Voyeurism, Self-Awareness and Sex beyond the Keyhole

Imagine, if you will, that you are in the corridor of an old fashioned plush hotel. The deep pile carpet feels warm nestled against your knees. You are breathing deeply but are unaware of this. The focus of your attention is the keyhole in front of you. Beyond the thick door is the object of your attention. A beautiful couple perhaps. Engaged in passion. Your ear, close to the grain of the door is devouring the soft sounds of their embrace. Your eyelash flicks the metal surround of the keyhole, its classic shape framing sections of the moving bodies, partially clothed, lost in passion, within the room.
Then, almost inevitably, you become aware of footsteps padding down the hallway…how do you feel in that moment?

This is my imagining of a scene suggested by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in order to illustrate his view of self-awareness. The voyeur is completely unaware of his or her self whilst staring through the keyhole. Whatever their motive for taking the role of ‘Peeping Tom’ at that moment they are only conscious of of the object of their senses – the couple beyond the door.
The point being that they only become self-aware once they realise that they are the object of someone else’s gaze, the knowledge that someone else coming along the corridor can see them. And at that moment the voyeur will think of themselves in terms of what they perceive the other person will be thinking about them. They may think that the person in the corridor will be thinking that they are a ’peeping Tom’ or voyeur.
In a way what Sartre suggested was that we can never be truly self-aware. Our ’awareness’ can be a reflection of others.
In his book ’Being and Nothingness’ he says this:

“Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question, in so far as this being implies a being other than itself,”

The implication of this is that consciousness is dependent on awareness of an OBJECT. To be conscious you have to be aware OF something. When it comes to being conscious of the self, what happens is that we project a version of our ’self’ (the object) in order to be conscious of it and think about it. What this means is that the ’self’ we project and think about is not our true self but merely an image.
Often what happens when thinking of our ’self’ is that it is a reflection of what we think others think about us. Hence the voyeur thinks about the observer seeing them as a ’peeping tom’ and feels the associated guilt and shame. Before being observed the voyeur is not self aware at all.
So when we think about ourselves we generally tend to view it through a lens. We think that we are happy/sad/good/bad people because that is how others think of us.
When I think about this I realise how much of the time that we are not self-aware. How much of the time we are absorbed in something else. Like watching tv or reading a book. Even when we are engaged in an activity (me writing this for example), one can be thinking of other things on multiple levels, but not aware of anything around us.
I guess my question is whether we can ever truly ’know’ ourselves? I am not sure that we can because as humans we are continually moving and changing like shifting sands in the desert. The dunes of the sahara seem so large and full of form that they appear solid. The reality is that they are shifting waves; an ocean of sand sweeping ever so slowly, unseen, across North Africa. As people we are like these oceans of sand.
People often say ’it’s not in my nature’ to do this thing or that thing. Or they say ’I don’t have that kind of personality,’ or ’that person isn’t my type,’. As if the kind of person we are is somehow fixed in our DNA.
The truth is that I am not the same person I was yesterday, or last week, or ten years ago. If a boatbuilder repairs a wooden boat and replaces every single plank and mast and nail, is it the same boat? It has the same shape but surely a different essence.
What can we learn from this? I am not sure. Except to say that as humans we have choices and one of those choices is how we view the object that we project of our self in our minds. Too often we choose the negative view. If someone gives you five compliments and one throwaway negative comment (perhaps about how they don’t like your sweater) you go away remembering the bad thing. We should be mindful of this and when we think about ourselves attempt to keep the positive.
Sartre argued for an existentialist viewpoint. The only thing that exists is the here and now. The past is gone. Over. The future hasn’t arrived yet. There is only now. Right now. Therefore we can choose to interpret our past actions and feelings however we like. And we can choose what kind of person we think we are going to be in the future. Endless possibilities there!
Finally, back to the voyeur. If we are honest most of us should admit to being curious about what was beyond the keyhole. A glimpse of stocking perhaps? Can any of us truly say that we wouldn’t be tempted to look?
What do you think?

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Hmm…what do you see? Is it a blur?

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Jean-Paul Sartre – I wonder what he can see?

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We are but shifting sands…
© 2013 Simon Poore

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Sex: How Much is Too Much in YA Fiction?

Again I am proud and pleased to present another fab and interesting GUEST POST. This time from the wonderful Raine Thomas. She asks the difficult question about sex; when is it too much for young people to read about? Please give your comments and feelings about this subject and check out Raine’s books, blog and twitter listed below. Thanks Raine!

“Sex: How Much is Too Much in YA Fiction?”

​Thank you, Simon, for thinking to invite me to take over your blog for this guest post. I’m honored and thrilled to be here!

​I’m still getting the hang of this guest blogging thing, so I hope you’ll bear with me out there. I think the toughest part of any guest blog , especially for a Type A such as myself, is identifying a topic. What do you mean, I can write about anything? What do you mean, there aren’t any guidelines or restrictions? Really??

​It’s almost enough to make a gal’s head implode.

​But I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so here I am. In reviewing other guest posts featured on Simon’s (awesome) blog, I realized that some of the writers presented excerpts or samples of their work and that this was well-received. So I considered doing this myself and wondered how to package it in an engaging guest blog.

​That got me thinking about just what excerpt I should present. I write young adult fantasy/romance. I know Simon’s specialty genre is science fiction, which is quite different. Would I even have an excerpt that would appeal to Simon’s blog audience?

