By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Feb 02, 2024
Let us know if you found this response helpful!

Cite this Response

Alice! Health Promotion. "Is it possible to be afraid of being raped if I’ve never had sex?." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 02 Feb. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/it-possible-be-afraid-being-raped-if-ive-never-had-sex. Accessed 24, May. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, February 02). Is it possible to be afraid of being raped if I’ve never had sex?. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/it-possible-be-afraid-being-raped-if-ive-never-had-sex.

Dear Alice,

Sometimes I think what it would be like to be with a man, romantically. I am a single woman, and have never had any relationships. Sometimes, though, when I am imagining what it could be like, it turns violent on me, in my mind, and I always end up being raped. This makes me apprehensive and scared of ever becoming involved with anyone. I am scared that everyone I meet will do this to me. I think that it wouldn't be too bad to be single for the rest of my life, but I want to be loved, to be held. What do you think?

—Frightened mind

Dear Frightened mind, 

Discussing fears, especially ones surrounding the topic of sexual assault, can be difficult, so thank you for sharing your experience and question. When entering a relationship, it’s crucial that you feel, and are, safe with your partner and are willingly consenting to be intimate (whether physically or emotionally). Because you express interest in being in a relationship, addressing where the violent thoughts are stemming from may be helpful in the process of becoming less fearful of having a partner. Research has shown that thoughts like the ones you’re experiencing could be linked to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), intrusive thoughts, and a general fear of sex. It should be noted that while these conditions all center around the subject of sex, sex isn’t necessary to have a supportive and mutually fulfilling relationship. 

Before learning more about where your thoughts may be coming from, it may be helpful to reflect on whether there’s an experience that could be contributing to them. While these thoughts and feelings may be related to having experienced sexual assault previously, it could also be connected to hearing about someone else’s experience or consuming media concerning it. If it’s upsetting to think about these possibilities, consider meeting with a mental health professional to gain more personalized insight. The next portion of the response will continue to discuss sexual assault and trauma, so if this topic isn't one that you presently feel comfortable engaging with, you may choose to stop reading now. 

One possibility for the emergence of your thoughts is complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) following a sexual assault experience. The symptoms of this disorder can include intense emotional reactivity, negative self-concept, and difficulties with social interactions or relationships. Additionally, those experiencing CPTSD may continue to relive the trauma they experienced through reoccurring thoughts concerning it. Currently, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help those who experience these symptoms. 

The reoccurring thoughts associated with CPTSD may also be called intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts play a large role in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and are described as unwanted and persistent. These intrusive thoughts may occur in the form of ideas, images, or urges and usually lead to anxiety or other negative emotions in the person experiencing them. Research has found that when confronted with these intrusive thoughts, many people will often give them attention by analyzing their meaning or cause. However, it’s also been found that this response doesn’t typically help stop the thoughts from occurring. It’s advised to divert your thoughts and attention away from the intrusive thoughts when they occur. This can be done by repeating a mantra such as, “this too shall pass,” directing your attention to a support animal or trusted human in your space, or approaching the thought head on by leading with curiosity. 

Another possible explanation for your thoughts is genophobia. This phobia—an intense and often irrational fear— centers around sex and sexual intimacy. Some research has found that those assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to experience genophobia along with other forms of sexual dysfunction (any condition that impacts sexual experience and response). Some signs of genophobia may include: 

  • Immediately feeling fear or anxiety whenever sex is thought of or experienced 
  • Inability to control the negative emotions you feel toward sexual intimacy 
  • Avoiding sexual experiences 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Sleep disturbances and restlessness 
  • Nausea, headache, dizziness, and muscle tension 

List adapted from PsychCentral 

Hopefully, these possible explanations give you more insight into your experience and possible causes for the thoughts you’re having. While sex may often be thought of as a crucial aspect of intimate relationships, compatible relationships are completely possible and able to thrive without it. What’s most critical is that partners respect each other’s comfort, they ask for consent and respond appropriately if they don’t receive it, and that everyone feels supported and fulfilled. If sex isn’t something you’re comfortable with, you may still have a romantic relationship that fulfills the other desires you have to be in a relationship more generally! 

Wishing you all the best, 

Let us know if you found this response helpful!
Was this answer helpful to you?