Life Skills 101: How to deal with public exhibitionists

Almost every day, new candid videos featuring public exhibitionists flood the social media. Surprisingly, these usually happen in mass commutes like jeepneys, buses, and even the overly crowded MRT/LRT trains. It is not clear though if those people are aware that their acts are being caught on smartphone videos.

Exhibitionism, according to experts, refers to an abnormal behavior wherein a person manifests a psychological need to show off his/her private parts to other people. Some exhibitionists consider exhibitionism as a lifestyle, while others look at it as a way to attain a rare kind of thrill. Most of them carefully choose the venue and their target audience.

Aside from merely exposing his/her genitals to a stranger or strangers, an exhibitionist might perform sexual activities like masturbating, even in broad daylight. However, the person usually makes no further attempt to assault or proceed to other more serious acts with their targets.

Screen grab from one of the amateur videos circulating on social media.

Seeking attention

In general, exhibitionists get the satisfaction from attaining attention or annoying their audience. In other times, they may fantasize that their observers will also become sexually aroused.

“Most of the time, exhibitionists are male,” said Dr. Ma. Bernadette Arcena, a psychiatrist at St. Luke’s Medical Center in an interview aired over DZBB. “But we could not rule out such cases in women, though it may be rare.”

In the Philippines, there is still no statistical record available to describe exhibitionists’ demographics. But in the U.S., up to 50% of identified exhibitionists are married. Victims are usually women, children or unsuspecting strangers.

The American Psychiatric Association cites high level of testosterone in men as a factor that increases susceptibility to adopt such a deviant sexual behavior. However, several learning theory studies also show that unaddressed emotional abuse during childhood and/or family dysfunction could also be risk factors in development of the abnormal behavior.

Screen grab from one of the amateur videos circulating on social media.

How to handle the situation

So how do you deal with unexpected display of exhibitionism when you are taking the mass commute or when in other public places?

• Upon seeing the exhibitionist’s display, try to immediately leave the situation as calmly as possible. Do not give the offender the reaction he/she seeks. Remember to keep moving away until the person is no longer in sight.

• Patti Wood, a body language expert, advises witnesses to such inappropriate behavioral display to try to resist giving any emotional response to the offender’s action. “Keep your body, feet, torso, and head turned away,” she said. In other words, master the art of ‘deadma.’

• If you were not able to react, give the offender that annoyed look or an exaggerated eye roll (irap). You may also speak out your disgust and warn the person that you will be reporting him/her to authorities if he/she does not stop.

• Dr. Arcena recommends seeking other people’s attention by screaming for help or running toward safety once the exhibitionist comes near or toward you. You may approach security officers or the police, if you see them around.

As a last reminder, always be attentive and keep presence of mind especially when going to public places.


Life Skills 101 aims to give effective tips on how to handle lifestyle situations.