Bad Smell Of Sex Politics

disgustTRDisgust and the Politics of Sex: Exposure to a Disgusting Odorant Increases Politically Conservative Views on Sex and Decreases Support for Gay Marriage

The present study tested the effects of disgust on a range of policy preferences to clarify whether disgust is generally implicated in political conservatism across public policy attitudes or is uniquely related to specific content domains.

Self-reported socio-political attitudes were compared between participants in two experimental conditions:

  1.  an odorless control condition, and
  2. a disgusting odor condition.

[…] the present study showed that exposure to a disgusting odor increased endorsement of socially conservative attitudes related to sexuality. In particular, there was a strong and consistent link between induced disgust and less support for gay marriage.


Disgust is increasingly seen as playing an important role in the formation and maintenance of political and social attitudes. Disgust sensitivity and reactivity have been shown to relate to political conservatism generally  and have been implicated in negative and hostile attitudes towards a range of social out-groups, particularly homosexuals.

In keeping with the aforementioned research, some have suggested that disgust is specifically related to conservative attitudes that pertain to social or moral purity, and, in particular, sexual purity. One potential reason for these relations is that disgust plays an adaptive role in preserving individuals from the threat of infectious disease.(Excerpt from the article)

It has been posited that the Behavioral Immune System, which uses the physiological response of disgust as its first line of behavioral defense, shapes political attitudes and resultant policy preferences. 

Interesting: Heightened disgust sensitivity and reactivity negatively influenced attitudes towards gay marriage, support for abortion and premarital sex but not other political issues such as gun rights, school prayer, immigration and, most curiously, pornography.


Love it. Just don’t know quite what to make on it. I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turns out that this study was specifically designed as a contender for Ig Nobel Prize 2014.

My take on it:  To sway a conservative politician to support gay marriage, try to arrange a meeting in a rose garden or, at the very least, in airy, odorless, ventilated or air-freshened spaces.

Politician of liberal leaning might change his mind and lean toward conservative agenda in matters of sex policies if caught off guard in a vicinity of filthy bathrooms and other sources of revolting odors. Barfing on his lap or boots might go a long way.

Remember: Politics of sex smells. The odor can be easily manipulated. As it happens, politicians, too.  Make sure your representatives keep their noses up, sniffing, and never loosing  their acute sense of smell.



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