Sexual intimacy is an important aspect of many romantic relationships. Unfortunately, for some people, a fear of sex, or genophobia, can impact their ability to enjoy closeness in this way, regardless of how much they care for their partner. In this article, we’ll talk about what a fear of sexual intimacy is, as well as the symptoms, possible causes behind why people experience it, and coping techniques to help you form a romantic relationship with someone.
The fear of sexual intimacy is clinically referred to as genophobia (also known as coitophobia). The “geno” in the word means “offspring.” Though having some apprehension or nerves is normal when engaging in sexual activity, intense feelings of anxiety should not be overlooked. Sex is meant to be enjoyed by everyone involved, and it’s important that you feel safe and comfortable with your partner.
People with genophobia 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 a person feeling lonely and wanting to avoid romantic relationships. Though it may be challenging to experience, it is something you can begin to overcome with therapy.
With many fears, there is usually some trauma that gives rise to the development of fear. Some possible experiences and situations that may lead to a fear of sexual intimacy include:
1. Sexual Assault: Sexual assault can be a very emotionally traumatizing event. When consent is taken out of any sexual activity, it can feel violating. Survivors of sexual assault may find that they struggle to trust romantic partners or have physical aversions to intimate situations.
Everyone handles the aftermath of sexual assault differently. Some people may become more promiscuous to cope with their trauma, while others may do the opposite and experience a decrease in their sexual desire. If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you may become less trusting of people. You may experience genophobia. Even if a future encounter is consensual, you may feel wrong or worry that you could find yourself in the same situation.
If you’ve experienced sexual assault, seeing a therapist can help you process the experience in a safe space. With the right resources, healing is possible. You can also reach out to speak to a representative at the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673). It’s free, confidential, and a great first step in moving forward. Though it may be challenging to speak about your sexual assault, it will allow you to start moving forward in your life.
2. Childhood Trauma: You may not even remember the experience, but you may still have an unconscious fear of sex because of it. Childhood trauma doesn’t just mean you were molested or sexually assaulted as a child. It can also be caused by being exposed to sexual situations at too young of an age or being sexual in a way that made you uncomfortable.
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 other reasons a person may have some fear around sexual intimacy, including:
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 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 any experience or insecurity that could be the cause of your genophobia? You may also want to reflect on what seems to trigger your fears and keep a record of how certain situations involving sex affect you. The better you understand your fears, the sooner you can conquer them.
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. By having an open line of communication, the two of you can work together to make you feel more comfortable in intimate situations.
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, what elevates your sexual desire? This can help quell your fears, as you’ll know more about what feels good for you. You can also try a guided meditation to help you relax and be in tune with how your body feels. Having a healthy relationship with yourself is an important aspect of sharing your body with others.
You don’t need to be ashamed of your body. If this idea is too triggering for you, that is completely understandable. Working with a therapist can help you become more comfortable in your skin and help you explore your relationship with it.
4. Find Someone Who Knows Your Trauma
If your genophobia is due to past trauma, make sure your partner knows about it. It’s important to establish healthy communication, and if there’s anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, let them know. Having someone you trust and can communicate with can make a huge difference in recovering from past traumas and making sure you enjoy the sexual activity you engage in.
BetterHelp Can Help
Don’t feel afraid to seek therapy from a medical professional. 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 fix 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 challenging to talk to a therapist about sex at first, they are there to help you confidentially and without judgment. If discretion or your work schedule is of concern, online therapy is a great option. Check out below to read reviews of BetterHelp from real people like you, who have found the right therapist to help deal with issues like fear of sexual intimacy.
“Just within a few weeks of talking to Jordan, he has been incredibly helpful in providing me alternative ways to look at trauma in my life, somehow immediately lifting years of weight off my shoulders. I would recommend Jordan to a friend.”
“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 can never enjoy sexual intimacy in the future. 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.
This is clinically referred to as genophobia. Other phobias besides genophobia can make closeness difficult for certain people. These include gymnophobia, when you're scared of nudity, or philophobia, when you're scared of love.