In contemporary use peep show refers to a piecewise presentation of pornographic films or, less commonly, a live sex show using a coin/bill-operated device, which shuts the viewing slot after a short time, requiring more money to be deposited for continuation. Peep shows have been used for erotic and pornographic pictures, such as What the Butler Saw since before the turn of the twentieth century.
For live peep shows, booths surround a stage upon which usually female sex workers perform stripteases and sexually-explicit poses. In Barcelona the female sexworkers also perform sexual intercourse with male sex workers on stage. Customers (generally male) enter booths with windows or shutters which open when money is inserted in a coinbox mechanism. In some cases, booths include paper towel dispensers, for customers that are engaging in masturbation. The customers and the female sex workers can mutually agree to a fee for a "private dance". The "private dance" takes place in a peep show booth with a clear window and seating space for only one customer.
Research on peep show establishments in California examined the hypothesis that neighborhoods surrounding sex businesses such as peep show establishments and X-rated movie stores usually have a decline in property values and increases in crime, especially sex-related crimes. The researchers examined the impacts of adult peep show establishments in San Diego. In 2001, Paul, Linz, and Shafer (2001) found that the most frequently cited studies on the impacts of sex businesses did not use reliable or valid methodologies.