Sexual Aversion and Sexual Inhibition: Why am I scared of sex and of my sexuality?


Sexuality spans the physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of our lives. It starts with how we feel about ourselves and our bodies, and it extends to how we feel about others.

Whether we express it consciously or not, we’re all sexual beings and our sexuality is with us from the day we are born. In most people their initial bud of sexuality grows as they mature. By they time they pass puberty and early adulthood, their sexuality permeates conscious feeling and thought as it approaches full bloom. In some people however, sexual growth is inhibited. Their body may be sexually mature, but the psychological, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of sexuality remain frozen in time. A common sign of sexual inhibition is fear of sex and sexuality. A related form of sexual inhibition is sexual aversion, where the idea of sex fills people with either fear, disgust, repulsion or simply with indifference and a general lack of desire.

Why do people exhibit sex aversion and sexual inhibition?

Possible causes of sexual aversion include the following:

1.) Shyness:
Shy individuals often have difficulty expressing themselves emotionally, let alone overtly physically and sexually. For this reason sexual inhibition may be one of the side effects of shyness.
Shyness is a symptom of mild social anxiety which itself has a myriad of possible causes behind it. In order to treat sexual inhibition that derives from shyness, the social anxiety must also be addressed.

2.) Conditioned to think that sex is sinful/ dirty/ bad:
Religious traditional Judeo-Christian teachings suggest that sex is intended purely for procreation and should only be limited to married couples. Sexual behaviours as diverse as masturbation, premarital sex, homosexuality, use of contraception and extramarital sex are interpreted by many religious people as sinful.

Although many in the Western world may consider themselves unreligious, agnostic or atheist and therefore free from the strict teachings of the traditional faiths, some grains of these teachings are embedded in our society and still permeate our lives on subtle levels.
Children are taught to cover up their sexual organs from an early age and are admonished if they play with them. In general adults hide sexual things from children, and even questions like “where do babies come from” set some parents on edge. Later on, sexual feelings in pre-teens and early teen years are often perceived with shock and disdain.

Children and teens are also taught that flaunting sexuality can lead to bad things happening. Worried parents, afraid of paedophiles, may instil fear in children regarding exhibition of their sexuality.

Even adults are not free from negative conditioning surrounding sex. People, particularly women who are free and open about their sexuality may be derided as unladylike, crass, promiscuous, easy and slutty, and are often looked down upon with disrespect and disapproval by society. Perhaps it is no wonder that sexual aversion is most prevalent amongst women. 1-2

3.) Fear that sex will change who you are for the worse:
Some sufferers of sexual aversion fear that sex is one of those things that can change you forever. And once you go through with it, there’s no going back. It’s an irreversible change. Due to the negative associations of sex for women with sluttiness, one of the irreversible changes is a perceived loss of innocence or even the loss of “goodness”. For others, the loss of virginity marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. Fear and resistance to growing up is not uncommon and may be another driver of sexual aversion.

4.) Separation anxiety:
As mentioned in the last point, sex marks a separation from childhood. A separation from childhood is also a separation from parents. In this sense, sex can carry connotations of independence; of starting your own life with a lover and not needing your parents for love as much anymore because you now have a lover. Sex can be seen by some to tear you away from childhood and distance you from the previously all-encompassing family love.3

5.) Parental overprotection and lack of independence:
If parents who were overprotective of their children to the extent that they shielded them from real world events and experiences, and spoon-fed them heavily through all of life’s new stages; this makes anything the child has to do on their own which is new, including sexual experimentation, more anxiety-inducing. If a child has always been spoon fed everything, they can suddenly feel lost when left to their own devices when it comes to sex. Being unaccustomed to looking out for themselves, the experience can feel scary. Overprotected children may end up avoiding activities that are unfamiliar and induce anxiety, including sex.4

6.) Fear of losing control:
In a sexual relationship there are two people involved, and control over what happens is shared. A person may be scared of the unknown of what their partner will do to them without their consent. It comes with a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability, and it may boil down to having issues with trust.
For others, they may fear the side of themselves that has the potential to lose self-control as they are overcome by emotions and sexual desire.

7.) Fear of rejection:
Another potential fear driving sexual aversion may be that “people only want me for sex”. If this is the thought process, then the following thought is: as long as you don’t give them sex, you’ll know for sure that they like you for you, and not for sex.
Another fear of rejection can be linked to body-image insecurities, where individuals fear their partner’s repulsion and consequent rejection upon seeing their body.

8.) Performance anxiety & Intolerance to criticism:
The fear here is that you won’t be good enough, won’t satisfy the other person, won’t know what you’re doing etc., and will be criticised or ridiculed for it.3-4

9.) Anxiety because of a previous sexual trauma/ abuse
Traumatic associations of sex with past abuse are a very understandable cause of sexual aversion. Negative past sexual experiences, even within non-abusive contexts, can put people off future sex.


10.) Tendency to be anxious in general

A predisposition to anxiety means that a person becomes more susceptible to suffering from fears and anxieties around new and unfamiliar things, like sex would be for a virgin. The tendency for anxiety may occur for a wide number of reasons that should be addressed themselves alongside addressing the sexual aversion.5

The longer you avoid it, the worse it gets:
Although avoidance itself isn’t a cause of sexual aversion, it may be an exacerbator. According to reinforcement theory, the longer you avoid sex, the stronger your aversion becomes. Avoidance itself can therefore exacerbate feelings of phobia, inhibition and aversion.4

Sexual Aversion Therapy: What can I do about sexual aversion and inhibition?

Psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and/or expert counselling specializing in sexuality and anxiety are probably the best routes for treatment. The kind of things they might work on include:

  • Finding the psychological cause behind the particular individual’s sexual aversion, if there is one. A hypnotherapist may do a present-life or past-life regression to try and understand the root cause if it is suppressed or doesn’t come up in talking.
  • Exploring the patient’s own feelings of sexuality: Discussing the past and seeing where any potential stumbling blocks to sexual development may have occurred can be helpful because awareness is the first step to resolving issues.
  • Sensate Focus exercises: These are exercises where the individual is encouraged to stay with the unpleasant, anxiety-provoking sexual situations rather than avoiding them. Where applicable, step-by-step mangeable exercises are sometimes set by the therapist. By interfering with the normal avoid/flee-response, the Sensate Focus exercises provide an opportunity to understand the response better and possibly overcome it by desensitisation.
  • Systematic desensitisation:
    o       Desensitisation technique works along similar lines to the Sensate Focus exercises. The individual is exposed to the sexual situations they are adverse to in gradual amounts, under controlled, calm and possibly even pleasant conditions. The idea is that with increased familiarity with sexual situations where no negative consequences are perceived, the fear and anxiety is reduced.4
    Methods of desensitisation include:
    - Reading about sex and educating yourself about it.
    - Exposure to watching beautiful, romantic, love-driven sex in movies.
    - Reading romance novels which are explicit about sex
    - Talking to people about sex and hearing what it is like for them. Through sharing erotic fantasy and expressing private thoughts and wishes, sexual shame and anxiety may diminish even further.4
    - Visiting a sex shop or a sex museum such as the one in Amsterdam
    - Getting to know your own body and discovering your erogenous zones: Learning to masturbate and turn yourself on is a natural and healthy way to explore your own sexuality. You will find it easier to accept the idea of sex with another if you are more comfortable with yourself first.
    - Visualize: Sexual fantasies can be a healthy way of exploring sexuality. Visualizing yourself exploring your sexuality with someone who you love can help desensitise anxiety.
    - If you have a loving partner, letting them gradually and progressively go further can slowly break down the barriers and fears. Another avenue to explore to help in overcoming sexual aversion is to be the one to make the first move with someone you love, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Depending on the drivers behind sexual aversion, in some cases experience obliterates false beliefs about the experience.
    o       Doing relaxation techniques when in a stressful situation to help you cope with the anxiety without having to stop the activity: One anxiety-inducing situation is dealt with at a time, for example, starting with something like undressing in front of your partner. The relaxation techniques help you deal with the situations until the fear is dealt with through an amalgamation of all the other above described means.

Bach Flower Support

To support your body through difficult feelings and situations, the homeopathic-like Bach flower remedies can be a useful adjunct to the above described work. Relevant Bach flower remedies which may be helpful include:

  • Mimulus: Helpful for alleviating feelings of fear when you understand exactly why the fear exists.
  • Aspen: Aids alleviating fear when you don’t understand the fear itself.
  • Larch: Helps people who generally feel like they don’t want to dare to try new things for fear of failing
  • Crab Apple: Helpful for feelings of disgust and repulsion regarding their own bodies, or of sex in general.
  • Rock Rose: For relief in situations that are very frightening.
  • Star of Bethlehem: For those who have suffered abuse or trauma in the past which still causes them distress.
  • Wild Rose: For people who feel apathetic towards self-improvement and do not want to make any effort to change, even though they may be unhappy.

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Disclaimer:
Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate. However the information contained in this article is for educational purposes only. Suggestions contained in this article are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a health professional. All matters regarding health and supplementation require medical supervision and careful examination of contraindications and possible interactions. The author does not accept responsibility for the use of this information, nor shall the author be liable for any loss, injury or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestions in this article.

References

1. Levine. 2003. Handbook of Clinical Sexuality for Mental Health Professionals. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge

2. Anastasiadis et al. 2002. Female sexual dysfunction: state of the art. Curr Urol Rep;3:484-491

3. Smith 2002. Internet Video Conferencing as an Adjunct Treatment Tool For the Patient Diagnosed with Sexual Aversion Disorder. Doctor of Philosophy dissertation. Faculty of Maimonides University.

4. Kaplan 1987. Sexual aversion, sexual phobias, and panic disorder. Brunner Mazel, Inc. 1st edition. New York.

5. Klein 1980. Anxiety reconceptualized. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 21, 411-427.

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2 Responses to Sexual Aversion and Sexual Inhibition: Why am I scared of sex and of my sexuality?

  1. Symos says:

    incredible blog post. I’m putting you into my personal bookmarks.

  2. London Bloke says:

    I was recommended this website by way of my cousin who is the only one in the world who knows about my… issues on this topic. I’m now half thinking this publish was written by him because it’s amazing anyone else can understand what I’m going through! You are incredible! Thank you for writing this. Now I know I’m not alone!

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