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What is Genophobia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Genophobia is an irrational fear of sex or sexual intercourse. When such matters are discussed or attempted the condition can induce a panic state in the genophobic person. Panic symptoms could include panic attack, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, sweating, dry mouth and inability to complete any act of intercourse. There are a number of reasons why people can develop genophobia, and sometimes people will have the condition without a specific reason.

Clearly, some of the main causes can be things like prior sexual assault or history of sexual abuse. When introduction to sexual behavior is violent or manipulative instead of pleasant it can taint all future attempts to have sexual intercourse, no matter how gentle or mutually desired. Sometimes the cause is medical instead of having to do with previous abuse.

Men who have suffered from frequent bouts of erectile dysfunction might develop fear of any sexual contact in the form of fear of failure. Women who have medical conditions that cause sex to be painful might begin to fear intercourse too. Occasionally, no known cause exists, or development of the phobia might have been triggered during childhood when children were exposed to graphic sexual visual material on TV, in books or in movies.

It should be understood that this disorder prompts a severe reaction to the idea of sex, and to any attempted sexual behavior. People aren’t mildly concerned about intercourse. Instead, they develop extreme anxiety regarding it. This can make life very difficult, especially if a person is involved in a relationship with another person where sexual intercourse would be normally expected. Those with genophobia may also avoid relationships because they are terrified of sexual intimacy, making them very lonely.

As with any phobia, there are methods for helping to treat genophobia. These can include a combination of therapy and medication, and people would generally search for therapists who are psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed counselors or licensed clinical social workers. It’s also a good idea to rule out potential physical causes creating the condition. For instance, if a woman is experiencing pain during intercourse, resulting in fear of sex, she should get a full gynecological examination to determine if any physical symptoms are making intercourse challenging.

Many of the medications that might be used to treat anxiety associated with genophobia do need to be prescribed with care, and a psychiatrist may be the best resource for this matter. A number of antidepressant and anti-anxiety meds have reduced libido as a side effect. Therefore doctors should look for those meds, which can help treat panic without reducing desire for sex, or reducing potential for sexual fulfillment.

What people should be aware of with this condition, is that there is no shame in it. This fear is like any other phobia, and though it may be difficult to ask for help, treatment with therapy and possibly medication can help resolve the condition. Work with therapists and psychiatrists is strictly governed by privacy laws, and people need not be concerned that any aspect of their condition will be shared with others.

Another use of the term genophobia can relate to criticism of societies thought to be sexually repressed. Some cultures are more sexually open than others, and in some cases cultures like the US are looked upon as having Puritanical views and might be labeled genophobic. This additional definition has very little to do with an actual phobia that can render life difficult for many people.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon991937 — On Jul 30, 2015

After reading this, I think I might have Genophobia.

I was sexually molested when I was very little by my brother's friend. Let's just see: he had me touch him, tried to get me to do oral sex on him and then rubbed himself on me, taking off my shirt and rubbing my body. This happened more than once.

I tried to move on after the experience but I was uncomfortable talking about it, trying to avoid it. People find it surprising I never had a 'sexual' interaction but to me, I am terrified of the pain and it just reminds me of the molestation. I do want to be in a relationship but that fear always gets in the way.

Thank you Wisegeek! Now I can see if I can cure it and hopefully when with the right guy, I'll be able to relax with him and we can share a wonderful moment.

By anon340929 — On Jul 07, 2013

I first discovered my phobia when I was 12. Six years later, I've developed depression (I was even sent to a mental hospital for a week), have seen four psychologists and two psychiatrists, been on meds since I was 14, and still deal with panic attacks that are triggered at the most inconvenient and embarrassing times and occur as a result of everyday interactions.

Being a teenager in this disgusting society has been hell (I couldn't even attend my middle school's mandatory classes about this stuff) and a person I trusted this secret with told people and made fun of me. This phobia has caused more breakdowns than I can count since there's no way to escape it.

By anon292830 — On Sep 22, 2012

I struggle with this. Just recently I tried to fix it in myself. It took a long lasting relationship and set it ablaze.

He had gotten the idea that if it just happened and I quit trying to get over the mental side of this phobia, it would be okay. It's like trying to convince yourself to jump off a diving board. There is no real problem at the bottom. Just jump, right? I was raped. I'm now battling with issues over that and my fear is worse.

I just don't think everyone is meant to overcome some of their fears, but I'm in another relationship now, and it's a lot different. He sees it as a trait of mine. He's a mechanic and I'm gynophobic. It's not seen as a fault or set back that we can "fix or work on" in the future. It's just who I am. He doesn't ever seem to be interested in that side of me or ask questions. He just took it and understood.

It's not a white elephant in the room like it was before. He makes it comfortable for me and I like it. It's nice to have someone who just wants to spend time with me and be my companion.

By anon138982 — On Jan 03, 2011

The information in this article has been really useful and has made me realize that I may need help for my genophobia so that I can have relationships in the future.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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