Skanky vs. Sexy by Nava

Ever since I read Patty’s post yesterday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about skank. Yeah, that’s the way my mind works. First, I’m totally not impressed with the price tag of that Petite Mort stuff – I wouldn’t care if it was multiple orgasms in a bottle. I don’t care that there are only 100 bottles, and if I had a grand to spend on a bottle of perfume right now, I’d want it in a vat as opposed to a teensy 10 ml bottle. The whole thing just adds up to a cheesy gimmick.

When I think about skanky as opposed to sexy, I have visuals in my head that might be a bit politically incorrect. Again, I’m in the mood to just let it fly, so think of me what you will. And please, comment away; I have a feeling I’ll still have enough piss and vinegar left over to answer all of them.

Skank immediately brings to my mind an image of Pamela Anderson. For me, she is just the epitome of skank. She was cute on “Home Improvement”, but I never watched an episode of “Baywatch”, partly because the concept just never interested me, and I was totally demoralized by how those girls looked in their bathing suits. I don’t know what happened to her her after that; the watermelon freak-show breast implants, the sex tape…she’s one big “eeeeewwww!!!!!” for me, and the older she gets, the skankier she becomes.

Runner ups in the skank category are those girls who starred in the Bret Michaels “Rock of Love” VH1 reality train wrecks. Particularly that Daisy De La Hoya chick. Yes, I watched those. Why? Because I was in desperate need of some “check your brain at the door” television and those shows fit the bill like nothing else. With all the Ed Hardy product placement in those shows, every time I smelled the scents, I couldn’t help thinking that all those girls smelled the same. Those were some nasty fruit cocktail smelling skanks. Not to mention puke, Doritos, and God only knows what else.

Before I get myself into serious trouble, I’m moving on to sexy. Here are my top 10: Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, Ann Baxter, Faye Dunaway, Anne Bancroft, Catherine Zeta Jones, Salma Hayek, Anna Paquin and (please don’t hate me for this one) Kim Kardashian. Personally, I think sexy is much harder to pull off than skanky, because you really have to work at it. Skanky has become, um, ubiquitous; which is probably why that Petite Mort crap struck a nerve with me.

Sexy is a mindset, and I think, it comes naturally for the women I chose for my list. You can immediately tell when a woman is trying to hard; everything from her hair and makeup to her fragrance is attempting to evoke a certain image. And when you lump them all together it isn’t hard to imagine disaster.

I’ve never personally worn any fragrance because it’s sexy or skanky. I wear what I like. Yes, I’ll admit to being intrigued by the “schwetty balls” aspect of fragrance, but again, if it’s a scent that’s trying too hard, the sexiness is lost and the skank rears its ugly head. Etat Libre d’Orange’s infamous Secretions Magnifique got us all hot and bothered, and it definitely resides in the “trying too hard” category. Serge’s Muscs Koublai Kahn is a masterpiece. Some of you get “horse barn” from it, but I adore it. Bruno Acampora Musc is another underrated gem, and if your idea of sexy veers off into hippie territory, nothing is better than Kiehls Musk. I’m not even going to discuss patchouli.

The next time I hear about another one of these hyper-exclusive, super-expensive orgasmic scents, I’m plugging my ears and moving on. I don’t care who the perfumer is or what the angle is. And I believe this comment is apropos considering we’ve been talking skank for the past two days: Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.

And on that note, I invite all who care to opine, to let ‘er rip.


  • Megan says:

    When I think of “skanky” perfumes, I think of the big 70s/80s scents that you can smell a mile away, like Opium or Poison. They make a statement about the wearer — they remind of Elaine on Seinfeld telling a guy, “Who am I? You don’t wanna know, mister. I’m trouble.”

  • (Ms.)Christian says:

    Always nice to see women supporting other women…

  • Patty says:

    I embraced skank when March did bring it up so many years ago. I laughed so hard at the way she used it, and it just seemed so right somehow. Sexy, for me, seems like it’s trying too hard. Skank seems to be an unintended consequence of just being out there and not always trying too hard to cover up the based parts of your nature.

    We used to call bad/dirty girls skanks in the worst sort of way in high school, and I wouldn’t call someone a skank at this point in my life, but wearing a perfume that is skanky somehow makes me happy.

