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Scopophilia is a psychiatric term that literally translates as the love of looking. People with this fetish, known as scopophiliacs or scopophilies, become aroused or achieve sexual gratification by openly looking at naked bodies or erotic acts.
Sigmund Freud coined the term in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, published in 1905. It entered in the common vernacular in the early 1920s. The term scopophilia is a combination of the Latin word scope, meaning to see, and philia, meaning attachment or attraction.
Scopophilia is also known as Scoptophilia.
Scopophiliacs are most commonly straight men who derive pleasure looking at women. However, scopophiliacs can be of any gender or sexuality. They may enjoy viewing people undressing, enjoying being naked, or engaging in any number of sex acts. They may simply watch others or masturbate while viewing them.
Scopophilia reduces the people being looked at to mere objects, rather than human beings with their own thoughts and feelings. While scopophiliacs and voyeurs both derive sexual pleasure from looking at others, their conditions should not be confused. Voyeurs observe the objects of their affection in secret, while scopophiliacs are more open about their activities.
As scopophiliacs are open about their behavior, there is less potential for this paraphilia to become problematic. While voyeurs may be criminally prosecuted for viewing people undress or engage in sex acts without their consent, scopophiliacs are likely to form attachments with exhibitionists who derive just as much sexual pleasure from being viewed. However, as with any paraphilia, therapy may be helpful if scopophiliacs feel their condition is interrupting their professional or personal lives.