WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- As a species, humans are disgusted by many things. But somehow, they keep reproducing even though sex can be a bit, well, icky.
A small new study suggests sexual arousal makes people more willing to accept things that might otherwise disgust them.
The research is limited: It only looked at women and their willingness to deal with normally disgusting things when they were (or weren't) sexually aroused. But there's more to the findings than "pop psychology," said study author Charmaine Borg, a graduate student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
When sexual arousal is low, which can occur due to a disorder, women might become more disgusted by sex and want to avoid it, she said. This can result in "a downward spiral," she suggested, in which "lack of sexual arousal may interfere with functional sex as it may prevent the reduction of disgust."
Sex can seem inherently gross, Borg said, because it involves things such as saliva, semen and sweat, which people typically stay away from to avoid contamination.
But still, people -- or at least most people -- want to have sex. Borg quoted Sigmund Freud as saying: "A man, who will kiss a pretty girl's mouth passionately, may perhaps be disgusted by the idea of using her toothbrush."
In the new study, which appears in the September issue of the journal PLoS One, researchers assigned 90 women to one of three groups. The researchers tried to arouse one group by showing them "female-friendly" erotica, while another group watched a clip of high-energy outdoor activities such as rafting and sky diving. The third group watched a video of a train ride in the hope that they wouldn't be stimulated at all.
Then the researchers asked the women to accomplish several tasks, some of which would normally be seen as gross, such as drinking from a cup with a r
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