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Voyeurism; this is having a sexual interest in, or indulging in, the practice of watching people who are engaged in some form of intimate behavior. For example, watching someone undressing, or viewing sexual activity, or any action that is generally thought of to be of a private activity.
One characteristic of voyeurism would be that the voyeur does not relate directly with the subject of his/her interest, although, an Exhibitionist will enjoy having a voyeur take part, and both the voyeur and the Exhibitionist will be fully aware of all activity that is taking place. Although when the voyeur takes their interest in a particular subject to an obsessive level, that behavior may be described as stalking, and this is never a good thing.
Voyeurism may also involve the taking of photograph or the making of videos that feature the subject.
The term comes from the French word voyeur, meaning "one who looks".
Other words/sayings that can be used in reference to a voyeur are also - "Peeping Tom" for a male, a term which originates from the Lady Godiva legend. However, that term is usually applied to a male who observes somebody through her window, and not in a public place.
Voyeurism is nothing new, but in today's society the concept of voyeurism has evolved, especially in popular culture. Non-pornographic reality television programs such as Big Brother and X Factor, are good examples of voyeurism, where the viewers could be described as voyeurs.

The American Psychiatric Association

Have classified certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior patterns as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) if the person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. It is described as a disorder of sexual preference. The DSM-IV defines voyeurism as the act of looking at "unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who are naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity". The diagnosis would not be given to people who experience typical sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity and should not be used when there is a consenting Exhibitionist and voyeur partaking in a fantasy.

Historical Perspectives

There is relatively little academic research regarding voyeurism. When a review was published in 1976 there were only 15 available resources. While there has been more research since then, there is still little information on the topic. This is particularly surprising considering the increase in use of the term voyeur and the group of people it can encompass. Society has accepted the use of the term voyeur as a description of anyone who views the intimate lives of others, whether within or outside of a sexual context.
Psychoanalytic theory proposes that voyeurism is a result of a failure to accept castration anxiety and as a result a failure to identify with the father figure.

Official Reports

Voyeurism was initially believed to only be present in a small portion of the population, but this perception was changed when "Alfred Kinsey" discovered that 30% of men prefer coitus with the lights on. This behavior is not considered voyeurism by today's diagnostic standards, but should there really be any differentiation between normal and pathological behavior, some would say there should, others would say there shouldn't, this is probably a debate for a different page.
Further studies have shown that actually 65% of men will admit to having engaged in peeping, which suggests that this behavior is a lot more widely spread than generally believed.
Congruent with this, research found voyeurism to be the most common sexual law-breaking behavior in all populations. In the same study it was found that 42% of college males, who had never been convicted of a crime, had watched others in sexual situations. An earlier study indicates that 54% of men have voyeuristic fantasies, and that 42% have tried voyeurism. In a national study of Sweden it was found that 7.7% of the population (both men and women) had engaged in voyeurism at some point. It is also believed that non consensual voyeurism occurs up to 150 times more frequently than police reports indicate. This would make voyeurism the most common sexual fantasy that there is. This same study also indicated that there are high levels of co-occurrence between voyeurism and exhibitionism, finding that 63% of voyeurs also report Exhibitionist behavior.


Some research has found that voyeurs typically have a later age of first sexual intercourse. However, other research found no difference in sexual history between voyeurs and non-voyeurs. Voyeurs who are not also Exhibitionists tend to be from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do show Exhibitionist behavior.
Research has found that both men and women report roughly the same likelihood that they would hypothetically engage in voyeurism.
Research has discovered a greater gender difference when actually presented with the opportunity to perform voyeurism, although there is very little research done on voyeurism in women, so very little is known on the subject.
Voyeurism has also been linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When treated by the same approach as OCD, voyeuristic behavior can significantly decrease.

Legal status

In common law countries Voyeurism is only a crime if made so by legislation. In Canada, for example, voyeurism was not a crime when the case Frey v. Fedoruk et al. arose in 1947. In that case, in 1950, the Supreme Court of Canada held that courts could not criminalise voyeurism by classifying it as a breach of the peace and that Parliament would have to specifically outlaw it. On November 1, 2005, this was done when section 162 was added to the Canadian Criminal Code, declaring voyeurism to be a sexual offense.
In the United Kingdom, non-consensual voyeurism became a criminal offence on May 1, 2004.
In the English case of R v Turner (2006), the manager of a sports centre filmed four women taking showers. There was no indication that the footage had been shown to anyone else or distributed in any way. The defendant pleaded guilty. The Court of Appeal confirmed a sentence of nine months' imprisonment to reflect the seriousness of the abuse of trust and the traumatic effect on the victims.
Another English case in 2009, R v Wilkins (2010), resulted in a man who filmed his intercourse with five of his lovers for his own private viewing, being sentenced to imprisonment for eight months and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register, where his name would remain for ten years.
In a 2013 English case, Mark Lancaster was found guilty and sentenced for voyeurism, after having tricked an 18-year-old student into traveling to a rented flat in Milton Keynes, where he filmed her with four secret cameras dressing up as a schoolgirl and posing for photographs before having sex with her.
In the United States, video voyeurism is an offense in nine states and may require the convicted person to register as a sex offender.
The original case that led to the criminalization of voyeurism has been made into a television movie called Video Voyeur and documents the criminalisation of secret photography. Criminal voyeurism statutes are related to invasion of privacy laws, but are specific to unlawful surreptitious surveillance without consent and unlawful recordings including the broadcast, dissemination, publication, or selling of recordings involving places and times when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a reasonable supposition they are not being photographed or filmed by "any mechanical, digital or electronic viewing device, camera or any other instrument capable of recording, storing or transmitting visual images that can be utilized to observe a person."
Saudi Arabia banned the sale of camera phones nationwide in April 2004, but reversed the ban in December 2004. Some countries, such as South Korea and Japan, require all camera phones sold in their country to make a clearly audible sound whenever a picture is being taken. Secret photography by law enforcement authorities is called surveillance and is not considered to be voyeurism, though it may be unlawful or regulated in some countries.
In 2013, the Indian Parliament made amendments to the Indian Penal Code, introducing voyeurism as a criminal offence. A man committing the offense of voyeurism would be liable for imprisonment not less than one year and which may extend up to three years for the first offense, and shall also be liable to a fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment for not less than three year and which may extend up to seven years and with fine.

Popular Culture

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Some fine art photographers such as Richard Kern and Don Chase have displayed a fascination with the forms of secret voyeuristic photography.


Voyeurism is a common plot device in both serious (e.g. Rear Window, Klute, Blue Velvet, Disturbia) and humorous (e.g. Porky's, Animal House, Semi-Pro, Gregory's Girl, American Pie) films. Voyeuristic photography has been a central element of the mis-en-scene of films such as Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, and Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup. The 2002 television movie Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story is based on a true story about a woman who was secretly videotaped, and subsequently helped to get laws against voyeurism passed in parts of the United States.

Manga and Similar

The manga Colorful and Nozoki Ana are both devoted almost entirely to voyeurism. Also, in the light novel series Baka to Test to Shōkanjū, Kōta Tsuchiya is subject to voyeurism, explaining why he is referred to as "Voyeur".