When you really consider it, sex is gross, sticky, and clearly shameful. It should disgust way more of us than it actually does, but, somehow it...doesn't. How is this possible? How could something that involves so many lukewarm body fluids and so many unexpected birthmarks not make our skin crawl so much that we drive all the honest mom and pop condom makers out of business, quit making new people, and follow Cotton Mather's express instructions to wear pilgrim outfits and work really hard for Jesus? Though disgust may be among the most visceral of emotions, it is often mitigated by sexual arousal. That, at least according to a new study, is part of the reason why a "potentially icky activity such as sex can seem pleasant and doable." And because sex feels good or whatever.
As part of this new exploration into the underworld of disgust that humans wade through every day of their gross little lives, researchers recruited 90 heterosexual women to complete 16 ostensibly revolting tasks, such as drinking juice from a cup with a huge, mealy-mouth bug in it, wiping their hands with a used tissue, and fishing around in a bowl of purportedly used condoms. The women were not aware that the bug was made of plastic, the tissues just marked with phlegm-colored ink to make them seem like they'd absorbed a stream of tuberculosis snot and the condoms simply unwrapped and drenched in lube. This of course begs the two-part question: Who the fuck would agree to stick her hands in a bowl of used condoms and why should we listen to anything that person has to report on?
Researchers then showed a third of the subjects the same dirty movie — de Gast (The Guest), which is allegedly pretty arousing. Another third of the women watched adrenaline-juiced films featuring river-rafting and skydiving, and the unluckiest third watched super boring footage from a train ride. Women exposed to the sexually arousing material found the otherwise gross though sexually related tasks (i.e. touching used condoms) way less disgusting than the other women, and were also better able (to a lesser degree) to tolerate non-sex-related tasks like drinking bug juice than their counterparts who weren't watching dirty videos.
Psychologist Charmaine Borg from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands said that the study offers insight into a range of sexual arousal and sexual pain disorders experienced by women such as vaginismus and dyspareunia, which make penile-vaginal penetration either impossible or super painful. With these dysfunctions, suggests Borg, arousal might not have any impact on disgust, which would imply that women's bodies afflicted vaginismus and dyspareunia are more or less experiencing the unvarnished reality of sex — that it's completely gross.
That's Not Gross! Sexual Arousal Lessens Disgust [LiveScience]
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