Voyeurism: Balancing Privacy and Consent
Sexual Wellness

Voyeurism: Balancing Privacy and Consent

11/01/2024

Voyeurism has a taboo rap, but it can be done respectfully while satisfying everyone involved. The fetish is often depicted nonconsensually, like in the movie The Voyeurs, but there are ways to explore it consensually without violating someone’s privacy. Voyeurism can be thrilling and add versatility to your sex life. Have you ever peeked a glance at a partner in the shower? That’s voyeurism. 

What is voyeurism?

Voyeurism is the act of watching or listening to someone have sex or undress for pleasure. This kink could mean peeking through the door as your partner changes or watching ethical porn with a POV of someone consensually in a sexual act with no awareness anyone is watching. 

Watching someone have sex as a turn-on is more common than you might think. “With how popular porn is, it’s very understandable that watching other people in sexual situations is exciting for the viewer. This only becomes more exciting when it’s a planned-out scene between the watcher and the person being watched,” explained Emme Witt-Eden, kink expert and former professional dominatrix.

Just as there are people who benefit from watching others in sexual acts, some people enjoy being watched. On the opposite end of this kink’s spectrum is an exhibitionist. An exhibitionist is someone who derives sexual gratification from displaying their body or sexual activity to others. People may want to partake in voyeurism and exhibitionism to varying degrees—whether it’s an occasional fantasy or a practice someone wants in most or all of their sexual encounters. 

How can you practice voyeurism consensually?

In voyeurism, there is a definitive way to explore that doesn’t encroach on or violate someone’s privacy. “You can only practice consent when exploring voyeurism by actually asking the person you want to watch if they’re okay with it,” explained Witt-Eden. Can’t ask the person beforehand? You don’t have consent. 

“It’s exciting to watch other people engage in sexual activity, but of course, there are serious ethical concerns when we discuss this happening out in the ‘real world,’” Witt-Eden said. If someone doesn’t know they are being watched, it’s never okay to watch them. Looking in people’s windows or upskirting, or glancing up at someone’s outfit while they climb up a staircase, are both unethical and nonconsensual acts of voyeurism. Witt-Eden added. And they’re violating. 

“A lot of people love being watched—but just make sure that, if desired, the watching is mutual,” explained Anna Richards, sex educator and founder of the erotic ethical porn site FrolicMe.

The bedrock of exploring any kink or fetish is consent. When someone does not obtain consent for engaging in voyeurism, it’s a sexual offense. Witt-Eden offered that because consent is required, practicing voyeurism usually entails some planning, whether it’s before a roleplay or asking permission to watch your partner masturbate. 

Practical ways to explore voyeurism

You might be wondering how to plan a voyeuristic roleplay in a safe way that respects everyone’s boundaries. Or, how do you plan voyeurism so there’s still a caught-off-guard element? Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to be safe and enjoy the kink. 

Ethical porn

Richards explained that a way to practice voyeurism is through watching ethical porn, where you can find voyeuristic POVs. You can also explore fetishes through camming, where models may take requests for specific activities like being watched in a sexual act and pretending you’re not there. You can join sites like OnlyFans and SextPanther, but asking models what they are comfortable with beforehand and tipping generously is key, Richards said. If listening is more your style, there are plenty of ethical audio porn sites with a voyeurism category. 

Roleplay

You might establish rules for a consensual roleplay beforehand that entail a partner feigning your absence. Just like negotiating any BDSM scene ahead of time, having a safe word to signal stop if someone gets uncomfortable is critical. 

Connecting with exhibitionists

Though it might sound niche, there are plenty of exhibitionists out there, Witt-Eden offered, so finding people in real life by going to BDSM munches or connecting with people online through platforms like Fetlife are ways to help the fantasy come to life and explore voyeurism with consent, Witt-Eden explained. 

Watch your partner masturbate

You might plan to watch a consensual partner masturbate. You might gaze at them in bed together or hide in your bedroom while they pretend you’re not there. You can also negotiate how they will touch themselves beforehand by using toys or wearing specific lingerie. 

Watch your partner have sex with someone else

Your kink might also be to watch or listen to your partner have sex with someone else. In this case, having a series of conversations with a partner beforehand is helpful to establish limits and boundaries. Of course, you’ll want to loop the other person your partner is having fun with in on voyeurism plans and make sure it’s okay with them to be watched or listened to. 

Another way to explore voyeurism is through attending sex parties, where voyeurism is embraced, with rules about watching and consent usually established upon entry. Though you either sign, see, or hear the rules of consent in a sex party before entry, proper etiquette still applies! “I’d recommend against staring at anyone for a long time without saying something like, “Do you mind if I watch?” Richards said. 

If voyeurism is something you’d like to consensually explore, there are many ways to do so. “Voyeurism is a natural and normal part of sexuality. We are visual creatures, and so it’s very normal that we would like to watch other people have sex,” Witt-Eden said. 

Voyeurism can bring excitement to your sex life, but it relies upon consent and communication. If you’re unsure whether you can watch someone, always air on the side of no until you’ve asked and received an enthusiastic yes. There are numerous ways to explore the kink, both online through ethical porn and audio porn and in person at sex parties or role-playing with your partner. 

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