Is looking at women wrong or cheating?

Looking at women in a fixated kind of way can get in the way of your personal growth. In fact, “looking” at other women can be a sign of sexual compulsion. We explore what’s behind any compulsive sexual behavior here and how you can change looking at women here.

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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.

About the author
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.
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