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.

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

  1. Star

    My boyfriend of four years has a ogling problem and a pornographer problem. He denies both and says I’m crazy. We can’t even go out and do fun stuff cause the ogling tears me up inside and if I let it slide my hurt turns into anger. Then he says all I do is bitch but it’s just me telling him what he’s doing and expressing my feelings. I’m not ugly and I want to ogle guys to show him how it feels but that’s just not my style. Everytime we try to go out it turns out all bad cause I let him know how disrespectful it is and he will swear up and down he’s not ogling and I’m tripping. His junk mail is full of females looking for low pro sex or a sexting buddy so I know he is doing things on porn sites. He says it’s from when he use to search those websites but I’m not dumb and I wish he didn’t treat me as such. He has a masturbating problem and has effected him physically but he still won’t face the facts of life. Then to top it off he has a drinking problem and that leads him to turn his feelings off and really ignore my feelings. I know he loves me but I don’t know if my heart can continue to take much more. He’s so in denial about everything and it is ripping us apart I’m trying my hardest not to give up on him but if he doesn’t want to face the facts then the only choice is to move on. I know I can’t change him only he can change himself . How do I get him to see the big picture???? One addiction is hard to kick so him having and seeing two and wanting to get help feels impossible sometimes. We go to church but I feel he goes most of the time just to pacify me. Even church leads to problems cause of his ogling but I don’t want to stop going to church cause I know we need that more than anything. Please give me some advice to my reality please.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Star, Good to hear from you. You don’t have to suffer. The truth is: Unless your boyfriend gets help he’s going to stay this way and get worse. Addiction is a cruel master. I know. I suffered from it too. I’d be happy to talk to him if he’d like to call. You could also get ahold of our book, “A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction.” It’s available at Barnes and Noble stores or If he doesn’t get help… need to leave and find someone who is clean and sober.

      Best, George Collins, Director
      (925) 932 0201

  2. Jackie

    I found this by accident. The thing is: Society says these behaviours are normal. That they are okay and so men don’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong. It’s bro code and everything else; it’s what they do together. Society says porn and looking and fantasy is okay, it’s normal healthy. Doesn’t matter if it’s teen porn or whatever…

    Me? I got tired of my husband always looking elsewhere, so I started having fun elsewhere myself. I just figure I’ll never find a guy who will be clean of these habit. I’m sure they are out there, but probably like winning the lottery. So yes, I’m not gonna waste my time being loyal. One might say having affairs doesn’t equate to porn/masterbating, but I don’t get off on porn/masterbating. It’s okay, I look occcasionally, but it leaves me feeling depressed and empty, not like what being with a man when his attention is on me feels like.

    Does he know? Don’t know; don’t care. He’s got his teen porn. Always catching him looking at young girls. My lover, though, likes women his age. I think because he genuinely likes kids, boys and girls. He has a little more respect for people, regardless of gender or what they look like.

    Not sure where it’s going. Not sure that I care.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      You guys need some solid couples counseling. And, your husband needs to do some individual work on his addiction. see my book, “Breaking the Cycle.” Click on the “get started free” button in the sidebar at the top of this blog page and I’ll send you the into and 1st chapter of my book as well as our book, “A Couple’s Guide to Sex Addiction.” That’s a great start. You can get the books on or Barnes and Noble bookstores in the US. We also do telephone and Skype counseling with men and women from all over the world. Be happy to do a phone assessment if you wish.