    The petite mort bothers me because of so much of the stuff around it. The scent itself is perfection. The packaging sucked. If I could just run away with the scent, put it in a nice bottle, give it March’s cool perfume name of Candy Ass, I think it would be at the top of every perfumista’s list.

    The whole marketing scheme around it is tragic because the perfume will wind up tried, loved, widely panned for the price and goofy gimmickry, and I think that’s a shame.

    • nozknoz says:

      Great points! A sense of humor and not taking oneself too seriously are such a saving graces – and you’d really need that when you tell someone the great perfume you are wearing is Candy Ass! :-)

  • Suzy Q says:

    I’m concerned that many perfumes people say smell “skanky” I say smell “nice”. What do people around me think I smell like???? Uh -oh.

    Really, I can’t smell some musks and cumin smells good. Yeah, L’air de Rien is pee-yewwww. Muscs Koublai Khan reeks but I like it. (Won’t wear it though.)

    Musks, indoles, cumin–still sorting it all out. What fun.

  • jen says:

    I try not to call women skanks, but with Angelina Jolie, it just comes out. And I like a lot of Tabu or Ambushj on occasion.

  • Winifrieda says:

    Speaking of animalics…I’m having a wonderful time this morning smelling a glorious vintage thing I bought purely on a gamble from *bay…”Bourrasque” by Le Galion. The haunting nutty ambery quality has been driving me mad as I try to categorise it in the first step of appreciation…
    The word means ‘squall’, the bottle has orange coloured label….
    TA DA!!! Run to little collection of essences yep, ambergris. Which smells very ordinary on its own, even funky/unpleasant. But it MUST be driving this stunning old perfume…now that is animalic – whale vomit.

  • Mary says:

    I went to smell Petite Mort yesterday. The wonderful guy at Luckyscent put a tiny drop on a paper strip, and I dabbed it to my wrist. Whatever you need to be able to fully appreciate this perfume, I lack. My son pronounced that it smelled like a porta- potty. With one of those white deodorizer cakes in the urinal. I had to admit– that is also what I smell. I am starting to think that certain musks are just not for me. After a while, it did mellow out– but still. I am a light-weight when it comes to perfumista-ism, I admit it. I likewise have tried to appreciate Onda– but — I just cannot smell that way. I like pretty smells. Perhaps my personality is so intense and unpleasant that I require something light and pretty to even me out–Zeta is extraordinary. Petite Mort makes Secretions Magnifique look like Strawberry Shortcake kid stuff.

  • Tamara*J says:

    Nava you are awesome.

    Just sayin’ ;)

  • Kym says:

    For me “skank” in perfume is different than “skank” in women. I think, for me, when I think of a skanky woman, I think of someone who looks like they have recently slept in a car and someone who very suffers from at least one STD! This part of the post isn’t really interesting to me, though. What IS interesting is the women you find sexy. I won’t touch KK since you seem to be sensitive about it, but Ann Baxter? Anna Paquin? Huh? It’s also interesting that there is not a single blonde on your list, which leads me to think you find blondes to be vulgar skanks. No Veronica Lake, Scarlett Johansen (sp), Carole Lombard. Catherine Deneuve, Grace Kelly… As Freud might say, “verrry interesting…”

    • Nava says:

      Ummm…last time I checked, Anna Paquin was blonde. And I happen to be one as well. As I ended my post, I said that all this is just my opinion; Freud notwithstanding. We’re all entitled to think what we want. 🙂

      • Julie says:

        Anna Paquin is a natural brunette and dyed her hair for True Blood – but she is blonde now!

        • Nava says:

          For the record, I’ve been highlighting my “dishwater” blonde hair since I’m 18. Only our hairdressers know for sure.

  • Tara C says:

    I like a bit of skank, which for me is animalic/indolic but not particularly «la foufoune mal lavée» which is just dirty/BO – I get that a lot from cumin, which I can tolerate in well-mixed doses. As for la Petite Mort, no thank you…

    My favorite animalic perfumes are the Party in Manhattan, El Attarine and Vero Profumo’s Onda. MKK is just sweet musk on me, not a goat butt in sight.

