Voyeurism: I Am Watching You

What is Voyeurism?

Voyeurism is defined as being the act of viewing nudity or sexual activity when it is accompanied by sexual arousal. In order for voyeurism to be categorized as a paraphilia, the person has to be observing unsuspecting individuals that are naked or engaging in some form of sexual activity and the reason underlying their peeping process is to gain sexual arousal (Kaplan & Krueger, 1997). Masturbatory behavior accompanies voyeurism. There are individuals that find voyeurism as being the exclusive type of sexual activity, only achieving sexual arousal and orgasm by watching unsuspecting individuals either undressing or also engaging in sexual activity.

If these behaviors are considered to be voyeuristic in nature, it could therefore be deduced that the viewing of pornographic images is also a paraphilia in and of itself and such a deduction would be correct. Such behavior is referred to as Pictophilia (Money, 1996), in which the erotic aspect is associated to directly being invited to view another person's sexual adventures (as cited in Kaplan & Krueger, 1997).

With the new Netflix series YOU, the nation has been exposed to the intricacies associated to stalking and watching others; these behaviors are directly voyeuristic in nature and can lead to sadistic crime alike. Hunting victims is a task that is typically initiated with fantasies that are turned into actions such as stalking and peeping into homes, businesses, and other localities for the purpose of obtaining control over another person without being detected. These behaviors are called covert tendencies that can ultimately lead to overt and violent behaviors. 

Empirical Investigation of Voyeurism

Such behaviorisms are typically initiated by the age of 15 with 90% of the cases are males. Meyer (1995) stated that males who peep females are classified as being perverted; however, females who peep males aren't perceived as being sexually deviant but rather the male is considered to be the party responsible for exposing himself, a disparity that is completely unfair (as cited in Kaplan & Krueger, 1997). The typical voyeur is male, married, does not personally know the person they are watching but yet they are erotically infatuated with the aspect of watching them from afar, sexually arousing themselves and further fuels a process that conditions them to continue such behavior.

There is inconclusive empirical investigation associated to voyeurism in that at times it is considered to be a precursor for serial rapists and serial killers; however, there are rare cases in which a voyeur fails to participate in serious sexual acts of violence (Kaplan & Krueger, 1997). For example, Ted Bundy participated in voyeuristic behaviors by the age of 9; therefore, in his particular case voyeurism was a precursor for graduating to future sexually violent acts against women.

A Theoretical Application

The social learning theory (Laws & Marshall, 1999) perceives voyeurism to the be direct result of learning and conditioning sexually deviant behavior as fantasies collide with reinforcement, reward, and observation (as cited in Kaplan & Krueger, 1997). The sociobiological theory (Symons, 1979) examines the attraction of genitalia regarding the opposite sex that is particularly arousing for males in particular due to their inquisitive perspective and drive to pursue the opposite gender (as cited in Kaplan & Krueger, 1997).

Legal & Forensic Implications

Legally, there are states that do not consider voyeuristic behavior's to be illegal whatsoever, especially if trespassing or unlawful entry does not take place. Most voyeurs are able to avoid detection and if their unsuspecting victim does catch them watching them, the fear that is expressed is actually a notion that further expounds their climax due to the level of power associated to the violation. The perpetrator is more-so aware that they have the power to watch others and once they are seen, they are more likely to return to the scene to graduate their sexually erotic fantasies and may even sexually assault their victim or begin stalking them from afar. These behaviors ensue because in their mind a relationship, built on sexually erotic fantasies, has been established and even conferred. Not all voyeurs are dangerous; however, it should be noted that such behavior is often a precursor for other forms of sexually violent acts of deviancy and even murder.


Kaplan, M.S., & Krueger, R. B. (1997). Voyeurism: Psychopathology and theory. Laws, D.R., & O'Donohue, W. (1997). Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.