Voyeurism: Is Somebody Watching You?

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 6, Number 7

July is almost over and we seem to truly be in the dog days of summer. Before we know it, school will be starting and the snowbirds will be upon us. We hope that you have had the opportunity to slow down and take some vacation time to recharge.

In this July E-Letter, we present information about Voyeurism, our Ask the Doc question relates to reinforcing good behavior, and our email of the month is “the window through which we look”. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

We are pleased to announce that in the fall, we will be offering education based programs of community interest. We are currently in the planning and certification stages and hope to announce these programs soon. Stay tuned.

We are also now including a blog link as a regular section of our E-Letter. Our first blog involves a real life case of hoarding. Denise Champagne, M.S., has been working with JZ who is a hoarder and has been keeping a blog of her encounters with him. It can be found at http://a-hoarders-journey.blogspot.com. We invite you to follow her meetings with him.

Summertime is a good time for you as a parent to consider having a psychoeducational evaluation of your child. These evaluations will determine your child’s learning profile and whether they have any learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other problems that may interfere with academic performance. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s functioning in school and whether they are performing at their potential. You can either call us at 954 755-2885 or send us an email.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on voyeurism which is clinically called a psychosexual disorder and is a form of a paraphilia. In this disorder a person gets sexual pleasure and gratification from looking at naked people, people undressing, or people engaging in sexual activity without their knowledge. The voyeur is hidden and achieves sexual satisfaction through masturbation. The person being observed is usually a stranger to the observer but may in fact be a neighbor or co-worker. The act of observing or “peeping” is what provides the sexual excitement. The voyeur usually does not attempt to have sexual contact with the person they are observing.

Voyeurism is a misdemeanor in many jurisdictions and legal penalties are often minor. These crimes are hard to catch and voyeurs often claim the watching was accidental. Behavior therapy can be quite effective in reducing sexual impulses and behaviors. However, in order for therapy to be effective, the voyeur must make a commitment to the treatment. Most often, voyeurs who enter therapy do so because of a court order or because they are facing a divorce.

Due to advances in technology and the internet, voyeurism is quite easy and plentiful. Camera phones have made the voyeuristic techniques of upskirting (looking up a skirt) and downblousing (looking down a blouse) quite easy with quick and simple uploads to internet sites. Other voyeuristic techniques include using peepholes, two-way mirrors, hidden cameras, stealth photography, telephoto lens cameras, and laptop cameras to watch people with the voyeur safely hidden. A variant of voyeurism is phone sex where the listener attains sexual excitement by listening to another person.

Today, American culture has changed the meaning of voyeurism. It is now applied to any gratification or emotional involvement achieved by watching others. The preponderance of reality TV shows such as Survivor as well as celebrity spy/gossip shows have made our nation a culture of watchers. The news media has also contributed by constant reporting of people’s lives. On some occasions, they have been downright intrusive by barging into people’s businesses or following them in the street to get the story for their audience to watch. The coverage of the sad Casey Anthony trial is one example of how we have become watchers and often emotionally involved in the lives of people we don’t know and will probably never meet.

As we have become a nation of voyeurs, what is important to remember is that somewhere, people are watching you and your private business may be made public. We recommend that you maintain your privacy from sexually motivated voyeurs by making your home as private as possible. Close your doors, blinds, and curtains. Be aware in public areas such as the beach, bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms, that you may be videotaped. If you are a voyeur and want to change your behaviors, recognize and accept that watching others interferes with your overall functioning and the development of healthy relationships. You will need to make a strong commitment to yourself that you want to stop these behaviors. Limit your exposure to situations where you can spy on others and attend a support group or participate in group therapy. Seek professional help if you feel you cannot control your impulses and/or are unable to achieve sexual gratification without watching others.

Most importantly for all of us, be aware that we are being watched even if it’s just by street cameras. We offer the following information on Voyeurism:

“Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I’ll be watching you”— Sting and the Police

What to Know!

