How to have sex when you suffer from eurotophobia
December 3, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I want to have sex with my boyfriend for the first time, but I have an extreme phobic reaction to both genitalia and vaginal penetration. How can I possibly overcome this?

I'm a twenty-one-year-old virgin, and when I visit my long-distance boyfriend again in a few weeks, I would like to have sex with him for the first time. We have been friends for five years and romantically involved for three, so we have a strong and loving relationship. My boyfriend has never put any pressure on me, but I would like to do something special for him because he deserves it. Also, of course, I'm extremely sexually attracted to him (being highly aroused and unable to stop kissing and caressing him when we're together), and I'd really like to take things to the next level.

The problem? For as long as I can remember, I've suffered from a terrible phobia of genitalia and of penetration. Even to this day, I cannot view textbook-style drawings of female or male genitalia, much less my own actual anatomy, without shuddering from extreme disgust and fear and quickly looking away. I've finally grown somewhat used to the sight of my boyfriend's own sexual anatomy, despite finding it hard to look at for long, but the idea of touching or seeing my own genitalia is far worse yet. Somehow I find female genitalia much more revolting.

Despite occasional attempts over the years, I have also never successfully gone so far as to insert a tampon for this reason. Whenever I try, I can barely get the tampon's tip inside my vaginal opening without starting to cry, frozen by fear and frustrated by my inability to do what almost every other female my age (and many much younger) can. I am not sure if this might be a conditioned response related to a trans-vaginal sonogram performed on me by a gynecologist when I was fifteen, which was one of the most frightening and physically painful experiences of my life. In any case, while I suspect my hymen is probably torn due to that experience, I seriously doubt I will be able to fit a penis inside my vagina if I cannot even bring myself to put a tampon in. My powerful disgust-and-fear response to vaginal penetration will surely pose a tremendous barrier to sexual intercourse, for psychological if not for physical reasons.

What can I do to overcome my phobias or hang-ups, and to work toward being able to attempt sexual intercourse with the man I love? I would guess that some sort of self-administered systematic desensitization or exposure therapy would be most appropriate for my situation, but right now my fear reaction is so strong and powerful (I can't even look at or touch myself for more than a second) that I don't know how to begin. Do you know of any resources that could help me with this? Websites would be my preference, provided they don't contain prominent and unavoidable images of the objects of my fear. I would also be interested in any books you could recommend, or any personal experiences or perspectives you could share that might help me.

E-mail for answers to follow-up questions or private answers:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

The answers you need will not be found on the internet.
See a doctor.
posted by Flood at 11:02 AM on December 3, 2011 [17 favorites]

Doctor and/or therapist.
I think you will get this a lot of different versions of this answer. Because it is a good idea...
posted by vivid postcard at 11:09 AM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry to suggest this... but it sounds like your fear is stemming from something below the surface, like abuse as a child or something. If that's the case, I think you need to figure out what's causing these reactions before they'll change.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Exposure therapy. You can do this with a therapist, in a clinical setting, or you can begin to try some of the work yourself and see if you are able to tolerate it.

What I'd recommend, honestly, is porn. Not soft porn with jellied lenses, but the kind that shows explicit penetration. And, more importantly, shows the woman who is being penetrated either (a) taking charge, or at least (b) enjoying the hell out of it.

This sounds terrifying, right? You start out just tolerating it for a second, or five seconds. And then you slowly expose yourself for longer periods. Five seconds becomes ten seconds, ten becomes twenty, et cetera.

Actually, I take back the part about trying this yourself. You should try it, but you should do it with a therapist. Because the therapist will be able to help you with (a) coping techniques like deep breathing, and (b) sussing out some of the reasons behind the reactions you're having.

As for the sex part, I'd wait. Wait until you feel comfortable with having a vagina, and with putting stuff into it on a smaller scale. Like a tampon. If you and your SO are able to do so, you could invite him to attend one or two of your therapy sessions, so you are on the same page as far as strategies and timelines are concerned.

Whatever you do, do not have penetrative sex because you want to do something special for your partner. You want it to be special -- or at the very least not terrifying and awful -- for you, too. The worst thing you can do here is make the situation worse for yourself, with the result that you might not want to try sex again for another five or ten years. Wait until you've explored some more. Think of this virginity-losing thing as a process, not as something that you do in one night.

