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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Im a 20 year old female who has never had penetrative sex,

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I'm a 20 year old female who has never had penetrative sex, and every time I am in a sexual situation, I find myself unable to express any emotion. I so desperately feel desire and want to be intimate, but in the moment, I literally can't speak. At all. I have a blank face and a negative reaction of being touched between my legs. But not violent or upset, I simply tense and freeze. It's similar to fear, but I very much trust the man I'm with... I've wondered before about forgotten childhood memorize of being abused, but I can't think of any instance or person that could be associated with it. I don't want to self-diagnose and think that I might have latent memories, but I hate bodily functions of any kind and talking about sex makes me uncomfortable, and a LOT of my early childhood memories revolve around making barbies or stuffed animals eat each other out or drawing naked pictures or just general sexual topics. All of these things can be explained away, and I have done that for years, but I was curious if a professional had any insight. Or if there was anything to do about it. I feel like a child who doesn't understand the situation every time I am intimate with someone, even though I very clearly know what's going on, and enjoy the contact. I just don't understand why I react this way.

Thank you,

Doctor Rao :

Hi Dixie,are you online?


Yes sir

Doctor Rao :

Hi,Thank you.can i ask you few questions.Thank you for giving the detailed history


Of course

Doctor Rao :

just want to clarify,you said never had penetrative sex or is it a painful penetration


No, I'm still a virgin.

Doctor Rao :

ok.but have you attempted to have intercourse


Um, no... I have "fooled around" I guess (oral sex and such), but haven't wanted to have actual sex.

Doctor Rao :

ok.You mentioned about childhood memories.Any issues with abuse?


None that I can remember. I have a sister who is very close in age to me and we did practically everything together, and she doesn't seem to have any of these issues with men. I was very well protected by my parents (no sleepovers at anyone's house they didn't know) and on multiple occasions, they would talk to me about being aware of myself around different adults and things (making sure I was being smart about going places alone etc.) I can't think of anything that would lead to me to believe that I have a history of abuse, but I have so many of the symptoms that I worry.

Doctor Rao :



My best friend has very seldomly talked to me about her history of abuse when she was around 7 (I met her around 13) and she often asks questions about my feelings and relationships with different male figures in my life, from a person's view who has gone through therapy. She hasn't said anything one way or another about latent memories or anything. I just thought I would throw that out there...

Doctor Rao :

ok. Can i clarify, are you worried about the sex because of the moral reasons or pain associated with it? Sorry,if i am not making it clear, what i mean is that your parents being protective have you brought up as having sex before marriage is wrong or something like that


Yes, I was raised Catholic, so no sex before marriage is taught to us, but my parents have always been supportive of making your own decisions, and having your own opinions. Honestly, I think they're a little surprised I haven't had sex yet. My dad had my oldest sister when he was 15. My parents got married at 20. It's not like it's the end of the world for us. But yes, I would prefer to wait until marriage. I'm not worried about it being painful.

Doctor Rao :



I'm more worried about why I shut myself off. Why I seem so distant, when I feel so genuinely excited about sharing this experience with someone.

Doctor Rao :

OK. i think there are different explanations and causes.To start with if your upbringing is about the principles you have mentioned, you would subconsciously choose to to enter in to sexual act prior to the marriage (yes, i get the point that your parents being supportive). Next, it is not common or wrong to feel that having sex before marriage is not right.But as one grow up, in that process it is also not uncommon to expose to some exciting situations and engage in other sexual activities like you have mentioned(oral sex) But when it come to intercourse it would be a big decision for themselves and feels distant about it because they weren't sure whether it is acceptable or regret after the act. There are some other causes, like if a person has Anxiety streak tot he personalty, thought of actual participation in the intercourse makes them uncomfortable and unconsciously they might choose to distant themselves to avoid being in that uncomfortable position


Well, I'm not nervous about having sex. More of the problem is not just being "distant" let me be clearer... I have a physical, debilitating response to being touched. My body literally freezes, and I am incapable of speaking. It's like I shut down on the inside. I fully understand what's happening between us - it's not that I'm worried because I don't know what sex entails. I am unable to make my body agree with the excitement that is in my head and heart.

Doctor Rao :

I understand. It is a difficult situation to be in. There is a condition called vaginismus, name for a condition that affects a woman's ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration. But this is slightly different from what you are experiencing. in vaginismus the person would strygle to have vaginal penetration.It is different in a sense that you have not yet attempted to have actual intercourse yet.however i feel the principle is same.If there are any psychological issue alike childhood subconscious memories or any worries that would have an effect. Seeing a sex therapist would be of real help as they can assess you and able to help you.If you want to consider this please only see the certified sex therapist by American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Few sessions would be of immense help to look in to any deep rooted causes and able to get over the distant feeling


Okay, thank you!

Doctor Rao :

No Problem.I want you to know that it must be upsetting and confusing for you. But it is helpful to speak to a professional who would be able to look in to any deep rooted causes. I wish you all the best.If you find the answer helpful,please provide positive feedback.Thank you

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
I was not directed to a specialist in the subject I submitted the question to. I felt the answer was unsatisfactory because he didn't have specific insight into the situation.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are clearly a woman who has insight into yourself and this phobic reaction you have to intercourse and to being touched in the vaginal area must be distressing.