      Best, George Collins, Director
      (925) 932 0201
      Skype name: compulsionsolutions1

  3. Eric

    There are some great ideas here but I don’t like the idea of trying to limit oneself. There is a better technique that seems to work for many things including this. The “looker” can be brought to realize that part of him wants to look, and avoid “missing out”, etc… but there is another part of himself that he can become aware of that would rather not spend any energy in this pass time and would feel a kind of calm relief and peace of mind by avoiding it. Now the ego/I/eye just has say well I’m going to take the side of this other part of me for a while and see how it works out. It’s not as easy to implement this for looking since the looking can be a very ingrained, reflexive reaction, but instead of having an arbitrary 2 second limit the looker can just remind themselves as soon as they notice themselves doing it that they had decided not to so they can stop right away and feel a sense of relief instead of a sense of missing out. Seeing everyone as just another human being like oneself, beautiful people on the one hand, or those who annoy us with illogical behavior on the other seems like a great way to avoid being overwhelmed by a world characterized by a constant stream of strangers walking in and out of our present surroundings.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Eric, Good to hear from you. I agree. IF you do your dialogues (Chapter two of my book, “Breaking the Cycle”) You will no longer need to practice the 3 second rule. It’s a process that works if you work it. Best, George

  4. Siobhain Connolly

    I read the book as a co-dependent at what I felt was the last stage of setting me free from the obsessive oggler. It worked! I realised at the end of the book that I was no longer the co-dependent. I had outgrown them both. It certainly broke my cycle!!

    Interestingly enough, my husband started reading the book and as things appear at the moment, the cycle shows signs of breaking for him too. I know it is early days for us both as a couple, this is the best help card we have had to remain together.

    A big thank you.

  5. Siobhain Connolly

    I have been with my husband for 19 years and finally I shut off from him emotionally and sexually for a number of years. I had a near death experience and decided I wanted to try and make a go of our marriage. We went to Relate and put all of our cards on the table. Things improved but the rot didn’t go away. In a drunken rage recently he called me a prude which has caused a rift in our relationship. I wonder is it because he has had to curtail his looking and porn activities. He owned up to oggling in Relate but left out the porn. He does not understand about the impact of his excessive oggling and use of porn has had on our relationship. He swears it is all in the past and wants to brush it under the carpet. This alone worries me. I have ordered your book and am hoping if we can both get to the bottom of it all, we may be able to move on.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      I hope that the book helps. Please feel free to call us. We do phone sessions with people (and couples) from all over the world. Be happy to hear how we can help further. Best, George (925) 932 0201

  6. Steph

    I have not read your book. I stumbled on your site. I feel like I’ve lost my mind. I have been in this relationship for a while and tried over and over to reason with his behavior of sex addiction. I found it out by accident and he had been told go to meetings or I’m leaving. This was 3 years ago. he has been going to his meetings and hasn’t missed many. He tells me that he has been sober for 3 years of self love and porn. I have noticed a change in the past 3 years but I notice that his staring hasn’t stopped and we have talked about it. He finds every reason to rationalize his looking. We go places and it’s the same thing. He has to notice all girls and watch them. If we walk into a store together, he walks behind me. He uses mirrors, or any reflective items to see behind him if he is trying not to make it so obsious. The commercials, magazines, billboards and everything else he can get a fix from is always in eye shot of him. I’m always wrong and I cause all of the issues. when I text him to explain my feelings today, he cursed me and said that my feelings are not real and that I never listen to him and don’t believe him. I don’t know where some of his thoughts come from. It’s like a different conversation at times. I really don’t know what else to do. I do know that he loves his girls of all ages and that I become invisible when we are out in public. The conversations only go well if I say nothing and let him tell me how I’m wrongs and I make things up and that I don’t see things clearly. What the heck is wrong with him. It’s makes me question myself at times but I’m not delusional. What can I do to help him? He was abused as a child and neglected and I feel sorry for him. I think he’s repeating the patterns of his upbringing. Not sure. Any help would be great.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Stephanie, Thanks for your post. You need to talk to someone. Give me a call. I will put you in touch with our female therapist who will be able to help you understand this better. If your partner is compulsively “looking,” that’s also sexual addiction. My book, “Breaking the Cycle” would be a big help to him. You could, also, read our book, “Couples Guide to Sexual Addiction.” Go to the HOME page here and right under my picture, order the free segments from both books where it says “Get started free.” I’d also be happy taking a call from your partner and talk to him about the harm that “looking” does to you both.

