Psych Central


girls night outYou don’t have to be a sex addict to get totally distracted by a great looking woman (or a great looking man for that matter, especially if you are gay).  But everybody looks at women; men look at women and women look at women.  And women who appear in an obviously sexy manner will get almost anybody’s attention, at least momentarily.

Sex addicts in recovery are encouraged to see sexual gaze as problematic behavior.  I believe there are real reasons why sexual looking can sometimes be seen as a bad thing but I question whether it is possible to avoid it.  And if it is not possible to avoid it, whose fault is that?

Problematic looking can be a part of sex addiction

Sex addicts I treat view the world through sex colored glasses and so they tend to look at women (or men if they are gay) differently.  A male porn addict client of mine works on a college campus.  He has been very clear that although he is not that obvious about it, he is in fact objectifying the women he looks at.  He fees that when he does this kind of looking all he sees is a body, not a person, and as such he believes that his looking has a porn-like quality.

Another man came for treatment because his ogling of women was so extreme and blatant that it was endangering his marriage.  In both these cases it turned out that there were other compulsive sexual behaviors present in the person’s history as well.

Sex addicts are taught to use the “three second rule” which means they have three seconds to look away, remind themselves that the woman or man is a real person, and wish them well.  But what about the rest of the population?

Can sexual gaze be thought of as harmful?

The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls has concluded that there is a continuum of behavior

with sexualized evaluation (e.g. looking at someone in a sexual way) at the less extreme end, and sexual exploitation, such as trafficking or abuse, at the more extreme end.”

This conclusion suggests that looking at someone in a sexual way is a form of violation or invasion.  But in many cases it is so mild as to be generally acceptable and at times flattering and even sought after.

An article in the University of Connecticut’s online newspaper entitled “Sex and the University: Pornography and Power: The Male Gaze’s Effect” talks about the male gaze in pornography.  They state:

The effect of male gaze is glaringly prominent in pornography…The male gaze that is exerted in porn is incredibly thorough. …it focuses intensely on the subjugation of female bodies.

The porn star standard of beauty

But another recent article called “How Women Made Porn Fashionable” points to a trend toward women wanting to gain power and success through looking sexual and dressing their daughters in a sexualized way.  In other words, women have bought into the porn star image as the ideal.

Women’s appearing more and more sexual is directly related to drawing the sexual gaze of men.  There seems to be a vicious circle operating whereby the sexual socialization or “pornification” of society promotes everything from exhibitionism to voyeuristic looking to viewing porn which in turn perpetuates the sexualized female ideal.

There is no one element that is at the root of all this.  It all seems to be moving in the same direction at once: eroticized images in gaming, music videos, exhibitionistic chat, sexting, advertising, you name it.  It is no wonder that women and girls seem to be adopting an increasingly sexualized standard of looks.  (See a powerful 1 minute video on this topic at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zKfF40jeCA )

I can only conclude that in today’s world, the deck is stacked against straight men ever being able to not notice women in a sexualizing way.  Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

 


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    Last reviewed: 4 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2013). Is it Possible to Tune out Sexy Women?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/03/is-it-possible-to-tune-out-sexy-women/

 




Check Out Linda Hatch's books,
Relationships in Recovery & Living with a Sex Addict.


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