Treating Sexual Paranoia

Few still think sexual paranoia will drive ourselves to the loony bin by masturbating.

Bastet by Hellfritz 

Though many of our parents' and grandparents' sex fears hardly affect us any longer, love and sex continue to be uppermost among the anxieties revealed in clinical consultation. Few still think that we will drive ourselves to the loony bin by masturbating. Not many lie awake nights worrying about the possible horrors of syphilis, illegitimate pregnancy, or abortion. Even regular run-of-the-mill thoughts of participation in acts of fornication and adultery have largely ceased to make us prepare ourselves for the fires of hell. Old sex fears have virtually vanished. This is not to say that sex education conquers all, for every contemporary sex survey conclusively proves that erotic ignorance is still widespread. But the worst mass misinformation seems now to be over. Only those adults who cannot or will not read seem to be as sorely ignorant as were their not-so-distant ancestors.

She will briefly entertain one of her numerous suitors.

What kinds of sex fears, then, tend to remain? A few clinical examples, from my files. She is 5’9”, blue-eyed and red haired, and incredibly fit. For two years, however, since she reached the age of 23, her sex life has come to a halt. She will briefly entertain one of her numerous suitors, but that's it. Just as soon as a male hand creeps anywhere near her genital region, she tenses up and frequently begins to sob hysterically. Before her bewildered partner knows what has hit him, she may well have slapped down his hands, clawed his face, and even taken a chunk out of his fingers with her sharp teeth! There, as you might expect, goes that evening!

Puritanical, holy roller type of upbringing, you guess? Not in the least. Mary R. came from an unusually liberal home. Both her parents occasionally, with each other's consent, had adulterous affairs, and the sex restrictions imposed on her were virtually nil. By the time she graduated from college, where academically she did outstandingly well, she had jerked off more men than any other girl on campus, and she herself, through heavy touching, was rarely known to miss a major orgasmic beat. She remained, until 23, technically a virgin, but that was because she feared rejection from some of the alpha males she knew. They would enthusiastically favor a girl who did everything but intercourse, but would stupidly look down on any female who went "the whole way."

Once she began to have sex, things became much grimmer for Mary. To her benefit or dismay, however you decide to look at it, she often had a varying amount of discomfort when having sex with a well-endowed partner based on her physical make up. Because of this, she often couldn’t have sex for very long, though she enjoyed it, it was sometimes uncomfortable.

She traumatized herself so severely after several of these experiences that she looked forward to dating with real dread. She thought up ways of being truly ill by the time her date got her home and thereby avoiding sex with him, and finally stopped dating altogether. This previously high-sexed, almost promiscuous girl was now so thoroughly taken by sex fears that it looked as though she might never resume dating, let alone marry.

She was horrified at the thought of telling her male companions about, what she viewed as, her terrible inadequacies.

Mary's real problem, however, was not sex: it was fear of open communication. She was horrified at the thought of telling her male companions about, what she viewed as, her terrible inadequacies. She feared they would summarily reject her as a person once they knew that they would have to handle her luscious body carefully in order to get her to relax and enjoy herself. So she never even started to communicate with them at all. When, at my therapeutic insistence, she forced herself to speak up, hours before she got anywhere near bed with a male, and to explain it all and that she was sexually fearful, she soon found that most of her escorts were willing—in fact almost eager—to make allowances, and to be patient and considerate.

With my help, she convinced herself that it would not be terrible or self debasing if potential partners were informed of her problem, and she completely lost her fear of intercourse. She even began to enjoy it with selected individuals, realizing that behind her fear lurked an enormous "love" fear: "Wouldn't it be awful if an attractive male discovered my coital deficiencies and disapproved of me as a person? How could ever accept myself if he refused to honor and accept me?" Using the principles of rational-emotive therapy, I got to this core of her thinking and induced her vigorously to dispute and challenge these self-denigrating assumptions. have been able to help her see her entire being, and not merely her genital aptitude, in a much different light.

She devoutly and unrealistically believed that she should be fantastically competent sexually and must be adored by all his sex partners. Consequently she propelled herself into a state of extreme panic, shame, and even depression. The more anxious she was the more she condemned herself to being alone.

Self-therapy, though rather hit-and-miss and sometimes time-consuming, frequently does work. But where it doesn't, a trip to to a competent sex therapist or psychologist is distinctly in order. Serious sex fears are invariably groundless and unnecessary: for the ego problems that usually lie behind and cause them are treatable. 

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Treating Sexual Paranoia