Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality

In extreme cases, it doesn't take much.

"You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!"

Alice is celibate and might even come across as if she was Asexual. However, her sexuality is actually really strong, it's just that she can't express it because she is too burdened by shame, fear and/or guilt. Thus, she might be unable to take initiative herself, or to consent to things she actually does want. And even if she does manage to take initiative or give consent, it might still backfire horribly as the shame etc reasserts itself.

This is a subtrope of Internalized Categorism: Alice really can't stand the thought of being one of those people — the "perverts", the "sinners", maybe even including anyone who actually likes sex instead of doing the proper thing. However, the character does not necessarily think that Sex Is Evil. Instead, she might simply doubt her own ability to handle it.

In Real Life, this condition is often believed to be far more common among women than among men. When a man suffers from it, it's often partially built on a fear of being abusive. In fiction, however, men who are scared of being slutty or "perverted" are sometimes considered funny.

When a character with this condition breaks free from the paralysis, the problem might be resolved by entering a simple stable relationship. However, this could turn sour if the character hasn't really dealt with the issues. Also, breaking free from the paralysis may also result in a counter-reaction, where the character turns overtly sexual. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how the character handles it. In a balanced story, both paths are possible. And there might also be some zig-zagging as the character learns to cope with her sexuality. However, in an Anvilicious work, only one of the two paths are possible, since the author has already decided either that Sex Is Good or that Sex Is Evil.

Note that while this trope and Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny are sometimes caused by the same social and psychological mechanisms, they have two very different ways of handling it: SIEAIAH is about acting out in a way that is self-destructive and/or abusive, while PFOS is about avoiding expressing one's sexuality at all. In either case, the condition may be caused by traumatic experiences, restrictive upbringings, or just extremely low sexual self-esteem (to the point where the person pre-emptively rejects themselves).

See also Celibate Hero and Windmill Political. Compare Heteronormative Crusader. Contrast Does Not Like Men and He-Man Woman Hater.

No individual Real Life examples please - structural examples are okay, however.


Anime and Manga
  • Yui Kotegawa from To Love-Ru, she is a firm believer of All Men Are Perverts and Sex Is Evil at first. As the story progresses, she underwent Character Development and became closer to this trope.
  • In Chobits, Hideki is tormented by his fear of being a pervert and living with an Innocent Fanservice Girl who will suffer a personality death if he actually were to act on any sort of desire towards her. This is probably the most justified example here.
  • In Fumi Yoshinaga's Gerard Et Jacques: Jacques is a virgin at heart, a wannabe Celibate Hero, and deeply believes sexuality is, oh dear, such a sin. Unfortunately the UST between him and his, ahem, experienced master, keeps piling until Jacques succumbs to a DIY solution, and gets a huge moral hangover for it. The whole issue is played for light drama and fun, but in a darker work it could have fueled worlds of angst.
  • This is one of the most likely explanations for Iron Klaus of From Eroica with Love.
  • Seras Victoria of Hellsing could very well qualify. She's still a virgin despite living in an era where it's not that common for people her age (according to the Starter Villain), yet is clearly embarrassed to admit it and later falls for a Chivalrous Pervert. Then her backstory reveals her mother was killed and raped, in that order, right in front of her, when she was a small child, on the night her family was murdered. If that doesn't give her serious hang ups about sex, or explain why she's conveniently a virgin for her First Episode Resurrection into a vampire, and why she flips out when people try to grope or sing dirty songs near her... what does?
  • This is one of the more common fanon explanations of Akane's behaviour in Ranma ˝. Before Ranma's arrival, Tatewaki Kunou had announced to the student body that any boy who wanted to date Akane first had to defeat her in combat (he didn't bother asking her if she wanted this), resulting in her having to fend off literal hordes of lovesick boys trying to beat her up while professing their love for her. You can hardly fault her for developing a whole bag of mental trauma from that, including directly associating love with abuse.
  • While not touched upon in the anime, Firo of Baccano! was once kidnapped by a pervert who mistook him for a young girl and nearly sexually assaulted. The experience has left him with a very bad attitude towards men who make unsolicited advances on women, and has made him scared of displaying any sort of sexual intimacy (even something as innocent as hand-holding) for fear that it might be unwanted and troubling to the other party.
  • Girls Bravo: Yukinari gets hives whenever he makes contact with other girls, mostly because he is intimidated and pushed around by them all his life.

