Are you disgusted by the bodily fluids of your partner? Maybe you’re disgusted by your own bodily fluids. If so, you are not alone. Many people feel this way. I used to. But did you know that it’s a learned response? And if it’s learned, that means it can be unlearned. In this podcast, we talk about why we feel bodily fluids are so disgusting and what we can do about that in our relationship. You won’t be able to go from “bodily fluids are disgusting” to “anything that comes from the body is good” overnight, but it is possible.
Are you disgusted by the bodily fluids of your partner? Does the thought of semen or urine in your mouth or even on your body create a revolting feelings in you? If you are, you are not alone. But, did you know this was a learned response? And if it’s learned, it can be unlearned.
According to emotions research pioneer Paul Ekman, disgust “arises as a feeling of aversion towards something offensive. We can feel disgusted by something we perceive with our physical senses, by the actions or appearances of people, and even by ideas.” Ekman found that “disgust contains a range of states with varying intensities” from mild dislike and aversion to repugnance, revulsion, and intense loathing. “All states of disgust are triggered by the feeling that something is aversive, repulsive and/or toxic.”
When we feel disgusts we often “wrinkle our nose, choke or gag, cover our mouth or nose while hunching over (as if we might vomit), recoil or back away, and say “yuck” or “ew.” (Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown pg 230-231)
Disgust is a fascinating emotion. It is an emotion that protects us from actual toxins and poisons that can hurt us physically. It’s an emotion that is meant to keep us safe from the stuff that can make us sick. But according to Graham Davey, professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, “disgust is not an innate emotion.” He says “we only develop an understanding of disgust around the age of two or three years old.”
So how did we develop this disgust towards bodily fluids? Often in the way that we were taught about our own bodily fluids.
See if you notice the difference…
“Ewww…you stink, let’s go change your diaper” versus “I smell poo, let’s go change your diaper.” Notice how one elicits a disgust response (eww….) and one is just noticing a smell. We are conditioned from the time we are born to be disgusted by bodily fluids. For some, it’s probably more innate than in others, but for most of us, it is a learned response.
Think about the way you were talked to about your genitals.
- “Don’t put your hands down there, it’s gross.’
- “Don’t touch that”
We were taught weird names for our genitals and the things that came from them instead of their correct names. Wee wee, stinky, dirty, wet.
Also think about the way you were taught about puberty, sex, and fluids.
- Vaginal discharge smells gross
- Sex smells like fish
- Be safe or you will get an STI
All of these things shape the way you think and feel about bodily fluids and translate into how you deal with them in the bedroom.
I have many clients that tell me how gross it is if they get any semen on them. As soon as sex is over they have to jump up and get it off of them because it’s gross. They can’t stand for it to get on the sheets. The thought of semen, pre-cum, or urine (or even a urine taste) in their mouth during oral is more than they can handle. All of this triggers a disgust response.
I’ll be honest, I used to be like a lot of these women. The thought of anything on me grossed me out. Going in my mouth…no way. But when I began to question the way I think about those thing, my thoughts began to change.
In a study I read by Peter J de Jong, Mark van Overveld, and Charmaine Borg, it said that “disgust is focused on the border of the self, with the mouth and the vagina being the body parts that show strongest disgust sensitivity.” They argued that sexual arousal plays a critical role in counteracting disgust-induced avoidance via lowering the threshold for engaged in “disgusting sex.” They also said that “prolonged contact is the most powerful means to reduce disgust.”
So, what does this tell us? That while you may think things are disgusting, if you are willing to try them when highly sexually aroused, that disgust factor goes way down.
I know that as I have worked on my thoughts around my body and my bodily fluids and been willing to try things when I was highly aroused, things changed. Now I still don’t like to go to sleep with a wet spot on my sheets, but I also don’t freak out over it like I used to. Do I prefer my husband to shower before oral sex, sure. But if he doesn’t, is that going to stop me? No.
One of the ways to change the way we think and feel about these bodily fluids and genitals is to become aware of and understand our beliefs about our own body, our spouse’s body, and bodies in general. Because we have the belief that we were created in the image of our Heavenly Parents, can we work on believing that our bodies (all of our bodies, including our genitals) are inherently good. And then, can we move to “if our body is good, then anything that comes from our body is also good.” Now, you may not be able to jump from “bodily fluids are disgusting” to “anything that comes from the body is good” overnight. You might have to slowly work your way there. Can you start to question your current beliefs? Can you poke holes in that belief? Can you identify the results of that belief and does that belief create what you want for yourself and your marriage? It’s ok to take it slow. This is not something you need to change overnight. But working on changing the way you think about it will definitely help things in the bedroom.
I think it helps to remember that this isn’t just anyone that you are trying to believe these things about. You want to have a good relationship with yourself and your own body. And I think most of us also want to love our spouse as well. And loving our spouse means loving ALL OF THEM! Not picking and choosing which parts you love and which ones you find disgusting. That doesn’t necessarily mean we LIKE everything, but can we choose to LOVE all of them?
Another great way to think about this is thinking about what other people like. This is a great way to help stretch your mind about what is possible. Other people don’t mind these fluids. Some even like them. There is a slang term called a pearl necklace that is fairly popular. It refers to a sexual act in which a man ejaculates semen on or near the neck, chest, or breast of another person. If ejaculation is onto the other person’s face it can be called a facial. And there are people who want and like this. Now you may not, but it just helps expand the mind that it is something other people actually want and like. So maybe you can get to just being ok with the semen getting on you (and can be wiped off) or on the sheets. Sometimes an easy way to transition to all of this in the shower. Smells, tastes, and even bodily fluids are easily washed away.
So be open to trying new things, especially when you are in that heightened state of arousal and things might not be so bad. And I always recommend trying them a few times before you give a definitive “no.” And even if it’s been a “no” in the past, be open to the possibility of it changing to a “maybe” or even a “yes” in the future.