Good luck. If you're in NYC and need recommendations for therapist, I can give you a few if you MeFiMail me.
posted by brina at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Normally I am not one to jump on the therapy bandwagon, but if I've ever seen a question which should only be answered by 'talk to a therapist' it is this one.
posted by winna at 11:16 AM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

self-administered systematic desensitization or exposure therapy

When therapists engage patients in "exposure therapy," they do so under highly controlled circumstances, with lots of preparation, and with access to lots of resources and training that they've spent years studying and practicing. This is not a thing that you can safely self-administer.

You should find a therapist (psychologist or LCSW) with whom you can built a relationship of trust to help you work through this. It sounds as though there's some serious trauma in your background. It sounds as though you are impatient to begin a sexual relationship with your partner, and I definitely understand that desire, but bear in mind that you're building a foundation for a healthy sexual experience that will (hopefully!) last the rest of your life, and it will require time and patience.

In the meantime, you can enjoy lots of fun, intimate stuff with your partner without penetration. Do what feels good and comfortable, see a therapist to work up to the rest.
posted by Spinneret at 11:16 AM on December 3, 2011 [12 favorites]

I don't think this can be solved with self-directed education and gritted teeth. I think that you should do the following:

Make an appointment with a gynecologist who has experience working with women who have these types of fears. You can find one by asking your PCP for a recommendation, reading online reviews of local practices/physicians, or calling around. Both an exam to rule out anything physical and a chat with this type of expert would be helpful. There may be both physical and psychological factors at work, and you deserve to understand what's going on before you try to make changes.

Additionally, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in anxiety. You deserve to really find solutions that work for you rather than just trying to force yourself to "get over it." Forcing yourself is both unlikely to work and also just unkind to yourself--this process may be hard, but it shouldn't be torturous.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

What I'd recommend, honestly, is porn. Not soft porn with jellied lenses, but the kind that shows explicit penetration. And, more importantly, shows the woman who is being penetrated either (a) taking charge, or at least (b) enjoying the hell out of it.

I have to disagree. How is the OP going to find explicit, penetrative, sex-positive/woman-positive porn without happening across all the explicit, penetrative, not-so-sex/woman-positive porn that's out there as well (and which I think runs a very high chance of reinforcing her intense emotional/physical triggers)?

Looking at sexually explicit material might very well be a great step later, but right now I think there is really, truly, only one answer here: therapy.

Whatever you do, do not have penetrative sex because you want to do something special for your partner. You want it to be special -- or at the very least not terrifying and awful -- for you, too. The worst thing you can do here is make the situation worse for yourself, with the result that you might not want to try sex again for another five or ten years. Wait until you've explored some more. Think of this virginity-losing thing as a process, not as something that you do in one night.

I agree with this 100%.
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2011 [20 favorites]

Yeah, this is going to take a therapist. More importantly, it's going to take some time. Right now, you've imposed a deadline upon yourself: when I visit my long-distance boyfriend again in a few weeks, I would like to have sex with him for the first time.

It's good that you're ready to deal with this, and a little bit of a sense of urgency will probably help you to do that. Be careful, though. You may well not be able to accomplish this in a few weeks. So let yourself off the hook. It's ok to set goals, but "full vaginal penetration in a few weeks" may be a little too ambitious. Since he seems understanding, I'd suggest starting a lot smaller.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

I can't offer much with respect to your phobias, but I do want to say, don't pressure yourself into having sex with your boyfriend as some sort of gift to him. Others have suggested that it's not worth subjecting yourself to something you're afraid of and traumatized by, which is true. But what's more, if he loves you, engaging in sex that you find traumatic isn't going to be pleasurable for him either. Actually, love aside, if he's a decent person he isn't going to find it pleasurable. And that's fine. People engage in all sorts of different levels of sexual relations and you don't owe him anything just because it's been X number of years, etc.

