Thursday, September 19, 2013

Voyeurism (Part Three)

Jake is awakened by a low moaning sound, which turns to shortened gasps for air. Afraid and confused, he allows the glare of the streetlights to guide him down the hallway. The noise changes again into deep gutteral sounds, as if someone is being hurt or tortured. Tiptoeing to the threshold of his partents' room, Jake is riveted by the outline of his mother's body, entwined with a man who is not his father. Jake's confusion merges with curiosity as he watches his mother writhe and moan.

Intuitively Jake knows this is not meant for him to see. This forbidden voyeurism is immediately seared into his memory, creating a disturbing clash of emotions. On one hand is Jake's desire to worship his mother. On the other, he retains a picture of her as a sexual outlaw who inculcated him with shame in the face of sexual pleasure. This pleasure is fused to the danger of having spied on her, risking exposure.

This powerful forbidden experience is among Jake's first intimate sexual memories, and it will traumatize him.

A heterosexual boy who sees a naked woman is going to be aroused, but there's a problem when she is his mother. It is pleasurable, but it is bad. It is pleasurable, but it is secretive. It is pleasurable, but it is shameful. When Jake seeks sexual gratification, the sex will have to be secretive, bad, shameful and as intense as incest.

The high for voyeurs is hardly ever the orgasm itself. The high is what surrounds it -- what re-creates that original trauma: the danger, secrecy, and risk of being caught. That is when Jake feels safe and comfortable, back with Mother. But this time, it is okay -- except for the inevitable shame, which is killing him emotionally.

Jake sits in my office, still resembling the gawky child he has described to me. Only twenty-five, Jake has been arrested three times for the passive, violent act of voyeurism. The court has ordered him into treatment, and he is eager to get help.

"I want to stop," Jake says with conviction.
"Then you can," I say. "That's the first step to change: the willingness."
Like many compulsive people, sex addicts craft their lives to fit their addictions, and Jake is no exception.

"They have a really hot band at the hotel, so tonight is going to be a wild one," Jake's manager says to the parking-lot attendants where Jake works. "I want somebody on their toes. So let's roll," his boss says, clapping his hands.

The headlights of the cars heading for the rock concert cut through the darkness as Jake readies himself to open his first car door. As the car slides to a stop, Jake reaches for the doorknob, his heart beating fast and blood pumping through his veins as if he were in the middle of a boxing match.

"So in college you were a parking-lot valet?" I ask.
"Um humm," Jake says, nodding his head.
"Tell me how you acted out in this situation."

Jake knew these hot, balmy nights brought the best possible odds. Long, tan legs slid open as they exited the cares in short skirts. Jake would strain to catch a glimpse of lacy panties or perhaps no panties at all. Tonight Jake knew his odds were good; it was usually the case when the band played. Jake knew the patrons would be particularly raunchy.

"What would you do when you voyeured the women?" I ask.
"Well, I would take a snapshot in my head and save the images until I got home and then masturbated. Sometimes I'd make up stories or fantasies about them."
"To create more intensity?" I ask.

Although the voyeur is passively distancing himself from any intimate contact, he is, at the same time, unilaterally and aggressively appropriating sexual privilege. The culmination of the peeping maybe in orgasm during the watching, or the orgasm may be delayed until the voyeur, having stored up his images, masturbates in privacy. When the pleasure is delayed and played out with stored images or euphoric recall, the template behind it has to do with an early childhood adaption to fantasy. This will lead to a search for the origins of such an adaption in childhood.

Voyeurism is a subtle form of empowerment without intimacy, and this is precisely how Freud analyzed it.  To watch unobserved is to appropriate lives and assert oneself over one's victims. "Those who observe become ours, hostages to our eyes," wrote Sigmund Freud. The voyeur becomes master of what he survey, so watching becomes not only the origin of excitement, but also a remedy for pain, a reward for success, and a means for maintaining emotional balance. When in the grips of this obsession, the voyeur, even during acts of bodily sex with a real-life partner, will have to imagine a fantasy in order to reach orgasm. Real intimacy becomes impossible.

"Then your progressed into peeping into dorm windows?" I ask Jake.
"Oh, I had been peeping in windows since I was eleven; in college was the first I got caught."
"Were you arrested?"
"No. It was just campus security, and they just gave me a slap on the hand," Jake explains.
"What was it like, when you first got caught?"

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