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October 14, 1950

Exhibitionism

JAMA. 1950;144(7):590. doi:10.1001/jama.1950.02920070080030

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Abstract

In the public mind, exhibition of the male genitals by a grown man is a piece of unforgivably offensive naughtiness. Although it startles and embarrasses the observer, it hurts no one but the performer, who seems to have made an unconceivably bad bargain—for a childish, impersonal gratification he risks arrest, disgrace, legal punishment, social ostracism. A "crazier" piece of behavior can scarcely be imagined. Yet the public—and the police—treat it as if it were as tempting and reprehensible a piece of sinfulness as stealing a watch or exceeding the speed limit. Moreover, it is regarded as a special depravity, a kind of badness even worse than it seems, like torturing criminals or putting molasses in mailboxes.

Dr. Rickles, like most psychiatrists, is impressed with the inconsistency of such social attitudes with the scientific facts. He realizes that one tuberculous man spitting on the sidewalk or one cold-ridden stenographer sneezing in

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