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Exhibitionism is the act of exposing your intimate parts—such as your breasts, genitals, or buttocks—in a public or semi-public context. As a practice, it may arise from a desire or compulsion to reveal one’s body to friends, acquaintances, or even complete strangers for the purposes of personal amusement, emotional gratification, sexual pleasure, or simply to shock and stun observers. 


It is not typically regarded as exhibitionism if a person opts to expose themselves only to an intimate partner. In law, the act of showing one’s nude body in a public setting is often referred to as indecent exposure, among other similar expressions, and the addition of sexual acts may lead to it being categorized as gross indecency, both of which can result in significant legal penalties, including fines and possible imprisonment. 

The act of exhibitionism, based on its modern definitions, is distinctly separate from exhibitionistic disorder, which is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) as “a recurrent and strong arousal from the exposure of one’s genitals to an unsuspecting individual, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors” which interfere with the person’s quality of life or ability to function normally.

What is Exhibitionism?

Fundamentally, the enjoyment of exhibitionism stems from a desire to be watched, especially if the observed individual is involved in sexual activities. Through this, it can be safely classified as a type of kink that is practiced by mature and consenting adults who share a proclivity for alternative sexual practices. They come in all different varieties—from tops and bottoms to dominants and submissives and everything outside and beyond these categories—and are not exclusive to any particular activity, practice, or lifestyle decision. 


Occasionally, there can be overlap with voyeurism, wherein a person derives interest, gratification or pleasure from the act of observing other people performing intimate or private behaviors, such as undressing or sexual activity. Likewise, an exhibitionist can also be a voyeur, and vice-versa; such people receive just as much satisfaction from watching others participate in private activities as they do from being watched themselves. Candaulism, a similar activity, is when a person obtains gratification or pleasure from the act of exposing or showing their partner to other interested parties. 


From an ethical perspective, like it is with every other form of alternative sex, exhibitionism can only be considered a kink when mutual consent has been obtained from every participant. Some people may find the element of non-consent enjoyable, however an ethical approach to this would be to construct a scenario that only emulates the concept of non-consent without violating established mutual boundaries; for example, a person might agree to masturbate in their bedroom with the knowledge that their partner might be watching them from outside of their scope of awareness in a place they would not expect, such as peering inside the bedroom window or hiding in the closet, while the observer receives gratification from the knowledge that they are subverting the “discretions” of their partner’s “privacy”.

Examples of Exhibitionist Scenarios

A minimum of two individuals are necessary to participate in an exhibitionist scenario, though more partners may choose to play along if desired. A typical scene can include one or more of the following elements:


  • Nudity, either in a private or approved public setting (such as a nudist beach or a bathhouse)

  • Performing a striptease for a partner in the presence of a crowd

  • Sharing intimate pictures of yourself with one or more interested parties

  • Publicly engaging in impact play (e.g., spanking your partner in front of someone)

  • Performing dominant or submissive acts with your partner in front of one or more people

  • Masturbating or having sex in front of other interested parties

  • Hosting a cam show for a private or public chat room


It should be noted that this is not a complete list of activities, and is meant to represent the various kinds of contexts that one might craft a scenario around. Always be open to exploring different ideas and concepts with your partner/s to see which ones generate the most resounding sexual responses for you!

Legalities of Exhibitionism

The legality of this kink hinges on the acquisition of informed consent. It is treated under most jurisdictions as a crime and carries significant penalties with it, including but not limited to fines and incarceration, although laws and attitudes regarding exhibitionism can and do vary significantly between countries and cultures.


Attempting to perform or engage in these behaviors at the expense of another person’s safety or comfort, especially when permission to indulge oneself has not been offered, expressly paints the act as a non-consensual one, and will subject the offending individual to the fullest extent of the law wherever and whenever applicable. 

Non-consensual exhibitionism may involve intentionally exposing one’s breasts or genitals to unaware strangers (otherwise known as flashing) or performing sexual intercourse in a public open space without consideration for other people who may not wish to observe this behavior. Such instances are typically categorized under the crime of indecent exposure (or gross indecency in more severe cases) and are not considered a healthy expression of sexual behavior.

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