Fear of Sex? Or Tocophobia?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

This is a very, very, very long-winded story. I’m going to keep it as short and sweet as possible. My girlfriend and I have been dating for 2.5 years and we love each other very very much. In the beginning of our relationship, we participated in various forms of outercourse, none though that involved being naked. After the beginning phase of our relationship died down a bit, so did the constant fooling around, which was fine with me. We still would every week or so, both of us living with our parents made it a bit difficult, etc.

Fast-forward a bit now, and we are both in college. We go to separate schools, but see each other 5 days a week. Now with me having my own dorm room and such, we have a bit more freedom. This is where the issue comes in. We have only really been able to fool around a bit twice, with almost 6 months of separation between the two times. The reason is after our first time of fooling around, my girlfriend spent the next month in crippling anxiety about being pregnant. Even after her period came, she still was terrified that she was somehow pregnant. Note: she was on the pill, and I did not orgasm near her vagina. This fear causes her not only to not want to fool around, but also rarely have any sexual desires, such as dry humping, etc.

She NEVER, I mean EVER wants to have children. Being a mother is not, will not, and never has been for her. I don’t feel quite as strongly, but I don’t have any real desire for children either.

The issue is we both are ready to have sex. We love each other, trust each other, and feel as though as a couple, we are ready. The issue is she feels this uncontrollable fear of sex. No matter want, even though we plan to use pill+condom+pullout (statistics on the chance are incredibly minute), she still is terrified. She knows this fear is irrational, and she absolutely hates it. She knows she shouldn’t have this fear as strong as she does, and she feels totally debilitated by it.

I try my best to be supportive. I try not to pressure her, to not bring up things like sexual desires to often, and to be as supportive and understanding as I can. It just is very frustrating at times being so sexually and physically attracted to her, coupled with deep and intense desires of passion and intimacy, and her not being able to give that back due to her fear. We both want to be together very badly, but the fear is really hurting that.

I know 2 things many people say, and that don’t help. One is the married thing. I am going to be in college for 7 more years. I refuse to get married while in college. So please, do not say marriage, because also that doesn’t address the fear. The second is her talking to a therapist. She does not have the income or insurance to afford it.

We were on the phone today, and she was crying and so upset, and I felt terrible that I couldn’t say or do anything to help. Please provide any help if you can, thank you.

A: It can be a very difficult thing to have such a monumental issue as a roadblock to intimacy. But I applaud your sensitivity and caring. No matter how the solution presents itself your warm attention to your girlfriend can only help.

But I am afraid I am going to disappoint you at some level, because while I would not encourage you to get married as a solution, I would have to say that ongoing therapy is where the real promise is for change. There are blogs about tocophobia (fear of pregnancy) as well as information about a possible differential label genophobia, fear of sex, but it appears you have both done your homework on the symptoms. The real struggle is working through the issue, and (here comes the disappointing part) therapy is the clear option.

But money might not be the barrier you believe it is. As she is in college the university should be well equipped to cope with her needs. The counseling divisions of most universities have very experienced therapists used to dealing with issues of sex and intimacy. Additionally, The National Organization for Women has chapters in nearly every county in every state and you can access your area by simply putting in your zip code. If she contacts them (and she should rather than you) they can direct her to the closest women’s center. Both colleges and women’s centers have support groups and therapists offering therapy for little or no fee.

But the big-ticket item here is your support: It is priceless.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Fear of Sex? Or Tocophobia?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/23/fear-of-sex-or-tocophobia/