Exhibitionism/Exposing self

Originally Published: March 22, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 2, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I expose myself about once or twice a week on public transportation coming into work at the university. I show myself mostly to high school girls, but sometimes to adult women. I position myself so only the person viewing me can see. I unzip my pants and let my underwear show first. If they look and keep looking, I pull my penis out. Only a few times have I masturbated while exposing myself. In all cases, they did not get up and leave. On more then one occasion, the high school girls have moved closer to get a better look. I like what I am doing, but know I should not be doing it.

I don't think I am harming anybody. Do you think the women are annoyed or upset? Are they being harmed?

P.S.: I also expose myself in clinical situations. When I go to see the nurse practitioner, we start with a paper drape, but I put it on the side. She has known me for years and she lets me lay on the exam table, jokes, and carries on a normal discussion. I also play with myself before she does an examination and I masturbate to ejaculation after the exam. But I only go to her if I have a real physical problem.

— Exposed

Dear Exposed,

The fact that some of the women you've exposed yourself have remained silent does not imply that they are consenting to seeing your genitals. People who witness exhibitionism such as yours may react in different ways, but it is likely you are causing some, or all, of these women harm (mental distress, feeling unsafe, feeling violated, etc.). In addition, you may be jeopardizing yourself; your behavior is illegal, and the more you engage in it, the greater the likelihood of arrest. Exposing oneself, a.k.a. public lewdness, is a misdemeanor offense, which can be punished with a jail sentence (for example, up to 3 months in New York State). Aside from legal implications, you may want to consider that your job, your family relationships, and your reputation are also at stake.

These women and high school girls have not made an agreement with you prior to your act. Exposing yourself to non-consenting people is a form of sexual abuse. Also, carrying on "normally," as your nurse practitioner does when you expose yourself in her office, does not mean she is giving consent. She may feel too uncomfortable to ask you to cover yourself; her jokes may even be a nervous response to your exposure.

Having fantasies about exhibitionism is not necessarily a problem if it doesn't lead to non-consentual and/or public acts of exposure. If you can find a consenting person to help you play out these fantasies in private, you may be able to explore your desire for exposure in a "safe" way. However, if you do not have explicit consent and still feel the need to expose yourself, it's time to consider stopping this behavior all together and/or seeking help. To avoid negative consequences (harming others, getting arrested), think about making an appointment with a qualified counselor. If you're a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services by calling x4-2878.

Public exhibitionism is not a casual mode of sexual expression. It is non-consensual and it is illegal. Exhibitionism can be safe in certain private, pre-arranged, consensual situations, but not in the illegal public or professional situations you describe.

Alice

August 6, 2013

534192
These women on the bus were looking because this gentleman gave them no choice. Bottom line, it is non-consentual and illegal. He has no concern for the negative impact it makes on his victims. This...
These women on the bus were looking because this gentleman gave them no choice. Bottom line, it is non-consentual and illegal. He has no concern for the negative impact it makes on his victims. This person needs conselling on many levels. I'm almost sure there are other areas in his life that are affected by this need.

November 20, 2008

21339

Dear exhibitionist,

I would like to respond about your comment saying that the girls/women "seem" to like watching you expose themselves b/c they do not get up to leave. It may...

Dear exhibitionist,

I would like to respond about your comment saying that the girls/women "seem" to like watching you expose themselves b/c they do not get up to leave. It may be that they are so surprised and offended that they are in a temporary state of shock, and cannot do anything to avert their eyes. This is a common thing — when a person is completely shocked and disgusted, he/she feels "frozen". This happened to me once, in a bus. A man exposed himself to me and I wanted to step on his foot or scream "harassment!" or just stop looking, but I couldn't. I couldn't move my eyes, couldn't open my mouth, etc. And then he got off at his stop, and I was still standing there. Please do not think that just because a girl/woman doesn't say something, she likes it. I find it hard that so many girls/women would like this act, as it is degrading to the female gender. If a man groped a women's breast, and she didn't do anything but stayed still, does this mean she likes it? Most likely, she feels too violated to respond. The same applies in your situation. Please don't think I was being rude. I just wanted to clear things up. It's very important to understand that some girls/women will end up feeling very VIOLATED by what you did to them, and it can have very negative consequences to their emotional and mental health. I have been there.

February 29, 2008

21411

Dear Alice,

In the USA the messages are so completely mixed that young people are at a loss to know what is socially acceptable. Britney and Paris can do expose themselves, but if you're a...

Dear Alice,

In the USA the messages are so completely mixed that young people are at a loss to know what is socially acceptable. Britney and Paris can do expose themselves, but if you're a male you'll end up in jail. My opinion is that any genital exposure should be forbidden in public. That would not apply to breasts — but pretty girls who expose their genitals would be treated the same as ugly guys.