You do owe it to both of you to try to get to the bottom of what's causing this, though. And you don't mention whether you've discussed this issue with him. If I were in his shoes I'd like to know that this was going on with you.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:40 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You remind me very much of one of my closest friends. She would actually pass out when trying to insert a tampon. She got married a virgin at 22, and saw a gynecologist for several months beforehand. The gynecologist gave her some kind of devices (maybe plastic?) that she inserted into her vagina. The devices got progressively larger as she became accustomed to them and comfortable using them. I didn't discuss her problems in depth with her because they were so personal, but I would try to find a gynecologist (if you don't already have one) to discuss this with. Your problem is solveable, but it will probably take more than a few weeks. Please don't rush this. Your boyfriend sounds very understanding and I'm sure he would rather wait than have your first time be so stressful and frightening.
posted by jabes at 11:43 AM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mod note: at the point at which you are asking people "what the hell do you mean?" you maybe need to take a step back and comment when you are commenting and not fighting, please. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:43 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry if my comment sounded angry or if I misunderstood what exposure therapy with a therpist present for penetration issues would mean.
If it means this--
*You need to let a therapist be present with you while you get comfortable with being penetrated in order to heal.*

Then please, OP, don't believe that. You can work with tons of therapists who will not suggest you need to penetrate yourself in front of them. My god. Maybe I misunderstood what exposure therapy for fear of penetration would mean, but I am really upset about this suggestion. You've clearly waited a long time to share your sexuality when you are ready and it is not essential for any professional to say they need to be involved with your sexuality. Even if they are a professional. And if they tell you need to do something like that in order to heal I would really question their professional training or licensure.
posted by xarnop at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Maybe I misunderstood what exposure therapy for fear of penetration would mean, but I am really upset about this suggestion.

Yes, I think you are misunderstanding.
posted by scody at 11:55 AM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Maybe I misunderstood what exposure therapy for fear of penetration would mean, but I am really upset about this suggestion.

Yes, you are misunderstanding.
posted by jessamyn at 11:56 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are therapists that specialize in penetration therapy, but I don't think it would be right here. It is mostly used, to my understanding, for women that don't orgasm/have any feeling during penetration.

I'd say that since you have the ultimate goal of wanting to please your boyfriend, and you are willing to make those first steps, you have the willpower -- slowly but surely -- to overcome your phobia enough to do what you want to do.

It might take years for everything to be 100%, but I wouldn't completely throw porn out the window as a means to help you ease into it. I have similar fears/frustrations, though not as intense as your own, and even though I don't really like the visuals and they're still sort of repulsive, just seeing two people being comfortable with themselves helps me feel more comfortable with myself. I've been on the lookout for friendly, honest porn between real couples or good friends, and I've found some good stuff over at (specifically 'Silvie Just Married' & 'Leila Christian Sex With Passion') if that route interests you at all.

Obviously for the long-term, you're going to want a therapist to talk through this. Is it specifically touching yourself that's weird? Have you tried, or though about, getting a really simple vibrator and just using that on yourself at a low setting while you read a book at night?

FWIW I also had a vaginal sonogram and it was incredibly painful, and I don't even usually feel anything down there. It caused me to cramp up for the next two days. That's apparently pretty par for the course, if that helps you feel better.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:03 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know someone who had exact the same symptoms as you. After a series of physical exams and several sessions with a therapist (who helped her to become able do the exams, to begin with), she was diagnosed with sexual aversion (no trauma whatsoever in her past) and went through months of slow, non-stop treatment that involved exposure therapy, anxiety therapy, talk therapy, and a partner that was caring and patient, and aware of all the issues at hand. She doesn't have sexual aversion no more. It was a difficult process that had a very happy ending.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 12:11 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just as an aside, I don't think there is any reason to conclude you had some sort of sexual abuse in your background. People have phobias about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with their actual experiences with that thing. Luckily phobias are incredibly treatable as far as anxiety disorder goes - find yourself a specialist in phobias and you will be on your way.
posted by yarly at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

I was struck by these words:

extreme phobic reaction
terrible phobia
extreme disgust
frozen by fear
one of the most frightening and physically painful experiences of my life
powerful disgust-and-fear response
I can't even look at or touch myself for more than a second

If we're to take all of these literally, I'm afraid there's no self-administered resource that will "cure" you. The above phrases are so copious and extreme that you'd really benefit from, or better yet, you really require, a professional's help. I wouldn't even fool around with anything else at this point. It would be like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. Again, I'm going by your words, which are fairly acute. That said, I think a professional can turn this around for you and you can enjoy a satisfying relationship with your guy eventually. Good luck!
posted by FlyByDay at 12:23 PM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

The best present you can give your BF will be an announcement that you're seeing a professional in order to work through these significant issues because you're really looking forward to having wonderful sexual encounters, but you don't want to rush it and you want to be sure it's done properly. So you'll both have to wait a bit longer. (Honestly if your guy is being patient and caring with you through this I think you've got a treasure on your hands. Be sure you do this right, for both of you.)