      Best, George

      1. Steph


        I really appreciate you responding. I will ask him to call you if we are ever on speaking terms again. It’s a roller coaster and I really don’t know if I want to stay on this ride. Everything seems to be around his issues and I feel that this has brought on some of my own insecurities from this. I really don’t know what’s happening to me. I’ve never been through this before. It’s hard to really stay in one place when his lips are moving and I don’t know what the truth anymore. He is clearly OK with a relationship that battles all the time. He doesn’t care as long as he’s not alone. Is there a good time that I can ask him to call. We are in Texas. I will reach out to you in order to speak with the therapist. It actually feels good to just put this in writing. I’ve kept this in for 3 years and have not been able to talk with anybody about it. I’ve felt embarrassed for so long. I do know that this is not my fault. I just don’t understand how a person can be so blind to things and be ok with his behavior.


          1. Stephanie

            Hi George,

            It was so nice speaking with you. You book has entered the home for his reading. I glimpsed through it and he says that it’s not really for him since he doesn’t go to strip clubs, or picks up girls. I don’t think he does that either. Where is the book can I push the ogling of females? He says he’s not doing it but I see it all the time. One of your guys has text him and he feels that it’s not a good match for him because he doesn’t do the above things. His understanding of things is way out in left field for his own protection. That I do believe. I know he know’s what he’s doing but is not able to make the stop. UGH!….. I’m very close to shutting the door on this and never looking back. Is there anything else that I can suggest to him. Thanks.

          2. Compulsion Solutions Post author

            Stephanie, Have him call me. Sounds like he’s in denial. If he won’t get treatment you need to leave and find someone healthy. Life is NO fun with a practicing addict. You deserve better. If you are serious about leaving he may reach out. We’re here if you need us. Best, George

  7. Jen

    This fact devastates me as my husband is a recovering sex addict. He hid it well for well over a decade. I didn’t know he ogled. Now knowing he did kills me and I’m not sure I can move forward with this relationship. We have four children. Such a tragedy.

  8. KL

    Hi I’ve bought your book today at Amazon. I’ll be starting my journey tomorrow, took a break with my partner to know if things should be continued forward or that I really loved her not just lusting for her. It’s just a waste for our relationship if we still linger but hurting the both of us together

      1. KL

        Hi I’ll try to call as soon as possible but I’m from the Philippines so it might be expensive to call from here. Do you have skype or something? Can you please email me how much for the rates of sessions? Cause I really want to heal from this addictions, I want to see my partner real bad, too much addiction cannot help me appreciate and build intimacy with her. It’s destroying both of us.

  9. KL

    Hi! I want to know if stopping pornography and sexual addictions would enable me to stop looking at women properly? I keep hurting my partner with looking and secretive viewing of pornography with associated masturbation. I watch them whenever I feel depressed, bored, or in pain due to relationship fights etc. etc. I use this as my escape mechanism in my life, I want to change. There is more to life not just sex, masturbation and pornography. I want to enjoy my life fully by engaging to develop my relationship with GOD, I know alot of people would disagree with me in this.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      KL, Thanks for your comment, I believe that your questions about “looking” and sexualizing women would be answered by getting ahold of my book, “Breaking the Cycle,” and reading it. Also, our book, “A Couples Guide to Sexual Addiction,” could be a big help. You can get free samples of these books by going to the right hand sidebar here and clicking on the “Get Started Free” button. Let me know what you learn.

      Best, George Collins, Director
      (925) 932 0201

  10. amber

    I love my boyfriend dearly. But I am so tired of his looking at every girl everywhere. He also watches porn everyday. He’s a sweet man but I’m tired of feeling like I’m not enough. Been together almost 2 years. Should I stay with him? He just calls me jealous and says I should just let him be a man. Hmm. It discourages me a lot.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Amber, See if you can get your boyfriend to read my book, “Breaking the Cycle” or our couples book, “A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction.” If he won’t…..move on. Life with a practicing sex addict is NO life.

