And it came to pass at eventide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house; and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
Lacking any modern arrangement while living or traveling in the wild, or just roughing out, a woman is taking a bath in a natural body of water (sea, river, lake, pond, waterfall...) in the outdoors.
Inevitably, a man is going to stumble on her while she is naked. If not spotted, even the most chivalrous men will have a hard time (heh heh...) looking away. Truth in Television. If spotted, expect lots of yelling, Armor-Piercing Slap or Megaton Punch. Or maybe not, if the story is on the naughty side... then the guy might actually get lucky.
More often than not, this is entirely accidental from the male, who didn't plan any peeping. Sometimes they'd be attracted by the woman yelling and be rushing to the rescue. If the reason of the yelling is serious, like a water monster attacking, the man can eventually be forgiven his indiscretion. Or maybe they wanted a bath too and what an amazing coincidence that their hot female companion is ass-naked in the very pool they were headed for...
It stands to reason that outdoor bathing runs more risk of being peeped upon than in the safety of a bathroom; however, with this trope in action, it's like the mere act of disrobing in the wild for washing up acts like a magnet to most males in a thirty-mile radius.
If it's the first time they met, may result in Naked First Impression, and eventually Naked on Arrival. Mostly done for fanservice and ship teasing. As shown by the mythological examples below, this is Older Than Feudalism.
Generally distinct from whatever is going on in an Onsen Episode, since there the hot pools are known to be popular bathing spots, and thus any peeping is generally quite intentional.
Characters who intentionally try to peep in this fashion may be The Peeping Tom.
Often reminds women that they Can't Bathe Without a Weapon. May result in Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen. A common hazard of Drum Bathing.
This happens at the beginning. Kagome, bathing nude in a cold stream to get rid of the grim and blood of her first fights in the past, spots Inu-Yasha spying on her. "SIT!" Kagome thinks he is peeping on her, while old Kaede guesses correctly that the hanyo aims rather at stealing a fragment of Shikon no Tama.
Happens repeatedly to Inu-Yasha and Kagome, even more so after Miroku and Sango show up. Actually, Kagome meets Miroku like this, when he's peeping at her while she's at an outdoor bath. She guesses someone's watching her, tries to use a rock to hit him... and hits Inu-Yasha instead.
The first scene above is very similar to one in the OVA short Fire Tripper, also by Rumiko Takahashi, which is considered the inspiration for InuYasha. In there, male protagonist Shukumaru doesn't exactly hide that he's ogling, and almost gets nailed by female lead Suzuko with a boulder as a result.
Ranma, Genma, and Sōun are determined to find the scroll with Old Master Happōsai's Dangerous Forbidden Technique before he does. They find the location (a rock in the middle of a hot spring), leap down with a battle cry... and are immediately pelted with dozens upon dozens of buckets, since the hot spring is a women-only outdoor bath. Did anyone expect less from the Dirty Old Man? Now they must find a way through this impenetrable defense before Happōsai (disguised as a monkey) retrieves the scroll.
This is how Rouge and Pantyhose Tarō met. Rouge is taking a bath in a hot spring in China, and Tarō bursts through the bushes. She thinks he's trying to assault her... he thinks she is attacking him (with her source of power... long story). Cue buckets and rocks thrown in his face.
During the exploration of the Mahora Library (which is more like a huge underground "dungeon", complete with a subterranean river), Negi first walks in on Makie, Kaede and Ku-Fei showering under a waterfall (but they don't mind much and tease him), and then on Asuna swimming, whom he can't help but ogle shortly.
Much later, Chisame is bathing in a lake when she wanders around a stone outcropping to find Jack Rakan showering under a waterfall. This bothers her much more than it bothers him.
This is done to the point of exhaustion with Jiraiya. In fact, during the Third Hokage's funeral, it is revealed that he did this while he was in training.
In a filler episode, Hinata bathes naked (while also practising a new taijutsu) at night while on a mission. Naruto wakes up to pee, and ends up watching her, though he doesn't realise it's her or that she is naked.
Partially subverted twice in Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!. This happens to Anna, but it turns out to be a nightmare. Later, Kukarachov apparently sneaks up on Luna bathing, before revealing that he is not watching her, nor is he interested in her.
