Mark Roberts, a well-known streaker, at the Hong Kong Sevens Rugby tournament in 1994.

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 breasts, 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.[1] Exposing oneself only to an intimate partner is normally not regarded as exhibitionism. In law, the act of exhibitionism may be called indecent exposure, "exposing one's person", or other expressions.


Natalie Lopez and Millie Allen Lavaughn Go Nude in Public 02

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.[2] 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.[3]

A case of what appears to be exhibitionism in a clinical sense was recorded in a report by the Commission against Blasphemy in Venice in 1550.[4]

In the UK the 4th draft of the revised Vagrancy Act of 1824 included an additional clause 'or openly and indecently exposing their persons' which gave rise to difficulties because of its ill-defined scope. During the course of a subsequent debate on the topic in Parliament, the then Home Secretary, Mr Peel, observed that 'there was not a more flagrant offence than that of indecently exposing the person which had been carried to an immense extent in the parks...wanton exposure was a very different thing from accidental exposure'.[5]

Psychological aspects

Exhibitionism was first described as a disorder in 1877 by French physician and psychiatrist Charles Lasègue.[6][7] When exhibitionistic sexual interest is acted on with a non-consenting person or interferes with a person's quality of life or normal functioning, it can be diagnosed as exhibitionistic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). The DSM states that the highest possible prevalence for exhibitionistic disorder in men is 2%-4%. It is thought to be much less common in women.[8] In a Swedish survey, 2.1% of women and 4.1% of men admitted to becoming sexually aroused from the exposure of their genitals to a stranger.[9]

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%).[10]

Types of exposure

Students mooning at Stanford University, intended as both an unspecified protest and also a world record attempt of the greatest number of people simultaneously mooning others

Various types of behavior are classified as exhibitionism, including:


Nude woman being photographed in a park

Anil Aggrawal proposed four classes of exhibitionism:[21]

The DSM-5 diagnosis for exhibitionistic disorder has three subtypes: exhibitionists interested in exposing themselves to adults, to prepubescent children, or to both.[8]

See also



  1. Baunach, Dawn Michelle. "Exhibitionism" in Sex and Society. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-7906-2. p.220
  2. "Origin of the world". Rutgerspress.rutgers.edu. 1977-09-23. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  3. Herodotus. The Histories. Trans. R. Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Book Two, Chapter 60, Page 119.
  4. Bloch, Iwan (1914). "Fall von Exhibitionismus im 16. Jahrhundert". Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft (Born): i.289.
  5. Rooth, F.G. (1970). "Some Historical Notes on Indecent Exposure and Exhibitionism". The Medico-Legal Journal. Part 4. 38 (4): 135–139. PMID 4923872.
  6. Lasègue C. Les Exhibitionistes. L'Union Médicale (Paris), series 3, vol. 23; 1877. Pages 709–714.
  7. Aggrawal 2009, p. 388.
  8. 1 2 American Psychiatric Association, ed. (2013). "Exhibitionistic Disorder, 302.4 (F65.2)". Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 689–691.
  9. Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. p. 384.
  10. 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.
  11. "Psychologist Anywhere Anytime". Psychologist Anywhere Anytime. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  12. "'REFLECTOPORN' HITS AUCTION SITE". The Mirror. 2003-09-09. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  13. "Today's media stories from the papers". The Guardian. 2003-09-09. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  14. "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Indecent Exposure". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  15. "Nude eBayer flashes 19in monitor". The Register. 2005-07-01. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  16. "eBayer goes for bust in ashtray auction". The Register. 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  17. "eBay in wing-mirror reflectoporn shocker". The Register. 2006-07-14. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  18. "Reflectoporn@Everything2.com". Everything2.com. 2003-09-10. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  19. Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual anomalies and perversions: Physical and psychological development, diagnosis and treatment (new and revised ed.). London: Encyclopaedic Press.
  20. Nadler, R. P. (1968). Approach to psychodynamics of obscene telephone calls. New York State Journal of Medicine, 68, 521–526.
  21. Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 93. ISBN 1-4200-4308-0.

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