A 19-year-old college student reported that he had daily fantasies of exposing himself and had actually done so on three occasions. The first occurred when he masturbated in front of the window of his dormitory room when women passed by. The other two acts occurred in his car; in each case he asked young women for directions and then exposed his penis and masturbated when they approached. (S. C. Hayes, Brownell, & Barlow, 1983)
Exhibitionistic disorder is characterized by urges, acts, or fantasies that involve recurrent episodes of exposing one’s genitals to a stranger, often with the intent of shocking or impressing the unsuspecting target (Hunter, 2015). In some cases, exhibitionistic disorder is diagnosed when a person acts on exhibitionistic urges, and thereby harms an unconsenting person. In other situations, the person seeks treatment because the urges are emotionally distressing or result in impairment in important areas of life functioning (APA, 2013). In studies, the prevalence of the disorder ranges from 3.1 percent to 4.1 percent (Ahlers et al., 2011; Långström & Seto, 2006).
Exhibitionistic disorder most commonly occurs in men. The main goal seems to be the sexual arousal that comes from exposing oneself. The act may involve exposing a limp penis or masturbating an erect penis. Exhibitionists desire no further contact with their victims, but hope to produce a reaction such as surprise or sexual arousal. Most individuals with the disorder are in their 20s—far from being the “dirty old men” of popular myth. Individuals with this paraphilia report lower satisfaction in life, a high level of sexual arousability, and pornography use (Ahlers et al., 2011).