Disgust part 3: Disney explains Disgust

(See also: Part 1, Yes, Women Think Male Sexuality is Disgusting; Part 2, Is disgust Real? and Part 4, Disgust vs. Aggression vs. Fertility.)

So today I was reading the picture book version of Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, which is about a little girl and anthropomorphized versions of her emotions, and happened upon this quote:

“And of course, Riley needed Disgust’s good taste to avoid being poisoned, both physically and socially. Disgust helped Riley steer clear of anything and everything she found repulsive, from horrible food to rotten people.” [bold mine]

The accompanying picture is of a toddler refusing some icky vegetable. One wonders what toddlers think about “rotten people,” if anything at all.

Grownups, however, express their opinions about the ickiness of others loud and clear:

David Merkur, 28, Keeps Seriously Creepy Spreadsheet Of All His Online Dates” claims the Huffington Post.

Poor David Merkur wrote no more in his spreadsheet than millions of women have written in their diaries–there is nothing remotely creepy about noting where you met someone or when you have a date scheduled. His only mistake was showing the spreadsheet to one of the women he was interested in. For this, Jezebel, the HuffPo, and many other websites ran articles which used his real name and intended, IMO, to completely humiliate and defame him.

Something similar happened to a friend when one of their exes decided to destroy them as publicly as possible. Thankfully their story didn’t make it onto Jezebel or HuffPo, but embarrassing personal details were broadcast to almost all of their friends, pretty much destroying their social life and leaving them really fucking depressed.

It is no secret that women are hostile to men they don’t like. Really hostile. I’ve spent enough time in the feminist trenches to know how these conversations tend to go:

“Why do women go after assholes? I’m such a nice guy and I can’t even get a date!”

“Any guy who calls himself a nice guy is actually an asshole! You’re a misogynist oppressor!”

Etc., etc.

The whole business has always been a little baroque to me, perhaps because I think people should be nice to each other, or perhaps because I’ve watched plenty of women fall all over themselves trying to hop into bed with criminals. But I find that one of the tricks to understanding people is to generally assume that they are asserting some true version of reality as they see it, so to understand feminists, I must assume that they really, truly hate Nice Guys.

But if we dig a little deeper, it’s not really the niceness they hate, (well, it is the niceness, but it is more than just that,) it’s the sexual interest.

Slate Star Codex made this montage that I have stolen without permission so I really hope he forgives me:

Some of those are anti-Semitic cartoons Scott stuck in there.
Some of those are anti-Semitic cartoons Scott stuck in there.

It’s from his article about Creep Shaming (my title, not his,) that is quite relevant to this whole post and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already.

(While we are at it, 1. What is up with the fedora thing? Seriously I don’t get it. It is a hat. Who cares about hats? 2. How much social rejection/creep shaming is actually aimed at Jewish men who just don’t look like other whites and so don’t meet female attractiveness standards?)

Also, Scott Alexander is not the only person I’ve seen compare/imply that the whole feminist reaction to nerdy men reminds them of anti-Semitism.

Women complain about men’s unreasonable beauty standards, but it’s the women who rate 80% of men unattractive. Men, by contrast, rate most women as around “average” attractiveness.

As I noted a few days ago, this is all most likely because women have actually evolved to find male sexuality disgusting. A woman only needs 1-4 men in her life, not thousands, so any men other than her chosen few are little more than threats.

And apparently, people also route “potential threats” though their “disgust” modules, and some people are particularly prone to experiencing physical disgust at the mere thought of things they do not like.

Like inferior males and their sexuality.

Free Northerner has an older post about the time he tried to court a Christian young woman, and her parents (quite rudely) grilled him on a long list of personal questions. They obviously had it out for him, and so he should not have answered any of the questions or otherwise put up with their bullshit, but regardless, he probably sealed his fate with the woman by answering honestly that he sometimes watches porn.

You might as well talk about your feces at the dinner table as admit to a woman you barely know and her parents that you watch porn. Yes, everyone has to poop, but that doesn’t mean you talk about it in polite company. Likewise, yes, you have sexual needs, but that doesn’t mean you talk about them at the dinner, and any insistence that you should is just an insistence that the girl should only date men who are good at lying.

Be careful what you incentivise.


On a neurological level, I suspect that disgust and fear are closely related. Both get processed through the same region of the brain, my old favorite, the amygdala (but probably involve a bunch of other regions that I just don’t know anything about.) Both are negative reactions to external stimuli intended to protect you from danger. Fear protects you from things you might need to run away from, like tigers, while disgust protects you from stationary things, like rotting lions.

Conservatives show heightened fear/disgust responses upon meeting strangers, leading to distrust of outsiders, but the ability to feel fear also seems to help us empathize with others and feel their fear; sociopaths are deficient in their abilities to empathize and feel fear.

Disgust therefore has, apparently, two purposes:

1. It keeps you away from disease vectors like rot/feces

2. It prevents you from having sex with inferior mates.

One of the results implied by this is that cleaner people have less interest in sex, and dirtier people more interest. Which I suppose explains the phrase, “dirty old man.”

There is an additional important factor: aggression. Aggression, I suspect, neutralizes disgust. “Nice guys” lack the proper forms of aggression, like being tall and socially dominant, having a good sense of humor, good looks, prestigious job, and generally not being shy or otherwise beta. I am really super not the greatest person to get opinions about dating from, because I have never dated any women at all, but this appears, IMO, to be basically true: the aggressive bird gets the worm.

