Samiksha Jaiswal


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Candaulism is a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure.


The term may also be applied to the practice of undressing or otherwise exposing a female partner to others, or urging or forcing her to engage in sexual relations with a third person, such as during a swinging activity. Similarly, the term may also be applied to the posting of personal images of a female partner on the internet or urging or forcing her to wear clothing which reveals her physical attractiveness to others, such as by wearing very brief clothing, such as a microskirt, tight-fitting or see-through clothing or a low-cut top.

History of the term

The term is derived from ancient King Candaules who conceived a plot to show his unaware naked wife to his servant Gyges of Lydia. 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.

The term was first defined by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his book: Psychopathia sexualis. Eine klinisch-forensische Studie (Stuttgart: Enke 1886).


Isidor Sadger hypothesized that the candaulist completely identifies with his partner's body, and deep in his mind is showing himself. 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

The case of Sir Richard Worsley, Bt, against George Bissett for "criminal conversation", that is adultery with Lady Worsley, revealed an incident in which Sir Richard had assisted Bissett to spy on Lady Worsley taking a bath.

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

The notorious American FBI agent caught spying for the Soviet Union (later, Russia), Robert Hanssen, took explicit photographs of his wife and sent them to a friend. Later Hanssen invited his friend to clandestinely observe him having sex with his wife during his 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. Hanssen also posted sexually explicit stories to the Internet crafted to allow readers who knew the Hanssens to identify them, also without his wife's knowledge.

In literature

Candaulism is a theme of A Dance to the Music of Time, the cycle of novels by Anthony Powell. A key scene in the penultimate volume Temporary Kings, is set in a Venetian palazzo under a ceiling on which Tiepolo has depicted King Candaules allowing his wife to be seen naked by Gyges. The theme of voyeurism runs through the sequence of novels including a scene in which the arch-villain, Widmerpool watches his wife with a lover.

In the Book of Esther the King orders Queen Vashti to appear before his guests wearing her crown and she refuses. Some commentators have taken this to mean her crown and nothing else, which if accurate would place this story as an example.

In films

  • Gilda (1946, by Charles Vidor), with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. In a carnival party, Gilda gives her lover a bill asking him "why are you Cuckolding me?".
  • Odd Obsession (1959, by Kon Ichikawa)
  • Jules et Jim (1962, by François Truffaut) with Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre
  • Knife in the Water (Nóż w wodzie) (1962, by Roman Polanski) with Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz.
  • Irma la Douce (1963, by Billy Wilder), with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Lou Jacobi.
  • Belle de Jour (1967, by Luis Buñuel), with Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli.
  • Il merlo maschio (1970, by Pasquale Festa Campanile), with Laura Antonelli and Lando Buzzanca
  • La Dernière femme (1976, by Marco Ferreri), with Gérard Depardieu, Ornella Muti, Michel Piccoli.
  • The Tin Drum (1979, by Volker Schlöndorff), with Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler, David Bennent, Daniel Olbrychski, Katharina Thalbach.
  • American Gigolo (1980, by Paul Schrader) with Richard Gere.
  • La Pelle (1981, by Liliana Cavani), with Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni, Burt Lancaster, Ken Marshall, Alexandra King, Carlo Giuffrè
  • Querelle (1982, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder) with Brad Davis and Jeanne Moreau.
  • Maria's Lovers (1984, by Andrei Konchalovsky) with Nastassja Kinski, John Savage and Keith Carradine
  • 9½ Weeks (1986, by Adrian Lyne) with Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, David Margulies.
  • I miei primi quarant'anni (1987, by Carlo Vanzina), with Carol Alt, Elliott Gould and Jean Rochefort.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, by Robert Zemeckis), Bob Hoskins & cartoons.
  • Wild Orchid (1990, by Zalman King) with Jacqueline Bisset, Carré Otis, Mickey Rourke.
  • Henry & June (1990, by Philip Kaufman), with Fred Ward, Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros.
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990, by Brian De Palma) with Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall.
  • Bitter Moon (Lunes de fiel) (1992, by Roman Polanski) – on a cruise, a husband tells a stranger he met on the cruise about all the sexual advantages he has had with his own wife.
  • La Reine Margot (1994, by Patrice Chéreau, with Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi, Miguel Bosé
  • The Specialist (1994, by Luis Llosa) with Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods and Rod Steiger.
  • Une femme française (1995, by Régis Wargnier), with Emmanuelle Béart and Daniel Auteuil.
  • The English Patient (1996, by Anthony Minghella), with Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth; Katherine reads aloud the account of Candaules and Gyges from Herodotus's Histories.
  • Eyes Wide Shut, (1999 by Stanley Kubrick, based on Dream Story, a book by Arthur Schnitzler), with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
  • How much do you love me?, (Combien tu m'aimes?) (2005, by Bertrand Blier) with Monica Bellucci, Bernard Campan and Gérard Depardieu
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005, by Rob Marshall) with Zhang Ziyi, and Ken Watanabe.
  • Vikings, in which Lagertha kills her husband after he tries to get her to strip in front of the guests.
  • References

    Candaulism Wikipedia

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