voyeurism: a paraphilia of the solicitational/allurative type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to, [and dependent upon] {and contingent on} the risk of being discovered while covertly or illicitly watching a stranger disrobing or engaging in sexual activity [from French, voir, to look at] The reciprocal paraphilic condition is exhibitionism. See also peodeiktophilia; (noun, voyeur): the condition of being responsive to, or dependent on, the risk of being apprehended while illicitly peering at an individual (usually female) or a couple undressing or engaged in sexual activity, in order to obtain one's erotic arousal and facilitate or achieve orgasm. A voyeur is also known as a peeping Tom, the name of the fictional character, who after warnings not to do so at the pain of death, spied on the naked Lady Godiva as she rode trough the town clad only in her long hair in sympathetic protest of the unreasonable taxes levied by her husband on the impovershed citizens. The risk of detection, while illicitly observing or overhearing nudity or sexual activity, specifically contibutes to the arousal of the paraphilic voyeur. See also voyeurism.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

"I like to watch."
--Chauncey Gardner in Being There

The most common definition of a voyeur is that they prefer to watch rather than being an active participant. While this can be used to describe people who watch sports on television but never actually play sports or a security guard who stares at monitor screens all day long, it is most commonly used in a sexual context. In Being There, Chauncey Gardner is talking about his love of watching television, but his statement is quickly misinterpreted as meaning something else.

Of course, most voyeurs do not always prefer to watch. Sometimes they just enjoy watching others in addition to their own participation.

Why would an individual derive pleasure from simply watching others in some form of sexual context? From the man in his window watching the sunbathing woman next door to the person who invites strangers to satisfy his significant other, there are many varieties of voyuerism. Which one is right for you?

Maybe none. Maybe all. Maybe none of the above. We live in a voyeuristic society, where watching others is an everyday activity on some level. The person who sits in a coffee shop and watches and listens to the couple at the next table is technically a voyeur. They are intruding upon the privacy of two people in order to derive some sort of personal pleasure for themselves. Often "people watching" is done for amusement, or perhaps even research in the case of a writer or filmmaker, but it is still a form of voyeurism.


In our first voyeur scenario, we have a gentleman who cannot help but notice the young beauty who lies out in her backyard in a bikini regularly. He finds her physically attractive and begins to think about her, perhaps imagining various fantasies unfolding. He may find himself lingering longer at the window, watching her with ever expanding interest. He does not make an effort to introduce himself to the woman or otherwise engage her in conversation. He finds that looking is enough. Perhaps he is married or otherwise involved or maybe not. The amount of pleasure he gets from watching this woman grows. Soon he is investing in binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens. Is he doing anyone any harm? Not in a literal sense, but since this woman may have no idea she is being watched, he is invading her privacy and space. Of course, it has also been shown to be true that in some such cases the person being watched derives their own pleasure from being watched. This is where the games begin and where the imagination is fed and allowed to run wild.

A Little to the Left

Watching two or more people involved in some form of sexual act is a common fantasy. The large number of people who rent and purchase pornographic movies shows us that people do like to watch. However, watching the action live, or watching people you know is very different than slipping your average porno film into the VCR.

Many fantasies are best left as just that and not truly acted upon. The fantasy of seeing your partner/lover with another person or persons can be exciting to think about and talk about. However, actually watching them live and in person is quite different. Take it from someone who has been there, you will find such an activity to hit you on emotional levels you were not previously aware of. However, a true voyeur is not acting on a one time fantasy. The true voyeur finds his or her pleasure in watching, and watching others is the voyeur's fetish. Nothing can excite him or her quite as much. There may be humiliation and submissiveness involved, whereas the voyeur is "forced" to watch. To the extreme is the cuckold, who lives to see his partner satisfied by others.

Strangers in the Night

Watching your dearly beloved with another not quite your cup of tea? Some voyeurs like stumbling around in the darkness. They like to watch strangers in the throes of ecstasy. There might be a spot in the woods or up on the hill where young people go to experiment with their budding sexuality. There may be a house in the neighborhood where they don't close the blinds. The voyeur packs his thermos and heads on over, hoping to catch a good show. Just don't get caught. Some people own shotguns.

Masturbation and the Voyeur

One of the major elements of voyeurism is masturbation. If you consider that watching is how the voyeur fetishist gains sexual pleasure, then it only makes sense. The voyeur is alone, usually, and when you are by yourself there aren't many other options. Now, my budding voyeur, you must be very careful. Conceal that weapon! You may be spotted watching your neighbor or the couple on the hill. It is easy to pretend you just happened to be in the area or glancing out the window, but if you are touching yourself with your pants around your ankles, this is harder to shrug off.

With the voyeur who is known to be watching, like the gentleman who watches his girlfriend with the entire college cribbage club, masturbation may already be established as part of the program. On the other hand, the "uninvited" voyeur may have his or her own fantasies. Being "found out" is one, and this is usually coupled with acceptance on some level. The person or persons being watching discover the voyeur and are glad to have him or her watching and somehow encourage the voyeur to begin masturbating.

Of course, not all voyeurs will sexual satisfy themselves while watching. Denial of satisfaction may be part of the fantasy. Or, in some cases, just watching may be enough.

Are You a Voyeur?

On some level we are all voyeurs when taking into account the broadest definition of the term. It is how far we take our voyeurism that is the question. Be safe and be careful. As I have already noted, some people own shotguns.

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