    • Nava says:

      The worst B.O. in a bottle I’ve ever smelled is Profumum Patchouly. And it was heavy on the cumin. You might want to try that one Tara!:d

      • Tara C says:

        For me it was Serge Noir… that one was pure trucker armpit. :o I carried that sample vial straight out to the trash bin.

        • Winifrieda says:

          Hmmmm I actually like armpit!But Serge Noire is the only scrubber in my collection! It does not read as perfume to me…

  • Disteza says:

    Um, so I guess it’s OK to post that the folks at Art W/ Flowers know me as ‘Ms. Skanky Musk’? I do love me some skank, But there are enough places to find it without dropping a grand. That’s right L’Air de Rien, snuggle up a bit closer….
    BTW, I can’t totally hate on Pamela: she’s the celebrity spokesperson for PETA, and has helped set up no-kill shelters in California. I’m of the opinion that you can’t be a total waste of skin if you are kind to animals.

    • Nava says:

      The folks at Art with Flowers understand our love of skank. And please give them my love the next time you’re there.

      I forgot about Pam’s involvement with PETA. You got me on that one, D. :”>

    • Mary says:

      Agree with you on Pam– she seems like a nice person, who has made the most of her gifts. Haven’t smelled her perfume.

    • Marla says:

      Yeah, and she’s done a lot to stop fur trading, too, through PETA, so I like her!

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Don’t bathe for 3 days; give the $1K to the Daughters of Charity, the local museum or your IRA. Done.

  • Geordan1244 says:

    Hi Nava,

    I see what you’re saying re the difference between sexy and skank. I love all kinds of fragrances, but really like “skank” for some reason. I think part of it is psychological… I grew up in a very conservative household, and though I’m still pretty conservative on the outside, part of me likes to project and “embrace” that little bit of naughtiness that isnt’ controlled by my appearance or actions. I can’t pull off sexy on my best days (granted, I couldn’t say that I ever pull off “skank” by appearance), but fragrance gives such a boost to my attitude that even if I don’t look it, I’m thinking it. :) Okay, I’m sure someone could write a book about my repressed personality from this. Hah!

    • Nava says:

      I’ve always been more of a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” type of person, and fragrance has been my alter ego since I was a teen. What I can’t pull off physically is better expressed by how I smell. Maybe that’s a topic for a book as well!

  • Elaine says:

    The “trying too hard to be sexy” thing is less bothersome (though it is very bothersome) than the “trying too hard to be exclusive” thing. I’m okay with you putting unicorn pee or the blood of a thousand virgins in your perfume if you’re doing it because it will make the juice something truly special. You lose me if you’re doing it just because the ingredient is expensive or rare or controversial. This whole launch is “trying to hard” on so many levels it feels a little desperate… kind of like Pamela Anderson!

  • jirish says:

    I have a feeling I might be anosmic to at least some of the ingredients that produce a skank effect in perfumes, which leaves me wondering if I’m alarming people with my sillage. MKK was nothing but sweet little flowers on me, and not particularly strong, when I tried it out in Paris. My husband, who was with me, couldn’t get much out of it either, so he may share my anosmia. Same with Kiehl’s Musk. It might as well be water to me. Other so-called skanky perfumes simply strike me as beautiful. Boudoir is lush, over-the-top feminine, like walking around with a feather boa all day. Amoureouse is the same, and one of my favorites. I recently read that the scent is linden blossoms is often compared to the scent of boy-juice, and I thought huh? Another skank facet I miss. For me, linden is just beautiful, honeyed floral.

  • Alice C says:

    $1000 for 10 ml. What’s in it? Ground up diamonds? I can understand a high price point when ingredients are ultra rare/expensive, but this seems to me to be just another calculated bit of marketing hype. We sure are talking about it.

    • Marla says:

      Well, it cracked me up that urea was one of the ingredients, as that’s about $3.50/lb, I use it for natural fabric painting/dying, and it has no odor in either solid or liquid form!

  • Melissa says:

    I don’t associate “skank” in perfume with Pamela Anderson, but rather as code for animalic, indolic, or slightly unwashed. Nor can I imagine the celebs or inhabitants of VH1 reality shows enthusiastically huffing civet-loaded vintage perfumes.

    As for La Petite Mort, bizarre concept, a little cringe inducing. Sophomoric even. But if it smells incredible, I can put the inanities aside and give it a try.

