Exhibitionism, which involves exposing one's genitals or sexual organs to a stranger, falls under the psychiatric sexual disorders category of paraphilias, "abnormal or unnatural attraction" or obsession with unusual sexual practices or with sexual activity involving nonconsenting or inappropriate partners.
The exhibitionist might masturbate (or fantasize about masturbating) while exposing himself but makes no further attempt at sexual activity with the stranger. The individual is sometimes aware of a desire to startle or upset the observer. At times, the individual might fantasize that the observer will become sexually aroused. Exhibitionism, though often discussed as a humorous topic, is a very serious behavior that can frighten the victim. The exhibitionist is typically male, and the victim is usually a female (adult or child), and usually an unsuspecting stranger.
Social and sexual relationships may suffer if the behavior is found disturbing or if the individual's sexual partner refuses to cooperate with this particular preference. In some instances, the unusual behavior may become the major sexual activity in the individual's life. These individuals rarely seek help on their own and are likely to get professional assistance only when their behavior has brought them into conflict with sexual partners or society.