Exhibitionism is the act of exposing in a public or semi-public context those parts of one's body that are not normally exposed – for example, the genitals or buttocks. The practice may arise from a desire or compulsion to expose themselves in such a manner to groups of friends or acquaintances, or to strangers for their amusement or sexual satisfaction or to shock the bystander.
Public exhibitionism by women has been recorded since classical times, often in the context of women shaming groups of men into committing, or inciting them to commit, some public action. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus gives an account of exhibitionistic behaviors from the fifth century BC in The Histories. Herodotus writes that:
When people travel to Bubastis for the festival, this is what they do. Every baris carrying them there overflows with people, a huge crowd of them, men and women together. Some of the women have clappers, while some of the men have pipes which they play throughout the voyage. The rest of the men and women sing and clap their hands. When in the course of their journey they reach a community - not the city of their destination, but somewhere else - they steer the bareis close to the bank. Some of the women carry on doing what I have already described them as doing, but others shout out scornful remarks to the women in the town, or dance, or stand and pull up their clothes to expose themselves. Every riverside community receives this treatment.
Psychological aspects 
When exhibitionism interferes with a person's quality of life or normal functioning capacity it is considered a psychological disorder categorized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition (class 302.4) as a sexual deviation called Paraphilia. Many psychiatric definitions of exhibitionism broadly define it as "sexual gratification, above and beyond the sexual act itself, that is achieved by risky public sexual activity and/or bodily exposure." Beyond bodily exposure, it can also include "engaging in sex where one may possibly be seen in the act, or caught in the act." A research team asked a sample of 185 exhibitionists, "How would you have preferred a person to react if you were to expose your privates to him or her?" The most common response was "Would want to have sexual intercourse" (35.1%), followed by "No reaction necessary at all" (19.5%), "To show their privates also" (15.1%), "Admiration" (14.1%), and "Any reaction" (11.9%). Only very few exhibitionists chose "Anger and disgust" (3.8%) or "Fear" (0.5%).
Exhibitionism is also considered by many countries as a sexual offence, which may result in an arrest (see indecent exposure).
Types of exposure 
Various types of behavior are classified as exhibitionism, including:
- Anasyrma: the lifting of the skirt when not wearing underwear, to expose genitals.
- Flashing: chiefly the momentary display of bare female breasts by a woman with an up-and-down lifting of the shirt and/or bra. It can also involve the exposure of a man's or woman's genitalia.
- Martymachlia: a paraphilia which involves sexual attraction to having others watch the execution of a sexual act.
- Mooning: the display of bare buttocks by pulling down of trousers and underwear. There tends to be a gendered double standard in this case: with males, the act is most often done for the sake of humour, disparagement, or mockery, as opposed to sexual excitement, whereas with females, the reverse tends to be true, and sexual arousal (or at least sexual attention) of those mooned is the intent.
- Streaking: the act of running nude through a public place. The intent is not usually sexual but for shock value, including when done by a female.
- Candaulism: when a person exposes his or her partner in a sexually explicit manner.
- Reflectoporn: the act of stripping and taking a photograph using an object with a reflective surface as a mirror, then posting the image on the Internet in a public forum. Examples include "images of naked men and women reflected in kettles, TVs, toasters and even knives and forks". The instance generally credited with starting the trend involved a man selling a kettle on an Australian auction site featuring a photograph where his naked body is clearly visible; other instances followed, and the specific term "reflectoporn" was coined by Chris Stevens of Internet Magazine.
- Telephone scatologia - Some researchers have claimed that this is a variant of exhibitionism, even though it has no in-person physical component.
Two main classes of exhibitionism exist.
Non-threatening exhibitionism may be physically expressed in two basic ways. The first, colloquially referred to as flashing, involves the exposure of a person's "private parts" to another person or group of people in a situation where these would not normally be exposed, such as in a social gathering or in a public place. The act of flashing, particularly when done by females involving the breasts but also when involving her vulva and also her buttocks, may be at least partially sexual in intention, i.e. to prompt the sexual arousal of those being flashed, in turn giving the flasher an ego boost. However, flashing may also simply be intended to attract the non-aroused "attention" of another or others, or for shock value. An example of the latter is a male who displays his buttocks to someone else, an act which unlike a female who displays her buttocks is not typically taken by the viewer(s) as a sexually-provocative act. In fact, it is usually interpreted by the viewer as mildly or even severely insulting (see below).
Non-threatening exhibitionism can also be expressed in the context of a like-minded group who share the desire to expose themselves to each other. That type of exhibitionism has a wide variety of subtypes, including everything from nudist clubs or naturist resorts to small groups of friends or acquaintances sharing a hot tub without wearing bathing suits, or skinny-dipping together.
