Thursday, April 12, 2012

Voyeurism and lustful fantasies

Consider the following three activities, all done for a sexual end and without the consent of the other parties:

  1. Wearing special "x-ray" goggles that show one what other people look like under their clothes
  2. Wearing special computerized goggles that quite accurately extrapolate from the visible features of other people and from visual data about how their clothes lie on them, using a large database of body types, and show what other people very likely look like under their clothes
  3. Walking around and using the visible features of other people and visual data about how their clothes lie on them to imagine what other people look like under their clothes.
Now, (1) is a clear case of voyeurism, a violation of sexual privacy, and hence wrong. But is (2) really significantly morally different from (1)? We can imagine a continuum of more and more accurate portrayals. But (3) is basically (2), as done with an inferior instrument. Hence, it is wrong as well.

The argument doesn't apply to every case of lustful fantasy—I think there are other arguments, like this one—but I think it captures some of why many cases of sexual fantasies are wrong and creepy, indeed are a kind of non-consensual sexual relation.


Matthew said...

I understand “other people” in each of these three cases to refer to some given, actual individuals. That is, in case 3, lustful person L is looking at some other person M, and imagining what M looks like when M is unclothed.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Yes, this argument doesn't work in the case of purely imaginary people. There one may have to rely on the badness of lust as such.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Reminds me of an TV episode I watched of "Lois and Clark" sometime back in the mid 1990's. An ordinary "Joe Blow" through a freak accident got some of Clark Kent's powers including his X-Ray eye vision. And you guessed it. This was exactly what Joe Blow, newly minted superhero, used the X-ray eye vision for. Then Superman showed up . . .

This also brings up the current issues with the full body scanners employed by TSA. It often comes across like this to many people no matter how many security arguments are made. As an aerospace engineer, I understand the need for security. As a devout Catholic following the rationale in the original post, full body scaners are morally unacceptable. And don't think for a minute that all those images are deleted.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Kiss all last remnants of privacy good bye. Thanks to new technology, those "X-ray" goggles will be coming soon to a Radio Shack or Best Buy near you:

I hope that the above news story is not some joke.

I have another question. Has there ever been a study done on how voyeuristic fantasies and other fantasies affect the human brain. The brain chemical oxytocin (not to be confused with the drug oxycontin) is released during intimate activity and causes two things, the relaxing effects of pleasure and the bonding of the people involved. It is also this oxytocin release that may explain the addictive nature of pornography. Are there any articles out there dealing with case number (3) - looking at people and using one's imagination and if that effects the oxytocin level in the brain, or rewires the brain in any way?

Philo Lehmar said...

I wonder if a variant of this argument can show that masturbation is problematic. A company in Japan has recently developed a sex suit that comes with a virtual reality headset. I don't care to describe in detail what the suit does, except to say that it simulates the bodily sensations involved in intercourse. Now, I think many would find this technology perverted. (Or even if it isn't perverted, there is something deeply disturbing and lonely about virtual sex.)

But, using the continuum you presented in the above post, we can ask: what morally relevant difference is there between this technology and masturbation? And if this technology is perverted, then masturbation is also perverted.