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Science discovers the reason why we’re attracted to repulsive pimple popping vids

We’ve all experiences the pits of the pimple popping gross-out video trend. However, there’s a very good reason why we can’t look away.



The complex subculture of the Internet gross-out video is a tacky, blerch, god please do it to Julia, don’t do it to me, do it to her. However, much like the science The Party obviously researched for Room 101, there’s a certain amount of science behind the acceptable, everyday torture you enjoy in bed with bae.

We’ve all been forced marched down that Youtube boulevard, forced to gaze at the glittering shopfronts that promote DIY popping videos of every secretion imaginable: cysts, blackheads, ingrown hair and earwax extractions, blister popping, tonsil-stone removals, and MRSA drainings (Google it). Clearly, a large following exists for all of the above.

Now, the obvious question that begs to be asked is, why god why?

I don’t know. But, Sarah Watts of The Cut spoke to Diana Fleischman, a clinical sexologist who specialises in the science of disgust in order to find out why. Also, what a fantastic title to have.


Now, the obvious question that begs to be asked is, why god why?

“We evolved in an environment where there were tons of ectoparasites like flies, lice, and tics, which would all transmit disease,” Fleischman explains. “Animals have some adaptations to help keep these things away — a horse in a field with horseflies can use their tails to swat, or vibrate a region of their skin to scare off a fly. Humans have evolved to groom each other to avoid these ectoparasites.”

“Anytime something comes out of your body, especially from some kind of inflammation, we have a disgust response since fluids like blood and pus are likely to carry disease,” Fleischman says. To get ourselves away from that risk, we scratch, pick, pop, peel — essentially grooming ourselves — and feel a sense of relief and pleasure when we do so.

“When I was a kid, I used to do this with Elmer’s Glue,” Fleischman says. “I’d cover my hand with glue and wait for it to dry and then peel it off. It feels really good to peel things off your skin because it’s an adaptive response. The same way it feels good to peel the glue off your skin, you also get this vicarious thrill by watching people pick things out of their bodies.”

So, next time you’re emotionally bound to a chair, drip fed pus painted imagery set to orchestral score, and you’re wondering why some part of you is enjoying the horror, that’s why.