Beyonce’s internet is abound with studies on the benefits of sex. Some people, however, are nervous and even scared just thinking about sexual intercourse with a partner. These fears are valid, because genophobia is the fear of sexual intercourse.
Like many phobias the cause of genophobia may be attributed to trauma like sexual abuse. This is according to Sandile Radebe, an educational psychologist and counsellor at INCEMA, a non-profit organisation based in Pietermaritzburg.
Radebe tells Health for Mzansi that genophobia is a sexual condition where someone fears intimacy or having sexual intercourse.
“It’s more than just a general fear of something, like fear of pain, it’s a fear that even impacts a person’s reaction. Whenever they think about having sex, those people can be triggered. They will be in a state of panic. Some even experience panic attacks by even thinking about it,” he says. “It is classified as a disorder if it has that impact on a person’s life.”
What causes genophobia?
According to Radebe, the common cause of this fear is linked to trauma.
“In this case, it’s likely that for the person it was their first time having sex and their experience went south. It will then cause this person to be in a depressive state.”
Dr Mthembeni Tebelele, a Gqeberha-based medical practitioner, explains when fear becomes intense or excessive beyond reason, it becomes a phobia.
No shame in masturbation
Radebe believes that sometimes religious beliefs play a role in making people fear sex. “To them, they feel holy when they do not have sex.”
“’Self-service’ or masturbation is also frowned upon in our communities,” says Radebe. “We have been brought up with the belief that self-pleasure is a repelling concept.”
Ayanda Wisani, a 23-year-old student at the University of the Western Cape, says masturbation is a wonderful thing since it is safe, effortless, and free.
Wisani tells Health For Mzansi that scientific research suggests that having an orgasm can reduce stress and increase hunger. These advantages may be readily attained by engaging in sexual self-gratification, he says.
Despite the benefits, feelings of shame can affect your confidence. “I believe masturbation is addictive because as soon as you’re through, you feel ashamed of yourself yet can’t resist the need to continue. In this manner, it destroys your confidence.”
Eti-ido Jack (32), an entrepreneur from Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, believes that people who masturbate are easily hooked on it and may end up rejecting their relationships or losing self-esteem.
‘Sex is for lovers’
Nobathembu Peters (29), a former sex worker and feminist from Makhaza in the Western Cape, says sex should be shared by two people. When one person creates their own pleasures, they create a boundary between themselves and their partners, or great potential partners.
Peters believes sex is a pleasant exchange. “When you engage in masturbation, you eliminate the element in which someone else might bring you pleasure or give it back, meaning you concentrate on yourself,” says Peters.
“When another person comes into the picture, it’s difficult to open, to let another person in, because sex is not only about pleasure. It’s about letting another person into the most intimate parts of ourselves.
“I feel that masturbating makes it harder for us to get pleasure from others, to allow people to provide us pleasure,” she adds.
Dealing with phobias
According to Tebelele, exposure therapy, which involves exposing a person to the thing they are afraid of in a safe or controlled atmosphere, is a method that can help in overcoming phobias.
“[This can] pay attention to and aid in navigating difficulties, like fear of body shaming, prior sexual assault, or cultural and religious issues.”
He adds that some people might easily develop an addiction or become self-centered and unaware of their partner’s needs if they ended up conducting ‘self-service’ as one of the reasons or as a strategy to cope with genophobia.
“The core multidisciplinary team that will assist in managing this phobia includes a sexologist, a psychiatrist, a family practitioner, a physical therapist, and a psychiatrist, as appropriate,” Tebelele explains.
If you were a victim of rape or sexual abuse, contact your nearest police station. Other organisations that can help include:
- Tears Foundation: 010 590 5920
- The Trauma Centre for Survivors: 021 4657373
- People Opposed to Women Abuse: 011 591 6803
- Families South Africa: 011 975 7106/7