The eyes have been called the initial organ of romance. Gazing at a lover can trigger a smile of interest and activate the courtship dance. Your visual sense also plays a key role in stimulating and maintaining sexual desire. Former porn users are often challenged in their ability to comfortably use these natural and positive functions of sight in an intimate relationship. Past porn use may have trained you to look at a person in ways that are alienat­ing and cause a partner to retreat instead of wanting to open up and get closer to you. Reliance on porn for sexual stimulation may have also cre­ated an unrealistic standard for sexual desirability and attractiveness that may inhibit your ability to get or stay sexually turned on by your partner. As part of sexual healing, you may need to address these repercussions and begin “seeing” with your eyes in ways that will enhance sexual intimacy.

Look with love. How do you look at your partner’s body? Do you stare and examine in the same way you scanned images of people in porn, or do you look in a sexual way that is also personal and conveys caring and respect? Unlike a porn image, a partner has a personal reaction to the way you look at her, either liking or disliking it. If your partner feels good about your gaze before, during, and after sex, she’ll probably be more comfort­able relating sexually with you.

It’s not always easy to be consciously aware of how you are looking at a partner. In porn use, staring insensitively at someone for sexual arousal is standard practice. Porn’s conditioning may run deep and be so auto­matic that you don’t even realize the times when you are visually treating your partner like porn.

In order to begin using your eyes in ways that improve sexual intimacy, it’s a good idea to find out how what you’re doing now is received and perceived, and learn to pay more attention to what feelings you are com­municating when you fix your eyes on your partner. Ask your partner how she feels when you look at her in different situations. Encourage your part­ner to speak up and request a change if she is feeling uncomfortable with how you are gazing at her. Keep in mind that—like your words and your touch—your eyes communicate different things to your partner as well.

“Looking with Love” is a simple technique that teaches you how to use your eyes to convey feelings of affection to your partner. It’s a great skill to have because you can use it to shift out of ways of looking that were learned from porn and help your partner learn to feel more trusting and comfortable with your gaze. Looking with love can be interwoven with feelings of sexual desire, which can help your partner to not feel sexually objectified when you are in an amorous mood.