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Consenting to counter-normative sexual acts: differential effects of consent on anger and disgust as a function of transgressor or consenter

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Cognition and Emotion
Issue number4
Volume29
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)634-653
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/07/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Anger and disgust may have distinct roles in sexual morality; here, we tested hypotheses regarding the distinct foci, appraisals, and motivations of anger and disgust within the context of sexual offenses. We conducted four experiments in which we manipulated whether mutual consent (Studies 1-3) or desire (Study 4) was present or absent within a counter-normative sexual act. We found that anger is focused on the injustice of non-consensual sexual acts, and the transgressor of the injustice (Studies 1 and 3). Furthermore, the sexual nature of the act was not critical for the elicitation of anger-as anger also responded to unjust acts of violence (Study 3). By contrast, we hypothesised and found that disgust is focused on whether or not a person voluntarily engaged in, desired or consented to a counter-normative sexual act (Studies 2-4). Appraisals of abnormality and degradation were the primary appraisals of disgust, and the sexual nature of the act was a critical elicitor of disgust (Study 3). A final study ruled out victimisation as the mechanism of the effect of consent on disgust and indicated that the consenter's sexual desire was the mechanism (Study 4). Our results reveal that anger and disgust have differential roles in consent-related sexual offenses due to the distinct appraisals and foci of these emotions.