Voyeurism is the pastime of spying on someone who is unaware of his or her presence. were the victim aware, he or she (usually, she) wouldn't be lolling around naked in the first place, especially in the presence, seen or unseen, of anyone else (unless she is also an exhibitionist).
If the voyeur is hard up enough to ogle someone in secret and there is no one available to ogle, he will usually settle for photographs of nude women or of nude couples coupling, in which case, he or she is apt to be labeled a Playboy "reader," rather than a voyeur per se. (It's complicated.)
The term "voyeur" comes from the French "voyeur," "one too ugly and repulsive to find true love in the arms of a live woman or anyone else, for that matter." Sometimes, for the sake of political correctness, especially if the voyeur is a man of power, means, or influence, he is known as a "peeping Tom," as if he were really doing nothing more than eying Lady Godiva, a gambler who put everything she had on a horse. Those who lack such social standing are considered mere "perverts."
The media, especially films and television shows, have aired so much nudity that most-okay, all-the men on the planet have become voyeurs, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to say just what constitutes voyeurism as opposed to moviegoing or watching TV. After all, the actresses cannot know that anyone is watching them exhibit themselves. As far as the actresses know, they are alone with their partner and the half dozen or more crew members whose services are needed on the set. Therefore, viewers become voyeurs as they watch nudity and sex without the knowledge of those whom they are watching, one of the distinguishing features of voyeurism.
In everyday life, however, voyeurs must often adopt certain strategies to sneak a peek at others. He may drill peepholes in walls, install secret cameras in restrooms or showers, employ two-way mirrors, or pretend to be a vase, a houseplant, or dirt swept under a rug. Indeed, the photographers whom voyeurs consult typically recommend such devices as infrared and terahertz-wave cameras, which are capable of creating images through clothing and telephoto lenses, such as the zoom lens that was used to photograph Kate Middelton's breasts as she sunbathed topless, believing, naive young woman that she is, that she was safe from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.
The American Psychiatric Association once classified voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior patterns as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), but only if the voyeur acted on his urges or his urges or fantasies caused marked distress or interpersonal difficulty, but, under increasing pressure from Hollywood producers, the APA has since declassified voyeurism as any kind of mental illness and now regards it as a "normal and beneficial" hobby, recommending it as a way of relieving stress while optimizing interpersonal relationships. Voyeurism, the APA holds, is especially useful in maintaining bonds in "long-distance relationships."
Although past "therapy" for voyeurism involved incarceration and electric shock treatment, psychiatrists now recommend nothing more than a few girlie magazines or Internet porn sites, one's own hand, and a bottle of lotion.
"Voyeurism is a perfect complement," Dr. Hy Mann says, "to masturbation, so grab your Playboy and your plaything and, by all means, have at it!"