Understanding human ambivalence about sex: The effects of stripping sex of meaning

Jamie L. Goldenberg, Cathy R. Cox, Tom Pyszczynski, Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

We offer a theoretical perspective to provide insight into why people are ambivalent about sex and why cultures regulate sex and attach symbolic meaning to it. Building on terror management theory, we propose that sex is problematic for humankind in part because it reminds us of our creaturely mortal nature. Two experiments investigated the effects of reminding people of the similarity between humans and other animals on their reactions to the physical aspects of sex. In Study 1, priming human-animal similarities led to increased accessibility of death-related thoughts after thinking about the physical but not romantic aspects of sex. In Study 2, when participants were reminded of similarities between humans and other animals, mortality salience resulted in decreased attraction to the physical but not romantic aspects of sex. In each study, priming thoughts about how humans are distinct from animals eliminated the association between sex and death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-320
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Volume39
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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