In the past, monogamy functioned, among other things, to basically protect women from too much male sexual interest, because married women were basically thought of as off-limits. This greatly reduced the number of men expressing sexual interest in married women, removing one source of potential stress from their lives.

When I hear women my own age talk about how, “We need to have a discussion about consent and aggression and rape,” I just look at them weird. After a decade of marriage, first-date style concerns about negotiating boundaries with people I’ve just met have faded far into the recesses of memory.

One of the side effects of decreasing monogamy in our society and an increase in “hookup” culture, seems to be an increase female concern about male sexual aggression. Overall, I suspect the numbers on aggressions like rape are down, (at least since 1990,) tracking other crime rates. But fear of male aggression need not have anything to do with actual aggression; it need only have to do with contact with males. If contact with men who want to have sex with them triggers womens’ disgust instincts, then putting women into more contact with men who want to have sex with them, even if those guys are totally nice guys who’d never do anything aggressive, will constantly trigger the disgust response and start stressing out the women. In the end, you get things like the whole Mattress Girl phenomenon.

“Sulkowicz, who graduated Sunday, spent her senior year hauling a 50-pound mattress around campus to protest the Columbia administration’s failure to expel her alleged rapist. …

““If we use proof in rape cases,” said Sulkowicz, “we fall into the patterns of rape deniers.” Yet it also trafficked in high-sounding maxims composed of that mélange of pseudo-academic, quasi-mystical jargon that passes today for profundity: “In saying I expose the truth, the viewer superimposes their truth upon mine, and once again silences me.” “Well-meaning people on the street will touch me reverently. . . . They do not believe they are violating me with their hands.” “When people engage in believing in me, they objectify me.” “

Read enough cases like these, and you start wondering if maybe there’s something to be said for social norms encouraging people to only have sex with people they already know really well, and maybe are already married to.

Instead, feminists tend to demand that men not express sexual desire in women, which of course only the really shy guys who are terrified of accidentally offending women and deeply committed to being decent humans in the first place actually listen to. They then sit in their rooms, alone, and feel absolutely awful for ever being attracted to a woman (objectification!) The assholes, of course, do not give a shit about any of this and continue being assholes.

As such, aggression appears to be an important factor in overcoming disgust and generally functioning in jobs and life. Shy, gentle people get shat upon in our society, while aggressive liars get jobs and women.


Of course, there are truly rotten people in this world, ones that kids (and adults) should watch out for. But the vast majority of “creeps” that women reject aren’t the truly rotten apples. They’re just guys with the misfortune to be not very attractive or socially dominant.

(See also: Part 1, Yes, Women Think Male Sexuality is Disgusting; Part 2, Is disgust Real? and Part 4, Disgust vs. Aggression vs. Fertility.)

22 thoughts on “Disgust part 3: Disney explains Disgust

  1. This is a great point and makes me think of an idea that’s been bouncing around my head lately.

    My observation is that women don’t seem to operate on the 1-10 scale; they put attractive and unattractive men in different categories. This is why aggression is so important: if you don’t naturally display enough of the traits that fire her attraction switches, while also failing to establish yourself as a sexual threat, she will put you into a category that amounts to “neutral”; you’re neither a threat nor a competitor. So trying to get her interested in you under those conditions is like trying to start a car with no spark plug; the machinery of attraction is never activated.

    Most guys do something similar as far as categorization with fat girls, but since we’re the physically dominant gender, the evaluation skips the threat gateway.


    • This seems close enough to correct.

      Unfortunately, very few men are physically attractive–personally, 20% seems like an over-estimate. The vast majority of men, therefore, probably obtain spouses via something other than looks, like personality.

      Luckily, personality can be cultivated.


  2. Thanks for pointing me to Free Northerner’s story. I had heard of it, on our podcast with him, but I had never read it (and also couldn’t find it when I went looking). A terribly sad story. I know FN is a super high quality guy. This girl’s parents are absolute idiots not to push them to the altar immediately. I’d push my own daughters to the altar with him if only he were Catholic.


  3. Why would you mention the case of Sulkowicz? Her post-‘rape’ text messages to her alleged ‘rapist’ make her a straight-out liar. It was a clear case of ‘buyer’s remorse’ and wounded pride after she noticed that there would be no followup to their hookup.


  4. Oh come on… Don’t make this into a man vs woman-thing.
    Guys judge ugly girls at least as hard! And I totally utterly disagree with it being only about looks. If you happen to be physically unattractive AND completely humorless then yes, it might get complicated. Also I understand introverts have an uphill battle to fight when it comes to catching someone’s eye. An introvert might have tons to offer but just never gets past the initial meeting without choking up and not everyone has the patience for this during a first meeting…

    Anyhow, to all frustrated men of the world: don’t blame the chicks. We’re not all as shallow as the internet sometimes makes us out to be!


    • Women rate 80% of men “below average” in looks, while men rate the majority of women as “about average.” Men are more vocal about their rejections, but in a pure looks environment, women reject more men than vice versa.

      Blame isn’t really a productive response, though. Women are as they are mostly because evolution forces them to be picky. Civilization itself is probably a side effect of men trying to do things to impress women. :)


  5. Aha, thanks for clearing it up (and I just noticed you did link it in your post, I must have overlooked it before, sorry about that)!
    So the majority of OK Cupid-women rates 80% of OK Cupid-men as below average…
    You might think this is a fair representation of what goes on in real life but as you probably understand by now, I disagree. ;)


  6. “more likely that stupid people fucking are going to be the downfall of civilization”

    The failure is (was) and will be the failure of the smart people to ensure that the civilization does not fail . Think about it.


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