In the second episode of Soul Eater, Tsubaki throws a shuriken at Black☆Star for peeping at her while she is bathing in a lake. Strangely, she seems angrier at the fact that he was caught than the fact that he was peeping. It becomes Fridge Brilliance when you realize that Tsubaki is the most perverted member of Spartoi.
In a filler episode of Dragon Ball, a bunch of pigs from Oolong's village attempt to peep on ChiChi while bathing in a spring.
Happens in episode 19 of Code Geass between Kallen and Suzaku. This actually was an accident, but it's more important because it marks the point where Suzaku learns about Kallen's Secret Identity and her being a Black Knight.
In Tenchi Muyo!, Noboyuki attempts this. Too bad Ryoko decided at that moment to go grab Tenchi.
A peeping attempt committed by Kyu and Kinta, which finished with Megu going berserk on them... actually provides a clue to a mystery in Tantei Gakuen Q. The person Megu was sharing a hot spring bath with was the case's Sympathetic Murderer, and she tried to use it as an alibi but the detectives weren't fooled.
.hack//GIFT features a peeping scene in the ending credits where Subaru, BT, Mimiru are all bathing in a hotspring and Sora, Silver Knight and Crim are peeping on them. Of course Silver Knight has a Nosebleed.
Inspired from mythology, William Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr◊ demonstrates a different possibility if you get caught.
The Biblical stories of David and Bathseba and Susanna and the Elders (see in the Myths & Religion section) were both popular subjects for painters.
In issue 2 of Bone, Fone Bone gets scorched by a dragon before he hears something and goes to investigate... and he finds the beautiful Thorn dropping her pants for a soak. Love at First Sight for Fone, followed by his blush re-igniting his hat...
In the furry comicKatmandu, the two disparate male/female pair take turns washing up in a pond at an oasis. Each can't resist taking a secret peek at other in turn and don't get caught while thoroughly enjoying the view.
New 52: In Superboy #10, Superboy calls out that he's started their campfire, but when she doesn't answer, he searches and is stunned to walk in on Wonder Girl (Cassandra Sandsmark) bathing in a lake. Wonder Girl angrily calls him a pervert and tells him to turn around. Superboy turns around, but puts his hand on the ground and smiles. Wonder Girl remembers that he can "see" through what he is touching (kind of like Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender) and angrily throws a rock at the back of his head to get him to cut it out.
In Okay, NOW Panic! (link), the sequel to Don't Panic! (link), Penny, having gotten used to the relative reliability of hot baths in Imladris (compared to the wilds of Middle-Earth, and certainly better than the ones at The Prancing Pony) and even to the work involved in preparing one, then found, upon traveling again, that she had to bathe in a rather cold mountain stream. Her reaction to the temperature was loud enough to bring one of the elf men posted to guard them looking to see what was the matter. A brief explanation sent him away, amused.
Defied Trope in The Awkward Adventures of Meghan Whimblesby. Fearing this trope, Meghan takes a quick bath in the stream. She is out, dressed, and walking away from the stream, when Legolas arrives. Meghan mentions her bath, Legolas apologizes, but Meghan laughs. "You didn't get a free show or anything, so we're good."
Defied again in Home with the Fairies. The bandits want to watch as Maddie and the other prisoners bathe in a stream. They all refuse to bathe.
I Am NOT a Mary Sue is a parody of bad fanfiction. Leggieluver123 writes a story where Legolas finds the main character, Sornif, in a stream, and stares at her naked beauty. "Secretly though, she was pleased." But when Caroline falls into the story and becomes Sornif, she is much less pleased to be in this scene.
Films — Animation
In Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor stumbles upon some bathing Amazons. The other Amazons are not pleased.
Inverted and Gender Inverted in Mulan. Sweet Polly Oliver Mulan, (posing as young soldier Ping) is mid-bath when her fellow soldiers Ling, Yao and Chien-Po decide they want to wash up. The sequence is marked by Mulan sinking as low in the water as possible, desperately trying to make a hasty exit, maintain her male disguise and avoid getting an eyeful of her nude comrades, who are guilelessly trying to befriend "Ping" with a little good-natured water fight.