Then kiss him a lot.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree with FlyByDay - your descriptors really remind me of my feelings about medical procedures. I think I have commented on AskMe before about this, but recently I had to have a medical procedure that involved lots of little needles and electric shocks. The idea of this long, involved procedure scared me so, so much that I realised, as FlyByDay mentioned above, that I would not be able to just scrape through this experience (as I had previously when I needed something like a blood draw). I needed professional help and I was lucky enough, with a bit of research, to find a psychologist in my city who specialised in this area. The hour that I spent with him was enormously helpful, and even just that one hour was enough to give me coping strategies and techniques that I used so that I could make it through the procedure.

You mention in your question websites, books etc but I was like you - I could not even read anything about the procedure I was going to undertake without having an extreme phobic reaction. I would highly recommend making an appointment with a professional (doctor in the first instance maybe, or a psychologist, depending on what you feel most comfortable with) so that you can begin to deal with the issue in a safe and secure manner. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by unlaced at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Therapy and perhaps a gyn are likely to be your best resources here. However much you want to do this for your BF, if he feels that you are gritting your teeth and forcing yourself through it for him, he's probably not going to feel very good about the experience. And if you find yourself freaking out and crying in the middle of things - well, neither of you wants that. And of course that's why you're asking this question.

It's worth pointing out that it's very possible to have sex without viewing your own genitalia or your partner's. BUT ... it sounds like your anxieties are rooted in some sort of trauma, and that's something you need to work through on your own.

In the meantime, maybe you can your boyfriend can find some other special things to do together that are fun and reassuring for you but that aren't so strongly linked to your anxieties. You can keep your undies on during a massage and any number of other delightful activities.
posted by bunderful at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2011

Is sight alone bothersome for you? Have you ever tried being blindfolded and letting your boyfriend feel you up, or touching him (with his guidance) while you're blindfolded? This is really a fun game and it might get you to connect sex with sexy body sensations rather than genitals. Penetrative sex can wait a long long time so dont even worry about that particular part until youre relaxed about touching each other and giving each other manual or oral orgasms. but yes, you need therapy as everyone else has already pointed out.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

While I will jump in and say that therapy is the solution to this, I also wanted to say that it doesn't mean there is abuse in your background. It sounds like the experience with the gynecologist was traumatic and may be the root of these problems. That's enough to cause all this. It doesn't mean there's more. It sounds like a terrifying experience and that alone is enough.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:47 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing therapy and suggesting you be sure you see a very qualified person, ideally a psychiatrist at least for the initial evaluation. It's possible that you have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (given the levels of disgust and anxiety) and that may be significantly helped by medication (which you can only get from an MD)— even if it doesn't or if it's not that, if you start with the best evaluation possible, you may spare yourself a lot of wasted time and ineffective dead ends.

And yes, exposure therapy can be done without you having to experience the actual thing in front of the therapist. but since exposure requires gradually exposing yourself to the thing you fear most, you absolutely want the most qualified, most empathetic person you can find because the key to it working is you being able to feel safe going through with it, rather than avoiding.
posted by Maias at 2:49 PM on December 3, 2011

You to need to fix the trauma first - then I think you have to get comfortable with your own body - then your boyfriend's body - and then with the idea of sex and then with sex itself. For this you will need to see an appropriate therapist.
posted by mleigh at 3:01 PM on December 3, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you all for your comments up to this point -- you have made many helpful suggestions. I was really hoping for a self-help solution, but clearly the community consensus is that professional help (through a therapist or gynecologist) will most likely be required. This is difficult for me because the health and counseling centers at my university (UIUC) do not likely provide this level of treatment as part of their regular services to students. I would have to get a referral to an outside therapist and pay out-of-pocket, which is currently not feasible for me. However, I accept and appreciate your answers nonetheless. By the way, just to be clear, I have suffered no sexual trauma or abuse in my past -- the trans-vaginal sonogram is the only event that I think might at least partially explain my conditioned fear response to penetration.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:44 PM on December 3, 2011

It's unfortunate that proper treatment is not accessible to you (shakes head at the state of health insurance in the US). You didn't indicate what your next steps are re:boyfriend encounter. Again, I agree with everyone else above that you should not even try to have vaginal intercourse ... I'd even go so far as not to even mention it.

