Exhibitionism is a mental disorder that is identified by a compulsion to display one’s genitals to an unsuspecting stranger. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2000) classifies the disorder under the heading of a subcategory of sexual and gender identity disorders, “paraphilias.” Exhibitionists, widely known as “flashers,” can be separated in to two categories with the first being those who masturbate while exposing oneself or while fantasizing that he or she is exposing oneself to another person. In some cases exhibitionists are completely aware of a conscious desire to shock or upset their target; while others imagine that the target will become sexually aroused by their display. The question arises, “What makes exhibitionists preform these deviant acts?” This question, though researched, remains problematic in the sense that all research findings are inconclusive. However, despite this problem, researchers have conducted and gained valuable knowledge of theories related to the development of this disorder. Through the research of scholars, Lee, Frey, Piemont, Bogaerts, and Jones, a better understanding of the disorder’s development is expressed while also connecting exhibitionism to its’ psychological significance, biological, learning, and psychoanalytical theories.
Exhibitionism: A Psychological Considerate of a Societal Taboo Sex, fantasy, and stimulation are natural humanistic characteristics possessed by every individual. Exhibitionism, a societal “taboo,” is a broad term that can be addressed through multiple levels, but it most typically refers to an intense desire or compulsion to expose sexual parts of the body. The American Psychiatric Association (2000) defines exhibitionism as “sexual gratification, above and beyond the sexual act itself that is achieved by risky public sexual activity and/or bodily exposure which can also include engaging in sex where one may possibly be seen in the act, or caught in the act.” The main problem that researchers have faced while exploring exhibitionism is the inconclusiveness related to the primary source of the developing issue. However, despite the fact of not possessing concrete factual proof of the paraphilia, there are a variety of theories, biological, learning, and psychoanalytical, that attempt to explain how exhibitionism develops. These theories of development are the primary focus of all accredited research. Through the consideration of the presented studies, the psychology behind this “unusual” sexual behavior is explored more in depth through scholars and their discoveries for an enhanced mental understanding. A more in depth knowledge of what exactly exhibitionism remains crucial. “Exhibitionism is not essentially a compulsive or impulsive behavior but in its most extreme and compulsive form it is called apodysophilia” (American). Thus, exhibitionism is only reflected as a psychological disorder if it hinders a person’s quality of life or their normal functioning ability. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, exhibitionism is classified under the title of paraphilias, a group of mental disorders marked by fascination with unusual sexual practices or with sexual activity involving non-agreeable or inappropriate confidantes. It has been found in some cases that the exhibitionist masturbates while revealing himself or while fantasizing that he is exposing himself to the other person. Some exhibitionists are aware of a conscious desire to shock or upset their target; while others visualize that the target will become sexually aroused by their display. What causes this underlying fantasy? Researchers have proposed several theories that can be directly linked to exhibitionist symptoms, biological, learning, and psychoanalytical notions. An expert in the field of treating paraphilias proposes in The American Psychiatric Association (2000) a method of classifying the symptoms of exhibitionism...
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