Voyeurism (Peeping Tom) 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.


The object of voyeurism is to observe unsuspecting individuals who are naked, in the process of undressing or engaging in sexual acts. The person being observed is usually a stranger to the observer. The act of looking or peeping is undertaken for the purpose of achieving sexual excitement. The observer generally does not seek to have sexual contact or activity with the person being observed.

If orgasm is sought, it is usually achieved through masturbation. This may occur during the act of observation or later, relying on the memory of the act that was observed.


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.

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