The curious tale of Julie and Mark revisited : does sexual arousal inhibit disgust and moral disapproval?
As an act that involves the exchange of bodily fluids, engaging in sex risks exposure to pathogens. However, people still happily engage in sex. Previous research has explained this apparent conflict – sexual arousal can inhibit disgust, making otherwise undesirable contact possible. We sought to investigate this phenomenon in a sociomoral sense, examining whether or not sexual arousal can inhibit disgust in the context of being exposed to an incest taboo. More specifically, our study examined whether an induction of sexual arousal – using sexual (experimental condition) and platonic (control condition) video clips – could lower one’s disgust responses and moral disapproval towards the widely-known "Julie and Mark” incest vignette (Royzman, Kim, & Leeman, 2015). Our study also considered demographics and individual differences, such as sociomoral conservatism and disgust sensitivity, as predictors of arousal, moral disapproval, and disgust towards the vignette. We recruited 272 individuals, both students and non- students, between the ages of 18 and 25. We found that the induction of sexual arousal was effective, but it did not significantly lower levels of disgust and moral disapproval in response to the incest vignette in the experimental group compared to the control group. However, we found consistent and positive relations between our variables of interest, including moral disapproval, disgust, sociomoral conservatism, and disgust sensitivity, particularly within the control group. Our results may inform future research on sexual dysfunctions by highlighting the relations between disgust, sexual arousal, and sociomoral conservatism that may bear on these disorders.
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