Sheena: Vic Casey finds Sheena showering under a waterfall after she rescues him. He's embarassed, but she doesn't understand the problem.
In Dragonslayer, this is how the protagonist discovers that the "boy" he is accompanying is Not as Advertised.
The escaping German soldiers in Cross of Iron encounter a squad of female Russian soldiers in this way. The first one they see is bathing outside in a large wooden barrel.
Done in Swamp Thing when we're shown Alice bathing and Swamp Thing watching it.
In Almost Heroes, Leslie Edwards (Matthew Perry) is looking through his telescope and happens upon the bathing beauty Shaquinna. When Bartholomew Hunt (Chris Farley) intrudes, he takes a peek, but at first sees her (male) owner.
In Date with an Angel, Jim sees the eponymous angel bathing in a pool. He stares for a few seconds, then gets embarrassed and leaves.
The miniseries Magical Legend of the Leprechauns uses this as a Meet Cute. Jack is exploring the area around his vacation cabin and stumbles upon the lovely Kathleen bathing in the river. He tries to flee, but his foot is caught in a tree root. He gets pummeled by pebbles for his troubles.
Gender-reversed in Yentl where the title character is passing as male to go to university, and her compatriots — and the man she is in love with — all go swimming nude.
In Your Highness, Thadeous spies on Isabel bathing in a lake. Fabious arrives and scolds him, but finds he can't look away either. Isabel spots them and they awkwardly try to hide, but she just gives them a Death Glare and continues bathing.
Rowen sees Tanalasta in Beyond the High Road, but it isn't a problem... until the Royal Magician sneaks up on him:
Vangerdahast: And you may consider yourself lucky to escape with a dunking. Spying on a royal princess's bath could be deemed a crime against the crown. Rowen: I wasn't spying! Vangerdahast: No? Just peeping? Tanalasta: Vangerdahast! You owe Rowen an apology. I asked him to keep watch while I bathed. Vangerdahast: I doubt you asked him to watch you. (glowering in Rowen's direction) Had you been guarding the princess instead of leering at her, you would have heard me coming.
In The Belgariad, Ce'Nedra goes bathing and Garion is sent to keep an eye on her. Averted, because she's quite happy for him to see her, but he's too embarassed to look. He is actually "sent to keep an eye on her" in an attempt to invoke this trope and spark a romance since they are royal heirs and scheduled to marry.
The Name of the Wind: Kvothe has one of these moments when Denna is accidentally drugged. Despite her increasingly explicit offers, he doesn't take her up on it both because he doesn't want to take advantage of her and because he loathes the drug in question.
In Protector of the Small, several boys try to catch Kel peeing, but get driven away by sparrows first. She gets a separate bathing spot with the Shang Wildcat (the only other woman on the expedition), so nobody tries to catch her bathing.
In the Alanna series, the girl disguised as a boy has this problem when her male friends go swimming — and want her to swim as well.
In Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, a woman taking a bath unguarded is just asking for trouble, since the ambient magic in the land tends to make stories come true — even the bawdy songs and barroom tales.
Played with in Red Storm Rising. Weatherman turned hero is actually guarding the young Icelandic lady they had rescued earlier. He tries to be a gentleman, but movement catches the eye... She pokes gentle fun at him over it, and promises, when they switch roles, not too look too much.
Invoked but averted in The Last Continent, where the other wizards make it very clear that while Mrs Whitlow has gone to bathe in a pool with water lilies, the Senior Wrangler is going to stay where they can see him.
Richard does this to Kahlan in episode 1.06. It's played for just about everything, but especially for laughs and fanservice.
Richard: Kahlan, about what happened back, (points at river) I didn't see anything. Kahlan: Richard, you should never lie to a Confessor. (Richard misses a step)
Happens again with Richard stumbling upon Kahlan (or rather, a magical doppelganger of her). He loses his sword in the process. More fanservice ensues.
Happens a few times in Xena: Warrior Princess. A notable one is when hapless comic sidekick Joxer stumbles upon a group of Amazons bathing... the penalty for which is death (apparently by pro wrestling).
Primeval: Nick Cutter catches Helen bathing in the first season. In the Late Cretaceous. Fortunately she doesn't mind, either because she's technically his wife or because she's, well, a bit loose.
