Exhibitionism: Definition and Causes of Sexual Disorders Exhibitionism

Causes of Sexual Disorders Exhibitionism – Viral cases related to exhibitionism have occurred several times. An abnormality that makes sufferers feel happy when other people see their genital area is certainly troubling residents. However, what actually happens to someone with the disorder?

Exhibitionism is a condition that can harm other people, even causing trauma. This disorder needs to get immediate treatment before it becomes a crime. The vast majority of exhibitionists are male, although women can experience this sexual disorder as well.

Definition of Exhibitionism

Exhibitionism disorder is a condition that causes a person to compulsively expose his vital parts and genitals, both male and female, to other people in public places. This can lead to stimulation and sexual pleasure while doing it.

This condition is classified as a paraphilic disorder, namely sexual interest that is dysfunctional, so that it has the potential to harm oneself or others. The sufferer has the main desire to find a feeling of surprise, impression, and fear of the victim.

Psychological Aspects of Exhibitionism

Exhibitionism was first described as a mental illness in the scientific journal published in 1877 by the French physician and psychologist Charles Lasègue (1809–1883). Exhibitionism behavior can interfere with a person’s normal quality of life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition (class 302.4) calls this behavior that is considered a psychological disorder “paraphilia”.

The general definition of exhibitionism is sexual deviation which is characterized by the behavior of showing one’s genitals to strangers. This behavior is motivated by sexual fantasies and strong sexual urges.

Just like other mental disorders, this condition can occur due to the interaction of biological (such as genes), psychological (psychological condition of the person), and social (such as parenting and environmental) factors. However, this theory of exhibitionism can be traced from a person’s childhood, including from his own sexual development, whether it was well formed in the upbringing of his parents.

A research team conducted research by taking a sample of respondents from 185 exhibitionists with the question: “How do you react when you show your genitals to other people?” The most common responses were “want to have sex” (35.1%), followed by “no reaction required at all” (19.5%), “to show their dick too” (15.1%), “admiration” (14.1%), and “any reaction” (11.9%). Only a few respondents chose “anger and disgust” (3.8%) or “fear” (0.5%).

Exhibitionism perpetrators in several countries can be caught in lawsuits, in the form of a violation of the law which is called indecent exposure. Several types of behavior can be included as a form of exhibitionism, including:

  • Anasirma, namely lifting the skirt when not wearing underwear with the aim of showing off the genitals.
  • Flashing, namely temporarily opening a limb that is normally closed. In women, for example, showing off their bare breasts briefly by lifting and lowering clothing and/or bras briefly. Or also briefly showing off male or female genitalia.
  • Martimaklia, which is a type of paraphilia that involves sexual attraction so that other people watch the sexual act he is doing.
  • Mooning, namely showing naked buttocks by pushing pants and underwear. This behavior tends to become a gendered double standard: when performed by a male, it is more likely to be seen as a joke, humor, insult or ridicule, and has nothing to do with sexual arousal; whereas if it is done by a woman, the opposite happens, which is considered sexual stimulation (or at least sexual attention) to the target person shown.
  • Streaking, namely the act of running completely naked across a public place. The goal is usually not sexual, but tension and “surprise” value that can be done by a boy or a girl.
  • Candaulism, namely someone who exposes his sexual partner in an explicit way.
  • Reflectoporn, namely the act of stripping oneself naked and taking pictures (photos or videos) using a reflective surface, for example taking pictures from a mirror and then uploading them to the internet or public forums. Another example of this behavior is the reflection of a man’s or woman’s genitals on the surfaces of kettles, televisions, toasters, knives, spoons and forks. Some examples of this started when a man was selling kettles at an auction in Australia and posted a photo of the kettle with his naked body reflected in the kettle. The specific term “reflektoporn” was first popularized by Chris Stevens in Internet Magazine.
  • Telephone schatology, namely exhibitionism variant behavior, even though there is no direct physical interaction component.
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Exhibitionism Classification

In general, there are two main groups of exhibitionism. Harmless exhibitionism and dangerous exhibitionism. However, in a scientific paper entitled Forensics and Medical-Legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices (2009) it is stated that exhibitionism can be classified as follows.

Class I: Fantasy Exhibitionists

These people fantasize about showing off their genitals to unsuspecting people, but are too scared to actually carry out the fantasy. They tend to stay happy only with their exhibitionist fantasies. Some of them may turn to zoophilic exhibitionism to fulfill their fantasies, as it seems a safer activity.

Class II: Pure Exhibitionist

These people are content to just show off their genitals from a distance and masturbate. They don’t touch their victims or actually hurt them in any way.

Class III: Criminal Exhibitionists

This type of offender is the most numerous exhibitionist group. They are also involved in other sexual crimes, notably pedophilia and child abuse. After discovering a child as a victim, their sexual behavior may begin as exhibitionism, but may develop into crimes of sexual abuse and child abuse. This is considered very dangerous for society and requires more attention.

Class IV: Exclusive Exhibitionists

These offenders are unable to form normal romantic relationships with persons of their gender preference group, and are unable to engage in normal sexual relationships. For them, exhibitionism is the only outlet for sexual gratification. Such exhibitionists do not appear to have been reported in the literature so far, but on the basis of paraphilia equivalence theory it can be predicted that such types do exist in society and that they will be reported sometime in the future. Their behavior lies at the extreme ends of the paraphilic continuum because they are unable to form normal romantic relationships with other people.

