If you think about it, sex is actually sort of disgusting,
what with all the sweat, saliva, fluids and smells. So much so that a group of
researchers from the Netherlands got to thinking, How do people enjoy sex at
According to their small new study, people — at least women
— may be able to get over the “ick” factor associated with sex by getting
turned on. Sexual arousal overrides the natural disgust response, the
researchers found, and allows women to willingly engage in behaviors that they
might normally find repugnant.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of
Groningen, involved 90 women who were randomly assigned to one of three groups.
One group watched a “female friendly” erotic video; another watched a video of
high-adrenaline sports like skydiving or rafting, designed to be arousing but
not sexually so; and the third group watched a neutral video clip of a train.

Afterward, all the women were asked to perform 16 tasks,
most of them icky, like drinking from a cup with a bug in it (the bug was
fake), wiping their hands with a used tissue, eating a cookie that was next to
a live worm or putting their finger in a tray of used condoms.
The researchers found that the women who watched the
sexually arousing video rated the unpleasant tasks as less disgusting than
did their counterparts who were not sexually aroused. They were also more
likely to complete more of the tasks, suggesting that sexual arousal not only
dampens the disgust response but also influences how much women are willing to
That helps explain why so many people keep having sex,
despite the inherent messiness of it, the researchers said. “The findings
indicate that both the impact of heightened sexual arousal on subjective
disgust and also on disgust-induced avoidance will act in a way to facilitate
the engagement in pleasurable sex,” the authors wrote. Previous studies suggest
that sexual arousal has the same effect on men.
“I think this study is interesting in that it helps support
the idea that sexual arousal lowers inhibitions and often enables one to
participate in activities that they might normally find disgusting or
off-putting,” Dr. Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and author based in New
York City who was uninvolved with the study, told ABC News.

The findings may also shed light on conditions involving
sexual dysfunction. Lack of sexual arousal may interfere with healthy sex by
failing to dampen the disgust factor, the authors said. Essentially, if women
are not appropriately aroused before sex, they may find it even more repulsive
and increasingly start to avoid it. Low arousal can also render women
physically unable to enjoy sex, the authors said:
As a result, this could lead to problems with sexual
engagement, and lack of vaginal lubrication, which in turn could increase
friction and cause problems such as pain with intercourse. It is thus possible
that in extreme cases the woman might acquire negative associations with sex
and might start to avoid sexual intercourse altogether.
The authors call for further research among larger groups,
including participants suffering from sexual dysfunctions.
The study was published in the journal PLoS
ONE as appeared on TIMES Heathland


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