Saturday November 29th 2014

Is looking at women wrong or cheating?

Is looking at women wrong or cheating?

Can “looking” at other women be addictive?

We’ve all seen “that” guy. Maybe you are that guy. The one who rubbernecks while driving to look at an attractive woman. The guy who routinely cranes his neck in the restaurant to follow somebody’s form as they make their way to their seat or to the exit. Men are visually-based creatures and respond to what they see more strongly than women. But, can looking be considered a compulsive behavior — one that could be associated with a type of sexual addiction?

It depends.

So how can you stop fantasising or objectifying and start to look at women with a more healthy eye?  We explore here.

The Traits of the “Looker”

When we work with clients who struggle with a porn or sex addiction, a common trait is an overactive “looker.” We make the distinction between just noticing somebody and actually looking in a fixated kind of way. For an addict, looking takes on more of an obsessive energy that feels like it is almost impossible not to look. Someone dealing with sex addiction tends to objectify the person (or people) they are looking at and view them as a collection of body parts (“Wow. Would you look at ‘that’?”)

Lookers think that they may possess what we call “x-ray vision,” a fictional belief that they can actually see what is under women’s clothing! Our clients notice during these times that they stare the longest and fall more deeply into a trance. Often times they are not even aware that they are staring at somebody. Wives or partners of the sexually addicted person often complain about this looking behavior — and how they feel it reflects on them.

How To Work With the Overactive “Looker”

Like most problems, you can’t change anything unless you are first aware that there is indeed a problem. When we work with men with sexually addictive behavior or husband sex addicts, we examine this looking element as part of the compulsive behavior. Men who struggle with a porn addiction, for example, may obsessively look at women as a form of foreplay, a way to “research” so that they can later find a picture, movie, or a Webcam girl who resembles that person. They essentially use looking as a tool to further their compulsive behavior.

A few simple interventions we employ with clients reveal the myth of X-Ray Vision, and give the person who they are objectifying a story, some humanity. These interventions include: “The Two-Second Rule”, “Other Women’s Body Parts Aren’t My Business” and “She is a Person”

The Two-Second Rule

A simple intervention to start to control compulsive looking at women is to use a two-second rule. This is essentially a self-monitoring tool to establish some control and boundaries around the looking. If this sounds awfully close to something you would do with a child — to set limits on computer use, watching television, etc. — you’re right, it is. This behavior is young and regressive. Most avid adult lookers have been doing so since childhood. When a person notices that he is indeed looking too much, he then gives himself “permission” to look one time and one time only, but only up to two seconds. The idea is if you are aware enough to slap a limit on the looking, then you are aware that you are crossing the line.

Other Women’s Body Parts Are Not My Business

Reminding our clients the body parts of women they do not know or are not involved with are none of their business presents another valuable reflection. Men reveal that they often feel obligated to look, as if it’s a job, or they worry that they will miss out on something. A simple reminder, or mantra, is to remind yourself that a woman with whom you are not intimately involved is none of your business. She may not even know you. She did not wear those clothes for you. She does not welcome you. You do not need to look.

She Is A Person

Obsessive looking usually involves objectifying. Notice what you are saying (internally or out loud). “Look at those breasts!” “How about that butt.” “Check out those legs.” The list goes on. Remind yourself that object of your fascination is a person by lending her some humanity. Remember that she is somebody’s daughter, someone’s sister, somebody’s mother. She is somebody. She is not an object.

Noticing when you cross the line and your looking takes on a more obsessive, out of control bent requires both awareness and practical tools and interventions to “snap” yourself out of this particular trance.

Questions about looking at women

Do you still have questions about looking at women? We invite you to ask your questions here. We try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate concerns about sexually compulsive behaviors.

Photo credit: thekevinchang

Leave a Reply

7 Responses to “Is looking at women wrong or cheating?
Sex NYC
6:46 pm August 24th, 2012

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!

jennifer
1:43 am January 2nd, 2013

if you’re just always looking at other women, what do you think about the woman you’re involved with?