​And then it occurred to me…the one topic that interests just about everyone: sex.

​Oh, don’t try to deny it. I’ve caught your attention now, haven’t I?

​Romantic fiction doesn’t have to include graphic sex, though many romance novels do. In particular, YA romance doesn’t typically include sex. So when I decided to have my characters pair up, I had to ask myself this: just how much is too much in regard to scenes hinting at or directly involving sex when it comes to YA fiction?

​This is a topic that has been written about quite a bit, and I knew when I made my decision to have my teenage characters engage in sex that I’d probably take some heat for it. Surprisingly, that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps that’s because my heroines are all eighteen and my heroes are much older than that (being Estilorians and thus immortal). Then again, that might just be another point of contention for some readers. Time will tell.

​Anyone who hasn’t had their head in a hole in the ground is aware of the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Without getting into spoiler territory, the last book of the series includes sex. The scenes were essential to the plot and occurred between characters who were at least nineteen, but Ms. Meyer still received criticism about them. Did this weigh into my decision to include sensuality in my books?

​Not really.

​In my opinion, an essential part of being a young adult is exploring sex and intimacy. Any teen who isn’t curious about the birds and the bees is, well, outside of the norm. Thus, a YA romance (particularly one that features older teens and is targeted to high school-age readers and older) would practically be outside the norm NOT to touch on sex.

​Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That said, I’ll present you with an excerpt from my book Becoming, the first book in the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy. The scene, featuring the main characters, Amber and Gabriel, is reflective of other scenes involving sensuality throughout the trilogy. I welcome your comments on whether you think this crosses a line in YA fiction:

Her stomach fluttered nervously as she reached for the doorknob, and she mentally chided herself. This was Gabriel, for goodness’ sake. She opened the door at last, but didn’t see him down the hallway. Figuring he was sitting in the living room, she tossed her bag onto the bed in their room and walked out to join him.
The back of his head was visible from where he sat on the sofa watching SportsCenter on the television. At the sound of her shoes on the wood floors, he called out, “You should’ve seen the highlight they just showed, Am.” He turned with a smile as she paused a few feet into the room. “You would’ve—” The smile dropped from his face, his mouth hanging open on whatever he had been about to say.
He slowly got to his feet, but his eyes never left her. Amber instantly decided all of her effort had been worth it just to see his expression right now.
As he stepped closer, his gaze moved from her head to her toes and lingered in places that brought a hot blush to her cheeks. His expression intense, he reached out, took her hands and slowly lifted both of her arms up above her head. When she felt the cooler air in the room against her suddenly bare midriff, she tried to pull her hands away from his.
“Uh-uh,” he argued, his grip tightening to hold her in place.
Then he started turning her, his gaze settled on her waistline. Fighting back her blush, she indulged him by turning in a complete circle.
“My, oh, my.”
He drawled out each of the words as she once again faced him and caught his gaze. His eyes had picked up the sharp blue of the T-shirt he wore and were filled with male appreciation. He released his hold so she could lower her arms, but his hands moved to either side of her hips to pull her within a couple of inches of his tall frame. His thumbs ended up resting against her skin where her sweater didn’t quite meet her jeans, and his touch evoked an excited stutter in her heartbeat.
“Wherever did this come from?” he asked, his gaze searching her makeup-enhanced features.
Trying to sound nonchalant, she replied, “Alicia took me shopping. At the Gap.”
“Did she now?”
She nodded as his hands idly caressed the bottom edge of her sweater. Her skin flushed with heat wherever he touched. “And Victoria’s Secret.”
He blinked a couple of times as he processed that blurted admission. Finally, he managed, “Is that right?”
His eyes had darkened a bit in color and he had swallowed hard after her last statement. So she added, “And Bath and Body Works.”
Rather than comment, he closed the meager distance between them by pulling her up against him. Then he leaned down toward her neck and slowly drew in her scent. The feeling of his warm breath against her skin made her entire body simmer with pleasure. With barely a thought, she tilted her head sideways to give him better access. His lips gently brushed her exposed neck and collarbone, making her pulse race.
“I’d thank Alicia, but I think she’s trying to kill me,” he whispered into her ear. She gripped his arms and closed her eyes as all of her nerve-endings blazed. His lips then moved along her jaw line. “Still, I can see you intend this to be a kind of a present for me. I can’t help but appreciate it for what it is.”
Then he captured her mouth. Her every thought centered on him as passion flared. His scent: like the ocean wind before a storm, calm with the potential for aggression. His taste: rich, potent and heady. His body: hard, strong and enveloping.
As he kissed her, his hands moved slowly from her hips up along her ribcage, leaving a blazing path of sensation behind. She could barely breathe as he reached ever higher. His hands explored her leisurely, the feelings he generated with his touch both intensely pleasurable and inexplicably tormenting. She issued a ragged sound that might have been a sigh or a moan.
When he eventually broke away from her, he stepped back and held her at arm’s length, his head lowered as he caught his breath and struggled to center himself. Although the move had been abrupt, she couldn’t take offense. It was obvious she had inadvertently pushed him to an edge she hadn’t even realized existed. She warred with delight and guilt over having trampled on his usual gentlemanly sensibilities.

​What do you think? Please leave a comment here and look me up at one of these handy places:

Twitter (http://twitter/Raine_Thomas)
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/rainethomas)
Website (http://rainethomas.com)
Blog (http://RaineThomas.com/blog/)

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© 2011 Raine Thomas