Common Examples of Exhibitionism

Incidents of someone showing off his genitals in a public place can happen to one or more people. The victim is unsuspecting, or even happens from a distance. Some places that are often the scene of this condition, namely:

  • Window.
  • In the car.
  • At the threshold or entrance of a building.
  • City bus.
  • In the locker room or bathroom, and more.

Victims of the act of showing off genitals are likely to be people who do not know. This can be a source of sexual stimulation for people with exhibitionism.

Is Exhibitionism a Crime?

This depends on the level of the offense to be considered a crime. A person who has this condition can be prosecuted and even punished for:

  • Doing indecent acts.
  • Committing sexual harassment.
  • Doing indecent things in public.
  • Other crimes depend on the severity and circumstances that occurred.

Someone who commits these actions can become a serious accusation, even get a legal punishment that applies to social sanctions. Of course this also causes a psychological impact on the victims.

People with this condition also need to be offered mental health care, so they know if what they are doing is wrong. That way, the right action can make this disturbance that harms others better.

Causes of Sexual Disorders Exhibitionism

The exact cause of exhibitionism is not known. However, several factors are thought to cause or increase a person’s risk of experiencing this disorder. However, these factors are still being debated and need further investigation.

The factors in question are:

  • Genetic and neuropsychological factors.
  • Exhibitionism sexual disorder is thought to be caused by disruption of fetal brain development since in the womb.
  • Childhood trauma factor. Some events that cause trauma in childhood, such as sexual abuse, emotional suffering, and lack of attention and affection from parents, can also increase a person’s risk of experiencing exhibitionism. Deviant sexual fantasies can be a form of mechanism to overcome the childhood trauma ( coping mechanism ).
  • Several other factors can also increase the risk of exhibitionism, such as antisocial personality, alcohol abuse, and lack of self-confidence.
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What Are the Characteristics of Exhibitionism Sexual Disorder Sufferers?

Symptoms of exhibitionism sexual disorder usually begin to appear at the age of 15-25 years and begin to decrease with age. The following are characteristics of people with exhibitionism sexual disorders:

  • Feeling satisfied when showing genitals to strangers in public places. Some people with exhibitionism like to show off their genitals only to certain groups of people, such as young children or the opposite sex.
  • Sexual arousal arises when you see the victim feeling shocked, scared, or amazed, followed by masturbation. However, there is no intention to make further physical contact or sexual intercourse with the victim.
  • It tends to be difficult to start or maintain a relationship, both romantic and friendship.
  • It is not uncommon for people with exhibitionism to also show symptoms of other paraphilic disorders and are considered to be hypersexual.

How to Overcome Exhibitionism Disorders

Most people who have this condition do not seek treatment until they are caught and forced to do so. If your loved one is suspected of having this disorder, immediate treatment is highly recommended. Actions that are commonly performed are psychotherapy and drug consumption.

Psychotherapy can help a person control their impulses and find ways to overcome the urge to show off their genitals. There are several approaches taken to make it better, namely relaxation training, empathy training, to cognitive restructuring.

Consumption of drugs can also be done to help inhibit sex hormones, so that sexual desire can be suppressed. Some drugs to treat depression and mood disorders may also be needed to get these benefits.

Not many sufferers of exhibitionism sexual disorder go to a psychiatrist or psychologist. They tend to hide their disorder because they feel guilty, ashamed, or have financial and legal problems.

In fact, sufferers of this disorder are advised to immediately get treatment, both medically and psychologically. This needs to be done before he endangers himself and others, or even commits a crime.

Exhibitionism therapy is carried out by psychiatrists with a choice of methods that vary, according to the severity of the disorder experienced by the patient. Some of the therapeutic methods that can be done are:

1. Psychotherapy

Through psychotherapy, sufferers will undergo individual or group counseling sessions. Some of the topics in counseling are specific, such as the topic of marriage or family. Psychotherapy is expected to help sufferers to improve behavior and ability to interact socially.

2. Drug Therapy

The types of drugs given can be hormone suppressants, antidepressants, or mood controllers. These drugs generally work by reducing sex drive, so that deviant sexual behavior can be suppressed.

Treatment for exhibitionism disorder is long-term and the success of treatment depends on the individual. If the sufferer has the desire to recover and become a better person, then the chances of successful therapy will be even greater.

Exhibitionism sexual harassment can have an impact on personal, social and work life, up to legal consequences. Even though exhibitionism sufferers do not aim to make further physical contact with the victim, this should not be taken lightly because it can cause fear or psychological trauma to victims, especially children.

If you witness exhibitionism, the action that needs to be taken is to immediately leave the scene and ask for help from other people or security officers who are around. Thus, exhibitionism sufferers can be immediately secured and treated.


Exhibitionism is part of the paraphilic sexual disorder. Paraphilias are deviant sexual urges, passions, fantasies, or behaviors involving objects, activities, or situations that generally do not arouse sexual desire.

Someone will be diagnosed as having exhibitionism sexual disorder if this behavior has been going on for at least 6 months and causes suffering, disturbance, or loss, both for the sufferer himself and for others.


  • ” Exhibitionism, Desire to Show Off Private Areas in the Public Audience “. Halodoc . Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  • ” Exhibitionism Sexual Disturbance, Likes to Show Genitals “. HealthReplies.com Retrieved 18 January 2023.