Updated: APRIL 26, 2022
Reviewed by Kinkly Staff
on April 26, 2022

Spectatoring is the act of having sexual interactions while focusing on the self rather than the sensory experiences of the sex act. Instead, the individual is like a spectator to the act, rather than an active participant and may be seen as "stuck in their head" rather than in the sensory experiences involved in the sexual acts in which they are involved.

The term spectatoring was coined in the 1970s by forward-thinking American sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It has since been studied as an impediment to satisfying sex and/or a healthy sexual response. Sensate focus has been suggested as a way of getting out of spectatoring during sex.

More About Spectatoring

When people are spectatoring, they are often monitoring and judging themselves and their partners having sex, rather than giving themselves over to the experience. The thoughts someone has while they are spectatoring are often very critical. They might worry about their body or their sexual performance, for example.

Research suggests that spectatoring can lead to less sexual satisfaction, and sex therapy often focuses on moving people away from this internal focus during sex.

Many psychologists and sex therapists believe that mindfulness can greatly enhance sexual pleasure. Mindfulness can be practiced during any activity, even mundane ones like washing dishes or eating a meal.


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