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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. In popular imagination the term is used in a more general sense to refer to someone who habitually observes others without their knowledge, and there is no necessary implication of any sexual interest.
Voyeurism can take several forms, but its principle characteristic is that the voyeur does not normally relate directly with the subject of his or her interest, who is often unaware of being observed. The voyeur may observe the subject from a distance, or use stealth to observe the subject with the use of two-way mirrors, camera, videos etc.
Voyeurism is a French word adopted into English, and is derives from the verb voir (to see) with the suffix -eur suffix that translates as -er in English. A literal translation would then be “seer” or "observer", with pejorative connotations.
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. The diagnosis would not be given to people who experience typical sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity. The aspect of spying is central to paraphilic voyeurism.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
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. 
In some cultures, voyeurism is considered to be deviant and even a sex crime. In the United Kingdom, non-consensual voyeurism became a criminal offense on May 1, 2004. However, some societies tolerate it in some circumstances (e.g., adolescent "Peeping Toms" and the UK dogging craze).[How to reference and link to summary or text] Voyeurs are typically male, although many women also practise voyeurism. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
In the English case of R v Turner the manager of a sports centre videoed four women taking showers. There was no indication that the footage had been shown to anyone else or distributed in any way. The defendant pleaded guilty. The Court of Appeal confirmed a sentence of nine months imprisonment to reflect the seriousness of the abuse of trust and the traumatic effect on the victims.
It has been claimed that some individuals who engage in "nuisance" offenses (such as voyeurism) may also have a propensity for violence. Voyeurs may demonstrate some characteristics that are common, but not universal, among sexual offenders of all types including sadistic or violent offenders who invest considerable time and effort in the capturing of a victim (or image of a victim); careful, methodical planning devoted to the selection and preparation of equipment; and often meticulous attention to detail.
In the United States, video voyeurism is an offense in nine states and may require the convicted criminal to register as a sex offender.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The original case which lead to the criminalization of voyeurism has been made into a television movie called Video Voyeur and documents the criminalization of secret photography. Criminal voyeurism statutes are related to invasion of privacy laws but are specific to unlawful surreptitious surveillance without consent and unlawful recordings including the broadcast, dissemination, publication, or selling of recordings involving places and times when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a reasonable supposition that he or she is not being photographed or filmed by "any mechanical, digital or electronic viewing device, camera or any other instrument capable of recording, storing or transmitting visual images that can be utilized to observe a person."
- Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual anomalies and perversions: Physical and psychological development, diagnosis and treatment (new and revised edition). London: Encyclopaedic Press.
- Smith, R. S. (1976). Voyeurism: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 585-608.
- ICD-10. URL accessed on 2008-09-13.
- BehaveNet® Clinical Capsule™: Voyeurism
- Criminal Code
- Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
- (2006) All ER (D) 95 (Jan)
- R.R. Hazelwood and J. Warren, "The Serial Rapist: His Characteristics and Victims," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1989, 18-25
- The Criminal Sexual Sadist
- Invasion of Privacy Law & Legal Definition 
- Stephanie's Law 
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