Peeping toms (Voyeurism)

(Peeping tom)

Voyeurism is the sexual interest in spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or urinating.[1][2] It is classified as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnosis would not be given to people who experience typical sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity; the aspect of spying is central to paraphilic voyeurism. The word derives from French verb voir (to see) with the -eur suffix that translates as -er in English. A literal translation would then be “seer” or "observer", with pejorative connotations.

Also, the word voyeur can define someone who receives enjoyment from witnessing other people's suffering or misfortune; see schadenfreude.

DSM IV Classification

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior patterns are classified as a paraphilia with code 302.82.[3]


In some cultures, voyeurism is considered to be deviant and even a sex crime. In the United Kingdom, non-consensual voyeurism became a criminal offense on 1 May 2004, under section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. However, some societies tolerate it depending upon the circumstances (e.g., adolescent "Peeping Toms" and the UK dogging craze). The stereotypical voyeur is male, although many women also enjoy being voyeurs. In R v Turner (2006) All ER (D) 95 (Jan) the defendant was the manager of a sports centre who recorded footage of 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 at the first opportunity and asked that another offense be taken into consideration. He expressed remorse. The Court of Appeal confirmed a sentence of nine months imprisonment to reflect the seriousness of the defendant's abuse of trust and the traumatic effect on the victims.
Fragonard's The Swing depicts a voyeur hidden in the bushes. As the lady goes high on the swing, he tries to take a furtive peep at her exposed genitals

In Canada, 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 decided courts could not criminalize peeping by classifying it as a breach of the peace; 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 as a sexual offense. [4]

Some individuals who engage in "nuisance" offenses (such as peeping) may also have a propensity for violence.[5] Voyeurs may demonstrate some characteristics that are common, but not universal, among sexual offenders of all types including sadistic or violent offenders who invest considerable time and effort in the capturing of a victim (or image of a victim); careful, methodical planning devoted to the selection and preparation of equipment; and often meticulous attention to detail.[6]

In the United States, video voyeurism is criminalized in nine states. The original case responsible for the criminalization has been made into a television movie called Video Voyeur and documents the criminalization of secret photography. Criminal voyeurism statutes are related to invasion of privacy laws[7] 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 that he or she is 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."[8]

Some institutions, such as gyms and schools, have banned camera phones because of the privacy issues they raise in areas like changerooms. Saudi Arabia banned the sale of camera phones nationwide for a period, but reallowed their sale in 2004. South Korea requires that all camera phones sold in the country make a clearly audible sound whenever a picture is taken.

Voyeurism in fiction

  • * Voyeurism is a common plot device in both serious (e.g. Rear Window, Klute and more recently Disturbia) and humorous (e.g. Porky's, Animal House and more recently Semi-Pro) films.
  • * A serious psychological treatment of the topic in cinema was done in Peeping Tom.
  • * The anime Colorful is devoted almost entirely to the paraphilia.
  • * Alone With Her is a recent Indie film shot completely from a high tech, spycam point-of-view.
  • * The movie Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story is based on a true story about the woman who was secretly videotaped and consequently, helped get the law against voyeurism passed.
  • * Cult movie double feature The Rocky Horror Picture Show/Shock Treatment deals with the theme of voyeurism sexually and in mass media
  • * In "I'm On Setanta Sports", José continuously refers to Arséne Wenger as a 'Voyeur'.
  • * In Popular Anime Manga/Ova Eiken The main character Mifune is labeled as a Voyeur, by everyone because he accidentally looks at Shinonome when she was nude, and again when her panties dropped down.
  • * Ellen Page's character accuses her victim of being a voyeur in the movie "Hard Candy".
  • * In the E.L. Doctorow novel Billy Bathgate, Billy is a voyeur who masturbates as he secretly watches a woman.
  • * The 1993 film Sliver deals with voyeurism.


1. ^ Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual anomalies and perversions: Physical and psychological development, diagnosis and treatment (new and revised edition). London: Encyclopaedic Press.
2. ^ Smith, R. S. (1976). Voyeurism: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 585-608.
3. ^ BehaveNet® Clinical Capsule™: Voyeurism
4. ^ Criminal Code
5. ^ R.R. Hazelwood and J. Warren, "The Serial Rapist: His Characteristics and Victims," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1989, 18-25
6. ^ The Criminal Sexual Sadist [1]
7. ^ Invasion of Privacy Law & Legal Definition [2]
8. ^ Stephanie's Law [3]

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