Thursday, September 13, 2012

Study: arousal trumps disgust for women

Posted by on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM

FetishCon 2012
From an objective standpoint, sex if pretty disgusting. Consider for a moment what the act entails: saliva, sweat, body funk, body fluids, body hair... However, if we weren't able to naturally suppress our aversion to say, swapping spit, it would be a wonder if people had sex at all. One-night stands, cheating, or sex with a strangers would all becoming anomalies. At the very least, condoms, and possibly even body condoms, would be much more popular.

Following this train of thought, a team of researchers in the Netherlands led by Charmaine Borg and Peter J. de Jon set up an experiment to test if sexual arousal suppresses feelings of disgust, thus allowing couples to engage in sexual activities without being worried about that which might gross them out in another context.

The study randomly assigned 90 healthy women to three groups: the sexual arousal, the non-sexual positive arousal, or the neutral group. These groups were then shown film clips that corresponded to the relevant mood states the doctors wished to elicit. The subjects then engaged in 16 tasks involving sex related stimuli, such as lubricating a vibrator, and non-sex related stimuli, like sipping juice from a cup with a large insect in it. In this way, they hoped to measure the impact of sexual arousal on feelings of disgust and avoidance behavior.

The researchers found that the sexual arousal group rated the sex related tasks as less disgusting compared to the other groups. For both the sex and non-sex related behavioral tasks, the sexual arousal group showed less avoidance behavior. They also completed the highest percentage of tasks compared to the other groups.

This study is admittedly a first step in understand the relationship between sexual arousal and disgust. However, it seems to support the researcher's initial hypothesis that arousal overrides feelings of disgust, and allows women to engage in behaviors they might otherwise find offensive. It may also help explain how a person can get swept up in the heat of passion, and do things like cheat, have unprotected sex, or engage in rough sex, which they might find unsavory when considering these behaviors from a state of cool rationalism.

Read the abstract of this study at Plosone.org.

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