The Ins and Outs: Why aroused women have high tolerance to the ick factor

Think of the nastiest, most deplorable and depraved thing you’ve ever done in the bedroom. Turns out your partner might have thought it wasn’t that nasty after all.

College-aged women were more likely to ignore disgusting or repulsive activities when sexually aroused, according to Charmaine Borg and Peter J. de Jong, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

That’s right. Getting horny can make you ignore the ick factor.

“Saliva, sweat, semen and body odors are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all,” the findings, published in the peer-reviewed and open access journal “PLOS ONE,” said.

Here’s how the study worked: 90 heterosexual female students with an average age of 23 were selected from the University of Groningen and were split into three groups. The first group watched a 35-minute “female-friendly erotica” film intended to arouse, the second group a video of extreme sports intended to nonsexually arouse, and the third a video of scenic train ride meant to elicit a neutral response.

Every five minutes during the film, the women were given a disgusting task to perform falling into one of four categories of disgust ranging from lubricating a vibrator to drinking liquid out of a cup with a fake insect floating in it. Participants were allowed to opt out of completing a task if they found it too disgusting to perform.

Women in the arousal group were more likely to complete the tasks than the other groups and less likely to feel disgusted when performing them, the researchers found.

Ivy Chen, sex and relationships lecturer at SF State, admitted she hadn’t heard about this study before and was curious about the researchers’ definition of repulsive.

“What may be thought of as repulsive by one person may be thought of as acceptable or sexy by another,” Chen said. “What I do know is that sexual arousal raises the pain threshold, so that you can withstand more pain when turned on. I think it’s possible that sexual arousal can raise the tolerance of a variety of things.”

Keep in mind, skirt chasers, that this doesn’t mean all women are going to be willing to get into bed with the intention of doing something they would normally consider repulsive. If you like gross stuff, you’re just going to have to find yourself a girl who enjoys the gross stuff. However, once women are sexually aroused, it’s likely that they will ignore their usual repulsion.

Think about it in terms of performing oral sex on someone. You know that — no matter what your partner has between their legs — that it’s got some bodily secretions on it. Precum, vaginal lubrication and sweat are the usual frontrunners, meaning that it’s going to have a specific, and maybe unappealing, taste. Rationally, in your current unaroused state, you’re probably a bit grossed out right now. But we both know that you’ve gone down on someone — and you probably liked it.

But an obvious problem arises when you’re not sexually aroused and repulsed, the study mentioned.

“Perhaps most important for the present context, 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 and can be problematic if one of the two is not influenced or modified by sexual arousal.”

Still, Chen warns people to be cautious.

“I think that it’s a good idea for people to define their boundaries while they are clothed, sober and not yet aroused. While a man or woman may participate in something that would normally disgust them while aroused, they may regret it afterwards,” she said. “Some people get swept up in the moment while aroused and therefore more willing to do ‘disgusting’ things. Some people may participate to please their partner if their partner really wants to try something. However, it’s important that partners discuss their values and comfort level with any activity before the clothes come off.”

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