11:52 am January 2nd, 2013

Hi Jennifer. This is a great question! From what I’ve understood and read from the book “A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction”…intimacy is difficult to achieve in a relationship when one person sees the world through the lens of sexual compulsion. In fact, while a man who engages in sexually compulsive behavior may love the woman he is with, he may not be able to be intimate with her. If you’re in a relationship and your mate is constantly looking at others, check out the book mentioned here. It’s really great!

geoffrey
8:22 pm March 26th, 2013

Thank you for this post. While I don’t engage in porn or consider myself a sex addict – monogamous relationships for past 5 years, I am a “looker!” It is a behavior that has had a negative impact on my past 2 relationships despite monogamy. When my significant other(s) complained, I denied looking and dismissed their comments as their own insecurity. Reassuring them I was committed to them and only thought of them romantically. I truly don’t remember what people looked like later and don’t use it to mentally stimulate what is a very healthy physical relationship.

Recently, other women have commented to my wife that I make them uncomfortable. Worse, one of them is my step son’s girlfriend. I was horrified when I heard this and realized I had a problem and needed to 1) change my behavior and 2) seriously apologize.

As you say in your post, it’s like a trance and I don’t even realize I am staring. Now that I’m aware of it, I caught myself the other day actually doing it. I had to snap myself out of it. I realize this is something I need to change. It’s embarrassing to know that I have made people I care about (or don’t even know) feel that uncomfortable.

Can you suggest how to apologize to those I know I have offended?

DOMINIC
4:48 pm June 26th, 2013

I’M ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED AND HAVE HAD 5 OR SO SITUATIONS WERE MY FIANCE HAS SEEN ME STAIRING. WE ARGUE OVER THIS THOUGH I AM NOT AWARE OF STAIRING. SHE IS VERY RELIGIOUS AND STRONGLY OBJECTS TO MY ACTIONS, SHE SAYS THAT ITS DEMEANING TO HER. SHE TOLD ME IF I DON’T STOP SHE WILL NOT MARRY ME. SHE LOVES ME AND WHAT A LOSE IT WOULD BE IF I CAN’T BEAT THIS STAIRING.
MY MAIN TOOL IS PRAYER AND I STARTED TO READ THE BIBLE.
CAN YOU ADVISE ME.

DeeDee
2:59 pm October 24th, 2013

I have struggled with this concept with my husband for too many years to count. It started as a compulsion to view pornographic images, mostly women with large breasts. We fought about it for years. He has since become a photographer and now I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. He has only recently admitted being “out of control” in the past only because he feels its different now because it is “his job.” He is quite talented as a photographer but often becomes preoccupied with “researching” models. I am blamed for insecurity and the fact that he has not and probably would not technically cheat, but it still feels like cheating to me. He lies about photoshoots and I caught him sending messages to models saying he shoots topless and art nudes. It is still cheating to me even if there is no contact. I feel my marriage slipping away and I seem to be the only one who sees it.

Kara
12:45 am November 17th, 2014

Hello, James–first of all, thank you so much for the invaluable information. I’m with a porn addict who constantly “scans” other women wherever we go. It could be anything that catches his eye and causes him to feel compelled to ogle a woman. So, it’s not even just body parts he leers at–today it was just an average girl but a blonde w/an unusual braid. He couldn’t help but ogle the novelty. The scanning behavior just drives home the fact that he’s almost certainly still looking at porn though he denies it–but he’s never dealt w/it. If I mention it, he gets extremely angry and would prefer me believe I’m a hallucinating lunatic than to admit that he was ogling again. We’ve been through this and back again and I have come to the conclusion that he’ll never actually follow through with his promises to address the addiction and I know I should have probably left the relationship by now and have only myself to blame for still being here. Until I get the courage to leave him, what coping skills can I try to develop to just not hurt so much when he behaves like a lecherous jerk who cares very little for me or how can I feel like a sexual, confident and attractive woman again in the face of all of this other information that seems to tell me otherwise? I used to be very confident and happy once. It’s almost hard to believe now.
Anyway…sorry so long. I dont’ know why I went into all of this, but any advice would be so very welcomed.
Thanks,
Kara

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About James Gallegos

James Gallegos, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is a therapist at Compulsion Solutions, an outpatient counseling service specializing in the treatment of those who suffer from the results of sexually compulsive behavior. From his offices in Walnut Creek, California, James works with people from all over the world both in person and by phone.