Religious Exhibitionism

The attempt to heighten the emotional shock is also seen in the fact that the exhibitionist may choose a church as the scene of his exploits, not during service, for he always avoids a concourse of people, but perhaps towards evening when there are only a few kneeling women scattered through the edifice. The church is chosen, from no impulse to commit a sacrilegious outrage – which, as a rule, the exhibitionist does not feel his act to be – but because it really presents the conditions most favorable to the act and the effects desired, “just what is necessary,” as one such said, “for an exchange of impressions.” “What are they thinking? What do they say to each other about me? Oh, how I should like to know!

A patient of Garnier’s, who haunted churches for this purpose, made the significant statement: ‘Why do I like going to churches? I can scarcely say. But I know that it is only there that my act has its full importance. The woman is in a devout frame of mind, and she must see that such an act in such a place is not a joke in bad taste or a disgusting obscenity; that if I go there it is not to amuse myself; it is more serious than that! I watch the effect produced on the faces of the ladies to whom I show my organs. I wish to see them express a profound joy, I wish, in fact, that they may be forced to say to themselves: How impressive Nature is when thus seen!’ [1]

  1. Havelock Ellis, The Psychology of Sex, p. 144, pub. A.D. 1933 []

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