Also, I would suggest other types of sexual acts - oral? manual? etc. One step at a time....
posted by secondlife at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2011

I wouldn't be so quick to discount your student health service--it's certainly worth a visit to the gyno first before you decide they can't help you. (And the vagina is expansive---you're not likely to lubricate a tampon, but you might try greasing it up, rather than right out of the wrapper.)
posted by Ideefixe at 5:01 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would also not discount the student health service. I assume you're talking about University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC). Their counseling service would likely at least help you get started. At least give that a shot. Good luck, this sounds so difficult but I'm sure you can get through it.
posted by sweetkid at 5:29 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Even if you're not a survivor of sexual abuse, it might be worthwhile in the interim for you to read some books directed at helping survivors develop positive sexual relationships. The books will deal with fears and phobias about sex and provide some practical suggestions that may be helpful to you. The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse by Staci Haines and The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz are good starts, though no replacement for a qualified therapist and a sympathetic physician. If there's a women's centre at your university, they may be able to provide you with access to some free counselling.
posted by GreenEyed at 5:41 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

It may still be worth it to get a referral, especially if you can find someone who can work on a sliding scale. Additionally, there may be more services on-campus that might not initially come to mind: some schools offer counseling both through mental health services, and through their women's resource center/services. Often, the WRC will be cheaper or more flexible. Something to consider...
posted by vivid postcard at 6:02 PM on December 3, 2011

Don't assume that student psych can't/won't provide that level of services - when I was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I had (still have, to a degree) a debilitating phobia of needles. They were all set to give me a complete course of exposure therapy, but I backed out because of fear and the fact that I would be moving immediately after graduation, which was only a couple of months away at the time. But it was certainly a service they provided. UIUC might not, but I would definitely check with them to see.
posted by clerestory at 7:16 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that this has a physical component? Have you heard of vulvodynia (Wikipedia link, all text, no illustrations)? It's a condition where even the smallest touch results in intense pain, making medical exams and sex quite painful.

If this is the case, there are therapists and support groups who can help you work through your fears and pain and help you have a full and fun sex life.
posted by sadmadglad at 7:22 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to a much, much smaller college than yours. Through student health services I had access to therapy, gyn services and more. Don't write off your university options before you even try.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like vaginismus. Yeah, best treated by a physician and/or therapist, but there are resources you can read on the web.

Nthing the suggestion to go in to your university health center. At the very least they should be able to give you more information and/or a name for your condition, which can help you figure out what options there are for treatment. They will also likely understand your economic limitations and can point you towards resources that are free or sliding scale. Even if there is no way you can afford treatment (I think that's unlikely), you'll be able to learn more about your condition.

You don't owe your boyfriend penetrative sex, but you do owe it to yourself to start looking in to options for treatment. That's something you can do before you see him in a few weeks.
posted by nat at 10:03 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, this sounds like vaginismus to me too. It seems like you're ready to start fixing it, which is great because it's not something you can just force yourself to get over with willpower alone. Find a professional you trust - your gynocologist or GP might be able to refer you, or your university health people. A sexual health doctor or therapist will almost certainly have encountered this problem before, because it's actually pretty common (and not always related to abuse or trauma).

People will give you all sorts of well-meaning advice that is completely wrong and will make things worse. Give them a polite response (because it's the thought that counts) then ignore their suggestions. What you need from your professional advisor is to have them work with you to create a plan of gradual exposure that's designed specifically for you. It will start with things you find a bit icky, but manageable, and get you used to them before you try anything that scares you. As you get a bit of progress, your professional will help you check for any complicating factors (physical build, medical conditions, anxiety, etc) which might prevent you from getting the hang of penetration. Those can then be resolved so you can keep on towards your main goal, which is to have a lovely time enjoying sex with your boyfriend.

