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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.