The sexual exhibitionist compulsively attracts attention to the sexual parts of his or her body, regardless of the appropriateness. We often think of the man in the appropriateness. We often think of the man in the trenchcoat hiding in the bushes, springing out to expose himself. but in our culture, a great deal of exhibitionism is now considered normal. There is exhibitionism at the beach, in advertising, and on television. Sexual flaunting has become so much of a part of accepted culture that many sexual exhibitionists usually seek therapy only when they have gotten in trouble with family, business, or the law.
Say a man is walking down the street at night and stops and stares at a woman who inadvertently exposes herself by undressing while standing near a window in her lit bedroom with her blinds up. Chances are, if a police officer walks by, he will arrest the man as a Peeping Tom. The woman's display of nakedness so embarrasses this cop's notion of woman's Madonna-like modest that he concludes the "always horny male" is the perpetrator.
In reality, woman exhibit themselves all the time, and our culture supports this behavior, especially through sexually provocative advertising and Hollywood box-office stereotypes. So, for woman, exhibitionism is often rewarded, where as exhibitionistic men are considered perverts. This is a sad state of affairs because exhibitionism hurts everyone involved without regard to gender or sexual preference.
Often in the childhood of the sexual exhibitionist, a primary caregiver has exposed himself, causing fusion of fear and sexual arousal. Now when the victim exposes himself, he sees to reverse the childhood trauma and banish fear and shame by becoming the perpetrator. The sexual pleasure of the perversion masks the underlying dysfunction (fear and shame), and an addiction takes hold.