Disgust and Sexual Arousal in Young Adult Men and Women

A. Grauvogl*, P. de Jong, M. Peters, S. Evers, M. van Overveld, J. van Lankveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous research suggested that disgust may interfere with healthy sexual functioning by demonstrating that women with sexual pain disorders are characterized by heightened disgust propensity, relatively strong (physiological and subjective) disgust responses when exposed to sexual stimuli, and relatively strong automatic sex-disgust memory associations. To broaden the understanding of the relationship between sex and disgust, Study 1 tested the relationship between trait disgust and sexual functioning in both men (N = 109) and women (N = 187), and showed that specifically for women both relatively high disgust propensity and high sensitivity were related to lower sexual functioning. Study 2 focused on healthy young adults (N = 19 men and N = 24 women), and tested the relationship between trait disgust and automatic sex-disgust associations as well as the predictive value of trait disgust propensity for participants' level of sexual arousal while watching an erotic video. Participants completed a single-target Implicit Association Task and self-report measures of trait disgust propensity, disgust sensitivity, and sexual functioning. Furthermore, genital and subjective sexual arousal was measured, while participants were watching neutral and erotic video clips. Women showed stronger sex-disgust associations and reported higher disgust propensity than men. Overall, indices of trait disgust and sex-disgust associations were not strongly associated with sexual functioning or sexual arousability. Unexpectedly, specifically in men, high levels of trait disgust sensitivity predicted higher levels of genital and subjective sexual arousal. Overall, no strong evidence was found to support the view that, among young adults without sexual difficulties, high trait disgust or relatively strong automatic sex-disgust associations are associated with low sexual functioning and low sexual arousal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1525
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number6
Early online date18 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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