  • Traditionally, voyeurism is the attainment of sexual satisfaction by spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors such as undressing, bathing, or having sex
  • Clinically, voyeurism is defined as a paraphilia and includes the following symptoms:
  • Recurrent, intense or sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors that involve observing a person naked or in the process of disrobing, or engaged in sexual activity for a period of at least 6 months,
  • Fantasies, urges, or behaviors that cause significant distress to an individual or impair their social, occupational, or other areas of functioning
  • Today it is referred to anyone who habitually spies on others without their knowledge
  • The causes of voyeurism are not known although it is thought to be due to learned and reinforced behaviors
  • Sexual excitement is achieved by the looking at and observing others rather than through actual engagement with them; satisfaction is attained through masturbation
  • Voyeurism and the recording of images has become quite easy and widespread due to technology and the internet as well as relaxed societal morals
  • Popular voyeuristic photography includes upskirting and downblousing without the subject even being aware they are being photographed
  • The voyeur may directly observe from a distance, or use two-way mirrors, hidden cameras, phone cameras, telephoto lenses, and peep holes to observe their subject
  • Another variant of voyeurism is listening to erotic conversations or “phone sex”
  • Many states have declared voyeurism a crime and prohibit the taking of pictures or videotaping anyone without consent when they are in a private place or home
  • The prognosis for stopping voyeurism is poor because most voyeurs do not want to stop their behavior, they are seldom caught, and the media reinforces watching others
  • Most voyeurs enter treatment because of a court order or threat of divorce
  • For treatment to be effective, the voyeur needs to commit to modifying their behavior
  • Behavior therapy is an effective form of treatment by reducing and controlling the impulse to observe others and reinforcing more acceptable means of gratification
  • The introduction of reality TV, celebrity spy/gossip shows, and the preponderance of internet pornography has made our society become much more voyeuristic

What to Do!

      • Make your home as private as possible by closing doors, blinds, and curtains
      • Be aware in public areas such as the beach, bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms, that you may be videotaped
      • If a voyeur:

•  recognize and accept that it interferes with your overall functioning and the

              development of healthy relationships
           •  make a commitment to yourself that you want to stop these behaviors
           •  limit your exposure to situations where you spy on others
         •  attend a support group or participate in group therapy

  • Seek professional help if you feel you cannot control your impulses and/or are unable to achieve sexual gratification without watching others

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

HL writes: My son just completed first grade. He received many teacher reports about his behaviors and how he was not getting any better. She said he just didn’t listen and hit other children. He disrupted the class and she asked for my help in disciplining him. Before the year ended, she left and he had a new teacher. This woman was loving but firm and brought more structure to the classroom. His behavior dramatically improved and he received daily stars during the last few weeks. During the summer, he has been in camp and has also done quite well. How do I encourage the same behavior when he starts school in a few weeks?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: Reinforcing a child when they are exhibiting behaviors you want to see continue is extremely important in teaching them how to behave. Not calling attention to their improvement or overrewarding behaviors can have negative effects. In behavior therapy, the concept of an appropriate reward for a desired behavior is quite powerful in getting those behaviors to continue.

I would suggest that you not only tell your son how proud you are of him but give him a hug as a sign of physical affection. At his age, he will also respond well to small gifts or tokens such as stickers. You may want to encourage him to save these tokens to trade in for a bigger gift. Let him know that he earned it by controlling his behavior so that he sees his efforts have positive consequences for him.

What is important is to make sure you initially reward him every time for his behavior. Eventually, you will be able to fade out the rewards. But every time he gets a good report, he should also get a verbal acknowledgement from you, some physical affection, and a material token reward.

By the way, I want to call your attention to the structured classroom. This probably helped in improving his behavior. You may want to consider keeping your home structured with clear expectations and consequences.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Al H.for sending us the following email:

The Window Through Which We Look

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.
The next morning while they are eating breakfast,
The young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
“That laundry is not very clean”, she said.
“She doesn’t know how to wash correctly.
Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”

Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry,
The young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a
Nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

“Look, she has learned how to wash correctly.
I wonder who taught her this.”

The husband said, “I got up early this morning and
cleaned our windows.”

And so it is with life. What we see when watching others
depends on the purity of the window through which we look

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till August…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.