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February 28, 2022

Exhibitionism: What It is And How To Try It Safely

Do you get turned on by the idea of being seen?
Published on
February 28, 2022
Updated on
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Medically Reviewed by
5 minute read

When you think of an exhibitionist in a consensual, sexy context, what comes to mind? Is it a person who loves to be nude in front of a partner? Someone who enjoys being the star in homemade porn? A person who is turned on by the idea of being seen while having public sex? An exhibitionist can be all, some, or none of those things as exhibitionism covers a wide range of kink activities that people may enjoy to varying degrees. Read on to learn more about exhibitionism and how to engage in it safely, consensually, and legally. 

What is exhibitionism?

Exhibitionism is when a person derives erotic pleasure from the act or thought of being seen in a sexual scenario. Consensual exhibitionism and non-consensual exhibitionism are very different, however, so it is important to understand the distinction. 

  • Consensual exhibitionism. This is when a person is turned on by displaying themselves in a sexual manner to a consenting viewer. The viewer may derive sexual pleasure from watching the exhibitionist, and may even consider themselves a voyeur. An exhibitionistic doesn’t always need a partner to watch them, however. For example, an exhibitionistic may enjoy watching themselves masturbate in a mirror or on camera. They may go to a sex party and enjoy walking around nude. 
  • Exhibitionistic Disorder. While consensual exhibitionism can be perfectly healthy to explore as all parties are enthusiastically consenting to the activity, there is a darker side to this behavior when it is non-consensual and becomes compulsive. When the latter is true, it may be considered exhibitionistic disorder, a DSM-5 paraphilia. It is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a condition marked by the urge, fantasy, or act of exposing one’s genitals to non-consenting people, particularly strangers.” Such behavior can result in legal charges of indecent exposure if an individual is prosecuted. Treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy, empathy training, and hormone-reducing medication. 

Unlike exhibitionistic disorder, consensual exhibitionism doesn’t necessarily present any issues, legal or otherwise, if done safely. In this article, we will be speaking about consensual exhibitionism.

Why consensual exhibitionism can be a turn-on 

People’s enjoyment of exhibitionism exists on a spectrum: For some, it’s central and essential to their ability to feel aroused. Others may just try it as a form of sexual exploration and play. According to psychologist Michael Bader, author of Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, exhibitionists are aroused by being the center of attention, which helps them “master feelings of rejection and neglect. If we did not feel that we were on our parents’ emotional radar screen growing up…” 

Sex therapist Jack Morin, the author of The Erotic Mind, argues that as children, we learn to associate certain emotions and situations with our arousal. He calls these learned turn-ons our core erotic theme (CET). And one of the most popular CETs is violating prohibitions by breaking a taboo. Exhibitionism certainly falls in that category. On the other hand, sex coach Patti Britton argues that most exhibitionists just “want people to be turned on by seeing them.” 

6 people reveal why they enjoy exhibitionism

To find out why some people enjoy this kink, we culled a few responses from Reddit threads posing such questions as, “Exhibitionists, what exactly does exhibitionism do for you?” and “What do you think about exhibitionism and those who enjoy showing off?” Here are just a few responses we found.

1. “I like it and the adrenaline thrill it produces for me.” - Reddit user Lanabarefoot

2. “It's one of the only things that feels taboo to me, so I guess part of it is that. Part of it is adding a performance aspect. The feeling is a mixture of a rush of adrenaline and arousal.” - Reddit user upatstars

3. “It is the act of being seen while I am having sex that is the turn on, making something private public.” - Reddit user Honee_Bee

4. “I love posting pics and vids of my adventures. I love opening the curtains or doors when I’m having those adventures. It’s a thrill to be seen and have people admire what I’m doing or showing.” - Reddit user Drewandelena

5. “I like making a connection with people, even if it's fairly remote. I don't just like to be watched, I like to put on a show. If I can get laughs, gasps, or favorable reviews after the fact then that's a huge turn-on. (I got all of these in my last trip to a dungeon.) Not even just sexually but intellectually. It's thrilling in itself, but I also get to vicariously enjoy what I'm doing through the onlookers' eyes. It can get pretty meta pretty fast.” - Reddit user (deleted)

