Sexual and reproductive health: Fear of rejection in a hypersexual world 


by Warren Heggarty

A recent study at University College London’s Institute of Education seems to show that lack of sexual experience is on the increase.  According to a report in the Sunday Times ‘one in eight 26-year olds in Britain told researchers they were virgins, a sharp rise from previous generations for whom one in 20 was the norm.’ (SundayTimes, 2018) 

Why is it so? Men’s Health Magazine ventured that overexposure to sexually explicit material might be to blame. Porn and social media have created unrealistic expectations.(Adams, 2018) 

Susanna Abse, a psychotherapist, told the Times that ‘Millennials have been brought up in a culture of hypersexuality which has bred a fear of intimacy.’ 

Apparently seeing all those glamours on TV and in Movies has instilled a sense of inadequacy and fear of humiliation in them. 

Another psychotherapist, Krystal Woodbridge said ‘We have young people coming here who do not know how to connect with other people as a romantic or sexual partner and they are terrified of rejection.’

What do you do if you are not connecting sexually with your partner? 

Poor body image and a lack of previous experience are two things that can cause anxiety about sexual expression, and not just for Millennials, but everyone. So too can having a broken heart, a feeling of being ‘over it all’ or a lack of trust. (La Ricca) This is where trust comes in (see our previous ACTION article on intimacy). 

Human beings generally can’t read people’s minds so it is very important not to make assumptions about what your partner wants, or when they want it, or how. You may have to try communicating verbally. Many of the more deep seated problems are difficult to talk about and some people may benefit from professional counselling. 

One such counsellor, Dr Srini Pillay describes a fear of being unable to satisfy. ‘Some partners are so afraid of losing their loved ones that all they do is focus on satisfying them without any interest in being satisfied themselves.’ This often does not end well. He says that a ‘fear of not being up to the job’ can boil down to deciding not to even bother.

Pillay says that fear of emotional intimacy can flare up when physical intimacy is on the table, so to speak. He has often seen cases where a person’s fear of physical intimacy ‘masquerades’ as their actual preference. However, he says ‘by ignoring your fear with the most emotionally intimate person in your life you may be giving up one of the most fulfilling experiences you could ever have.’ (Pillay, 2010)

Melissa La Ricca warns against pathologising a person’s lack of sexual interest (in YOU at least!) ‘Don’t misinterpret [their] lack of [sexual] interest in you for a fear of intimacy; [they] may just not like you in that way.’ (La Ricca) 


Adams, K. (2018, May 7). A huge number of 26 year olds are holding onto their virginity. Retrieved from Mens Health Magazine:

La Ricca, M. (n.d.). How to overcome a woman’s fear of intimacy. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from Ask Men:

Pillay, S. (2010, August 4). Seven common but hidden fears about sex. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

SundayTimes. (2018, May 7). Sexuality is virgin territory for intimacy-fearning millennials. The Australian.

Note: Due to the reorganisation of ACTION Recovery Conversations into six monthly cycles, The next issue will be Cansas Theme #1 on Housing, in July

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