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Exhibitionism – an Ambivalent Crime

     Perhaps the reason exhibitionism baffles researchers is because it is an ambivalent crime.

According to the Oxford dictionary, ambivalence is the co-existence within the one person of contradictory emotions or attitudes toward the same object or situation.

And that describes exhibitionism perfectly. It is quite possibly the only crime where some victims will get angry and some will laugh; where some want the perpetrators jailed and some don’t; where some women are amused and some are afraid. The contradictions pile up.

By way of comparison, this same ambivalence does not exist toward other crimes. Women who have been raped do not laugh about it. People who have been robbed or mugged do not laugh about it. Murdered people have not been known to laugh either. The universal feeling toward these other crimes is anger and condemnation, but not laughter, yet laughter is one of the main reactions that women have towards acts of exhibitionism.

Exhibitionism is one of those unhappy occurrences that society does not know what to do with, and judicial response to the act is as ambivalent as society’s. Some judges will hand down a very light sentence, or no sentence at all, preferring instead to send the offender for therapy, while others will mete out harsh sentences.

And this is rather unfortunate because the law is there for the public and it should be clear and precise so that we may know at all times just exactly what is required of us, and what will happen if we don’t comply. But how can we have respect for a law that is contradictory, fluctuating, inconclusive, irresolute, uncertain, undecided, unresolved, unsure, vacillating and wavering – which about sums up the law in relation to exhibitionism?

In Helsinki a youth who exposed himself in a crowded city park got a slap on the wrist and was told to put his clothes back on. In California, a flasher got thirteen years in jail for the same offence (although he had done it multiple times).

Sure, different countries, but…zero v. thirteen years?! The disparity is too great to be explained by the difference in cultures (which in fact is not so great).

And sure, the laws were different in these two countries, but…that different?! Indeed, the great disparity in laws merely underscores society’s ambivalence toward this crime.

Please understand, we are not saying that one sentence was wrong, and the other right, or that one law is wrong and the other right. We are just pointing out the current ambivalence that exists toward the offence known as exhibitionism.

So who cares, anyway?

Well, we all do.

Exhibitionism is far and away the most prevalent of all sex crimes, accounting for between one third and two thirds of all sex offences. Between 1950 and 1970, for example, there were never less than 2,000 convictions a year in England and Wales alone.

And that’s just the offences that were reported; most were not. That translates as a lot of women flashed every year and, unfortunately, current treatment programs and/or the jailing of offenders is not working at all.

We submit that this ambivalence exists because we still have a rather simplistic view of the problem. Exhibitionist laws tend to be of the “one law fits all” variety, but in fact there are many different kinds of exhibitionists.

Some will flash in a fairly benign manner (this is the sort of exhibitionism that provokes laughter), while others will expose themselves in a way that will frighten women. They are two totally different crimes, and should not be subsumed under one banner, called “Exhibitionism”.

Recognition of the prevailing ambivalence towards this crime, and of our changing sexual mores and the fact that one law does not fit all varieties of exhibitionism, will go a long way toward tidying up the laws and coming to grips with the problem.

Article Source:

Andrew Toth is the author of “The Exhibitionist”, an award winning and comprehensive book that examines all aspects of modern day exhibitionism – from the law, to court procedure, to the different therapies available, to the psychology of the act and also to the different methodologies used by exhibitionists. Read the book HERE

Posted on 2013-05-27, By: *

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Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author.

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