Topic Tuesday #104 2014/07/15 "Voyeurism: Why We Like To Watch"
Human beings are natural pattern seeking animals. What does that have to do with the voyeurism? Simple; you have to observe to recognize a pattern. Given the shape and structure of our brains, it can be concluded that humans are very visual creatures. Our eyes being front facing and spaced to give a sense of depth, indicate we are keen on focusing our vision on points of interest. If we go down the "predatory", or conversely "prey", avenues, we can readily draw correlations to the benefits of an evolved observation of a target, to find patterns that are relevant to either attack or escape, or whatever your proclivity may be.
We are all "wired" in similar ways, but we have a multitude of differences in what drives us. For some people, and I posit all people to a degree, like to watch other people. One of my hobbies is people watching. The best places to people watch are places with a lot of people and highly emotionally charged spaces. Take a theme park; thousands of people, all paying around $100 each to be there, to (in theory) have fun. Funny how people act when they are under pressure (financial, expectations, etc.) to enjoy themselves. The kids do, because it is what they do, until they burn out or are told "NO". Watching the parents is an exercise in human nature. I find it absolutely fascinating. This detached nature of observation, I have found, is shared by many people. In others, it goes beyond the detached.
Voyeurism, as defined by Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual anomalies and perversions: Physical and psychological development, diagnosis and treatment (new and revised edition), is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.
This first part of the definition from 1938, puts a stigma on what may be a perfectly natural impulse. The last part, is more like the movie Rear Window or my people watching at theme parks. Let me be clear, the desire to watch other people, for whatever reason is not inherently bad or taboo, but if you make peep holes and plant cameras around the object of your desire, you have likely stepped over the line... unless you have a warrant for surveillance.
Today, we all revel in voyeurism. It's the most popular thing on television. Reality TV is nothing more than voyeurism. Shows like Survivor, The Real World, Survivor Man, and so on, though produced and often scripted, fill the need in our brains to analyze what pattern the participants will reveal. Did the one you thought demonstrated the best overall fitness gain immunity or get voted off the island? If you picked a side, you were participating in the spectacle, investing brain power to finding the winner.
Voyeurism is a primal and vital part of what we are. Some have it a little reversed and enjoy being watched, opposed to being the watcher. The exhibitionist is the natural subject to the voyeur. It's a fascinating relationship that we have with each other, and thankfully, as long as you do not break anyone's personal privacy rights, everyone can explore their proclivities with impunity.
Small factoid for you to take away, "Scopophobia" is a fear of being stared at. Not very good if you have a career on stage or screen.