Eyes behind the mirror: The rising menace of voyeurism



By Nithin Sridhar

A woman and her five year old son found a hidden camera in the washroom of a Starbucks outlet in Lancaster, USA according to media reports.

The five year old boy was the first to find the phone hidden beneath the sink and pointing towards the toilets. When the Sheriff’s department rushed to the site, they discovered that the cell phone was recording video.

This incident adds to the ever rising cases of Voyeurism across the globe.

In March, a man in Winnipeg in Canada, was accused of secretly videotaping up to 21 victims that included his family and friends. The videos were taken from tiny pen cameras, which he had hidden in bathrooms.

Last year, Barry Freundela, prominent Rabbi in US was arrested on charges that he secretly videotaped women. A CCTV operator in UK has been convicted of spying on a woman using police cameras.

In April, Smriti Irani, India’s HRD minister, found a CCTV camera pointing towards a changing room in one of the Fabindia outlets in Goa. In May, CBI busted a racket, in which they recovered around 500 clips showing women and children in compromising positions.

Voyeurism as a social problem

These frequent reportings of various incidents of Voyeurism indicate two things. One, that there is a rise in such cases and two, that the number of people reporting such cases has increased as well.

Oxford dictionary defines Voyeurism as “the practice of getting pleasure by secretly watching people who are naked or having sex”.

With the advancement of technology and the internet, peeping into other’s personal life has become easier. In a 2013 story, DailyMail reports how hackers had installed a software in the victims PC and had used it to film their activities. Many women become victims to such sexual predators who sometimes even upload these videos to some pornographic sites or sell them.

A 2002 Consultation paper quotes that most voyeurs also involve other forms of sexually deviant behaviors and approximately 20% of voyeurs have committed sexual assault or rape. It further states that in almost all the cases, the perpetrators are men and the victims are women and children.

It quotes a study of 411 men, wherein 62 men admitted to being voyeurs and self-reported 29,090 voyeuristic acts against 26,648 victims. This clearly shows how widespread is the voyeuristic tendencies among men.

Voyeurism at its core is nothing but objectification of women. The media with its portrayal of women in magazines and TV programs, the big corporate with its portrayal of women in various ads have completely objectified the discourse on women.


According to this report prepared for Kaiser Family Foundation: “Sexual messages in the mass media can have both immediate and long-term effects.Viewing a television program may change a  person’s immediate state by inducing arousal, leading to inhibition of impulses, or activating  thoughts or associations. It may also contribute to enduring learned patterns of behavior, cognitive  scripts and schema about sexual interactions, attitudes, and beliefs about the real world.

Therefore, a negative portrayal of women increases negative perception about women. These rising incidents of voyeurism are some of the best examples that show that there is an increase in the perception of women as objects and sexual toys.

This objectification of women is the root cause of majority of crimes that are committed against women. Hence, voyeurism may also lead to cases of stalking and assault. A person who can spy and record woman will not hesitate before assaulting one. Further, there is issue of privacy and security as well.

How would any woman feel safe inside her home, if she realizes that someone is continuously watching her activities? If a woman cannot bath freely without any inhibition due to fear of being watched, then it is a clear violation of basic human rights: the right to life, liberty and security.

Also, if the perpetrators of voyeuristic actions are not restrained and punished, it will further lead to other crimes against women like stalking and rape. Therefore, voyeurism is a clear social menace and a serious crime.

Voyeurism as medical condition:

Voyeurism as a behavioral pattern, if it persists in a person for some length of time can be considered as a case of “paraphilia”. Paraphilia refers to sexual perversion, wherein the person experiences sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations or individuals. It includes behaviors like Pedophilia, Fetishism, and Exhibitionism. In the case of Voyeurism, the arousal is obtained by stealthily watching others.

The medical condition of voyeurism is treated using multiple treatments like behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis. The behavioral therapy is the most commonly adopted treatment, where in the patient tries to learn control over his desires and fetishes and tries to overcome them.

Self-Control as a preventive measure:

The Kaiser Family Foundation report quotes that voyeurism as a sexual disorder manifests early in life, the average age being 15 years. The behaviors of voyeurism may be trigger due to various reasons, including childhood abuse or family dysfunction. In other words, a traumatic childhood may trigger voyeurism in some people.

Therefore, providing proper environment to children, wherein they learn to understand their own emotions, and desires and to control them, may prove as one of the preventive mechanisms against voyeuristic behavior.

Further, the root of most of these sexually perverse behavior conditions lies in the fact that these people cannot control their desires and internal impulses. In fact, many may not even recognize their behaviors as perverse or deviant. Therefore, a lack of self-control and sense of right and wrong results in committing voyeuristic actions without a care for the victim’s well-being by these people.

To counter this, teaching children to monitor and control their desires and behaviors may go a long way in helping to curb voyeurism. It must be remembered that not all voyeuristic actions can be considered as a medical condition. Some people may indulge in such actions out of money or other considerations as well. Hence, making children equipped to differentiate right from wrong, good from bad and useful from harmful will prove efficient in curbing voyeuristic crimes.

Safeguarding oneself against voyeurism

As voyeurism is increasingly rising throughout the world, it becomes important for people, especially women to safeguard themselves against voyeurs. Women should always be cautious, whether at home or outside. Outside, they must be extra cautious about their belongings. Some of the safeguards that can be taken are:

  1. If one is in a changing room of a shop, one should check for any peep holes or hidden cameras. One should try to make a call to someone from inside. If there is a hidden camera, the call won’t connect due to signal interference.
  2. One must check whether the mirror in the changing room is normal mirror or two-way mirror. This can be done by touching the mirror with the finger. If there is a small gap between the finger and the image, then nothing to worry. If not, then it’s a two-way mirror.
  3. While using internet, one should make sure to not click on any unknown and suspicious links.
  4. One should frequently run scans for virus, spywares, and key loggers. One should also format the computer occasionally.
  5. One should keep the curtains drawn and if necessary windows closed of the bedrooms and bathrooms.
  6. One should be cautious while choosing hotel rooms and should check the room thoroughly after checking in.
  7. One should avoid making intimate videos with spouses or partners, as this may lead to them being hacked and leaked.
  8. One should be cautious with the photos that are uploaded to the social networking sites.

These simple measures may go a long way in preventing women from falling into the trap of voyeurs and stalkers.