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Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality

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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 very 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.

There are many reasons why this might be, whether it's treated as funny or not. One of the most common is virginity, where a character who has never had sex before is nervous about it for one reason or another—sometimes because they don't know how, are worried about finishing too early or not at all (especially with teenagers), or they're just nervous about having sex for the first time in general. Other examples may be a fear of intimacy, leading to them fearing the inherent physical and emotional vulnerability involved in sexual situations, or low self-esteem. Another frequently used explanation for this is a character having been raped/sexually assaulted and developing a fear of sexuality as a result of the trauma. Note that in Real Life and in fiction alike, not everyone reacts this way, but both are reactions seen in survivors of rape and sexual assault and will vary from person to person.

When a character struggling with this overcomes it, 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 underlying issues, or it could 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. There also might also be some zig-zagging as the character learns to cope with their 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: Sex Is Evil And I Am Horny is about acting out in a way that is self-destructive and/or abusive, while Paralyzing Fear Of Sexuality is about avoiding expressing one's sexuality at all. See also Celibate Hero and Windmill Political. Compare Heteronormative Crusader. Contrast Does Not Like Men and He-Man Woman Hater.

This trope is much more frequently applied to women than men, and when it is applied to men, itís often considered funny. In Real Life, itís widely believed to be far more common among women than among men, along with a perception that if a man suffers from it, it's often partially built on a fear of being abusive. Another common belief is that all gay people are promiscuous. However, itís important to note that there is a vast range of reasons someone might feel this way, and anyone can be nervous about sex, regardless of gender or sexuality.

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


Examples

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    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.
  • Berserk: Because of being abused as a child, Guts Hates Being Touched by anyone except Casca, and to an extent Griffith as well. After being celibate for a long time he eventually develops Single-Target Sexuality for Casca, but he has a panic attack during Their First Time as a result of his pent-up trauma. The good news is that they work through it together, and after that he even expresses interest in doing it with her 1000 times more. The bad news is that the Eclipse and Casca's mental condition afterwards create a different problem: He strongly desires to have sex with her again even though he knows she isn't able to give consent, and a Near-Rape Experience with her caused by his Enemy Within makes him fearful that his urges will lead to him abusing her. From then on he tries not to ever see her unclothed and leaves most of her personal care to Farnese.
  • In Fumi Yoshinaga's Gerard & 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.
  • 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 him. 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. It does, perhaps, help explain why he engaged in innocent cohabitation with the same woman for fifty years before she figured out human emotions enough to fall in love with him, then stayed in a Sexless Marriage for another twenty and counting.
  • 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.
  • In Zetman, Kouga Amagi develops this from experiencing the "Jirou Incident" where a large number of innocent victims were raped and murdered as part of an attempted plot to discredit his family. He starts going out with Mayu, a girl he rescued from that ordeal, but after two years together he hasn't even held her hand because of the PTSD-like symptoms he gets from anything associated with sex or intimacy.
  • The protagonist of Ore ga Fujoshi de Aitsu ga Yuriota de is a Yuri Fanboy who loves the idea of intimacy between girls but is disgusted at the idea of a male being even present. And then one day he switches bodies with a Yaoi Fangirl; what might seem like heaven is made into a torment by how he still thinks of himself as a boy who defiles girls by just seeing them. Making it worse is that he expects the girl to be equally horrified in his body, but instead she enthusiastically gathers "reference material" and invites him to make use of her body.
  • Common fanon for Ranma Ĺ is to present either Ranma Saotome, Akane Tendo, or both as having this trait. Because the manga keeps things surprisingly tame despite frequently invoking raunchy scenarios, and the recurring theme of Poor Communication Kills, it's a reasonable speculation, if probably not canon.
    • Despite the fact that three of his four would-be lovers are gorgeous girls who literally throw themselves at him and make it quite clear they want sex, Ranma never lifts a finger, and gets extremely distressed during intimate-seeming moments - either nervous if it's Shampoo, Ukyo or Kodachi, or very shy if it's Akane. In his case, it probably has to do with a combination of his feelings for Akane and his general inexperience with romantic love.
    • Akane, on the other hand, is the first to leaps to sexual conclusions about any situation that could be interpreted that way, and almost invariably gets angry or violently defensive when things seem to be taking a turn "for the perverse". Even in the rare occasions that she doesn't, she still pushes back at Ranma in a passive-aggressive sort of way. Her reluctance to admit her desires for Ranma have to do with a potent combination of lingering distaste for men as a result of the "Hentai Horde" incident, smoldering resentment over the fact she was engaged to Ranma by her father against her will, her own insecurities that Ranma wants her back, and a desire not to have her heart broken by admitting her love for Ranma and then losing him to one of the other girls.

    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 aversion 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.
  • In Runaways, Klara is horrified by sexuality, due to a combination of a strict religious upbringing and a lot of sexual abuse.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Death Note Crack Fic A Charmed Life Light finds the very idea of sex to be disgusting and terrifying until Ryuk helps him through it.
  • In the Maleficent fanfic Your Servant Mistress, Maleficent suffers from this. Understandably, as the incidence that makes her go dark in the film is changed into the thing that it was symbolic for in the first place. As this is an all-human story wherein she and Diaval are in a BDSM—relationship, this makes things very complicated.
  • Han Solo for a while in the Star Wars fic My All. Entirely justified, as in the fic that preceded it, Important Information, he was repeatedly raped during a horrific torture ordeal. Even after he finally lays his internal struggles with his ordeal and his captor—who somehow seemed to find a way to entire his body when Leia killed her and ended up wreaking havoc on his mind—to rest, it's still some time before he can finally stop seeing his tormentor, release the shame and pain he's held inside, and finally be able to make love to Leia again.
  • Taken to utterly ridiculous levels in Harry Potter Becomes A Communist when Snape, who is portrayed as The Fundamentalist, tries to capture Cho Chang. She successfully defeats him by throwing her naked boobs at him, which causes him to freak out and declare, "The female body is so fucking sinful! You keep those horrible things away from me or I'll go to hell!"

