This article, Feelings of Disgust and Disgust-Induced Avoidance Weaken following Induced Sexual Arousal in Women, published this past week in the science journal PLOS ONE, goes a long way to explain why we do all those disgusting things mentioned in my earlier post, Every Single Disgusting Thing the Human Brain Can Imagine, even though the acts are, you know, disgusting. From the article:
Saliva, sweat, semen and body odours are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all. One possible explanation could be that sexual engagement temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of particular stimuli or that sexual engagement might weaken the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.
So that explains (maybe) why we go ahead and have sex during our periods, and give one another golden showers, and let that creepy guy with the greasy hair (he smelled of cheese, too) tongue kiss us.
I love reading science journals because I’m always left shaking my head and wondering “What crazy fuck thought up this experiment?” and the researchers who wrote this article didn’t let me down. I’m sure one of them had a mom like Margaret White, the mother of Carrie from the classic horror film (and Stephen King novel of the same name).
Margaret White: I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.
Carrie: They’re called breasts, Mama, and every woman has them.
My own mother was so discomfited by the subject of sex that she explained menstruation to me while we were
driving in the car, with me in the backseat, her eyes glued to the road ahead of us and both hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly her knuckles were white. She breathed an audible sigh of relief when I answered “No” when she asked, “Do you have any questions?”
Other than menstruation, my sexual education came from girlfriends, who generally knew less than I did. Then, when I started dating, I learned a bit more from boys, who generally had more experience than I did. I remember a friend in sixth grade explaining French kissing to me, and thinking there was no way she could be right about this.
Me: He puts his tongue in your mouth?
Me: In your mouth?
I guess you can imagine my reaction when I found out about the other things boys wanted to put in my mouth.
I’m left wondering if we really are disgusted by “saliva, sweat, semen and body odours” as the researchers from this experiment seem to believe. Growing up, I remember punching my little sister in the stomach after she took a sip of my soda because I was so disgusted by the thought of her spit trickling down the inside of the straw and into my drink. But today, I’ll happily use the same fork as my husband because I’m too lazy to unload the dishwasher to get a clean one. And sweat? Come on. Semen, of course, does seem a little too much like snot, and snot really is revolting, so maybe they’re on to something there.
There’s a great book, aptly titled That’s Disgusting, about disgusting things and why we find them disgusting but I don’t recommend reading it right before you’re about to have dinner.
Or have sex.
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