Characteristics of Voyeurism, Frotteurism & Pedophilia

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  • 0:06 Paraphilias
  • 0:51 Voyeurism
  • 2:17 Frotteurism
  • 3:38 Pedophilia
  • 6:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What happens when someone becomes a peeping Tom? How do you treat people who feel the urge to rub up against nonconsenting people? And how do you treat someone who is attracted to young children? In this lesson we'll explore voyeurism, frotteurism, and pedophilia.


Imagine that you're a psychologist and Patrick comes to see you as part of court-ordered therapy. He was arrested for peeking through his neighbor's window and watching while she took a shower. He says that he's been turned on by watching other people since he was a teenager, and isn't even sure he can get aroused by anything else anymore.

Patrick may be suffering from a paraphilia. Paraphilias are psychological disorders that involve intense sexual urges or behaviors that are different from normal. Paraphilias are much more common in men than in women. There are many different types of paraphilias. In this lesson, we'll examine three of them more closely: voyeurism, frotteurism, and pedophilia.


Remember Patrick? He was arrested for spying on his neighbor while she took her shower. As his psychologist, you think he might be suffering from voyeurism, a paraphilia that involves fantasies of watching a non-consenting person, usually unclothed and/or involved in a sexual act, for sexual gratification. In order to diagnose Patrick with voyeurism, there are several criteria that have to be met. Let's go down the list.

  1. Intense fantasies that have lasted for at least six months of watching an unsuspecting person who is naked or engaged in a sex act. Patrick likes to watch his neighbor while she's naked in the shower, and has felt this way since he was a teenager. We can check this one off.
  2. The person has acted on the fantasies, or they cause distress or impairment. Patrick has acted on his fantasies, so we know this one is true. Further, his arrest might cause problems at his job or in his personal life, which is impairment.

Patrick meets both criteria for voyeurism, so you are able to diagnose him with it. Treatment for most paraphilias is focused on therapy, though occasionally drugs are prescribed, as we'll see below. But for voyeurism, your best course of action is to work with Patrick in therapy to help him deal with his urges without acting on them.


Like Patrick, Oliver is ordered by the court to come see you. He was arrested for rubbing up against a woman on the subway. He tells you that over the past two years, he's had more and more fantasies that involve rubbing up against women in public, and he finally had to act on them. You suspect that Oliver might have frotteurism, a paraphilia involving rubbing your genitals up against a non-consenting person. Like voyeurism, frotteurism has a checklist of symptoms that you use to diagnose Oliver.

  1. Intense fantasies that have lasted for at least six months, involving rubbing up against a non-consenting person. Oliver fantasizes about rubbing up against women who haven't consented, so he fits this criterion.
  2. The person has acted on the urges, or they cause distress or impairment. Oliver has acted on his urges by rubbing up against a woman on the subway. In addition, he's upset; when he talks to you, he says that he feels terrible and doesn't want to have these urges, so he's experiencing distress.

So, you've diagnosed Oliver with frotteurism. What now? As with voyeurism, frotteurism is usually treated with therapy. Your work with Oliver will focus on helping him get over his urges without assaulting others.


Warren is in prison, and you visit him there to provide him with therapy. He assaulted a twelve-year-old girl and shows no signs of remorse. He says that he's always been attracted to young girls, and he doesn't think there's anything wrong with that. You think Warren might be suffering from pedophilia, or sexual fantasies about prepubescent children. You run down the list of criteria for pedophilia.

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