Peeping Tom Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Peeping Tom, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Peeping Tom?

It refers to the person who derives pleasures, usually sexual, by watching others secretly or spying on others especially females undressing or couples having sex. It can be termed as invasion of privacy and can be filed a lawsuit against. This term was derived when legendary Tom watched the Lady Godiva ride a horse in streets naked to protest against the taxes.

History and Meaning of Peeping Tom

The term "Peeping Tom" is commonly used to describe a person who peeks or spies on others, especially for sexual gratification. The origin of the term can be traced back to a folktale about a man named Tom who lived in Coventry, England. During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest against the taxation imposed by her husband. According to the legend, Tom couldn't resist peeping through a hole in his shutters to catch a glimpse of the Lady. For his disrespect, he was struck blind.

Over time, the term "Peeping Tom" has come to represent anyone who spies on others without their knowledge or consent.

Examples of Peeping Tom

  1. A man is caught peering into a woman's window while she undresses.
  2. A neighbor watched through a fence as a married couple had sex in their backyard.
  3. A maintenance worker installs a hidden camera in a female tenant's bedroom to secretly watch her.
  4. A teenager secretly records his female classmate getting dressed in the locker room.
  5. A person uses a drone to spy on others through their windows.

Legal Terms Similar to Peeping Tom

  1. Voyeurism: The practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others engage in sexual activity or undress without their knowledge or permission.
  2. Stalking: The act of repeatedly following, watching, or harassing another person, causing them to fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones.
  3. Invasion of Privacy: The violation of a person's right to be left alone and control information about themselves.