exhibitionism is said to offend women

but does it?

The law defines exhibitionism as a willful act carried out with the intention of insulting and offending the victim. It seems a reasonable enough definition, but it isn’t. Actually, it isn’t even correct. Let’s take a closer look…

The exhibitionist must have the intention, says the law, to offend the victim. But how can the law enter, as it were, a person’s mind and prove beyond reasonable doubt what his intention was at any one moment in time? It would seem well nigh impossible.

The law however skips blithely around this issue by holding that it does not really matter what a person’s intention is. If he knows that his act is likely to offend, and if he proceeds with the act, he is deemed to have acted with the intention of insulting and offending the (usually) female.

Thus an innocent intention, say for example, changing one’s clothes, is no excuse. If there are other people in the vicinity and a person knows that his action may offend, he is guilty of a criminal act.

Nor is it a defence to claim that one didn’t know that one’s actions were likely to offend. The law now applies the “reasonable person” rule which holds that if, in the circumstances, a reasonable man could have foreseen that the act was likely to offend, then the perpetrator is held to have had such an intent.

Thus proceedings have been streamlined to lead to quick and easy convictions – which is the business of the law.

But streamlining is merely the gloss. Scratch the shine, and you’ll find a can of worms. Psychologists, for example, tell us that exhibitionists expose themselves to gain attention and not, as the law would have it, to insult and offend others. If that is indeed the case, then the law is based on a fallacy (and consequently unjust). The law requires an intent to offend, and psychologists are saying that such an intent is simply not there.


The crime of indecent exposure is not a simple one, as we have seen in this and my other articles, and the law simply does not do it justice – in the literal sense of the word.

And we have not yet looked at the word indecent. When is exposure indecent exposure? The law flounders badly on this one, and we will look at it in a future article.

For the moment we submit that the laws regarding exhibitionism need a major overhaul, if they are to reflect community standards and sentiment at this moment in time.