios of watching adult films involve “strenuous activity” that could eventually activate the sweat glands in the armpits, so he knows this must be a common fetish for men.
“From the energetic personal trainer to the oh-so-helpful handyman to the hot firefighter…there’s always something situational that gets the sweat boiling. That’s on purpose,” he says. “It’s about a gay man’s longing for ultimate masculinity. Sweat and hair encapsulate this,” he summarizes.
Let’s face it, this fascination isn’t just limited to Ireland. Of course we all have our thing. Some guys like legs; Some can’t say no to a hairy chest. Some hungry eyes will immediately go to a muscular bicep or a bubble butt when new meat hits a bar.
Other attractions are a bit more obscure. Think…plump nipples, happy feet, or even feet and toes.
But if the internet is any indication, the obsession that has been making gay men swoon for eons is that of the male armpit. The subreddit forum called Appreciation of the male armpit has over 50,2,000 members while the PitsPervManjust one of many armpit shrines on the Gram, has nearly 90,000 followers.
Armpit lovers have also found their way to TikTok, where TheArmpitHunter has thousands of views of various armpit videos.
Whether you’re an avid armpit lover or still stuck in your musty gym closet, there’s no shortage of devotion to this domed marvel. Clean-shaven or hairy, freshly washed or sweaty, men have different preferences when it comes to penises, and some even go so far as to even enjoy licking them as part of foreplay.
So what is it about the armpit that gets our blood flowing—something you might initially associate with unpleasant odors and the elimination of toxins from the body?
First, let’s look back a little…
It is perfectly normal for certain parts of the body to stimulate sexual arousal. After all, our brains are programmed to see certain images and then produce hormones that get us excited and ready for action. (Oxytocin and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone are both important in inducing sexual arousal, as is testosterone).
As a psychotherapist, I believe that arousing images from early childhood often “imprint” themselves on our consciousness and continue to prove “stimulating” later in life. If, as a kid, we were to watch the older boys at school play water polo in the pool…wet, shirtless, and bare-armpits before kicking the ball to victory…well, there’s a chance that those kinds of pictures retains an attraction later in life.
In fact, while researching this post, I came across a multitude of “straight” guys posting their concerns Quora Forum about whether they were gay or not because they’ve always been turned on by men’s armpits. Many of these contributors described believing they were straight but feeling confused and surprised at being sexually aroused in the gym locker room when they saw the men’s hairy armpits in their full glory.
(Spoiler alert: many of the responses suggested that if you’re attracted to women but also into male armpits, you might want to explore something called “bisexuality.”)
Sometimes these early youthful charms amplify to the point of becoming a great desire. In other cases, it may delve into “fetish” territory.
According to Wikipedia, armpit fetishism (aka machalagnia) is a type of partialism (“a sexual fetish with an exclusive focus on a specific part of the body other than the genitals”) in which a person is “sexually attracted to the armpits.” And according to Miss Merriam-Webster herself, a fetish is “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an unusual degree with a particular object, article of clothing, part of the body, etc.”
From a sex-positive perspective, I don’t entirely agree with this definition, as labeling something “abnormal” can be embarrassing. Then how do you know if you have a full fledged armpit fetish?
According to the Kinsey Institute, “Fetish refers specifically to intense sexual preoccupation with an object, material, or body part.” In other words, if armpits are your only concern when it comes to desire, that may be a fetish. If you’re having traditional sex but enjoy armpit licking and sniffing, it’s less of a fetish and more of a thing that turns you on. Even if you have a fetish, that’s the case not mean you have a problem (unless it’s interfering with your daily life or functioning).
Why are so many driven insane by the male armpit, just like my Irish relative?
One of the defining characteristics of the male body are the pheromones that contribute to sexual attraction.
Because of their design, the armpits are an effective transmitter of these pheromones. “One thing that’s of particular interest in the underarm area is the presence of apocrine sweat glands,” explains Mark Sergeant, a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University who specializes in the psychology of smell and human sexual behavior.
“These glands are well-placed to give off smells,” he says, “especially during sex, where there are numerous opportunities for intimacy in the chest and throat area.” Fear, but as Sergeant says, that’s not all. “The apocrine glands are activated in response to mental/emotional states, possibly including sexual arousal.”
dr Joe Kort, a board-certified sex and relationship therapist from Detroit, Michigan who works primarily with gay men, says, “I know there’s research that shows pheromones are released and people form a psychological bond with someone by smelling their armpit Also, it’s a masculine smell and represents masculinity, which I think a lot of gay men are attracted to and turned on by. It represents raw masculinity.”
Others don’t think it’s that scientific.
One armpit lover on the subreddit thread tells me, “Nothing says ‘masculinity’ better than outstretched arms revealing a muscular, hairy expanse of pheromonic pleasure.”
Another armpit fanatic, the self-proclaimed “pit sniffer” named JR, tells me it’s all about the smell. “For me, sniffing is the next level of ecstasy,” he says. “You can breathe in the other man’s pure, animal essence. It’s a taste of what the other person is like without pants. Shot. I can cum by sniffing a man without touching myself.”
Regardless, the cult of the male armpit has been around for centuries, and I don’t expect the craze to wane any time soon. If you’re at the club, I salute you. In addition, I encourage you to embrace your love of armpits, celebrate them, and enjoy their various manifestations. Whether it’s a fetish or just to get turned on, there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself in a healthy way.
Move over the feet… it’s time the armpits got their place!