Voyeurism is a psychosexual disorder in which a person derives sexual pleasure and gratification from looking at the naked bodies and genital organs or observing the sexual acts of others. The voyeur is usually hidden from view of others. Voyeurism is a form of paraphilia.A variant form of voyeurism involves listening to erotic conversations. This is commonly referred to as telephone sex, although it is usually considered voyeurism primarily in the instance of listening to unsuspecting persons.
There is no scientific consensus concerning the basis for voyeurism. Most experts attribute the behavior to an initially random or accidental observation of an unsuspecting person who is naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity. Successive repetitions of the act tend to reinforce and perpetuate the voyeuristic behavior.
The act of voyeurism is the observation of an unsuspecting person who is naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity that provides sexual arousal. To be clinically diagnosed, the symptoms must include the following elements:
►Recurrent, intense or sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors
►Fantasies, urges, or behaviors that cause significant distress to an individual or are disruptive of his or her everyday functioning.
According to the mental health professional's handbook, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , two criteria are required to make a diagnosis of voyeurism:
►Over a period of at least six months, an individual must experience recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors that involve the act of observing an unsuspecting person who is naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity.
►The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
In order for a condition to be labeled "voyeurism," the fantasies, urges, or behaviors to watch other persons must cause significant distress in the individual or be disruptive to his or her everyday functioning.
For treatment to be successful, a voyeur must want to modify existing patterns of behavior. This initial step is difficult for most voyeurs to admit and then take. Most must be compelled to accept treatment. This may often be the result of a court order.Behavioral therapy is commonly used to try to treat voyeurism. The voyeur must learn to control the impulse to watch non-consenting victims, and just as importanly to acquire more acceptable means of sexual gratification. Outcomes of behavioral therapy are not known. There are no direct drug treatments for voyeurism.Voyeurism is a criminal act in many jurisdictions. It is usually classified as a misdemeanor. As a result, legal penalties are often minor. The possibility of exposure and embarrassment may deter some voyeurs. It is also not easy to prosecute voyeurs as intent to watch is difficult to prove. In their defense statements, they usually claim that the observation was accidental.