Exhibitionism is the act of exposing one’s genitals to unwilling observer. This behavior is also referred to as flashing or indecent exposure. Mostly men engage in this type of behavior to achieve sexual gratification by masturbating shortly after the incident. During masturbation the mental image from the victim’s reaction helps to enhance sexual arousal. Some may also fantasize about exposing themselves during sexual activity and some may replay mental image from previous incident while having sex with a partner.
Some may be able to achieve orgasm from the very act of exposure and some may masturbate while exposing themselves. Most engage in this type of behavior in public location where they can get away easily and these may include the parking lot, subway station, and public parks. Some may also expose themselves in private location including residential apartment and condominium building.
Most men who engage in this type of activity are usually very shy and insecure. They tend to be unhappy and unsatisfied with their sexual relationships and many have problems expressing intimacy with their partner. They have trouble reaching out to others for fear of rejection and many feel isolated and unappreciated. Some who are married or in relationship may or may not experience problems in their sexual relationship.
Individual engages in exhibitionism mainly to seek attention and to look for assurance of their masculinity. Some may feel anger towards women for failing to notice them and for causing them emotional pain as a result of not noticing them. The act of indecent exposure is their form of sexual expression in which they expose themselves briefly to unwilling observer mainly to frighten those who make them feel uncomfortable. Most exhibitionists limit the activity to only exposing themselves and they do not have any physical contact with the victims. Many are frightened with the idea of making any kind of physical contact with the victims.
However, few may physically assault their victims during exposure and some may lead to more serious offenses including rape and child molesting. Research indicates men who committed rape offense also tend to engage in other forms of sexual behavior including child molesting, voyeurism, exhibitionism, incest, and sexual sadism. Research does not indicate that men who expose themselves will lead to more serious offenses such as rape and child molesting. Individuals who expose themselves also tend to engage in different types of paraphilias.
There are several theories behind the origin of exhibitionism but there is no definitive explanation about the root cause of this behavior. One theory suggests this behavior is caused by high level of testosterone in men which trigger high sex drive. Other theory suggests this is caused by child abuse in which the victims developed the behavior later in life. One of the theories explains injury to the brain can also cause a man to develop this behavior without previous history of sexual abuse or sexual offenses.
Meyer, Landis and Hays (1988) group individuals with this behavior into four distinct personalities and these include the following.
Type A (impulsive personality) – individuals in this group are obsessed, tense, sexually confused, and they respond by engaging in this behavior out of impulse in response to distress.
Type B (inadequate personality) – individuals in this group are obsessed, shy, introverted, lack social skills, and they respond by engaging in this behavior out of anger, ego affirmation, and socialization.
Type C (unaware personality) – individuals in this group engage in exhibitionism unaware of their action because they suffered from mental retardation, organic brain disorder, or they are extremely intoxicated from consuming excessive amount of alcohol.
Type D (assaultive personality) – individuals in this groups developed great amount of anger and hostility that have build up over time and they tend to assault the victims while exposing themselves. These individuals experience little or no guilt and they get sexually arouse from victim’s reaction.
mostly men engage in this behavior, female exhibitionists are not
uncommon. Women may take up employment in strip club or appear on
live-camera via internet where they can expose themselves to like minded
people without having to deal with legal issues. Women engage in this
behavior to sexually arouse the watcher and to experience the power and
pleasure of being desire by someone. Some women expose themselves
because they want to be loved, admired, appreciated, and to be wanted
sexually by those watching them.
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