NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, September 10, 2023

What is a Consensual Voyeurism?

In prior articles I've discussed different types of sexual behavior between consenting adults such as threesomes, group sex and cuckolding, which all involve consensual voyeurism (see my articles: How to Have a Fun and Passionate Threesome and Kinky Sex: What is Cuckolding?).

Consensual Voyeurism

What is Consensual Voyeurism?
Let's start by comparing consensual voyeurism to nonconsensual voyeurism to understand the difference.

Nonconsensual voyeurism usually involves one or more people watching unsuspecting adults engaged in sexual behavior.  It could also involve watching an unsuspecting person in a state of undress (e.g., a person who is trying on clothes in a dressing room).

Aside from watching, nonconsensual voyeurism could involve a "Peeping Tom" photographing or videotaping an individual or a couple in their home or in another place where privacy is assumed. In other words, it's without the individual or couple's consent.  This form of voyeurism is illegal in most places.

Consensual or Nonconsensual Voyeurism?

Consensual voyeurism, which is a fetish, is very different from nonconsensual voyeurism because all people involved have consented with consensual voyeurism (see my articles: Are You Curious About Exploring Fetishes With Your Partner? and What Are the Rules of Sexual Consent?).

As part of the fetish, some people prefer to be the ones who are watched while they are undressed or engaged in sexual behavior, other people prefer to watch others, and some people like to "switch" between watching and being watched.

How to Practice Consensual Voyeurism in an Ethical and Responsible Way
If you and your partner want to engage in consensual voyeurism, you can do it in a responsible and ethical way so that everyone involved is consenting beforehand to what will take place:
  • Watching Your Partner Masturbate:  This can be a good way to start if you're new to consensual voyeurism. Assuming your partner shares your interest in this voyeuristic fetish, talk to them beforehand about what feels comfortable and what the boundaries will be.  Many couples incorporate watching each other masturbate as part of their sex script and might not even think of it as voyeuristic.  You can either be with your partner or you can "hide" somewhere, like in a closet or behind a door where you watch through the peephole to add sexual excitement.  In addition, you can spice things up with "dirty talk" and encourage your partner to do certain things that would turn both of you on.
  • Role-Playing: This is another sexual activity where it's only you and your partner watching each other. If you both agree to certain sexual fantasies in advance, you can each become sexual characters in whatever type of scenario you would both enjoy.  You're only limited by your imagination. Maybe you pretend to be a stranger who is watching a sexual scene with your partner and someone else and then you enter into the scene (see my article: What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?).

Sexual Role-Play

  • Cuckolding, Threesomes and Group Sex: If you and your partner have agreed in advance to include other people in your sexual scenarios, you can include people who have consented to be part of a specific sex scene.  Be aware that your sexual fantasies about cuckolding, threesomes and group sex might be better than what you experience in reality. This is due, in part, to the fact that at least one person can feel left out if they feel they're not getting enough sexual attention. In a sexual fantasy, an individual often imagines they're the focus of attention, but an actual scene might not turn out this way (see my article: Are You Curious About Exploring Cuckolding With Your Partner?).
Play Party or Sex Club
  • Attending Play Parties or Sex Clubs: When you attend a sexual play party or a sex club, there is an expectation that there will be sexual scenes that are open to the viewing of others at the party who are not directly involved in the scene. If the play party is organized well, the organizer will usually tell the attendees what to expect so that if they're not interested in a particular fetish or kink, they can avoid observing that scene.  For instance, if a scene will involve BDSM (bondage, discipline or domination, sadism or submission, and masochism) and an attendee would have a problem observing this, they would know this in advance from the organizer. 
Don't Expect Everything to Go Perfectly the First Time
If you and your partner are new to consensual voyeurism, you might want to start with watching each other without a third party (as mentioned above). Even then, don't expect everything to necessarily go as planned (see my article: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex?).

Before you start, you might think you both have covered everything in terms of boundaries and what you do and don't want to do. But there can be unforeseen circumstances.  For instance, you might think you would enjoy having your partner watch you masturbate, but once you start, you might feel unexpectedly uncomfortable so that you want to stop (see my article: Tips on How to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Desires).

Always make an agreement beforehand that if one or both of you get uncomfortable, you can stop, take a break or do whatever you need to do to make each other comfortable.  

You and your partner can talk about it afterwards to improve your experience for next time--if there is to be a next time.

And don't forget to engage in sexual aftercare where you and your partner hug and hold each other and engage in other soothing care you give to each other.

Consensual voyeurism is very different from nonconsensual voyeurism, as described earlier in this article.

If you and your partner enjoy this type of fetish, consensual voyeurism can be fun and exciting.

Part of the sexual fun and excitement is the feeling that you're violating sexual prohibitions or engaging in something "naughty"--even though both you and your partner have consented to your voyeuristic activity beforehand (see my article: A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Violating Prohibitions By Breaking the Rules).

Consensual voyeurism can also expand your sexual repertoire in a positive way as long as it's done ethically and responsibly by everyone involved.

Also see my article: What is Consensual Exhibitionism?.

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

There is no nudity, physical exams or sex during a sex therapy session (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Individuals and couples attend sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a skilled sex therapist so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.