In Power Rangers Wild Force, of all things, Cole spots Merrick bathing and sees that the wolf pup with him is the same one that was tagging along with Enigmatic Minion Zen-Aku in an earlier episode. The fact that he apparently spent a good little while watching didn't go unnoticed by viewers.
Little House on the Prairie: The 1977 episode "My Ellen" sees Laura, Mary and their friend Ellen Taylor go skinny-dipping and three boys trying to get a glimpse of the girls in the buff. Upon realizing they're being watched, the girls briefly go under until the boys go away... but this indirectly leads to tragedy for Ellen.
Game of Thrones. Unsullied soldier Grey Worm stares at Missandei who is bathing downriver from his soldiers. The Unsullied have been castrated as children so the women think nothing of bathing near them, so Missandei is embarrassed and confused over why he's doing it.
Mentioned in the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" in a reference to the King David story in the Bible (see below):
Well, your faith was strong but you needed proof You saw her bathing on the roof Her beauty and the moonlight over through ya.
Myths & Religion
King David did this with Bathsheba, sparkling his interest in her. This led to The Uriah Gambit in The Bible. It gets messier after that....
Also in the Bible (accepted by Catholics and the Orthodox but considered apocryphal by Protestants), the story of Susanna and the Elders. A very popular subject for paintings.
Seeing goddesses or nymphs bathing was a dangerous hazard in Greek Mythology:
Blind Seer Tiresias (in Callimachus' version of the legend, at least) lost his sight in punishment from stumbling upon the Goddess Athena bathing. When she realized it was completely unintentional, Athena gave him the ability to tell the future as an apology.
Acteon the hunter was changed into a stag (and killed by his own hounds) by the goddess Artemis for having seen her naked while bathing in the woods.
This happened to Artemis a lot. The only one she didn't turn into an animal was Siproites. She turned him into a woman. Which is still pretty harsh, considering how sexist the ancient Greeks were.
This is how many Shapeshifting Lover tales begin. Well, the ones that use magical cloaks or skins, like selkies (although in that case it's when they get out of the water) and swan maidens.
Hindu goddess Parvati created Ganesha to guard her while bathing. The reason he has an elephant head is because Shiva (Parvati's husband) wanted to watch his wife in the bath; Ganesha refused to step out of the way, so Shiva lost his temper and ripped Ganesha's head off. After he calmed down, he took the head off the first thing that he saw (an elephant) and put it on Ganesha's shoulders. No harm done.
In Armenian mythology, the goddess Astghik habitually took a bath in a certain stream every night; some romantic young men eager to see the goddess' exquisite beauty lit a big fire on a nearby hill, but Astghik, in order to foil their scheme, caused the entire area, the plain of Mush, to be covered by a thick fog. Hence the name of Mush, which means mist in Armenian.
Similar scenario, except Zelos is actually trying to peep on the girls, whilst Lloyd chastizes him, gets overheard, and while Zelos bolts, Lloyd gets caught.
Happens in the sequel too: when you revisit the same hot spring, the new main character Emil finds Zelos peeping, when Lloyd also shows up, Zelos bolts, Tenebrae leads Emil away and Lloyd ends up getting caught (again) and berated by everyone else.
This also happens in Tales of Vesperia courtesy of Raven, but he manages to get away with it. Had Rita found out, he'd probably be dead.
Optionally happens twice in Riviera: The Promised Land. Not only does Ein gets away with them, all the girls but a guard fairy will act like nothing happened.
Yggdra Union has one scene involve Yggdra taking a bath, and the fairy who invited her accidentally take a peek at her.
Arguably happens twice in Lunar: Eternal Blue. The first time Lucia fails to understand the point of separate bathing areas and walks into the male half of the hot springs while Hiro is bathing stark naked. The second time Hiro accidentally ends up walking in on Lucia as she bathes in a lake, only to discover that she had since developed the concept of modesty.
In episode 17 of Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk, the Elf bathes in a river under the fascinated eyes of the men of the party. It is hard to tell if the peeping can be called "accidental" here, considering she doesn't care at all that they are watching, even inviting them to join. The guys are also trying not to look, with mixed results.