A book which can help is one that came highly recommened on a sexual health forum (sadly the forum no longer exists) and I have used myself: A Woman's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Fear and Pain. It covers a range of sexual issues that women might face. It's not a substitute for seeing a professional, but it will help you learn what's going on so that when you go to appointments you know what to expect and what questions to ask. It also gives good advice for the partners of women with these sorts of problems, which is nice.

If you've got any more questions about what treatment might be like, feel free to MeMail me. I'm assuming you're in the USA, but if you're in Australia I can recommend my sexual health centre to you, they're lovely people.
posted by harriet vane at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2011

Okay, so to bypass the professionals you have to be prepared to unpack a lot of things yourself. Ultimately, it will take more time and you will need to have lots of patience.

You'll need to work through the following in very specific detail - a locked diary or Word file may be helpful:

* Why was the sonogram so traumatic?
* What is it about your genitals that repulses you?
* What is it about your partner's genitals that repulse you?
* What do you feel internally (emotionally) when you are repulsed?
* What do you feel physically when you are repulsed?
* Why do you feel your partner deserves sex from you?
* What other things can you do for your partner to express your appreciation towards him?
* If you were never to have sex ever, would you genuinely be upset by this?
* If you were never to be able to look at or touch your genitalia, would you genuinely be upset by this?
* If you were never to be able to look at or touch his genitalia, would you genuinely be upset by this?

How you proceed from there will really stem from those last couple of questions. If you actually want to have sex (and maybe, deep down, you don't, but you feel you SHOULD), then you will gradually need to expose yourself to your own body (touching and looking - and from a health perspective I personally believe women should be comfortable with their bodies - in terms of checking for lumps and pap smears) and imagery (looking) and your partner (touching and looking).

You do this very gradually and you write in as much detail as possible what you are thinking and feeling during these situations. You are looking for the trigger as to why this is happening. You're also looking for that moment when you make your brain understand that what you want outways the fear that exists. If you want to have sex, you will eventually convince your brain that all of its fears are irrelevant compared to what you want and need. But in order to do this you need to deconstruct all of the feelings and physical reactions very near to the moment they occur so that you can understand why they occur and have enough rational evidence to convince your brain that its fear response is wrong.
posted by mleigh at 11:03 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've suggested this on the green before, and I realize your finances are an issue, but...

Do a lot of research into finding a GREAT hypnotherapist along with the other VERY good suggestions to see regular doctors you have access to. Here's why...

- Although a little pricey, don't pay more than $120 or so a session.

- Hypnotherapy requires FAR fewer sessions. For example, you can do just one or two sessions to help you feel more open to the clinical process you are pursuing via your university.

- Hypnotherapy works A LOT faster than talk therapy when done right. Like days instead of years.

- Hypnotherapy can assist you in self-taught relaxation techniques that will assist you on your journey.

- You can google thousands of books, podcasts, cd's, youtube vids, and blogs detailing self-hypnotherapy. Again, something you can do proactively NOW and ON YOUR OWN.

And this might be a little woo woo. But whatever.

- Sometimes people cure unexplained phobias with past life regressions.

Not saying that is your issue - but what the hell? It's as good an explanation as any. I did a past life regression on a whim at the end of the one time I tried hypnotherapy...

I went to hypnotherapy originally to deal with some deep anger I had about a certain something, that years and years of talk therapy couldn't quite shake. Basically, after 2 years of being super happily married and having a loving stable home, I unexpectedly found myself SUPER WHITE HOT PISSED at my parents again, after so long, because I realized just how much they lied to me about what was possible in families and how wonderful life could really be. I was already fine, obvs, because I achieved that great marriage/family I always believed in. But still. Fuck them.

