Explaining Exhibitionism

Explaining Exhibitionism
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We’ve all become too accustomed recently to the on-going stories of exhibitionism.

In the 1970s, some of you may remember the man who stripped naked and ran across the football field... a behavior humorously referred to, at that time, as streaking.

Or, perhaps you recall the story of a beautiful, young woman in the Middle Ages, who sat astride a white stallion, as naked as a jaybird… she was Lady Godiva.

Today, we recognize this behavior as a sexual disorder. It falls into the spectrum of a Paraphilias condition.

So, you may be asking: what is a Paraphilias condition? Well…a Paraphilias condition occurs when a person receives sexual arousal by exposing his genitalia to an unsuspecting observer. Now, like all emotional issues, there are categories of Paraphilias disorders, which relate specifically to the type of sexual offense and age, of the sexual offender’s victim.

If a person, exposes his genitalia to a prepubescent or underage child, then the Paraphilias subtype, exhibits characteristics, uncomfortably close to pedophilia (sources: Psychology Today and Psychologist Anywhere Anytime).

A person may discover, as early as adolescence, that he receives sexual excitement and satisfaction through exhibitionism, by frightening or startling his victim. Moreover, he may fantasize that the person he is abusing is actually sexually aroused by his behavior. And, because of the sexual payback, his compulsion and sexual urges may escalate over time.

Men who participate in this extreme behavior often masturbate while exposing themselves, which can be extremely upsetting to an observer. Further, a predator may be threatening to his unsuspecting victim. Thus, in some cases, an exhibitionist’s desire to expose himself can have dire consequences. However, in some cases the desire to expose oneself for sexual arousal may diminish with age.

What to look for:

  1. If a person engages in exhibitionistic behavior, for approximately a year.
  2. If a person experiences sexual arousal while exposing their genitals to unsuspecting victims.
  3. If a person receives a sexual charge by shocking another person through sexual exposure.
  4. If there is an uncontrollable urge to masturbate, or exhibit sexual genitals, in front of unsuspecting others.
  5. If a person receives sexual arousal, by exposing himself to a non-consenting person and is may be compelled to touch, bump, or brush against another.

Reasons for exhibitionistic behavior:

  1. Early childhood sexual abuse;
  2. Early childhood emotional abuse;
  3. An over-focus on self-soothing sexually;
  4. Personality disorders including anti-social behavior;
  5. Sexual immaturity including pedophilia;
  6. A dysfunctional childhood family.

So how can we help?

Because exhibitionism has its root in early staging emotional experiences, its treatment responds best to self-management strategies. Immediately upon recognizing exhibitionistic problems, seek professional help, both medical and psychiatric.

Exhibitionistic behavior by its very nature exposes not just your genitalia, but your sexual problems to the outside world – including the authorities. Psychotherapy and medical interventions, including medication, may be required. People often resist medication…but, if you need it, take it. Such medications may include antidepressants, Antiandrogens, and female hormones.

Also, behavior modification and cognitive therapy are very effective for treating exhibitionism. By learning to self-manage your urges and impulses, you can ultimately find strategies that can help you.

Some psychotherapy and medical strategies include:

  1. Meditation
  2. Mindfulness Training
  3. Behavior Modification
  4. Cognitive Awareness
  5. Role Playing
  6. Group Therapy
  7. Teaching Empathy Ironically, empathy is the one behavior that can actually be taught. Hence, by putting yourself in the place of your victim and by trying to experience their feelings, you can find a cue or trigger, to help you cope with your sexual urges, in a sexually acceptable way.

Exhibitionism is a deviant sexual behavior involving more men than women. In fact, in the United States half of all males who engage in exhibitionistic behavior are married. Yet, women do participate in such behavior, and often find more passive and acceptable ways in which to display themselves. For example, undressing in front of an open window, wearing extremely revealing clothing, particular types of modeling, acting, exotic dancing or careers that require them to be topless, bottomless, etc.

The spectrum of Paraphilias behavior, includes: Voyeurism, Sadism, Masochism, Chronophilias, Pedophilia, Fetishism, Frotteurism, and more rare subsets, including Necrophilia, Telephone Scatalogia, Coprophilia, and so forth (source: Psychologist Anywhere Anytime).

As you can see there is a wide range of behavior that falls under the category of Paraphilias. Therefore, it is easy to understand why we are seeing so much predator behavior play out in the media, as unwanted exposure, masturbating, unwelcomed touching, phone sex, and so forth.

As in all reoccurring sexual deviance, the exhibitionist has a victim. There is help… get it!

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