The Best Ways To Cope With Fear Of Sexual Intimacy

By Sarah Cocchimiglio

Updated November 07, 2019

Reviewer Tonia Cassaday

Sometimes it seems as though sex runs our society. It's a great way to sell your product, it motivates many people to succeed, and it's on the minds of most people, men and women alike. Despite this, our society has made sex a bit of a taboo subject. For some reason, in general, we just are not open about our sex lives, and even though many things in our society are sexualized, there's a limit, and when that limit is crossed, trouble arises. Case in point: No man wants to talk about how they couldn't "get it up" one night, and no one likes talking about the fear of having sex.

If you or your partner suffer from a fear of sexual intimacy, being constantly inundated with sexual images and messages can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. But you are not alone: people all over the world are going through the same thing right now, and there are things you can do to help cope with, and even overcome, the fear. Healthy relationships and fulfilling sex lives are possible.

In this article, we'll talk about what a fear of sexual intimacy actually is, as well as the symptoms, possible causes, and coping techniques.

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The Fear of Sexual Intimacy

The fear of sexual intimacy is clinically referred to as genophobia, (also known as coitophobia). The "geno" in the word means "offspring." Almost everyone has had fears and anxieties when they're about to have sex with someone.

However, genophobic people are scared of sexual intimacy all the time. They may have intense panic attacks or fear when they're confronted with a sexual situation, and may even have episodes when they think of the idea of sex. This can lead to the person feeling lonely and wanting to avoid relationships. It is, however, a fairly common issue, and one that you can definitely overcome with therapy.

Symptoms of Fear of Sexual Intimacy

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath - This can be a symptom of a panic attack, too
  • Crying
  • Avoiding others - You may end up avoiding other people, even those you won't have sex with, for fear of possibly discussing sexual intimacy

The Causes Of Genophobia

With many fears, there is usually some trauma that gives rise to the development of the fear. Some possible experiences and situations that may lead to a fear of sexual intimacy include:

1. Rape: This is one of the most emotionally traumatizing events that can happen to a person. As you probably know, rape is when someone forces you to have sex with them without your consent, and it is almost always violent. It affects millions, and its effects can be emotionally draining.

Everyone handles the aftermath of their rape differently. Some people may become more promiscuous to cope with their trauma, while others may do the opposite. If you're a rape victim, you may become less trusting of people, especially those who are similar to your rapist, whether that means their gender, hair color, etc. You may experience genophobia. Even if a future encounter is consensual, you may feel that it's wrong or may worry that you could find yourself in the same situation. Even those who trust their partners completely can have genophobic episodes.

This is okay, and nothing to be ashamed of. Rape is a horrifying experience, and it will take time for you to heal. With the right resources, however, healing is not only possible, but likely.

2. Childhood Trauma: This can be similar to rape, but there are some differences. You may not even remember the experience, but you may still have an unconscious fear of sex because of it. In addition, childhood trauma doesn't just mean you were molested or sexually assaulted as a child. Childhood trauma can be caused by hearing about sex, watching pornography as a child, walking in on your parents having sex, etc.

Think about your childhood. Is there any event that could have been the catalyst to your genophobia? You may have mentally blocked it off, or you may have to do a little mental digging. Your therapist can help you realize, cope with, and recover from painful memories.

There are also some less traumatic causes of genophobia as well, including:

3. Insecurity: Everybody has insecurities. Both men and women can worry about their body image. Men may worry about their penis being adequately sized, and women may worry about how their genitals look, too. It's common, and most will go through it. Genophobic people think about these insecurities constantly, and it will be at the forefront of their minds as they're having sex.

4. Religious Upbringing: Sex is a taboo in many religions. If you were raised to believe that sex is something that should only be reserved for procreation, and the idea was hammered into you, you may find it popping up when you try to have sex. Even if you don't participate in that religion anymore, or have become more moderate, you may still have those thoughts and fears when you're in an intimate situation.

5. Different Fears: Sometimes, genophobia will be the byproduct of another fear. For example, you may have a fear of nudity, or a fear of contracting an STD, despite knowing that your partner is healthy. There may be a fear of becoming pregnant, a fear of touching, the list goes on.

So How Do You Move Forward?

There is no magic pill to overcome genophobia. Like most fears, it takes time to work through it. Some never completely get over it but can be able to manage it and live a healthy sex life. Here are some ways to help recover from genophobia.

1. Find The Reason

Look at these causes above. Have you had an experience or an insecurity, that could be the cause of your genophobia? Even if you can't think of anything, your trauma might be hidden. Talk to your family or friends and try to figure out a cause.

2. Dealing With Insecurities

If you feel like the reason for your genophobia is because of your insecurities, try working on self-acceptance and self-love. Not only will you feel more confident, but you may increase your stamina, too.
If it's something beyond your control, surround yourself with people who won't put you down for your insecurity. Talk to others who may suffer from the same insecurities, and learn different coping mechanisms.
Also, don't be afraid to talk to your partner about your insecurities. If they care for you, they'll understand.

3. Get To Know Your Body

Sometimes, you may want to know your own body better. What makes it feel good, what are your turn-ons? In other words, masturbate. Don't be afraid to use toys, watch something erotic, and explore yourself. This can help to quell your fears, as you'll know more about what turns you on. You don't need to be ashamed of your body. If this idea is too triggering for you, that is completely understandable! Start by sitting comfortably, in whatever clothes you feel at ease in, and simply relax into your body. Try giving yourself compliments, such as, "My arms are strong, and help me accomplish things every day." You can also try a guided meditation.

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4. Find Someone Who Knows Your Trauma

If your genophobia is due to a past trauma, make sure your partner knows about it. Your partner should assure you that everything is going to be okay, and if there's anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, let them know. Having someone who doesn't respect your experience can worsen your fears, but if you have someone who is truly caring, you'll learn to make coping with those fears a little bit easier.

BetterHelp Can Help

Don't feel afraid to seek therapy. Getting advice from your friends or loved ones is great, but a true professional can help you to figure out the exact cause of your genophobia and identify the steps you can take to be on your way to fixing it. This is especially important if you've suffered from trauma, as a professional can help you cope without triggering an episode.

While many may feel weird talking about their sex lives to a therapist, they can help you, confidentially and without judgment. If discretion or your work schedule are of concern, you might even consider online therapists. Check out below to read reviews of BetterHelp's online counselors from real people like you, who have found the right therapist to help in dealing with issues like fear of sexual intimacy.

Counselor Reviews

"Just within a few weeks of talking to Jordan, he has been incredibly helping in providing me alternative ways to look at trauma in my life, somehow immediately lifting years of weight off my shoulders. I would absolutely recommend Jordan to a friend."

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"Dr. Anstadt is the first therapist that I have spoken to, and I wish to be able to keep him. He has been great at helping me realize my anxiety triggers and has helped my relationships with all of my loved ones. I am incredibly grateful for his balanced approach, how he ties multiple issues together while not making tackling issues overwhelming at all."


Genophobia doesn't mean that you have to have a bad sex life. Like all fears, you can cope with them, or learn to conquer them altogether. Talk to people who care about you, whether that is friends, family, or a professional. You can conquer this fear and move on to have a fruitful sex life, and fulfilling relationships.


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