I went to a hypnotherapist to drop the "Fuck them" from my life. Which did wonders. (metafilter has helped that, too. It's nice to pay it all forward. I'm very fortunate considering where I came from. I'm fortunate even without that history. Life is good! It's hard to accept a great life when you come from a bad one. Getting used to the "new normal" and all)

I wasn't expecting much from my past life regression, and I didn't get much from it, to be honest. But the weird thing is (if it's to be believed) was that I was a logger in a past life. This is WEIRD because I've loved trees since I was a kid and have had some significant experiences concerning trees - like putting corrupt politicians in jail and saving homes from demolition over trees, and also, um, I have "friends" that just happen to be trees. What the fuck, right?? I have this unusual super power to accomplish good wherever a tree is involved, and I guess it is explained by the fact that I am making amends in this life because I learned my lesson from a past life?? Or maybe the regression was a complete fiction - because hey! - Trees are Super Cool!!!!


OP, you have a particular issue I have no direct experience with. I feel for you so much, though, and I think exploring other modalities along with clinical help will really benefit you. Even yoga. Whatever.

The one thing I have learned in life (and I just saw my husband go through a bit of this, and it jibes with what I learned for sure in hypnotherapy) is that your subconscious is a sponge. It picks up and acts out on messages you don't necessarily intend. If you can get in there and re-write the message either on your own or with professional help, why wouldn't you try that?


I'm pretty sure you'll get through this. A few times in my life, for years at a clip, I've been completely unable to drive due to terrible fear. I've conquered that for good. People overcome phobias all the time.

You know my favorite story about someone overcoming a phobia? Remember the Linda Richman character Mike Meyers used to do on SNL - the Coffee Talk sketch?

It was based on his then real life mother-in-law -- Linda Richman!

Linda was an agoraphobic for 11 years of her life (she was too scared to leave her house) and her description about how one day, she just changed her mind about that and was (self) cured is truly inspiring. She wrote a book about it, here.

What I love about Linda is not only did her life stop for a long time, but then she re-started it, and then her persona became this awesome thing that inspired a lot of humour and happiness in others. So amazing!


Even though you have this seemly debilitating issue now that it holding you back, you have a pretty awesome full and happy life of great experiences awaiting you.

I'm a little verklempt just thinking about how much fun (in the bedroom!) you have in front of you!

Talk amongst yourselves;)
posted by jbenben at 9:14 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey OP, I also go to UIUC and I live in town. I can ask my mom / townie friends if they know a therapist they would recommend (my gyno is great, but really hard to get an appointment with unless your vagina is falling out or something. You probably would make a good case though for needing an appointment in the short term, though.)

And ugh, I definitely sympathize with your desire not to go to Mc-Kill-Me. They're pretty useless and recently told my roommate with a month of bronchitis that she has allergies.

MeMail me if you want help/moral support with anything Chambana-related.
posted by mokudekiru at 10:46 PM on December 4, 2011

Also, if you want someone to help you talk through a couple of mleigh's points while you're working on finding real life support, the folks at Scarleteen would probably help. They're a sex-ed forum that's focused on helping teens and young adults. They would also probably be able to help point you to some resources in your area that were free or cheap. They have a whole Find a Doc section that might be able to give you some names of clinics, counselors, etc.
posted by colfax at 11:06 PM on December 4, 2011

The only thing I'd add is I think it's important for the OP to reframe the problem. It's not that you wants to lose your virginity by a set time; it's that you experiences= a very distressing phobia that prevents you from having a satisfying, exciting, respectful, SAFE sex life. Penis-in-vagina sex is not the be all and end all of sexual experience.

You very much need to find professional support at this time, and you need to be prepared to be your own advocate about this. Your sexuality is incredibly important, and I can't imagine how distressing this phobia must be for you. So I'd encourage you to think about what you want your sexual life to be like. I imagine 'free from fear' is pretty high on that list.
posted by nerdfish at 11:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

OP, if you want someone absolutely trustworthy and caring to speak to at UIUC's counseling services about this, ask for an appointment with Marybeth Hallet. She doesn't specialize in this sort of thing in particular, but she's a wonderful, funny woman and I would trust her to the ends of the earth.
posted by MsMolly at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I'd had a trans-vaginal sonogram when i was a virgin, especially if this happened at an age where I was speculating about sex, I might still be a virgin. That was a tough procedure and, yes, cramping and pain for days.

The good news is, you are getting better and better at seeing your boyfriend. You know you can do this! I say the way to go farther is very carefully and with professional help.

Don't set a deadline, please. Instead, celebrate small victories along the way.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:35 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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