Sexual arousal and disgust are both essential functions for the survival of human species, but are often defined as paradoxical. Stimuli involved in sexual engagement such as saliva, sweat and semen are generally perceived to hold – at least out of a sexual context – high disgust qualities. Therefore, researchers of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, wondered how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all.
The research team divided 90 healthy, heterosexual female students into three groups. Each group watched film clips to elicit a certain mood state. One group looked at female-friendly porn, another at extreme sports and the last group at clips of a passing train.
Then the participants were asked to perform a number of sex related and non-sex related tasks, including lubricating a vibrator and taking a sip of juice with a large (plastic) insect in the cup.
The women who had watched porn had the least trouble with performing the tasks. They conducted the highest percentage of tasks and rated the sex related stimuli as less disgusting than women in other groups.
According to the researchers, the study presents evidence that sexual arousal in women temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of sexual stimuli and weakens the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.
Due to this effect, women are able to experience body odors, sweat and semen as pleasant during sexual engagement, which in a non-sexual aroused state probably would elicit disgust.
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Borg, C, & De Jong, PJ (2012). Feelings of Disgust and Disgust-Induced Avoidance Weaken following Induced Sexual Arousal in Women PLoS One