6. “It was one of my bf's fantasies and it makes me want to do it more because it turns him on! We had a few drinks at a friend's place and started making out in front of a really cool girl friend of ours and things started to get out of hand! Tbh, it was my first time being an exhibitionist, it's actually quite fun and exciting :)” - Reddit user EilLudwig

6 ways to explore exhibitionism safely, consensually, and legally 

Consensual exhibitionism can be a safe and super hot turn-on if done properly. Here are some ideas of how to try exhibitionism that’s fun, sexy, and safe. 

1. Videotape yourself nude or in sexy lingerie.

You may enjoy filming yourself nude or in an outfit that makes you feel hot. You can try touching yourself, dancing, or posing in sexy positions. Save the video for yourself, or give it to a partner to watch later. If the video is for a partner, ask them what they’d like to see you do or wear. You can even go shopping together for props and undies. Shooting the footage can be hot and looking at the video or still images later can also be super hot. 

2. Go to a sex party and show off your goods to consenting strangers.

A sex club, dungeon, or party can be a great place to just walk around in the nude for people who have consented to watch. You may also attend with a partner or meet someone at the party and engage in sexual activity for a willing audience. Before attending, just make sure you understand the rules and etiquette of the sex party

3. Role play scenes with your partner.

In BDSM, it isn’t uncommon for people to enact elaborate “scenes” that include scripts and costumes. Role playing works great for exhibitionists as well. You could role play a scene where your partner walks in on you nude or masturbating, and they act shocked by the behavior. Such role playing can be hot for an exhibitionist who is turned on by the taboo nature of the act, or by a viewer being shocked or even disgusted. 

4. Be nude in front of an open window. 

Being nude in front of an open window can be a fun way to feel like you are showing off your body to the world. To make this practice safer, though, it’s best to use a window that’s several floors up or not looking directly out to a street or opposite another person’s house or apartment. You might also try this when the sun is reflecting on your glass, so it’s difficult for onlookers to actually see inside. If you have a consenting neighbor, it could be fun to show off what you’ve got when they’re looking from across the way. 

5. Try a cuckolding fantasy with a partner. 

Trying out a cuckolding fantasy requires a great deal of communication, established consent, boundaries, and a deep understanding of each other’s wills, wants, and won’ts. If your partner is a cuck, however, they may enjoy watching you engage in sexual activity with another person in front of them. For an exhibitionist, it can be very hot to perform in front of a cuck. An exhibitionist may also choose to have sex with a person who is not their partner, film it, and then allow their partner (the cuck) to watch it later. There are many different ways to engage in cuckolding, and as long as everyone is consenting, it can be a great way to further explore exhibitionist tendencies. 

6. Look into erotic dancing or camming to see if it’s right for you. 

If you feel exhibitionism is a lifestyle you can’t get enough of, you may be interested in baking the practice into your daily life. One way to do this (and actually get paid for it), is by trying erotic dancing, performing on webcam sites, making DIY porn, or getting into adult entertainment in whatever capacity feels right for you. There are many considerations before doing this, however. To make sure this path is right for you, do your due diligence by performing as much research as you can, talking to others who have taken similar routes, checking out potential work environments to make sure they’re safe and supportive, or figuring out ways to be your own boss so you can have more control over the times and ways you choose to practice exhibitionism. 

The bottom line 

Exhibitionism can be a perfectly healthy way to explore your sexuality so long as everyone involved is consenting. There are a variety of ways to try exhibitionism — whether or not you choose to involve a partner or a viewer — and each way can be powerfully arousing. Just be sure to play safely, respectfully, and to incorporate lots of communication if there are others involved in the play.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Kaye Smith is a social psychologist, life coach, and sex educator. She did her graduate research study on female sexual dysfunction and blogged as Lilith Land for the legendary Betty Dodson. She can be reached at kayesmithphd.com

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