Sexual exhibitionism and voyeurism are considered paraphilia—or intense experiences of sexual arousal by highly atypical individuals, circumstances and/or situations—according to the American Psychiatric Association. Why atypical? Because these two categories of sexual arousal, when acted upon, can lead to trouble for the perpetrators, or feelings of offense by the subjects. Exhibitionists, people who are aroused by being watched while they perform sexual acts, can be arrested for public indecency, for example. And voyeurs, people who enjoy watching others engage in sexual acts, can invade the privacy of others and make people uncomfortable. (Think “peeping tom”).  

According to a study of 2,450 people, 3% are aroused by exposing themselves to others, and 7% are turned on by “spying” on others, with incidences being higher among men. Yet and still, there is a side of this that’s relatively harmless and way more common than you think. I spoke with a few readers and came across some fascinating websites that cater to both the people who love to “show and tell” and those who enjoy watching them.

Let Me Show You Something

The Internet is a virtual playground for those who enjoy exhibitionism. “You can be as free as you want to expose as much of yourself as you want without looking over your shoulder for the county sheriff,” says Brian Alexander, an MSNC contributor. If the thrill for you lays in knowing others can watch, you can upload or stream whatever you like from the privacy of your own home. When you’re done, you can turn your computer off and go on with your life.

Sites like Red Clouds are popular, because people can post pictures and viewers can send emails showing appreciation for the view, which adds to the excitement for the poster. If you want the whole world to see your “O” face, head to Beautiful Agony and upload video of yourself reaching that perfect peak. It’s incredibly fascinating to see not only how people look when they orgasm, but how many hundreds are willing to share it with the world! These sites have thousands of images, so we know people really like to show out.

Some people prefer old-fashioned exhibitionism, however. Shea*, who realized earlier on that being watched turned her on more than usual, has enjoyed a range of experiences—from intimately having sex with a woman while her husband watched to having sex right alongside a very busy highway. Anna* realized she felt a rush being watched when her lover’s best friend walked in on them going at it, and began encouraging them and giving her compliments on her work. Her most exciting time was having sex in a hotel room with nine or 10 other people watching.

For Shantel, it is all about ego. She says, “Being watched, knowing people are enjoying me enjoying myself makes me feel desired.” Shantel adds that she discovered her fetish when her boyfriend walked in on her masturbating and she noticed he was enjoying the view. His enjoyment made her feel sexier so they made it a regular thing.

Show Me What You’re Working With

In the same study, it was reported that frequent pornography watching correlated with the admission of voyeurism. Every second, 28,258 users are watching some type of pornography online, and approximately one in three of those users is a woman. Anna says she started heavily watching porn as early as age 13, and realizes she has to have a visual aid when masturbating. She’s so into watching others that when she meets new people, she says she imagines them naked and what they look like while having sex.

Eric* also realized early on that he loved watching people get it in. He would watch his neighbor get (un)dressed using his father’s binoculars. As an adult, he upgraded his peeping. “It’s one thing if it’s porn, but it’s much more thrilling to see sexual activities in person,” he says. “Because there’s a much more genuine reaction and way less of the forced or fake reactions you’d see in porn.” Vinny* adds that his former roommate would masturbate when he thought he was asleep, so he would watch him and found himself totally turned on by it.

Exhibitionists and voyeurs tend to be aroused more often, masturbate more frequently, and have partner sex with more regularity than most, says the study. This is likely due to their ability to tap into yet another layer of their sexuality that others don’t necessarily possess.

You should be careful though, because not everyone is going to be into what you’re into or be accepting of it. Some states have so-called “Peeping Tom” laws, and you can face criminal charges if caught watching someone too intimately or invading someone’s privacy. You might also want to educate yourself on laws related to indecent exposure in your state, just to be on the safe side.

If you’re into watching, my advice is to stick with legal pornography, swing clubs or private intimate parties with people you know and trust. If you’re into showing off, search online for local clubs that allow you to be free, check out some nude beaches or, if you’re really feeling daring, upload pictures or videos to amateur sites online. (Just know that once you do that, you risk a level of exposure you might regret later.) Think carefully, choose wisely, but most of all, get the most pleasure you can out of these unique fetishes!

*All names changed to protect the guilty.

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.