Effect of Self-Reported Sexual Arousal on Responses to Sex-Related and Non-Sex-Related Disgust Cues
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Prior to and during sexual intercourse, people are exposed to stimuli that in other contexts might act as disgust-eliciting cues. This study examined whether sexual arousal, in contrast to general arousal, could selectively reduce reported disgust for cues that pilot participants identified as sex or non-sex related. Male undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of four viewing groups. One group viewed erotic female images, a second clad female images, a third pleasantly arousing images (e.g., skydiving), and a fourth unpleasantly arousing images (e.g., an aimed gun). After the viewing phase, all participants were exposed to pairs of real disgust elicitors (sex versus non-sex related) drawn from various sensory modalities. Participants in the erotic images group, who rated being more sexually aroused than those in the other three groups, also reported being significantly less disgusted by sex-related elicitors. While the mechanism for this effect is not currently known, our findings suggest one plausible explanation for risky sexual behavior as well as having implications for the role of disgust in sexual dysfunction.
KeywordsDisgust Sexual arousal Disease avoidance
The authors would like to thank the Australian Research Council for their financial support and Vince Polito, Jonathan McGuire, and Justin Wallace for assisting with this experiment.
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