Exploring exhibitionism

In public…

With expert information from Abby Gilfillian, Integrative Therapist and Psychosexual Counsellor, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Ibiza, the hedonist’s paradise. Kayleigh had tasted many of the treats on offer during her big summer blowout. And meeting Valentina had been the icing on the cake…The risk of getting caught added an extra dimension to their encounter.

But she felt that she had led Valentina into a risky situation…

To better understand the dynamics of exhibitionist behaviour, she sought advice from Abby Gilfillian, an Integrative Therapist and Psychosexual Counsellor certified by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Gilfillian said: “In the correct environment, with the explicit consent of your partner(s), acting out fantasies can provide a sense of liberation. People who are stimulated by the influence they have over their partner’s behaviour may enjoy the power they feel in encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone. Exhibitionist behaviour can intensify a sexual experience as an adrenaline rush is added to the already heightened state of anticipating an orgasm.

Exposing oneself to unsuspecting targets, as with any other victim-targeting practices, is considered to be deviant regardless of the underlying reasons.

“For some exhibitionists, motivation is linked to the fantasy that their actions might also cause arousal in onlookers. Such urges are generally non-deviant and are often referred to as hypersexual behaviours – sexual expression that often involves pushing boundaries and exploring alternative avenues. Arousal from exhibitionistic behaviours can come from many different and varying sources.”

“Hypersexual practices can work well in consensual environments. ‘Dogging’ communities – in which couples or groups attend specific, often pre-arranged, ‘spots’ and engage in sexual activity – create spaces where both voyeurs and exhibitionist behaviours can be explored with the consent of all parties”, Gilfillian continued.

There is no one way to experience intimacy.

“However, it’s important to keep checking in to make sure everyone is comfortable with the situation. Engaging in sex acts outside our comfort zones can be exhilarating for some, but triggering for others. In the right environment, with the explicit consent of other parties, being able to act out fantasies can provide a sense of liberation and acceptance.

Keeping on the right side of the law
Gilfillian said: “Be cautious about where and when you choose to engage in sex acts, and be aware of your surroundings. Sex acts performed in close proximity to children can result in a criminal record and being added to the sex offenders register.

“Always gain consent from your partner(s) and be sure that limits are understood throughout the process. Open communication about your experiences throughout is key to keeping all involved safe.”

Kayleigh replayed her rendezvous with Valentina again. Although Kayleigh had initiated the physical stuff, Valentina had given continuous verbal and non-verbal consent throughout the encounter. On reflection, they should have been aware of the laws before flaunting their lustful behaviour. Luckily, they both emerged unscathed.


American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (fifth ed.), 2013

Bouchard, K N, Dawson, S J and Lalumière, M L, ‘The effects of sex drive and paraphilic interests on paraphilic behaviours in a nonclinical sample of men and women’, The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 26(2), pp.97–111, 2017

Långström, N, ‘The DSM diagnostic criteria for exhibitionism, voyeurism, and frotteurism’, Archives of sexual behavior, 39(2), pp.317-324, 2010

McManus, M A, Hargreaves, P, Rainbow, L and Alison, L J, ‘Paraphilias: definition, diagnosis and treatment’, F1000 prime reports, 5, 2013

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