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Duke of Orléans Showing His Lover by Eugène Delacroix
1782 cartoon by James Gillray, depicting Sir Richard Worsley helping George Bisset view his wife, Seymour Fleming, naked in a bath-house. The caption reads: "Sir Richard Worse-than-Sly / Exposing his Wifes Bottom; – O fye!"

Candaulism, or candaulesism, is a paraphilic sexual practice or fantasy in which one person exposes their partner, or images of their partner, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure or the pleasure of their partner.[1] Candaulism is also associated with voyeurism and exhibitionism.

The term may also be applied to the practice of undressing or otherwise exposing a female partner to others. Similarly, the term may also be applied to the posting of personal images of a female partner on the internet or urging her to wear clothing which reveals her physical attractiveness to others, such as wearing very brief clothing, such as a microskirt, tight-fitting or see-through clothing, a low-cut top, or minimal-coverage swimwear.

History of the term[edit]

The term is derived from an account in The Histories of Herodotus.[2] King Candaules of ancient Lydia, according to the story, conceived a plot to show his unaware naked wife to his servant Gyges. After discovering Gyges while he was watching her naked, Candaules' wife ordered him to choose between killing himself or killing her husband in order to repair the vicious mischief.[3][4][5]

The term was first used in psychology by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis.[6]


Isidor Sadger hypothesized that the candaulist completely identifies with his partner's body, and deep in his mind is showing himself.[7] Candaulism is also associated with voyeurism and exhibitionism. An alternative definition proposes it as a practice involving one person observing, often from concealment, two others having sexual relations.

Historical instances[edit]

In the 1782 case of Sir Richard Worsley against George Bissett for "criminal conversation"[8]—that is, adultery with Lady Worsley—it was revealed that Sir Richard assisted Bissett to spy on Lady Worsley taking a bath.[9]

The art collector and connoisseur Charles Saatchi has considered the influence of candaulism upon the work of Salvador Dalí, citing episodes recorded by the artist's biographers in which Dalí's wife Gala was displayed to other men.[10]

Robert Hanssen was an American FBI agent arrested in 2001 for spying for the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. It was disclosed that he had taken explicit photographs of his wife and sent them to a friend. Later Hanssen invited his friend to clandestinely observe Hanssen having sex with Hanssen's wife during the friend's occasional visits to the Hanssen household. Initially, his friend watched through a window from outside the house. Later, Hanssen appropriated video equipment from the FBI to set up closed-circuit television to allow his friend to watch from his guest bedroom.[11][12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aggrawal, Anil, Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, CRC Press, 2009, p. 88.
  2. ^ Herodotus & de Sélincourt 1954, pp. 43–46
  3. ^ André Gide, Le roi Candaule (1901)
  4. ^ Hebbel, Gyges und sein Ring
  5. ^ Herodotus, Histories, Book 1.8[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Psychopathia sexualis. Eine klinisch-forensische Studie by Richard von Krafft-Ebing (Stuttgart: Enke 1886).
  7. ^ Ernest Bornean, Lexicon der Liebe (Hannibal, 1984)
  8. ^ Worsley v. Bisset (1782)
  9. ^ Rubenhold, Hallie (2008). Lady Worsley's Whim. London: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-7011-7980-9.
  10. ^ Evening Standard, 21 August 2014
  11. ^ Wise, David (2003), Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America, Random House Publishers, pp. 252–253, ISBN 0-375-75894-1
  12. ^ Adrian Havill. "Robert Philip Hanssen: The Spy who Stayed out in The Cold". Court TV (now TruTV). Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  13. ^ "Hanssen: Deep Inner Conflicts". Texas A&M Research Foundation. Archived from the original on 2010-12-03. Retrieved 4 Nov 2010.


Further reading[edit]

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