One year ago in February 2015, the Vancouver Province ran a story on the rise of voyeurism in British Columbia, my home province, with the headline “How can we get men to stop doing this?” The sober reality is that the crime of voyeurism, almost always by males, may be virtually impossible to stop. Voyeurism is an enormous monster that lives in the shadows of our culture, hidden to many, but continually nourished by advancing technology, pervasive pornography, and increasing opportunity.
Voyeurism has been seen as a minor crime historically, but recording technology and victim statements are beginning to change that. One of the voyeurism cases the Province article cited was that of Jonathan Stringer, who hid a video camera in a unisex public washroom in Whistler, BC. One of his victims shared the effect it has had on her: “I have post-traumatic stress disorder from it. I was off work for a couple months, I was having problems sleeping and having weird dreams about being watched. It definitely affected me and made me fear for my safety.” More and more, voyeurism is starting to be recognized for what it is: sexual assault against women.
Advancing technology is also changing how seriously we perceive this crime. Not only is miniaturization making it easier for men to record women, but the fact that pictures and video can be stored, shared, and viewed over and over again, has significantly changed the nature of the crime from the traditional “peeping tom.”
Inherent in the question “How can we get men to stop doing this?” is the question of prevalence. Is voyeurism widespread, or limited to a few scattered predators? A look at the literature and studies on voyeurism reveals surprisingly little. In a day and age where every topic has seemingly been studied in minute detail, there is a glaring paucity of good information on the subject.
But the data that does exist is eye-opening. Templeman (1991) found that no less than 42 percent of college men in a rural sample reported that they had engaged in voyeurism. Bradford et al. (1992) reported that “of 443 adult males studied, 115 admitted to voyeurism” (cited from Krueger, 2016). Rye & Meaney (2007) found that 61 percent of the men in their university sample would engage in voyeurism if the likelihood of getting caught was 25 percent (cited from Krueger, 2016). (Read more from “The Data Suggests Unisex Bathrooms Are a Bonanza to Male Perverts” HERE)