I have been doing buddhist practices and trying to keep the precepts for a few months, after an intensive retreat. I have been noticing recently that I have automatically started to avoid looking at any women that are potentially attractive. This is almost instinctive and I go out of my way to avoid looking at them as much as possible. Also, I can see that I do not find most women attractive now, like in the sense of having that primal urge to have sex with them. Instead there is a subtle judgement like 'Hey, she looks pretty' but mostly without any deeper lust. While watching porn (I do it compulsively unfortunately) I have just a few moments of actual lust during the whole session, and for the most part, even the prettiest women there have stopped appealing sexually to me. But there are some women though, in real life, for who I am like "MY GOD she is too beautiful!" and I feel that strong sexual urge (and suffering along with it) unlike with all others.

I want to ask, is this normal and expected part of the practice? Not that I am complaining - I am pretty happy with it tbh coz when I don't jerk off for a few days I feel my mind stronger, calmer, happier and have energy to get stuff done. I am worried though if my avoidance is rooted in aversion to feel the sexual urge and the suffering? If this is indeed good, are there any other practical tips (other than meditation) on how to take this further - to remove all lust- and the slavery that it carries?

Kindly give your insights. Please do not hold back on technical aspects, give me as accurate and precise answer as possible as I understand the formal terminology of the sutras etc. Any responses are appreciated.

Thank you


5 Answers 5


Ajahn Chan, the famous monk of the forest tradition, once did a practice to avoid looking at any woman. When the practice ended and he took a look at the first woman; he described it as deeply disorienting. He realized then that denying sensual desires (and avoiding sensual pleasures) is not the answer.

At the core of the Buddhism, is always the question: is there something better? This was the question that drove the Buddha to give up a life of wealth, luxury and comfort into the rugged, uncertain and austere life of a renunciant. It was also the reason that the Buddha showed Nanda that there is a better existence then the one with that lovely Sakyan girl. In the past, the rich and powerful seek out younger and fresher faces by keeping harems. In modern days, we have serial divorces and marriages instead.

There is another thing that any Truth-seeker could not and should not ignore; the reality that awaits us all i.e. old age, illness and death. There is nothing wrong with sex, masturbation or any sensual pleasures in general. It just that they do not endure. Why deny ourselves the possibility that there is something better....more enduring? So let's keep searching and practicing because we deserve better.

  • Thank you for your comment. The story that you linked was very fascinating. I however, differ on the first part.- when I look at women, I do not get disoriented. In fact, I do not feel that they are beautiful, most of them anyways. Today I looked at advertisement with a woman who would be very attractive to me earlier, and I consciously looked at it, but I did not feel that attraction. And on this was my original query. Jun 22, 2023 at 17:23
  • I have edited with a link on Ajahn Chah's practice then and insights on lust as described by Ajahn Amaro. Watching some toddlers learning to eat solid foods, there will be times when some will suck for ages on their food until all the sweet and savoury flavours are extracted. Then, they will spit out the tasteless mess to the horrors of their parents. That makes me realize that chewing is tough for very young children because their jaw muscles are not well-developed. Learning to chew properly and swallowing solid foods is actually quite traumatic for them.
    – Desmon
    Jun 23, 2023 at 7:29
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    Fast forward as adults, we are so acclimatised that eating is a joy. We look forward to various textures like crunchiness, crispiness or smoothness. Is physical attraction tramuatic? Where does the discomfort arises? When your heart's desire is finally fulfilled, is there a disappointment because it didn't tick off all the boxes? Like the jaw is slightly out of shape or the nose is a bit crooked. All conditioned realities has their limitations, the Buddha pointed out. The biggest being they don't endure. He also pointed out there is a reality that is unconditioned and lasting.
    – Desmon
    Jun 23, 2023 at 7:29
  • Thx, I agree with what you say. But is there a way to avoid burning in desire when all one’s mind sees is that the object of desire is the source of ultimate everlasting pleasure? (I know of course there is a way out but being in the mire I do not see it) Jun 27, 2023 at 3:51
  • I don't think there's any shortcuts. Distance and time apart from the objects of desire is necessary. It is hard to deconstruct something when the mind is overcome with desires in its presence. The coolness from time and distance apart allows the mind to see things that would not be obvious in the heat of the moment. E.g. it obviously didn't last the last time, how can it last in the next round? Or how can it be the ultimate pleasure when the mind keeps looking at improving and bettering it?
    – Desmon
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:29

If pornography is being compulsively watched, this is due to sexual lust.