    • Nava says:

      I just remembered those Tom Ford ads from a few years ago, where the bottle was placed between the legs of a naked woman. That didn’t bother me as much as this does. I have no idea why.

      The Pamela Anderson/VH1 Rock of Love girls association is me going overboard on the stereotypes. Honestly, I don’t care what any of them smell like.

  • Debbie R. says:

    There’s a fragrance out there called “Vulva”, supposedly smelling like the seat of bicycle after a sexy woman has exercised it. No thanks. However, it would hit pretty close on the skankmeter to Petit Mort, and certainly be cheaper.

  • Louise says:

    I do find a reference to March’s use of “skank” from 2006-in reference to MKK, and a hilarious reaction by her husband. I’ve only seen this use in terms of animalics-and most typically. as a positive aspect. Especially of vintage perfume-or maybe I see it as positive, though the most animalic /richly dirty perfume I’ve tried recently was FK’s Absolue pour le Soir-too “skanky” even for me.

    Now, I think judgement of sexy v. skanky is a totally separate judgement, and having been called a skank myself by a jealous ex-girlfriend, I equate the term with “slutty”. Not always a bad thing : )

    I hear my high school students calling a girl a Skank, and it just strikes me as pretty much a mean, facile put-down. I agree that “sexy” indicates much more class, but that’s all in the eye of the beholder.

    Skank, both in girls and perfume, has it’s place-though not at all the same one.

    • Nava says:

      In my high school days, “slut” was the ubiquitous facile put down. That term has evolved into “skank”, March’s comment notwithstanding. I hear my cousin’s 13 year-old daughter use it all the time.

      • Francesca says:

        “Skank” was in common use in my pre-teen years. So that’s around 1962. Now I am very curious about the word’s etymology. I see some googling in my future in 3–2–1–

  • Francesca says:

    When I think of a classically skanky woman, I think of someone like Juliette Lewis or Paz de la Huerta. And this is not quite the same as “trampy”; there’s a definite “ewwww” factor in this sort of skank.

    When I think of skank in a perfume, I thank Denyse above for reminding me of the word “animalic”; I might qualify my love for this sort of fragrance as “skanky–but in a good way.”

    I like to think of everything (well, maybe not the one made by Irish monks) in my personal collection, from the delicate narcissus garden of PdN Le Temps d’une Fête to the arch-skank of The Party in Manhattan, as sexy in its own way. They all make me feel more attractive, more sexy, even on days when it’s corduroy pants and a sweatshirt.

    • Nava says:

      For some reason, Sienna Miller screams “skank” to me.

      Animalic is wonderful. Gimmicky twists my knickers into a huge bunch.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the word “skank”, as applied to perfume, came from March originally, didn’t it? What’s really interesting to me is the way it caught on as a criterion to judge perfumes with, but even more, the fact that the animalic notes eliminated by most mainstream products were so enthusiastically embraced by the online perfume community through vintage and niche.
    As for La Petite Mort, I haven’t smelled it and I don’t think I’ll seek out the opportunity. I find the concept cringe-inducing for several reasons, the first being aesthetic: it’s just so literal. It may be a great composition for all I know, since Tom and Patty say it is, but the idea feels like a gimmick for jaded people who don’t actually care about perfume but have money to throw around to buy something that will end up as a conversation piece.
    I also understand the “template” was… culled by Marc Atlan and frankly, I feel no overwhelming need to stick my nose by proxy in some unknown woman’s nether parts. Besides, as many women pointed out when the launch was announced, why pay the price of gold for something you’ve got an unlimited source of?

    • Nava says:

      But animalic is making a comeback in the mainstream, no? Unfortunately the quality of the ingredients used in those scents are the bone of contention. And didn’t I hear that Lady Gaga has a scent in the works that’s supposed to smell of blood and sperm. Can’t wait for that one…

      I too have no desire to stick my nose by proxy into any stranger’s nether parts, particularly for that high of a price. Even at it’s higher price, I’d rather buy gold. At least I could stick it in my safety deposit box and not worry about it “turning”.

