…mounds of dung and worm-eaten corpses, the hallmark triggers of disgust
February 16, 2020 3:11 PM   Subscribe

"Disgust is inherently ambivalent—it at once revolts and attracts us. This reflects, for Strohminger, the larger evolutionary ambivalence that disgust stems from, since we “must balance the need for nutrition against the peril of toxic comestibles, the need to socialize against the threat of communicable disease.” In short, disgust may not derive from a simple aversion to harmful substances but from a tension between the desire to explore and consume new things and the dangers of doing so": Why We Love to Be Grossed Out (Nautilus)
What perplexes Strohminger is our attraction to aversion. “We need to account for the fact that we chase after disgust,” she said. Our attraction to disgust is hardly modern. The grotesque fascinated painters from the Renaissance to Goya, with his visages of Saturn, and Francis Bacon, with his distorted portraits. Even earlier, the ancient Greeks told gut-wrenching stories about how Atreus killed and cooked his brother Thyestes’ children and fed them to their unwitting father. Perhaps disgust is cathartic to enjoy when there’s no real threat of contamination, just like it’s cathartic to feel the rush of heart-pounding thrillers or tragedies. Or perhaps Plato was right to say that disgust was contrary to reason, something that we just can’t explain. As a matter of taste, disgust is inherently subjective. There’s no real reason why one person might crave bacon-flavored ice cream with pickles while the thought of that might make another retch. And that might be why it’s hard to explain why we chase after disgust, too. In the end, we might have just developed a taste for it.
posted by not_the_water (18 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
For my part, I do not like to be disgusted.
posted by Caxton1476 at 4:37 PM on February 16 [8 favorites]


Me, either. This "we" he speaks of does not include me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


"we" really don't, what's the matter with those people?
posted by sammyo at 5:56 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I don't like to be disgusted, either. I'd MUCH prefer to be gusted, thankyouverymuch. Maybe she is speaking in the Royal We?
posted by frodisaur at 6:26 PM on February 16


So what does this have to do with fart jokes?
posted by njohnson23 at 7:19 PM on February 16


Even earlier, the ancient Greeks told gut-wrenching stories about how Atreus killed and cooked his brother Thyestes’ children and fed them to their unwitting father.

the entire house was founded on cannibalism and hubris! how can you call out only atreus? In This Comment We Hate And Despise Also Tantalus!
posted by poffin boffin at 7:24 PM on February 16 [8 favorites]


Disgusted this did not contain The Anatomy of Disgust.
posted by meehawl at 9:07 PM on February 16


what does this have to do with fart jokes?
[waves hat] I'd say you boys have had enough
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:25 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


C’mon, you know you watch cyst popper vids with an earwax removal chaser from the suggestions.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:50 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Nina Strohminger is also well-known in philosophy circles for her amusing evisceration of Colin McGinn's book on disgust.
posted by leibniz at 11:33 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


I've been looking for an answer to that question ever since I discovered Giger's works.
I totally get the fascination wirh disgust. Thanks for posting!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:14 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Disgust is inherently ambivalent—it at once revolts and attracts us.

I think this gets it slightly wrong, and should instead read 'disgust is inherently ambivalent — first it attracts us, then it revolts us'.

Because I think the initial attraction is there to pull us in close so that the revulsion is as strong as it can be, and that makes it much more likely that we will be strongly motivated to avoid the noisome and potentially harmful thing in the future.
posted by jamjam at 2:18 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


The nascent cognition of my awakening brain immediately thought of Jay Bauman while reading this. And horror/gore fans in general. And then my stomach growled and I realized I wanted to eat some waffles, just as soon as I could get out of bed.

Somewhat more on topic, as someone who has an overactive sense of smell, that's the main decider of disgust for me. Seeing something gross in a movie is one thing, but even faint whiffs of food garbage or whatever can be overwhelming and not at all ambivalent in its nature.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 7:49 AM on February 17


That’s a heck of a review leibniz links to. Also useful, since it starts by citing lots of other recent work on disgust. PDF.
posted by clew at 9:18 AM on February 17


C’mon, you know you watch cyst popper vids with an earwax removal chaser from the suggestions.

I really, really don't.

Interesting article, though!
posted by cooker girl at 10:46 AM on February 17


Related: Disgust Made Us Human - Our ancestors reacted to parasites with overwhelming revulsion, wiring the brain for morals, manners, politics and laws.
posted by hoodrich at 12:15 PM on February 17


What, no recipes?
posted by cenoxo at 1:30 PM on February 17


I am one of those people who loves zit popping/earwax videos. I have no idea why, but they relax me. When my anxiety is bad, seeing a giant chunk of nasty wax removed from an ear will calm me right down. Can anyone tell me why? I know there are lots of others like me!
posted by captain afab at 2:19 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


« Older no one had defined a crossing in such achievable...   |   “I am the programming equivalent of a home cook.” Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments