Q: I am a 41-year-old male who lives in northern California. When I was in my late teens, I was talking at a park with a couple girls I was friends with from school. They asked me something I wasn't expecting to hear and it took me a minute to respond, sadly changing the direction their conversation was headed in. I thought about that moment for weeks on end, and it was killing me inside. I decided that if I ever faced an opportunity like that again I'd act on it quickly! This led me to becoming an exhibitionist. I started to enjoy and feed off all the feelings I was getting from this, such as fear, excitement, accomplishment and being brave enough to step over that personal line everyone sets for themselves inside their own minds of what they think is acceptable or not. For me it felt wonderful, and each time was a huge boost to my self-esteem.
I have heard many different things over the years about being an exhibitionist and what is and isn't legal. My question is: what are the legal facts about someone in their own residence (or at a hotel/motel room) answering their door naked? -- Rick, 41
Dr. Susan: I can't speak to the legality of your actions, Rick, so you'll have to go to a legal expert for that. But I can tell you that your concept of self-esteem is extremely mixed up. You only feel a boost when you're making someone else extremely uncomfortable? When you cross someone else's boundaries without their consent? What kind of accomplishment is it to be selfish and cause a stranger to feel annoyed or frightened or perhaps repulsed? Because, believe me, they're not thinking, "Oh man, what a body! You ought to show it off more!" More like, "Eww, what a loser!"
Most of us have our own quirky ways to find excitement, and it really doesn't matter how you believe your particular deviancy got its start. One of the problems I see is that someone is going to take deep offense at your socially inappropriate nudity someday and you might get in trouble and have the embarrassing task of defending your exhibitionism to the police. Another thing to think about is that the same old behaviors can lose their kick, and you may find yourself stepping over even more serious boundaries, such as exposing yourself in a park or other public place, or to a child (assuming you don't already). Big trouble. Surely you can understand that there's more to a fulfilling life than making women scream with disgust. The more you pursue this creepy behavior, the less likely you'll ever learn what genuine self-esteem is. Do us all a favor and get help.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.