  11. Cynthia Brotherhood

    Thank you so much, so relieved it isn’t me! I just broke up with my boyfriend of 4 months because of his problem of ogling women. My third such breakup.

  12. RKO

    I am “that” guy and I hate it. All these points are correct and although I will never go further than ‘ogling’, my behaviour is wrong. As such my doctor will not refer me for specialist counselling/therapy and I cannot afford to fund it myself. The best I can manage is telling my closest friends and colleagues about it and requesting they tell me when I’m being inappropriate. Good on them for agreeing to help but it’s not really their job to do so, I wish I didn’t have to ask this of them.

  13. Lisa

    My boyfriend is the same…. Just about to embark on a new life together…. I genuinely thought it was me so to read this makes my heart feel so relieved. Thank god.. Now to can reach a solution

  14. Nancy

    I been married two years, 3 months and within two weeks of marriage, my great husband started staring at ladies. He stared so much at married ones, their husbands was upset. Then he advanced himself to churches, young teen girls, always looking at butts first. I have cried for the two years each day when he does it from being with him . He refuse to acknowledge it, he says I am just jealousy of them. He has treated me like trash. A lady from church, took a interest in him and each Sunday/Wed she runs to him, calling his name, holding his hand, wiping his shirt with her other hand. He refuse to stop her. I am jealousy he says. This went on 8 months. We stop going to church to keep me from crying. He is up to 51 blondes, one black hair, one brown hair, all I have witness. He want stop. When he bend over to see a 16 yr old butt I lost it. He says he don’t see nothing wrong with it. I can’t go in public with him anymore. One of the days, he will be touching them in the butt or other places. He has excuses for all he does. His ex tells me he has always been selfish, self center and he is. Always thinking of himself.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Nancy, Your husband appears to be in denial. He needs a wake up call before big damage is done. My book, “Breaking the Cycle” might help….if he’ll read it. I’d be happy to talk to him about this behavior if you can get him to call. Best, George Collins, Director

  15. Ellen mooney

    Please help! My husband and I have been married for twelve years together fifteen. He has had a problem with looking at other women this whole time. We have had thousands of fights over this. I am truly about ready to leave him. He is a wonderful man and does a lot for me and my children but I can’t live like this anymore. He had a very abusive childhood. And once he mentioned to me that he has slept with over one hundred women(this I believe). I had always had a bad gut feeling even before we got married and now more times then not, I wish I would have never married my husband. The bad thing is he is fifty seven years old and truly believes he has no problem. In his mind it is me with the problem!

  16. Sandy

    Wow…This is my husband.. Few people understand how hurtful this is to a wife.. She is just being too sensitive. Boys will be boys type of thing.

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Sandy, Good to hear from you. You might want to get a hold of our book, “A Couples Guide to Sexual Addiction,” by Paldrom (my wife) and myself and my book, “Breaking the Cycle.” They’re game changers. Best, George

  17. nash

    HI me and wife has been together for almost 5 years been married for only 1 year and ever since we got married a little bit later I started looking at outher women almost all the time cars, mirrors , public , family , friends pictures how can I stop iam hurting my wife very badly over this she even thought of leaving me over this guy’s please help I don’t want to lose my wife and everything we have together over this problem I have please help me fix it

    1. Compulsion Solutions Post author

      Nash, Good to hear from you. We CAN help you. Look around the website here. Watch some videos. Get my best selling book, “Breaking the Cycle.” Email me a contact form from our website and I’ll send you the intro and first chapter for free. We work, via phone and Skype, with men from all over the world. If you want to get over this stuff, get in touch. We care and we’re here. Best, George Collins, Director

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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

  21. 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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