Vaginismus and Dyspareunia: Automatic vs. Deliberate Disgust Responsivity

Borg, C., de Jong, P. J. & Schultz, W. W., Jun-2010, In : Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7, 6, p. 2149-2157 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The difficulty of penetration experienced in vaginismus and dyspareunia may at least partly be due to a disgust-induced defensive response.


To examine if sex stimuli specifically elicit: (i) automatic disgust-related memory associations; (ii) physiological disgust responsivity; and/or (iii) deliberate expression of disgust/threat.


Two single target Implicit Association Task (st-IAT) and electromyography (EMG) were conducted on three groups: vaginismus (N = 24), dyspareunia (N = 24), and control (N = 31) group.

Main Outcome Measures.

st-IAT, to index their initial disgust-related associations and facial EMG for the m. levator labii and m. corrugator supercilii regions.


Both clinical groups showed enhanced automatic sex-disgust associations. As a unique physiological expression of disgust, the levator activity was specifically enhanced for the vaginismus group, when exposed to a women-friendly SEX video clip. Also at the deliberate level, specifically the vaginismus group showed enhanced subjective disgust toward SEX pictures and the SEX clip, along with higher threat responses.


Supporting the view that disgust is involved in vaginismus and dyspareunia, for both, clinical groups' sex stimuli automatically elicited associations with disgust. Particularly for the vaginismus group, these initial disgust associations persisted during subsequent validation processes and were also evident at the level of facial expression and self-report data. Findings are consistent with the notion that uncontrollable activated associations are involved in eliciting defensive reactions at the prospect of penetration seen in both conditions. Whereas deliberate attitudes, usually linked with the desire for having intercourse, possibly generate the distinction (e.g., severity) between these two conditions. Borg C, de Jong PJ, and Schultz WW. Vaginismus and dyspareunia: Automatic vs. deliberate disgust responsivity. J Sex Med 2010;7:2149-2157.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2149-2157
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2010


  • Vaginismus, Dyspareunia, Sexual Dysfunction, Automatic Associations, Disgust-Induced Defensive Behavior, Sexual Pain Disorders, IMPLICIT ASSOCIATION TEST, LIFELONG VAGINISMUS, CONTAMINATION SENSITIVITY, WOMEN, FEAR, EXPOSURE, ANXIETY, PHOBIA, SAMPLE

ID: 2054123