Dear Prudence

Help! My Cat Caught My Friend Spying on Me Having Sex.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

An eye is shown looking through a keyhole.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Valdemars Magone on Unsplash.

Q. A “friend” watched my boyfriend and I have sex: Recent storms rendered a friend’s house unlivable, so we offered her our spare bedroom while her roof was being repaired. She’s good company, a polite houseguest, and after feeling so isolated during lockdown, it was nice to have another face around for a few days. We live in an old, multi-level house. It has skeleton keyholes on most of the doors, which give a fairly decent view into the rooms behind them, but only if you kneel down and peer through them. The master bedroom is on the top floor. The guest room, guest bathroom, and linen closet are all in the basement, as is the laundry room. There’s a second floor for the kitchen, family room, and dining room. On the last day of our guest’s visit, my boyfriend woke me up in the mood for morning sex, after which we went back to sleep. We’re not terribly noisy, but I also know from experience that sound doesn’t really travel between the different stories, so I wasn’t worried about waking our guest. Today I checked my cat’s “collar camera.” He’s an indoor/outdoor cat, so I have the collar camera to track him and anything he runs into outdoors. Early in the morning of our friend’s last night in the house, the cat-cam footage showed her kneeling in front of our bedroom door with her face pressed against the keyhole for about 20 minutes. At that point the cat wandered off and curled up in another room.

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I feel really violated and I’m not sure how to proceed. My boyfriend found it weird and gross, but thinks the best solution is just not to invite her over for any more overnight visits. I feel disrespected and grossed out and don’t want her in my life anymore. I’d rather present a united front, but I won’t force my boyfriend to adopt my position. I definitely can’t just pretend this never happened. Any advice about how to start this conversation would be much appreciated.

“There’s no great way to start this conversation, so I’ll just say it: We keep a camera on the cat’s collar to keep an eye on him when he goes outdoors, and since he was inside the other night, I know that you looked through our bedroom’s keyhole for about 20 minutes at 3 a.m. I don’t really know what to say. It made me feel uncomfortable and like you’d violated some pretty basic principles about respect and privacy.”

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At that point, your friend may have her own response about learning that you were (at least incidentally) filming her during her stay; this doesn’t diminish the fact that she was wrong to peer through your keyhole either while you were having sex or sound asleep, but it might raise worthwhile questions that both you and your boyfriend should consider before inviting other guests over. Do people who visit your home know that your cat has a camera on his collar? If not, why not? Do you normally give your guests the opportunity to decide whether they’re comfortable spending time in your house with a roaming surveillance system, even if the purpose of that surveillance system is supposedly to monitor problems out-of-doors? Have you ever watched footage of your other guests before when your cat unwittingly filmed them, and if so, did you tell them about it? If not, why not? Do you think they would understand the review of such footage as a violation of their own privacy? Would you, if you were in their position?

I don’t ask these questions as a “gotcha.” None of this undermines your right to object to what your friend did. This isn’t a zero-sum game where you’re only, either sinned-against or sinning. But it might also serve as an opportunity to ask yourself whether you’re overlooking your guests’ reasonable right to privacy when they visit your home, if you’re not informing them that they’re being recorded whenever your cat is in the room, and that this footage is being stored and reviewed.

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