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Caligynephobia is the clinical term for an exaggerated or irrational fear of beautiful women. It is also known as venustraphobia; the term gynophobia refers to a fear of women in general. A person may experience caligynephobia because of personal trauma or as part of a larger issue, such as social anxiety disorder. People with phobias like these can find routine social interactions awkward and distressing. Fortunately, many resources both on and off the Internet offer support for sufferers of this not uncommon problem.
The word “caligynephobia” comes from the Greek root words kalos and gyne, meaning “beautiful woman.” Many people feel anxious around strangers, especially those whom they find attractive or otherwise wish to impress. For a caligynephobic person, this anxiety is focused on attractive women; it is especially common when romantic feelings are involved. Anyone can experience occasional anxiety or awkwardness in such situations, but for people with acute social phobias, it may be a regular occurrence. If someone is prevented from enjoying social occasions because of anxiety, he or she should consider therapeutic measures.
Caligynephobia might be a manifestation of a well-known neurosis called social anxiety disorder. People with this syndrome feel varying levels of unease or emotional distress in social situations, particularly those involving strangers or large groups. Exactly what triggers this unease can be different for every person. Some people dislike public speaking or being the center of attention, while others feel intimidated by the presence of employers or other authority figures. The high social regard accorded to attractive people can provoke attacks of caligynephobia.
Luckily, caligynephobic people can find support groups and professional therapeutic solutions. Websites focusing on social phobias advise sufferers to avoid caffeine and maintain a healthy eating and exercise regimen. These are good techniques for reducing stress and anxiety generally. Meditation or a spiritual approach can offer a different perspective on the problem, as can a sense of humor. A therapist or counselor may be able to pinpoint why beautiful women cause this reaction; in the absence of professional help, a friend or family member can lend a sympathetic ear.
Caligynephobia is often represented in popular media, sometimes creating romantic complications for the protagonist of a story. Actor and filmmaker Woody Allen often casts himself in his movies as a neurotic figure who is intimidated by women. The character Stan on the South Park cartoon often becomes violently ill in the presence of his longtime crush, Wendy. Perhaps the classic case of caligynephobia in popular fiction is Charlie Brown, from the comic strip Peanuts. For years, he secretly had a crush on the nameless “little red-haired girl,” but was so intimidated by her beauty that he could not even approach her.
I once worked as a host for a hotel restaurant, and I remember one weekend when the city sponsored a preliminary beauty pageant for Miss America. It was my job to seat 25 of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have to admit I was scared to death the first day. I didn't realize I had so much anxiety about being around beautiful women. I think I was reminded of times when girls of that caliber rejected me as a teen. It felt like attractive people lived in a completely different world than I did. They would take one look at me and decide I wasn't worth their time.
day of the pageant, one of the contestants stayed in the dining room after the others left. She wasn't feeling well and didn't want to go on the scheduled tour. We ended up talking for an hour. I wasn't trying to ask her out, and she wasn't in the mood to be a "beauty pageant contestant". We just talked about normal things and then she went back to her room. That conversation made me feel so much better about being in the company of a beautiful woman.
I have to admit it took me a long time to become comfortable around beautiful women, but I wouldn't say I had a full-blown phobia. The problem for me was finding a lot of female classmates or co-workers extremely attractive, but not having enough self-confidence to approach any of them. I couldn't compete with the athletes and the good-looking guys at my school, although I thought I had more to offer on a deeper level. Inevitably, I'd end up being a beautiful girl's best male friend, but not someone she would consider dating.
As an adult, I now realize that those early relationships based on physical attraction never lasted. Many of those same beautiful women are now looking for
other qualities such as faithfulness, reliability, empathy and emotional stability. All of that social anxiety I felt around attractive girls as a teenager has disappeared now that I'm a grown-up. I still get nervous in the presence of an exceptionally beautiful woman, but I think a lot of people do. It's just human nature.
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