Film Theory: Voyeurism and Exhibitionism

Visual pleasure in the cinema is created through the inherently voyeuristic mechanism that comes into play here more strongly than in the other arts.

A Freudian psychoanalytic term, voyeurism refers to the erotic gratification of watching someone without being seen oneself, what is known as the activity of the Peeping Tom.

Exhibitionism refers in psychoanalysis to the erotic gratification derived from showing one’s body or part of it to another person, as in the pleasure of being seen, or seeing oneself on the screen.

Voyeurism is an active perversion, practiced primarily by men with the female body as the object of the gaze, while exhibitionism is its passive counterpart.