Genophobia, also sometimes known as erotophobia, is the fear of sex, sexual interactions, and sexual intimacy. The word Genophobia comes from the Greek genos, which means "offspring", and phobos, which means "fear".
A phobia is more than a fleeting fear response or a form of strong dislike. In the United States, phobias are one of the most common known mental illnesses. They are recognized psychological disorders, which are characterized by a severe psychological and physiological response to a trigger element or scenario.
Cause of Genophobia
The cause of phobias is still unclear and the reasons someone experiences or develops genophobia can vary. In some cases, it may have no obvious inciting incident. However, one of the main correlational factors with genophobia seems to be incidents of sexual violence.
Sexual assault and chronic sexual abuse are a violation of trust, of a person’s bodily autonomy, and of their personal agency. The lasting effects of such violations can manifest as psychological disorders for the victims, which affect their mental health as well as their ability to form trusting relationships.
Genophobia can be caused by or overlap with other psychological conditions and phobias. Other known phobias associated with genophobia and occur concurrently may include:
- coitophobia: fear of sexual intercourse or partner sex
- heterophobia: fear of the opposite sex
- gymnophobia: fear of nudity (seeing others naked, being seen naked, or both)
- haphephobia: fear of being touched as well as touching others
- tocophobia: fear of pregnancy or childbirth
- nosophobia: fear of contracting a disease or virus
Symptoms of a Phobic Reaction
A phobic reaction is an intense, often debilitating experience that can interfere with the phobic individual’s quality of life. These reactions in response to a psychological trigger can be acute and general. In the case of genophobia, the trigger scenario is some variation of a sexual interaction or merely thinking about engaging in one.
Symptoms and signs of phobic response include:
- Intense panic or anxiety
- Chest tension
- Racing heart rate
- Heart palpitations,
- Breathing difficulties,
- Understanding that the response to the situation is relatively extreme but being unable to control or reduce the severity of one’s reaction
- Hyperfixation or preoccupation with the fear object
- Extreme avoidance of the possibility of encountering one’s triggers
Phobias and their symptoms can be managed. Two main means of treatment are medications and psychotherapy.
Genophobia versus Asexuality
Some people have conflated genophobia with asexuality. This indicates a misunderstanding of the two distinct terms and lived experiences.
Where genophobia is a pathological fear of sex, asexuality is a recognized umbrella of queer sexual orientations in which someone feels little to no sexual attraction or desire to pursue sexual activity. Some asexual spectrum people are sex-repulsed and do not have any desire to engage in sexual activities in any way.
In theory, it is possible for an asexual person to experience genophobia. However, there is no known causal relationship between genophobia and asexuality. It is important to note this significant difference especially given that asexuality is a queer identity, not a psychological pathology.