Voyeurism: behavior, paraphilia or disorder?

According to various psychoanalytic theories of Lacanian nature, the human being is born with the need to look, to subjectify his context through the gaze. This is what you would call a scopic reader. By these currents, humans are scopic beings, we need to look at it and appreciate it.

When the latter likes to watch the other, it becomes sexual arousal, so we can already speak of voyeurism, Which is characterized by sexual arousal by observing naked people or performing sexual activity without their knowledge.

    What is voyeurism?

    The word voyeur, of French origin, derives from the verb voir (voir), with the suffix of agent -eur, and its literal translation is “what sees”.

    Depending on the clinical context, a voyeur or voyeur is a person who seeks sexual arousal by watching naked people or perform sexual activity, however, such behavior does not imply any subsequent sexual activity on the part of the observer.

    Voyeurism can reach the degree of paraphilia, sometimes considered a disorder. So-called voyeurism disorder involves the fulfillment of voyeuristic impulses and fantasies without the consent of the other person; experience significant discomfort or functional impairment due to such desires or impulses.

    Voyeurism according to clinical practice

    But not all voyeuristic practices can be considered pathological. It is true that if we stick to the traditional definition of paraphilia: sexual behavior the main source of pleasure is outside of sexual intercourse, voyeurism can be considered as such.

    however, not all voyeuristic behaviors are paraphilic, not all paraphilias can be considered pathological in themselves. It will all depend on the degree of interference in the person’s sexual and non-sexual life and the resulting discomfort or deterioration of the person.

    Most people with paraphilic interests do not meet the clinical criteria for paraphilic disorder. These criteria are summarized in two points:

    • The person’s behaviors, desires or fantasies cause them clinically significant discomfort, functional impairment, or harm to others.
    • This set of behaviors is expected to occur for more than six months.

    The urge to observe other people in sexual contexts is very common and cannot be considered abnormal on its own.. These behaviors must begin in adolescence or early adulthood, failing which, if over the course of the course it becomes pathological, the person ends up investing considerable time in finding opportunities to look at others. obstruct other responsibilities or daily activities.

    Symptoms and signs

    Usually a voyeur or voyeur person has to observe the sex scene from a distance and sometimes hidden. Observe through, through cracks or locks, or using objects such as mirrors or cameras.

    This behavior is sometimes accompanied by masturbatory activities; but this is not a necessary condition for the practice of voyeurism. Outraged, the risk of being discovered acts as an arousal stimulant.

    This voyeuristic disposition is often accompanied by exhibitionist tendencies. In other words, the person likes to show themselves, more or less openly, half-naked or completely naked. Voyeurism and exhibitionism both have a large compulsive and uncontrollable component. In both, before and during each sexual behavior, the speed of sweating and the heart rate increase in response to the appearance of stimuli related to these activities; effects that disappear after the voyeuristic act.

    We must also distinguish voyeurism from the simple excitement of contemplating a naked body. The main difference is that in voyeurism there is no knowledge and / or consent on the part of the observed person, while in other sexual activities it is assumed that there is. Being such a contemplation of nudity is part of sexual activity, not all of it.

    As for the personality traits of a voyeur, these behaviors are often linked to people who were shy in adolescence, and it should be emphasized that they are not prone to particularly pathological traits. Another term related to voyeurism, but something else, It is the candaulismo, name that comes from a historical personage Candaules, last king of the Heráclida dynasty. This expression refers to a behavior in which the observer takes pleasure in observing his partner while having sex with another person.


    As mentioned above, there are few people with voyeuristic tastes in whom the behavior ends up leading to disorder; because for the great majority of them, these behaviors do not pose any problem in their daily life or for their psychological health.

    Consequently, there are also few people who are referred to psychiatric or mental health centers. In most cases, these patients are referred to these units after breaking the law and having been convicted of sexual assault. In this case, voyeurism has two avenues of action:

    • Psychotherapy with support to support groups and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), The latter to alleviate compulsive acts of research.
    • Anti-androgen drugs in very severe cases.

    When SSRIs are not effective, due to the severity of the disorder, drugs to reduce testosterone levels and libido inhibitors are considered. This drug, better known as antiandrogens, does not directly lower testosterone levels; but by including gonadotropin releasing agonists (GnRH) and medroxyprogesterone acetate depot, these trigger a hormonal chain reaction which if it reduces testosterone production.

    Considering the aggressiveness of this treatment and its side effects, it requires the informed consent of the patient and rigorous liver function and serum testosterone concentrations.

    Penalty for voyeuristic behavior

    In some cultures voyeurism is considered a perversion and in several countries it is described as a sex crime.

    • The UK added this behavior to the Sexual Offenses Act 20013, making it a crime to stare at someone without their consent.
    • In late 2005, Canada passed a similar law declaring voyeurism a sex crime.
    • The United States also sanctions this practice in nine of its states.

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