Sex Videos and the Birth of Public Voyeurism

Article by: John Aldrich Telebrico

Introducing the Voyeur and His Subject

Voyeurism is defined to be a phenomenon in which an individual gains satisfaction from watching another’s activities without proper consent or awareness of the other. The voyeur clearly knows his location in relation to the subject being studied. From where he is, he makes the most of what he can see. He becomes a spectator that enjoys messing with the business of others. He is in constant need of fulfilling his desire of seeing things that he wants to see at all costs.

But to enjoy the feast of visual appetizers and sumptuous images, his absence must be projected to the chosen subject. He will do everything to convey the message to the prey that he, together with the public, is non-existent.

In this regard, the subject does not know whether he or she is being watched or not. What he or she can only be sure of is the possibility of being subject to the gaze of other people. The subject can only take chances and is constantly uncertain whether others are aware of the goings-on within his or her private space.

And once the subject realizes that he or she has been a victim of voyeurism, he or she will live forever feeling unsure whether the guy he or she meets along the street saw whatever that was deemed to be not available for public consumption.

Spectacle: The Personal is also the Public

Internet and the hype of media sensationalism over a sex video scandal can transform the audience into a mass of voyeurs who gain enjoyment from taking part into somebody else’s supposed private pleasure. Personal trouble can become the object of desire of the audience.

For a couple of weeks, major news programs in the country featured the celebrities involved in an infamous scandal in all possible angles. The media was also able to trace the complexity of the scandal through the identification of personalities that are directly accountable for this. Not to mention, fellow celebrities shared their opinions, sympathies, and knowledge to those involved in those videos, adding to the hype. As more people come out and speak about the video, it
will take longer for the public to realize that there are more things more significant to nation building.

As more and more surprising facts about the scandal is uncovered right in front of the public gaze, the sensationalism of the scandal enslaves the viewing public to the imperative of following other events that constitute the chain until the time comes when people get sick of this. And as one sensationalized event comes to a close, a more spectacular event is waiting to be uncovered in order to satisfy the need for action and drama.

The public interest gained from watching a celebrity’s sex videos and other affairs opens a new ground for the discussion of questions on morality and human right to privacy, respect and dignity. Concerns over the protection of women and even our ethical values are being raised. It may also allow the public to be critical of the kind of public office we have that is more than willing to spend its resources for a public hearing over a spectacle to which all of them actually participated in.

Chatter: Public Voyeurism is not just about Looking

In an essay written by Umberto Eco regarding chatter, he claims that endless what-should-have-beens are examples of how chatter becomes a public phenomenon. Chatter as a phenomenon does not contribute to anything because all the talk is about the past. Talk is absolutely cheap as seen from this point of view.

Indeed, all the mess brought by the sex video scandal can be seen through the same lens through which Eco discussed chatter and its influence on public opinion over a sensationalized event. All the public's talk and fuss on the sex video scandal cannot do anything because what was done is done. Though chatter may influence our future affairs, the past becomes a sensationalized event which can be used by different social groups to put forward their interests.

Logging on to Other People's Businesses

To have watched these controversial videos with your friends and family and to discuss with your peers which of the currently available videos is the most intense and filled with passion is tantamount to taking part in the sensationalism of this mess.

And this is so easy to do. Technology provides convenient venues for communication, and ultimately shapes how we interact with one another. Technology made it possible to elevate voyeurism to become a social phenomenon that dissolves all individual differences of the viewers, and at the same time, it shifts the focus to the content and the dominant understanding of what-are’s and what-ought-to-be’s.

As a consequence, technology makes it harder to identify the fine line that separates what should be kept private from what should be shared to the viewing public. Internet, as an alternative medium for the creation of identities and establishment of social networks, makesit possible to share everything and anything at the expense of violating the basic right of others to live a life without the judgement of others.

Further, the Internet makes it possible to group people together into a single mass of online spectators that scavenge for images, videos and texts in search of enchantment and entertainment. It allows people to gossip, to talk about, and to know the deepest secrets of another without his or her knowledge. Regardless of authenticity, online materials can encourage people to wander through other people's businesses and keep them fixated for as long as it brings pleasure.

The anonymity that is also possible in proliferating these private images encourage even more of them to appear on the Internet - free and open for the public to view. Public voyeurism is a strain of the private version of it that grants pleasure not just in accessing other people's private affairs, but also in making it available to even more spectators.