How many times have you watched a scary movie and thought, "I can't believe people would do that in real life!" Or "Can you imagine if I walked in on someone doing that?" Sex acts are often portrayed in film, television, and books as things that only happen in the dark when no one else is around to see them. But are there some sex acts that could cause you to never look at your partner the same way again—or even call the police? That's what we're going to talk about today.
If you've ever wondered what the difference between voyeurism and exhibitionism was, then you're not alone. It can be challenging to understand the subtle nuances between these two related sexual fetishes, but if you have an interest in one of them, then there's an almost 100% chance that you're into the other as well. So here are some key differences between these similar fetishes and what they mean in your life and the lives of others.
First, let's answer is voyeurism an abnormal fantasy or a kink that some people enjoy? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Voyeurism can be treated like any other sexual fetish if it's consensual and nobody gets hurt. But, on the other hand, if you watch someone who didn't give their consent, it's a crime known as voyeurism act and voyeurism. So what is the difference between voyeurism and voyeurism act (Thomas et al., 2021), and are there laws against it? Generally, what does voyeurism mean? Is it a sex kink or a fantasy?
What is Voyeurism?
The word voyeur comes from Latin origins, meaning "one who sees." It generally refers to someone interested in spying on others to gain sexual arousal. However, many people mistake voyeurism for its various synonyms; there is a common misconception that voyeur is synonymous with Peeping Tom, who gets pleasure from spying on people without their knowledge and consent. In reality, peeping tom-style voyeurs are a subset of those with voyeuristic tendencies—people with voyeuristic personality disorder (VPD) suffer greatly when they cannot fulfill their urges to watch people undress or engage in sexual acts (Thomas et al., 2021).
Voyeurism Act or Fantasy?
Some people see voyeurism as both a sex kink and fantasy. Some men and women get turned on by watching someone undress, have sex, or go to the bathroom without knowing they're being watched. Others fantasize about it but don't necessarily get turned on. You may not be sure what your exact boundaries are when it comes to voyeurism—the key is understanding if you feel ashamed or guilty afterward. It means you may be crossing an emotional line you're not comfortable with.
It depends on your point of view. It is considered a fetish if you're talking about being aroused by watching someone undress, sleep, or have sex without their knowledge. It's like exhibitionist voyeurism, which involves exposing oneself to people without their consent (Thomas et al., 2021). But suppose we're talking about filming or photographing others without their knowledge and posting those pictures online for other people to see. In that case, it's often done as part of an exhibitionist fantasy—the idea of being watched while doing something daring that many people wouldn't do in public (or at all). That falls under cyberstalking and revenge porn, so it's illegal in most places (Hinduja et al, 2019).
Is There A Law Against Voyeurism?
Yes. For starters, voyeurism is illegal in many countries. While some states and countries are more lenient regarding public nudity and exhibitionism (New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras) (2022), others have strict laws that address privacy invasion in general. Even if you're entirely within your rights to take photos of strangers at will, it's not always wise to do so—especially if you plan on posting those photos online. Most people know not to take pictures without their permission, but just because someone has their back turned doesn't mean they don't mind being snapped.
However, it's important to note that not all voyeurs engage in criminal activity. Many individuals who practice voyeurism don't do so because they have psychological issues—but rather because it can be thrilling to spy on others without getting caught.
Are There Different Types of Voyeurs?
If you're wondering what voyeurism is and what does voyeurism means, it could be one of two things: It's a sexual kink that people enjoy because it adds spice to their sex lives (think watching your partner masturbate), or it's considered more of a fantasy. You might engage in these kinds of fantasies if you want to spice up your relationship—you watch an adult movie together, for example, and then do some role-playing during sex. While there aren't any laws against voyeurism per se, law enforcement may arrest people who spy on others—particularly unsuspecting people like those changing at the beach—because peeping is illegal under most state privacy laws.
There are many different types of voyeurs, and they don't all fit into neat little boxes. Believe it or not, most everyone has had some experience with voyeurism in one form or another. It might be someone looking through your bedroom window while you have sex; it might be your friend telling you about something they saw in public, or it could just be people having sex on TV (which technically falls under exhibitionism) (Thomas et al., 2021). If someone finds pleasure from watching other people without their knowledge, they are probably considered voyeurs.
Social Media - The 'New' Voyeur
Whatever the newest social media craze, digital watching has taken the world by storm and shows no signs of slowing down. Media Platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) seem like an innocent way to share with friends and family. But instead, it has created a whole new subculture, allowing users to become voyeurs into each other's lives.
Social media is a voyeuristic experience. Think about it: we're viewing moments in people's lives that they don't always want to share. For many users, though, social media is also a tool for privacy—you can share what you want with whom you want. It may seem contradictory, but social media gives us control over who sees what parts of our lives (and even allows us to be voyeurs when we choose). Viewing other people's social media posts is a way of getting a glimpse into their lives. This can be entertaining or useful; sometimes, it's both at once. Sharing private things on social media allows you to indulge your voyeuristic tendencies without breaking any confidences or breaking any rules.
So, What say you?
You may have some interest in looking but don't necessarily want to act out your fantasies just yet, or you haven't found your ideal type. In all, voyeurism is all about control: the desire or the ability to want to look without being watched back (so they are not exhibitionists). A little voyeurism now and then isn't wrong, as long as it's consensual—make sure you're both cool with it before you start!
Hinduja, S., T. G., Getu, T., says:, S. H. (2019, May 10). Revenge porn research, laws, and help for victims. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from https://cyberbullying.org/revenge-porn-research-laws-help-victims
New Orleans, Louisiana - Code of Ordinances. (2022, January 7). Chapter 34 - CARNIVAL, MARDI GRAS. Municode Library. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from https://library.municode.com/la/new_orleans/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICO_CH34CAMAGR
Thomas, A. G., Stone, B., Bennett, P., Stewart-Williams, S., & Kennair, L. (2021). Sex Differences in Voyeuristic and Exhibitionistic Interests: Exploring the Mediating Roles of Sociosexuality and Sexual Compulsivity from an Evolutionary Perspective. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(5), 2151–2162. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-01991-0