The second class of exhibitionism, done threateningly or at least with aggressive intent, is referred to as indecent exposure, even though the physical act itself may also, somewhat confusingly, be referred to as "flashing"; however, even if the term "flashing" is used, the surrounding descriptive context gives a point of reference as to which of the two classes of exhibitionism is being described. A classic exemplary circumstance, meant to showcase the aggressive intent to "violate" another person's peace of mind as compared to the other exhibitionism type, involves a male in a trench coat, naked underneath, who enters a dark movie theatre or is sitting in one of the seating rows near to a woman, and standing, proceeds to open his trench coat and display his nakedness (and possibly an already-existing erection) to the unwilling, possibly disgusted, and possibly frightened woman. For the person performing the act, the point of such indecent exposure and similar indecent exposure is that rather than the unwilling viewer's repulsion and/or shock causing a loss of sexual excitement in the flasher, the shock and repulsion actually increases the flasher's sexual excitement. While this example may or may not have actually occurred in practice, the story, often related in Western culture in particular, is meant to show that a person who does these or similar acts usually has some sort of psychological warping of his or her sexuality, and is thus not a psychologically "healthy" individual. These factors are usually cited as the main ones that separate indecent exposure from the non-threatening form of flashing.
Exhibitionism is not automatically a compulsion, but some people do have a distinct psychological tendency to expose themselves in a sexually-provocative manner, whether it is to "flash" (the nonthreatening form) or to "indecently expose" (the threatening form). When it is a compulsion, it is a condition sometimes called apodysophilia.
The Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices (2009) classifies exhibitionism in this way.
Class I: Fantasizing Exhibitionists
These people fantasize about exhibiting their genitals to unsuspecting persons, but are too timid to actually carry out their fantasies. They tend to remain happy merely with their exhibitionistic fantasies. They may turn to zoophilic exhibitionism to fulfill their fantasies, since it apparently is a safer activity.
Class II: Pure Exhibitionists
These people are content with just showing off their genitals from a distance and masturbating. They do not touch their victims or actually do them any harm.
Class III: Exhibitionistic Criminals
These offenders are primarily exhibitionists, but they also engage in other sexual crimes, especially pedophilia and child molesting. Upon finding a child alone, their sexual behavior may start with exhibitionism, but may progress to child molestation. These are more dangerous to the society and obviously need more attention.
Class IV: Exclusive Exhibitionists
These offenders cannot form normal romantic relationships with persons of the opposite sex and cannot engage in normal sexual intercourse. For them, exhibitionism is the sole outlet for sexual gratification. Such exhibitionists do not seem to have been reported in literature so far, but based on the theory of paraphilic equivalence, it can be predicted that these exhibitionists do exist in society and they will be reported sometime in the future. Behaviorally, they lie on the extreme end of the paraphilic continuum since they cannot form normal romantic relationships with other individuals. However, in a legal sense, class III exhibitionists may be more dangerous as they also resort to criminal activities.
See also 
- Baunach, Dawn Michelle. "Exhibitionism" in Sex and Society. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-7906-2. p.220
- "Origin of the world". Rutgerspress.rutgers.edu. 1977-09-23. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Herodotus. The Histories. Trans. R. Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Book Two, Chapter 60, Page 119.
- Lasègue C. Les Exhibitionistes. L'Union Médicale (Paris), series 3, vol. 23; 1877. Pages 709–714.
- Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 1-4200-4308-0. Unknown parameter
- DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association 1994
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, DC: Author.
- Freund, K., Watson, R., & Rienzo, D. (1988). The value of self-reports in the study of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Annals of Sex Research, 2, 243–262.
- "Psychologist Anywhere Anytime". Psychologist Anywhere Anytime. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "'REFLECTOPORN' HITS AUCTION SITE". The Mirror. 2003-09-09. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- "Today's media stories from the papers". The Guardian. 2003-09-09. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Indecent Exposure". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Nude eBayer flashes 19in monitor". The Register. 2005-07-01. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- "eBayer goes for bust in ashtray auction". The Register. 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- "eBay in wing-mirror reflectoporn shocker". The Register. 2006-07-14. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- "Reflectoporn@Everything2.com". Everything2.com. 2003-09-10. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual anomalies and perversions: Physical and psychological development, diagnosis and treatment (new and revised ed.). London: Encyclopaedic Press.
- Nadler, R. P. (1968). Approach to psychodynamics of obscene telephone calls. New York State Journal of Medicine, 68, 521–526.
- "apodysophilia - Dictionary of sexual terms". Sex-lexis.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
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- Exhibitionism explained briefly on AllPsych