The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine conducted the research by surveying over 2500 people, exposing them to 74 different scenarios and asking them to rate them on a scale of ‘no disgust’ to ‘extreme disgust’.
The images were not solely related to sex, but related also to hygiene, food, and appearance.
Images that related to prostitution and promiscuous sex elicited the strongest objection from study participants.
The researchers suggest that women’s negative reaction to sex stems from an evolutionary trait to avoid risky behaviours that can result in disease and illness.
“Although we only really came to understand how diseases transmit in the 19th century, it’s clear from these results that people have an intuitive sense of what to avoid in their environment,” said researcher Micheal de Barra, a psychology professor at Brunel University London. “Our long coevolution with disease has ‘wired in’ this intuitive sense of what can cause infection.”
It was not only the ladies who were repulsed by sex, with men also showing a distaste for the act as a potential illness-inducing activity. However across all categories, women reacted with a stronger level of disgust.
“Although we knew the emotion of disgust was good for us, here we’ve been able to build on that, showing that disgust is structured, recognising and responding to infection threats to protect us,” said Val Curtis, another researcher from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “This type of disease avoidance behaviour is increasingly evident in animals, and so leads us to believe it is evolutionarily very ancient.”