What is Genophobia (Erotophobia) or the Fear of Sex

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Anxiety and worry around sex are by no means uncommon. They can range from small insecurities about body image to larger concerns around sexual performance.

However, for some of us, this anxiety and worry can form part of a larger issue, namely, the fear of sex itself. Here is everything you need to know about the fear of sex, how you can identify it and how it can be managed.


What is erotophobia?

The fear of sex, or the fear of sexual intimacy, is less commonly known as erotophobia. It is also a catch-all term that encompasses a wide range of more specific fears which can vary dramatically in both symptoms and severity.

The fear of sexual intercourse itself is known by the clinical name genophobia. There are also more specific terms for the fear of nudity (gymnophobia), the fear of kissing (philemaphobia) and even the fear of being touched (haphephobia).

Many of us have some anxiety around our sex lives but, as with all phobias, erotophobia goes way past a simple aversion or dislike of sexual activity.

There are many signs and symptoms you may experience if you have a sex phobia. If left untreated, the fear has the potential to affect your sex life and relationships.

Signs and symptoms of sex phobia

Broadly speaking, symptoms of a phobia of sex include many symptoms typical to all phobias, and these may be triggered before or during consensual sexual contact. According to the NHS, these can include the following:

  • Feelings of panic
  • Palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea

Why am I scared of sex?

The fear of sex can stem from several factors. Uncovering the cause of the phobia can be of vital importance as treatment often deals with the route cause as opposed to symptom management.

According to the NHS, phobias can be caused by any of the following:

  • A childhood trauma or experience
  • A learnt behaviour from a caregiver – for example, if a parent has a phobia, this could be ‘learnt’ form an early age
  • Brain function – genetics and brain function could also be the cause

How to get over the fear of sex

There are many things you can do in the home to combat a fear of sex. It may be the case that you don’t have a full-blown phobia. If this is the case, there are many tactics you can employ to overcome lower-level anxiety. A small amount of anxiety around sex is perfectly normal and you certainly shouldn’t let it hamper your sex life.

A great place to start is to discuss your anxieties with your partner. If you are currently single, why not try discussing it with a close friend or family member.

According to our Global Sex Survey, 2 out of 3 people believe it is difficult to admit to having a sexual problem, so rest assured it is completely normal to be anxious when discussing such issues.

Set some ground rules

You may find that once you have opened up about the anxiety you are experiencing, you are able to find a way to alleviate the anxiety to make the experience of engaging in sexual contact much more comfortable.

If you are opening up to a partner, why not discuss some general sex ground rules. Going forward, you can ensure that in the lead up to sex you have an open and honest dialogue, ensuring you always feel safe and comfortable. This also allows you to signal to your partner when you need to put the brakes on.

When to seek professional help

Fear surrounding the act of sex is by no means an uncommon experience, especially if it is your first time with a new partner or your first time in general. However, it is important to be able to identify when your very normal feelings of nervousness become unmanageable.

If you find you have severe anxiety, panic and fear at the thought of engaging in a consensual sexual act, or fear stops you from engaging in sexual contact completely, then you may have a sex phobia. If you believe this to be the case, you should seek professional medical help.

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