Comic Books
  • Bitchy Bitch has this kind of baggage in her backstory, and it keeps dragging her down.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach has this as a part of his pathology.
  • If Johnny the Homicidal Maniac isn't explicitly asexual, he's this. His outright disgust with human sexuality and aversions to being touched implies that he may very well have a sexuality but deeply represses it. Given that his arousal is one of the internal forces he lists as wanting to free himself from in his search for autonomy in Book 7 (along with hunger and tiredness), that's probably it.

Fan Works

  • The teenage girl in Female Perversions, portrayed as a quite natural counter-reaction to her desperately oversexualized aunt's creepiness.
  • The premise of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. See page quote. It avoids many of the pitfalls of dealing with this trope by introducing a large and relatively well-developed supporting cast, all with their own hangups surrounding sex and/or relationships to work through.
  • The title character in Marnie.
  • Sally in Intermission
  • Catherine Deneuve's character in Roman Polanski's Repulsion takes this trope to frenzied extremes.

  • Mark Vorkosigan is tortured into this by his "guardian". Eventually, the legendary Betan therapy helps. Beautiful, lovable - not to mention brave and understanding - Kareen Koudelka helps even more.
  • The female lead in Piers Anthony's Mode series was like this, due to past trauma. It took a Journey to the Center of the Mind to fix it.
  • Aliena in The Pillars of the Earth has rape flashbacks when she's with Jack, resulting in Kiss-Kiss-Slap and her running into the woods. Jack is understandably bewildered by all of this.
  • Jaenelle in the Black Jewels trilogy has this problem after the absolutely horrific abuse she suffered as a child. Naturally she and her love interest manage to work through it eventually.
  • Callista in The Forbidden Tower has been so brainwashed into virginity that she freaks out if her husband so much as touches her. And when a Keeper freaks out, people get hurt.
  • Isaac Asimov's The Naked Sun features Solaria, a world where people practically never have physical proximity to another, and almost all of them are scared of sex as a result. This also turns out to be a plot point.
  • Carrie's mother Margaret White turns out to have a pathological fear of sex, coming from equal parts religious fanaticism and the fact that her husband raped her, resulting in Carrie's birth (the fact that she ended up enjoying the act just messes her up even worse, if that's possible). This resulted in some seriously repressive parenting to Evil Matriarch levels, to the point where she didn't even tell Carrie about her body's natural processes as she got older, resulting in her first period in her senior year being traumatic in more ways than one.
  • The protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House" can be considered an instance of this — with rape as "cure". She is assured that her initial reluctance is "very typical" and she will Get Over It.
  • Sword at Sunset: King Arthur is so traumatised by the traditional Surprise Incest with his sister that he develops some non-specified sexual dysfunction, whose scope he doesn't realise until his deeply awkward wedding night.