    Film 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • Vorkosigan Saga: 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 realize until his deeply awkward wedding night.
  • Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series has this until Lover Awakened, due to nearly every sexual experience he'd had up to that point being non-consensual on his part. Much of his development is focused on him getting over his many issues regarding this.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: It's subtle, but Torisen is a little afraid of his own attraction to Jame. Completely Justified by his past relationship with Kallystine. Kallystine was trying her hardest to seduce Torisen for political reasons. Torisen knew this perfectly well, and he hated and resented herÖ but it seems she did managed to seduce him for short periods of time despite this. It's implied she managed this by using Love Potions. Kallystine was the only past relationship Torisen's had, and so in his his only real experience with his own attraction, it was the result of being drugged and manipulated by someone he hated. As a result, even when he experiences organic attraction to Jame, it partially makes him fear her more.
    His former consort had been adept at intoxicating the senses, but with an after-taste that had made him both loathe and mistrust his own passion.
  • Between the horror stories she's been told for years about her older sister and the fact that the gang-rape really happened to HER, My Sweet Audrina has this big time.

    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.
  • Dougal in Father Ted is visibly uncomfortable around women except for Mrs Doyle or older nuns, and shows genuine fear when he believes a strange woman may have entered the house. It's implied that a fear of women was his primary motivation for entering the priesthood, as he's shown to be uninterested in the tenets of Catholicism, and effectively an atheist in his personal beliefs.
  • 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.
    • For context, in the episode it is revealed that when Liz was young, she was riding her rollerskates around the house, when she needed to use the restroom. She tried to use the restroom with her skates still on, but lost her balance and her mother found her on the floor with her underwear down covered in a Tom Jones poster. Assuming the worst, her mother tore down all the posters of the men she liked in her room, leading Liz to proclaim that "Sex makes the people go away!"
  • Glee:
    • Emma is afraid due to cleanliness Super OCD and Hates Being Touched.
    • A less extreme example would 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.
  • Soaps and other TV dramas like to churn this out whenever a character is raped:
    • General Hospital's Karen chalked this up to typical virginal nervousness until she remembered being molested by a boyfriend of her mother's.

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

    Theatre 
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: At Act I Scene V, Cyrano confesses to Le Bret that the only thing he fears in the world is that Roxane will laugh at him when he confesses his love for her. At Act V Scene VI, Cyrano confesses that he feared to be mocked by women, implying that he is a Celibate Hero. This trope is justified because in his childhood, given his enormous nose, Cyrano felt that his mom did not love him. The whole idea of being capable of being loved is strange to him.
    Le Bret: Her heart, her fancy, are already caught!
    Put it to th' touch!
    Cyrano: That she may mock my face?
    That is the one thing on this earth I fear!
  • Anne in A Little Night Music, which is why she is still a virgin despite having been married 11 months.
  • Moritz in Spring Awakening. Despite showing definite interest in it, he is terrified of actually being in a sexual situation, so much so that he struggles talk about it at all, even with his closest friend. He commits suicide before this is further explored, so the reason behind his anxiety about sex is not directly explained.
  • Marsden in Strange Interlude.

    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. 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 of Sticky Dilly Buns works through this problem. She 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 she finds guy on guy very hot, and she moves from total paralysis to deep denial, while finding more excuses to look. Eventually, when her boyfriend (she thinks) proposes sex, she decides to go for it--nervously, but not unwillingly.
  • 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.
  • Tina Maxwell of Nineteen-Ninety-Something is a Moral Guardian of the Tipper Gore stripe (turned Up to Eleven), who believes any and all portrayals of intimacy are evil and must be stamped out. She tends to get a panicky, manic expression and quickly changes the subject whenever one of her kids asks her anything about sex (up to and including "Why are you freaking out about this?")
  • El Goonish Shive: Susan's greatest fear is that she might become a slutty homewrecker like the one her dad had an affair with. So while she finds others sexually attractive, she is repulsed at the idea of anyone having sex with her specifically out of fear that she might endanger someone else's relationship, to the point of asexuality.

    Western Animation 
  • On Daria, one of the last episodes revolves around Daria wondering if she should have sex with Tom; she ultimately can't go through with it, finding the thought of so much physical contact to be too overwhelming. Tom, for the record, is fine with this; Daria was the one who worried that not having sex made their relationship deficient.
    • Interestingly, it's strongly Implied that Quinn has this too. She dates every attractive or popular boy possible, but is never seen physically affectionate with them, and in one episode claims she won't slow-dance until the fifth date. She was also extremely freaked out when she thought that Daria and Tom actually had slept together.

    Real Life 
  • This can be caused by disorders of varying severity, such as 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.
  • 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 page quote. If it is deeply ingrained, being told that Sex Is Good may not be enough to fix the problem.
  • Can be a non-physical cause of erectile dysfunction, and its Distaff Counterpart vaginismus.
  • Gay and bi people who were brought up with the belief that same-gender attraction is wrong can end up like this due to internalized homophobia.

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