An anonymous reader writes:
If my “question” confuses you, never fear for I’m not sure
what I’m about myself. First of all I shall admit there was a rather
unfortunate event that has left me so; I go around identifying as
asexual. Mainly because when I really think about participating in the
act of sex with a real human it produces a panic attack & certainly
no sort of pleasure… but there is nothing wrong with my body when it
comes to arousal & theoretically I long to be touched. Like I said
I’m just very confused.
Clearly if I am here, it is a safe assumption that I partake of your
content & it does to me as it was intended. Perhaps my query would
be better suited for a therapist’s couch than the inbox of a very
talented erotica writer… what is wrong with me?
Do you have any
suggestions on how I may determine the answer I seek? Exploration?
Experimentation? In a world obsessed with sex I feel very on the
bleachers with a desire to join the game & yet I have a deep fear of another
Thank you for your question, dear reader, and for having the courage to ask. I think many others will empathise with how you feel.
You mention the thought of sexual interaction with another prompts a panic reaction rather than a feeling of desire. So you feel the need to flee rather than the lust to chase. Yet you do still have a sexual interest. In the safe environment of erotic stories, you have found yourself being aroused. And you mention longing to be touched.
What you describe sounds like an extreme anxiety about intimacy, what a psychologist might call genophobia.
This is what the American Psychiatric Association has to say on the condition, I think you’ll recognise what you’re feeling:
Sex is an important aspect of the human condition, and genophobia can
have devastating impacts on those who experience it. Some people choose
to live asexual lives, finding meaning and fulfillment outside of
sexual experience. However, those who choose asexuality out of fear,
rather than clear-headed choice, often find themselves feeling
unfulfilled and lonely. Genophobia can also wreak havoc on romantic
relationships, particularly if your partner’s level of interest in sex
differs from your own.
Genophobia is often treated by sex
therapists, who are mental health professionals with advanced training
and certification in sexual matters. However, most cases of genophobia
can also be treated by traditional therapists without the additional
Battling genophobia is never easy. Many people feel shame
or embarrassment and are reluctant to share such a deeply personal
phobia. Yet treatment is generally successful, and the rewards are well
worth the difficult and often emotionally painful process.
Note the comment that some who self-identify as asexual do so out of fear,
rather than clear-headed choice, and so find themselves feeling
unfulfilled or lonely. If that rings true to you – I think your challenge is overcoming this phobia.
In which case, I would follow the advice above, and seek out a professional therapist, and begin talking. Phobias are always much easier to confront in the company of a trained professional.
On TV, you might have seen examples of people who’ve had paralysing phobias of snakes, spiders or heights. They are helped by a therapist who guides them along little progressive steps, starting with pictures, then handling rubber spiders, until finally they’re confident enough to allow a spider to walk across their hand. It sounds preposterous if you do suffer from a phobia, but it goes to show your same panic reaction to intimacy can be overcome.
Do not consider yourself somehow “wrong” or broken. You’re no more dysfunctional that someone who’s had a bad fall and is now afraid of heights. Fear is our bodyguard, it protects us, and keeps us safe. But sometimes our own mind’s guardian is too twitchy, too ready to rush us from the stage at the slightest sign of threat.
What you feel as fear, others feel as excitement. The stimulus is the same, only your own mind’s interpretation is different.
So my advice is to find a professional to help you, rather than experiment alone. It’s better to confront your fears in a managed environment. Real-world sexual encounters are often awkward, sometimes even ludicrously embarrassing. That’s just the way it is, be prepared for that.
But the struggle is worth it, the joy of sexual intimacy with other human beings is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I truly hope you’re able to master your fears and experience it for yourself.