Can “Looking” be a Symptom of Sex Addiction?

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Can “looking” or ogling be a symptom of your sex addiction? Does looking trigger you into deep fantasy leading to compulsive sexual thoughts that won’t stop until you act out? Often times “ogling” is a step in the wrong direction for sex addicts leading to other unhealthy sexual behavior. It hurts spouses too – the web is chock full of articles from the women’s perspective describing the hurt caused by excessive ogling. In fact, a Google search of “ogling and cheating” pulls up ads for cheating website Ashley Madison.

 

Excessive ogling is not healthy for either partner, especially when sex addiction is involved. That’s why we developed a series of tools to help sex addicts avoid this trap. Can looking be considered a compulsive behavior — one associated with a sexual addiction?

 

bigstock-Vector-drawing-of-a-male-head--44340343The Science of Ogling
Science says that checking someone out is driven by an evolutionary mechanism rooted in our biology and quest for the right mate to ensure offspring, says Robert L. Trivers in his famous Parental Investment Theory, which predicts which sex will be the fast, indiscriminate mating sex and which sex will be the more discriminating sex. This doesn’t mean that this is healthy behavior, however, when someone is struggling with sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior. One study claimed that ogling triggers the brain’s reward system and that men react to women’s bodies like they do to drugs and alcohol and literally get high. This is particularly significant for sex addicts.

 

The Traits of the “Looker”
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, and science says that this behavior is rooted in evolutionary biology.

 

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. Oftentimes 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. We try to help our clients understand how this “looking” makes their significant other feel.

 

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, 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.

Here are some tools we give our clients to avoid objectifying women and triggering addictive thoughts and behaviors.

 

Two-Second Rule
A simple intervention 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 ogling 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 that can only hurt your recovery from sex addiction.

7 thoughts on “Can “Looking” be a Symptom of Sex Addiction?

  1. KM

    My husband is 13 mos into a sexual addiction recovery program. He has a polygraph in a few days, and we have disclosure shortly thereafter. A couple of days ago I stood inches away as I watched him repeatedly steal glances towards an attractive woman. He was oblivious and unaware that I was watching him watch her. He has been working on not ogling since about June with what appears to be progress. Until this “slip”. He said he wasn’t fantasizing/objectifying/undressing etc. but was trying to figure out her age and wondering about the book she was looking at. This seems like a lie, yet his polygraph so in a few days. I don’t know what to make of it.

  2. Myself

    Thanks, helped a lot, trying to stop mild sexual addiction right now myself. Your advice is really helping people and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Daniel

    For me, this behavior is a trigger, and when I catch myself indulging, I’ve started using the 2 second rule. I really liked what you said too about the object of my ogling is none of my business. He didn’t wear that tight shirt or those pants for me and I have no right to know or guess at what’s underneath them.
    What I’m working to remember is that catching that behavior is an indicator that I need to dialog with the looker and find out how he’s trying to help me. Then redirect that energy to something constructive. Otherwise the script starts and obsession begins to set in.

    1. James

      Hi Daniel,
      Good for you that you’re trying these “reminders.” There is a big difference between noticing an attractive person and looking at a sexual object. Relieve yourself of this burden of looking. Looker is indeed young–just help that part of you grow up.

      Be Well, James

  4. Jeff

    Got linked here via Reddit and this post is particularly useful! I feel that I’ve had a problem with ogling in the past, with recent resurgence. However I am able to consciously curb this, often telling myself that ‘she is a woman, not an object for your desire’.

    It has a complex series of reasons but I think I am beginning to overcome it. Great post!

    1. James Gallegos

      Hi Jeff,

      I’m happy you found personal value in this brief article/blog. It really is a personal choice as to decide whether our behavior crosses the line so good for you for tracking this. There is a big difference between noticing an attractive person and looking at a sexual object. Keep up the good work!

      Best, James

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