Live-Action TV
  • Laura Dickens from The Sandbaggers — according to the staff psychiatrist, it results from a combination of a prudish upbringing with a completely disastrous marriage that only lasted a week. She's in the process of working through it so she and Neal can build a relationship when she's killed in the season 1 finale.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Mac describes herself as "frozen from the waist down" since a traumatic episode. She and her boyfriend had planned a special night to lose their virginity together. Just before the event, she takes a shower while he waits in bed for her. When she comes out of the shower, he is gone. It turns out that he is a serial killer and rapist, and he left to kill Veronica because she had figured out he was the culprit. He takes her clothes, too, so she can't follow him, resulting in Veronica finding Mac crying and wrapped in a bedsheet.
    • Mac's boyfriend Beaver wouldn't do anything more than hold hands anyway, because of his molestation as a child. However, she subsequently seems to get over this fairly easily, with little on-screen explanation.
  • Dexter deliberately dates a woman with this issue because it suits him down to the ground - he wants a relationship for passing as normal and grows to enjoy the emotional connection, but they are both effectively asexual at first and that's just the way he likes it. While Dexter does have a sex drive, he's afraid of himself (he's a serial killer, and sometimes get aroused by thoughts of murder and such) and he's also afraid that his girlfriend will see through his facade if they get intimate. He's also faintly repulsed by intimacy (in the novel, deeply repulsed, and also pretty much despises Rita, but they made the TV character much more relatable), and every previous sexual encounter has resulted in his ability to fake normality being totally blown out of the water, since he's emotionally abnormal and spends most of his life going through the motions. This does not work very well for sex. She eventually starts to get over her trauma and get her sex drive back, and with some work they eventually manage to build a functioning sex life together because he does get inadvertently attached to her...and then his emotional life gets a shake-up courtesy of the Season One antagonist and his mind games. In the books it's implied the only reason he and Rita can have a sex life is because she's so damaged from her abusive ex-husband, she can't tell that he's not "doing it right".
  • Monk, due to his severe OCD. Also, he still regards himself as "married", although his wife was killed ten years before.
  • Liz Lemon in the 30 Rock episode "Reaganing." Generally, Liz always had a disinterest in sex. After a few seasons, it was Flanderized into this trope.
  • Glee:
    • Emma is afraid due to cleanliness Super OCD and Hates Being Touched.
    • A less extreme example wold be Kurt in the second season. As of Sexy, the thought of sex makes him incredibly uncomfortable, preferring to focus purely on romance. Played with in that he didn't appear to have much of a problem with it during season one— but then, after "Never Been Kissed".... It is also important to note that at his age, it is perfectly normal not to feel like you are ready for sex. Everyone develops at a different pace. (As of "The First Time" he's gotten over it.)
  • Raj in The Big Bang Theory goes completely silent the moment an attractive girl is around or is talking directly to him. He is painfully shy around attractive women. He literally can't talk to women. He still manages to have sex with one early in season one, though, even before he realizes that he can talk to women if he's drunk.

  • The Pet Shop Boys song "It's A Sin" is about the way a domineering Catholic upbringing will instil this in you.


Video Games

Web Comics
  • The entire premise of the Yaoi webcomic 14 Nights seems to be to cure one of its main characters of this. (So far, he behaves more like an Asexual, though, which has rather Unfortunate Implications.) The comic has gotten better about this lately, placing said character squarely in this trope. He genuinely desires a sexual relationship with his boyfriend, but his mind goes to very ugly places all too easily. Disassociating sex from Squick is his much-desired endgame.
  • Hannelore in Questionable Content is terrified of any physical contact with others, but particularly sexual contact, due to her severe OCD and germophobia. She definitely shows interest in the subject, though.
  • Ruby in Sticky Dilly Buns has problems with sexuality, and is initially prone to paralysis. However, after she's been exposed to a few sexual scenes, it becomes very clear that that she finds guy on guy very hot, and she moves from total paralysis to deep denial, while finding more excuses to look.
  • In the Walkyverse:
    • Joyce in It's Walky! starts out like this. She eventually relaxes somewhat, and after getting engaged and losing her virginity, realizes how silly her fear was. She thereafter has an emotionally healthy and (very!) active sex life with her fiancé, much to the delight of her mother.
    • A similar arc presents itself in Dumbing of Age, where she's quite happy about being in a relationship with Ethan - she's afraid of her lusts, and he has no interest in pushing her for sex.
  • In Harbourmaster, Governor Tal Monteblanc is deeply uncomfortable with sexuality and physical intimacy, to the point that he can't even offer a perfectly chaste comforting hug.

Western Animation
  • Although Quinn from Daria dates dozens of guys throughout the series' run, she surprisingly has this.

Real Life
  • This can be caused by disorders of varying severity, such as love shyness, Sexual Aversion Disorder and Schizoid Personality Disorder. It can also be a symptom of Histrionic Personality Disorder; though such people often act highly sexualized- in their manners, interactions, dress sense etc.-, this is only because it gets them attention and masks their insecurities, and actual physical intimacy with another person might terrify them.
  • A letter to Dear Prudence was from a young woman who, despite being married for two years, had never had sex with her husband, due to her parents constantly browbeating her with the belief that sex is disgusting and evil. Oddly enough, said parents somehow managed to have six children despite their attitude. Do as they say, not as they do.
  • Men who were brought up with the belief that Sex Is Evil and a woman who had sex is Defiled Forever, can take this to the logical conclusion that having sex with women is disrespectful in and of itself. See pagequote. If it is deeply ingrained, being told that Sex Is Good may not be enough to fix the problem.