Responsibility/Threat Overestimation Moderates The Relationship Between Contamination-Based Disgust And Obsessive–Compulsive Concerns About Sexual Orientation

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Archives Of Sexual Behavior


Disgust has been shown to perform a “disease-avoidance” function in contamination fears. However, no studies have examined the relevance of disgust to obsessive–compulsive (OC) concerns about sexual orientation (e.g., fear of one’s sexual orientation transforming against one’s will, and compulsive avoidance of same-sex and/or gay or lesbian individuals to prevent that from happening). Therefore, we investigated whether the specific domain of contamination-based disgust (i.e., evoked by the perceived threat of transmission of essences between individuals) predicted OC concerns about sexual orientation, and whether this effect was moderated/amplified by obsessive beliefs, in evaluation of a “sexual orientation transformation-avoidance” function. We recruited 283 self-identified heterosexual college students (152 females, 131 males; mean age = 20.88 years, SD = 3.19) who completed three measures assessing disgust, obsessive beliefs, and OC concerns about sexual orientation. Results showed that contamination-based disgust (β = .17), responsibility/threat overestimation beliefs (β = .15), and their interaction (β = .17) each uniquely predicted OC concerns about sexual orientation, ts = 2.22, 2.50, and 2.90, ps < .05. Post hoc probing indicated that high contamination-based disgust accompanied by strong responsibility/threat overestimation beliefs predicted more severe OC concerns about sexual orientation, β = .48, t = 3.24, p < .001. The present study, therefore, provided preliminary evidence for a “sexual orientation transformation-avoidance” process underlying OC concerns about sexual orientation in heterosexual college students, which is facilitated by contamination-based disgust, and exacerbated by responsibility/threat overestimation beliefs. Treatment for OC concerns about sexual orientation should target such beliefs.


Contamination-based disgust, Sexual orientation, Obsessive–compulsive disorder