The role of disgust in male sexual decision-making

Megan Oaten*, Richard J. Stevenson, Caley Tapp, Trevor I. Case, Allie Cousins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Sexual arousal is known to increase risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex. This may in part relate to the emotion of disgust, which normally serves a disease avoidant function, and is suppressed by sexual arousal. In this report we examine disgust's role in sexual decision-making. Male participants received two study packets that were to be completed at home across two different time-points. Participants were asked to complete one packet in a sexually aroused state and the other in a non-aroused state. Participants were asked to rate: (1) arousal, (2) disgust, (3) willingness for sex, and (4) disease risk toward a range of female targets, which varied in level of potential disease risk (sex-worker vs. non sex-worker) and attractiveness. A measure of trait disgust was also included along with other related scales. Sexual arousal was associated with reduced disgust and reduced judgments of disease risk for all targets-these latter two variables being correlated-and with enhanced willingness to have sex with all of the depicted persons. Willingness to have sex when aroused (in contrast to non-aroused) was predicted by disease risk judgments and trait disgust, suggesting both direct (state) and indirect (trait) effects of disgust on sexual decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2602
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJAN
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • disgust
  • disease
  • sexual arousal
  • contamination
  • decision making

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