fake orgasm fungus aroma paper abstract

You might have seen the many viral reports about a fungus in Hawaii that supposedly “has the reputation of being a potent female aphrodisiac when smelled.”

Yeah, that turns out to be bullshit. Sorry.

This detailed debunking was carried out by author Christie Wilcox, writing for Discover. She put a ton of legwork into tracking down the sole original fifteen-year-old source on which all the viral stories were based. That source turned out to be skeevy in a number of important ways, which she details. There’s even an erotic but completely bogus bit of Hawaiian folklore in there, which we know to be bogus because Wilcox checked it out with all the leading academic and cultural experts on Hawaiian folklore:

Finally, she found the source of the smell. Shining brightly with the early morning dew, there it was. The most beautiful plant she had ever seen. Not like the other plants, but instead, just a single stalk rising up from the forest floor. Orange and pink, with a fine skirt hanging down to the ground. And the smell, at once both repulsive and attractive, she had to smell more of it. With a racing heart she knelt down to get a better smell , but was suddenly overcome with feelings such as she had never had before. Wave after wave of incredible ecstasy, rolling over her like the warmest honey. Falling to the ground, she was once again with Kepa’a in her mind. Her lover.

Rushing back to the village, running like the wind, she could not wait to fall into his arms. She felt that she must have him. When she arrived at his house, she did not hesitate. Tearing her cloths off, she flung herself onto him urgently.

However, Wilcox was able to identify the specific mushroom alleged to have these wondrous erotic properties, and get an idea where it grew. So she went and found it. And sniffed it. Folks, this is journalistic heroism at its best:

I placed my hands in the soft mulch on either side of the fungus, and let the air out of my lungs. Then, I pushed my face next to its orange stalk and breathed in as deeply as I could.

My physiological reaction was immediate and strong. In less than a heartbeat I was on my feet, staggering backwards, gagging.

gagging at the smell of the orgasm fungus

“Are you OK?” Jake asked, concerned, as he rushed to my side. The taste was in my mouth. It was in my throat. This disgusting, foul, rottenness—there are no words that adequately describe the vile stench. Tears formed in my eyes. I nearly vomited. Though I had read about how bad stinkhorns smell, I really wasn’t expecting something that… awful.

It was, hands down, the worst smell that’s ever violated my nostrils. I swear it was worse than the rotten “slimer” manatee carcass I helped dissect as an intern in a marine mammal forensics lab. Worse than the combination of algal toxins and dead fish that comprised the air off Casey Key during a massive red tide event. What did it smell like, exactly? I guess if I had to put a name to the odor, the closest I can come up with is semen, but this was not the healthy biological fluid fresh from a male donor—more like fermented, decomposing semen. Or diseased, fetid semen. Maybe what the semen from a zombie would smell like. Yes, that’s it—zombie spooge! That’s what it smelled like. If anyone’s semen smells like that mushroom, then they need to see a doctor, stat.

Of course, the true debunking isn’t in this one author’s potentially idiosyncratic reaction. It’s her detailed background research that makes the case. And I do love a good debunking!

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