Voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of watching other people engaged in intimate behaviours, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.

The term comes from the French voir which means "to see". A male voyeur is commonly labelled as "Peeping Tom" or a "Jags", a term which originates from the Lady Godiva legend. However, that term is usually applied to a male who observes somebody secretly and, generally, not in a public space.

Certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behaviour patterns as a paraphilia are categorised when 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  where 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. In order to be diagnosed with voyeuristic disorder the symptoms must persist for over six months and the person in question must be over the age of 18.

  • Most voyeurs do not have voyeuristic disorder.

  • Psychotherapist diagnose voyeuristic disorder when people feel greatly distressed or become less able to function well because of their behavior, or they have acted on their urges with a person who has not consented.

  • Treatment, which usually begins after voyeurs are arrested, includes psychotherapy, support groups, and certain antidepressants.

However, casual voyeurism becomes problematic when you take steps that violate a person’s right to consent or their expectation of privacy. These interests may also be problematic if you find yourself unable to control them.

They may be a cause for concern if you:

  • violate a person’s expectation of privacy in their home, a locker room, or a similar area

  • watch a person engage in sexual activity without their consent

  • begin filming or photographing another person without their permission

  • enter an area illegally in order to watch people

  • feel frustrated or stressed when you can’t engage in these behaviors

  • experience feelings of guilt after engaging in these behaviors

  • can’t get sexually aroused without watching others

  • can’t resist voyeuristic activities, even when they’re detrimental to your well-being

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