Feelings of Disgust a Sexual Turn Off For Women

According to a new study, which was published in PLOS One, women who have feelings of disgust end up being sexually turned off more than women who are scared. This new study is coming out of the University of Portsmouth, and it is the first study to compare what happens to women’s sexual arousal when they are exposed to a negative stimuli, such as disgust or fear. This new study is also the first one to use medical equipment in addition to self-reporting, which helps gauge the levels of sexual arousal in women after the exposure to disgust.

female in bed

The lead study researcher was Dr. Diana Fleischman, who works in the Psychology Department at the University of Portsmouth. She was working at a university in America when she discovered through the study that the more disgusted a woman was, the less sexually aroused the woman could get. Most doctors believe that disgust is a protective emotion since it encourages a human to shun or shy away from something that could transmit diseases, for example, like blood or bodily fluids from another human being. Since Dr. Fleischman is an evolutionary psychologist, she said that it is not surprising that disgust lowers sexual arousal since sex essentially puts you into contact with body odors and fluids that could spread diseases. It is already a known fact that women are more susceptible to diseases that occur during sexual contact than men, and often have worse outcomes once infected with the diseases, which means that women are going to be more turned off when there are feelings of disgust.

Being sexually aroused also motivated us to become close with other people and their bodies, but when there is disgust involved it basically tells us to stay away from that person. This means that disgust and sexual arousal affect one another, and our own ancestors had to overcome the disgust factor in order to reproduce and have sexual contact with each other. The researcher had also made a prediction that arousal would reduce disgust sensitivity, since previous studies have shown that both men and women who were exposed to sexually explicit images reported being less disgusted. This study though was the first one ever to measure the blood flow to the genitals in order to test out how sexually aroused the women were, and then tested how the arousal was affected when disgust was added into the situation.

Science has found quite a few differences between men and women, but one of the more consistent differences is that women are a lot more sensitive to disgust than men, especially when it comes to sex. The researchers were really wanting to find out if women who were less likely to become disgusted would respond more like men in terms of sexual arousal. The researchers ending up finding out that the women who were less disgust-sensitive turned down the disgust sensitivity even more once they were sexually aroused. The women who were highly disgust-sensitive ended up showing even more disgust when they were sexually aroused.


Dr. Fleischman went onto explain that when we are deciding whether or not to have sex, we often think about trade-offs that are taken into consideration. An example of this is that we know we need to have sex in order to reproduce, but then again we know that having sex does put you at risk for diseases, such as genital warts or AIDS/HIV. The results of this study indicate that it’s a lot more complicated for women and that there are differences between men and women in terms of how being sexually aroused changed the disgust response.

In terms of the study itself, it included 76 heterosexual women who were between the ages of 18 and 42. There was one group that was shown disgusting images and then asked to watch an erotic film. The second group of women were shown the erotic film and then the disgusting images. The third group of women were shown scary or frightening images and then an erotic film. Lastly, a fourth group was watching an erotic film and then shown images of frightening things. The images that were used to try to elicit the disgust in the women included various images of diseased or injured humans, human corpses, fecal matter and people throwing up. The erotic films were produced and directed by women and were all intended to be specifically sexually arousing to women. The images that the researchers used to elicit fear included images of violent people, dangerous animals, tornadoes, fire, heights, and weapons.

Prior to the experiment, the women were all asked to insert a photoplethysmograph into their vagina, which is a clear tampon-shaped device that helps measure the blood flow to the vagina, and this device is used to measure sexual arousal. The women were also asked to self-report their own sexual arousal ratings and feelings, and also report their levels of disgust and fear after the various experiments.

The results of the study were that the women who were shown the disgusting images before the erotic film were three times less sexually aroused than the women who saw the frightening images or the control group of women. In terms of sexual arousal in the other groups, there was not a significant difference in the degrees of arousal. There have been previous studies that have shown men were less likely to find things disgusting when they were sexually aroused. In terms of what this study really shows, it shows that since women are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, they respond a lot different when thoughts or feelings of disgust come up or when disgusting imagery is shown. Women are also more emotional creatures, which means that it’s not that surprising that women would find themselves reacting to disgusting images in a negative way, especially when it comes to sex since a lot of women believe sex is more of an emotional experience over a physical one.


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