I specified phobic reaction because your tendency to freeze and to stiffen when being touched or when considering intercourse you describe very much as phobias are described. It's important to know that phobic reactions are not necessarily produced by having been molested or sexually abused as a child. Your memories have a large component of fixation on genitals and that area. In classic psychological theory, pre-sexual pleasure was a large part of infant, toddler, and early childhood development. So if your interest in that area was curtailed in "sharp" ways, that could have led to phobic reactions without any molestation involved.

The physical sensation of freezing and stiffening are indicators of such early confusion. The confusion would have been your budding interest in the sensual (pre-sexual) pleasures associated with your vagina and the requirements socially and most likely by family to stop touching or drawing or playing that way. You might not remember those commands and the tensing up that occurred when these pleasures were required to cease. But you describe such tensing up.

My first recommendation is a bit of creative thinking: hypnotherapy. Please note I am talking about only hypnotherapy, which is a recognized form of psychotherapy used by psychologists and psychotherapists. I'm not talking about people who put in ads in newspapers for hypnosis. Maybe those are useful or maybe not, I can't say. But a psychologist trained in hypnotherapy is a real licensed therapist. Even so, here's the important statement about hypnotherapy: hypnotherapy can help with a specific problem and that's why I'm thinking of it. HOWEVER, there are good and honest hypnotherapists and there are other types. Your only way of assessing is two ways: first, make sure he or she is a licensed psychologist. There is no licensure in the US that I know of for hypnotherapy. It's all a "self-licensing" here, which is not good enough. So you want to know his or her license number as a psychologist and call the regional licensing board to make sure there have been no complaints filed. Please do not skip this step.

Now, the next step would be to work on the phobic reaction; but work on phobias is slow work. You need to accept that, okay?

One way is to try first on your own with your boyfriend, who seems to be on your side in this. I'm a little confused about your intentions as you seem interested in having sex but you also seem to value waiting till marriage. I'm going to discuss here what you would do, assuming you are seeking to have sex, okay?

Phobia work is a matter of slowly desensitizing. That means not being quite as stiff and frozen today as yesterday. Little steps. For example, all the foreplay that you like and are comfortable with would be supplemented with small "doses" of having him touch your vaginal area, slowly moving toward it. As you begin to tense up, he would stop and keep his hand where it is. You would breathe deeply. He would say soothing things to you. You might do things that turn you on, all the while he hasn't moved his hand. He then begins to move his hand a little closer to your vagina after you've relaxed a bit. As you tense, he stops, and the pattern continues. At first, he may not reach your vagina. After a while, he may reach it but not actually masturbate you. Then, slowly, it will move to the same with the penis.

You can see how slow this work can be. But that is how phobias are overcome. You can also work with a sex therapist as advised above, but the work will be the same.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5313
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you very much for your response, Dr. Mark! I had not thought of that possibility before, and I will certainly reflect back and see if maybe I can find a link therein!


I do have a follow up questions for you... Rather than any sexual act causing *anxiety*, my emotional state turns to one of indifference. Like my excitement and love and affection all instantly vanish as soon as sweet kissing turns into a sexually charged activity. So, I suppose, upon thinking about it, it's not only that I tense and am unable to speak when he tries to touch me, but even more that I have become completely impassive about the whole situation (as soon as a sexual component becomes apparent). Honestly, sometimes I feel a bit like a prostitute, as I am not *against* making out, oral play, etc, but rather that I'm completely impassive about it. I feel nothing towards it. My body obviously responds, but my mental awareness vanishes and I am no longer a part of the situation. I almost think I'd be less worried if I would at least feel guilt or distress or anxiety or something. But I can not stress enough how non-present I am during sexual activities. And I love him very much and am completely open and excited just being around him, and honestly, very turned on sometimes, as long as the situation doesn't turn to sexual energy. It's not that I don't trust him to touch me or don't find him attractive, quite the contrary.

Sorry for the added information; I'm having a hard time expressing what is actually worrying me in a clear and concise manner.


Thank you again, Dr. Mark.



Hi. I apologize for the delay in my responding: the system somehow didn't alert me you had replied; it usually does. I only found this while doing a manual review. So I apologize.

I want to explore with you what "anxiety" means. Anxiety in popular understanding is indeed feeling nervous, etc. But these are only SOME of the most common external manifestations of anxiety. These reactions are not what anxiety really is.

Anxiety is a negative elevation in emotions. Now, when someone is traumatized, for example, they can have a negative elevation of fear or dread in many situations. How this manifests can be varied. One way is extreme: it is called dissociation. The person can't even feel the fear or dread anxiety reactions. They feel absolutely nothing. They feel detached. When there is actual trauma, this extreme, the dissociation, can be debilitating.

You, thankfully, are not dissociating because of trauma and so it is not so debilitating. But that doesn't disqualify your feeling nothing, your feeling detached, from being anxiety produced. That is my sense here of what is happening: you are feeling anxiety and that anxiety is producing these reactions.

So, this is a new thought for you and you can determine for yourself if you want to integrate it into the work you are embarking on in becoming more in touch with your sexuality, whether on your own or in therapy.

Okay, all the very best to you, Dr. Mark

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