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In clinical psychology, voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other activity usually considered to be of a private nature.[1][2] In popular imagination the term is used in a more general sense to refer to someone who habitually observes others without their knowledge, with no necessary implication of sexual interest.

Voyeurism (from the French voyeur, "one who looks") can take several forms, but its principal characteristic is that the voyeur does not normally relate directly with the subject of their interest, who is often unaware of being observed.


DSM IV Classification

Certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior patterns are classified as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association and a disorder of sexual preference in the ICD-10.[3][4] The diagnosis would not be given to people who experience typical sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity.

Legal position

Voyeurism is not a crime in common law. In common law countries it is only a crime if made so by legislation. In Canada, for example, 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 held that courts could not criminalize voyeurism by classifying it as a breach of the peace and that 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 to be a sexual offense.[5]

In some cultures, voyeurism is considered to be deviant and even a sex crime[citation needed]. In the United Kingdom, non-consensual voyeurism became a criminal offense on May 1, 2004.[6] However, some societies tolerate it in some circumstances (e.g., adolescent "Peeping Toms" and the UK dogging craze).[citation needed]. Little to no research has been done into the demographics of voyeurs.

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