Symbolic Perversion

We must regard exhibitionism as fundamentally a symbolic act based on a perversion of courtship. The exhibitionist, if a male, displays the organ of sex to a feminine witness, and in the shock of modest sexual shame by which she reacts to that spectacle he finds a gratifying similitude of the normal emotions of coitus. He feels that he has effected a psychic defloration.

Exhibitionism is thus analogous, and indeed related, to the impulse felt by many persons to perform indecorous acts or tell indecent stories before young and innocent persons of the opposite sex. This also is a kind of exhibitionism, the gratification it causes lying exactly, as in physical exhibitionism, in the emotional confusion which it is felt to arouse, though we cannot accept the view of Nacke that exhibitionism is simply a form of sadism and the satisfaction felt only due to the horror aroused. The two kinds of exhibitionism may be combined in the same person. [1]

  1. Ellis, Havelock. The Psychology of Sex. Emerson Books, Inc, 1944. 190-91. []

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