    • Winifrieda says:

      And as the feminist mother of a nearly twenty-year-old young woman (and hell I’m no nun!), I find the skankification of the whole of womanhood into on-tap sexual availability catering to the requirements of men -RAGE- don’t get me started….!
      Anyway, I find that most of what seems to qualify as modern dirty ‘fume to be a big slug of old billy goat that boils down to a pile of dirty laundry.
      And another thing! A woman’s “musk” is cereal-y; your MKK is pure ballschwet. So for that reason I would be interested in smelling this Mort, is it really FEMALE? because most of the skankies smell male to me…
      Anyway, whatever aromachems they are using to create ‘animalics’ nowadays just do not do it like the old ones…instead of the foggy old naturals you get the ‘loud [synthetic] civet fart’ to quote LT.

  • tmp00 says:

    Well, I know I’ve chimed in with my review and I guess I am a lover of “skank” since I have MKK, CB Musk and others. As to Petite Mort I actually think that M. Atlan’s (I guess one would write) “oversharing” has set himself up for a fall.

    But I have to go back to the actual juice. I have a beensy little sample I cadged from ScentBar that is maybe one teardrop total and one pinprick is enough to get it all.

    I was totally inclined to hate it since it costs more than a years worth of utilities and will only be available until it isn’t but I just can’t. I think it’s lovely and if I had the disposable I’d buy.

    And you know I am cheap as week-old chips.

    • Nava says:

      Believe me Tom, if it was something I adored, I’d snap it up in a heartbeat. This scribe once pillaged the Salons in Paris. Unfortunately, that was a lifetime ago.

      The gimmick of the whole thing is what sticks in my craw. I love skank, I just think this whole “smelling like an orgasm” thing is crass.

  • When I think of skank in terms of perfume, my mind immediately conjures an Edwardian prostitute, which I associate with a favorite perfume of mine in particular- Vivienne Westwood Boudoir. I think it’s a seriously under-appreciated skank masterpiece that is unfortunately on the way out (at least in the U.S.).

    I remember when I was younger and “skanky” was a major catty insult to hurl at someone, but I only think of the word in relation to perfume now. I think there are newer, fresher, perhaps more creative words to describe a lady of dubious taste and skimpy clothing (slore, anyone?).

    By the way, I’m with you on Kim K., she’s one of the sexiest, most beautiful women alive. Wouldn’t wear her perfume, though. :)

    • Francesca says:

      An aside on Kim Kardashian–I’ve only seen photos of her, never video or anything with sound, but she and her mother and sisters were in my office with their mother one day to discuss a book deal (we passed); a lot of the younger people got word and started to swarm. She posed with every single one of them who asked, and looked astonishingly pretty in all of the photos the kids showed me. But the frag? Yeah, canned peaches and hooker panties pretty well sums it up.

    • Nava says:

      I think you’re right about V.W., even though it’s not a scent I’d ever wear. Same goes for K.K.’s, but for a “celebuscent” it is very well done.

  • Flora says:

    I too am not amused by the Petite Mort gimmick – A grand for 10 ml?! Really?? I could buy several big bottles of Amouage for that, or a handful of Serge bell jars!

    I tend to use the term Skanky” rather loosely when it comes to perfume but I usually mean it in a good way, not the rock of Love/Jersey Shore way. to me its epitome is something I really love, Bal a Versailles. Whether I am wearing it on purpose or I spilled some when decanting from my BIG bottle into a smeller atomizer, it stays with me as tenaciously as anything I have ever worn. Yes, it has a powerfully animalic undertow, but it’s also beautiful and majestic and a well-deserved classic. This is what seriously sexy smells like.

    Then there is the, ahem, other kind of skanky perfume, such as Beyonce Heat, which smells terribly cheap to me and one commenter, possibly on this very site, famously said it smelled like “tinned peaches and hooker panties.” You can’t hide cheap ingredients and careless formulation, and it shows through rather glaringly here. (And don’t even get me started on the Christina Aquilera juice…gack.) Pamela Anderson has a perfume too of course; I have yet to smell it, but something tells me it’s less Bal a Versailles and more Jersey Shore.

    • Nava says:

      Flora, I spent the majority of my life in Brooklyn and on Long Island, so “skank” for me has its own unique meaning. Not that I’m maligning my origins, but Jersey Shore has overexposed them to the world.

      I believe it was March who made that remark about Beyonce Heat. And she was absolutely correct!