Watching pornography is the opposite of practicing loving-kindness & compassion because pornography depicts inappropriate, harmful & often abuse behaviours by & towards women.

In the Buddhist scriptures, an ex-prostitute enlightened nun criticized her previous behaviour of merely exposing her private parts, let alone her having sex with men for money (Thig 5.2).

Snp 1.6 says it is a downfall for a lay follower to debauch himself with prostitutes (which would include pornographic performers).

If there is loving-kindness & compassion, women can be looked at. In fact, my impression is women appreciate being looked at in appropriate ways and do not appreciate being ignored.

Everyday I see & often talk to many different beautiful women from all around the world, often in bikinis. I am celibate & do not masturbate. These beautiful women do not adversely concern me. I can do this because I understand sexual promiscuity & non-commitment brings harm & suffering. I cultivate a mind of non-harming towards women.

  • Thank you for your comment. I agree with some parts, but I disagree with the black and white conclusions like compulsiveness implies lust, pornography is opposite of loving kindness, what women care and appreciate etc. Many compulsive acts are just compulsive, and without any desire…, not to say there are no compulsive acts with underlying addictions. The other part is women, appreciating being looked in loving kindness manner.- I do not care. What I care is my spiritual benefit, which entails benefit of others, but not people pleasing. Jun 22, 2023 at 17:29

SN 35.127 has some advice. It's given to a king and describes monks' behaviour, so maybe it's for everyone.

  1. Think of women as your mother, your sister, your daughter -- depending on their age.

    I don't know how this comparison is understood by different people who have different relationships with their family -- but again perhaps it's useful to everyone.

  2. Deconstruct the form -- instead of thinking of it as an attractive whole, reflect that it's skin and bones, blood and organs and waste and so on.

  3. Don't get caught up in the "signs" (which I think means the 'sign' of "long hair" for example implying "an attractive woman").

They're presented in sequence -- the first is first, the second is used when the first is insufficient, etc.

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    Thank you, this is very helpful! Jun 27, 2023 at 5:16

I think it often can be more helpful to deliberately set your intention rather than reflecting on the intention of past actions. I’m not saying you should never reflect on/be honest about the motives underlying your actions, but Intention is one of the dimensions of the Eightfold Path.

It’s appropriate to develop the resolve to not look at women in a way that would likely make them feel uncomfortable, not look at them for the purpose of gratifying an urge, etc.. Consider spending time dwelling on that. Likewise, consider spending time developing your commitment to not deny/repress desires.

Someone can spend a lot of time wondering if that glance they just avoided making was repressing desire or appropriate modesty, but if we lack clear recollection of the event and/or have a rigid belief about our self, we could spend a lot of time spinning our wheels in proliferation and not gain any insight. (But we can continually cultivate our intentions).

I wanted to be sure to answer the question completely first, but also gently offer the suggestion: if you believe your porn watching is compulsive, perhaps that should be a higher priority? Sometimes tackling small things first is a good strategy, but other times something is a “key log” (The one log in a river that, when removed, will relieve the log-jam and allow everything to flow freely again).

Hope this is somehow helpful.


There is a practice of guarding the sense doors. This is how the Buddha describes as translated by Bhante Sujato. MN 107

When they have ethical conduct, the Realized One guides them further: ‘Come, mendicant, guard your sense doors. When you see a sight with your eyes, don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of covetousness and displeasure would become overwhelming. For this reason, practice restraint, protect the faculty of sight, and achieve restraint over it. When you hear a sound with your ears … When you smell an odor with your nose … When you taste a flavor with your tongue … When you feel a touch with your body … When you know a thought with your mind, don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of mind were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of covetousness and displeasure would become overwhelming. For this reason, practice restraint, protect the faculty of mind, and achieve its restraint.’

Ajahn Nyanamoli describes guarding the sense doors by remembering the context around what you are experiencing. For example that this is not for your benefit, it is for your harm, craving is painful, lust is painful and so on. Whatever works for you.

But as the sutta itself says, "don't get caught up in the features and details". As I understand it, if you see an attractive person don't start noticing the shape of their leg, the way their eyes look etc. Stay with the big picture, not the details.

Bhante Sudhaso said when he was around one extremely attractive woman with bad teeth, he focused on her ugly teeth.


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