Why Do Flashers Flash?

flasherWhy do flashers flash?

I’ve always wanted to know. Their discussion boards might clue us in. If you check them out you might see comments like this:

Women in general are quite happy to watch so long as they can convince themselves that you don’t know they are.

Some ex-flashers see things differently.

Why flash? It’s a turn-on (for him)

Women’s naked body parts are a big porn draw so male flashers seem to think that women enjoy seeing naked men’s body parts too. Which, I guess, arouses the flasher.

But some men quit because women don’t seem to be nearly as interested as they had once believed women would be. Like this guy:

I can’t do it anymore… I was offending woman after woman…

Other guys don’t seem to get it. But then, some people have a hard time seeing the world from anyone’s viewpoint but their own.

One man thought that flashers flash because guys instinctively enjoy showing off. Yet 1) most guys don’t flash and 2) women are more offended than impressed.

Why flash? Seeking power?

Other flashers are likely seeking power.

“Without consent” is the MO of any type of sexual assault. The offenders enjoy the power they feel from forcing themselves on another person.

Flasher message boards suggest that women’s lack of consent gives them a thrill. Likely, the thrill of power.

Manhood is defined as “powerful.” But a lot of men don’t feel that they are. Rape, battering, or flashing a woman without consent, can all make these guys feel like they have power over someone — their emotions or their bodies. Even though they actually don’t end up being very powerful in actual fact.

Why do flashers flash? Cluelessness and insecurity seem to lie at base.

Finally, why call the message board Dickflash instead of something like Cockflash?

Maybe they get that they’re being a dick?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 12, 2016, in men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Women flash much more than men. They’re just clever enough to get paid for it at the same time. It’s clear to me at least that women have a greater proclivity for thrusting their girly bits upon the world than men. Think about how many famous women there are whose fame is closely related to their ability to show off their body compared to men.

    • Well, I guess that depends on how you define flash. Women certainly flash their cleavage a lot more. But then there are different societal notions about what it means. And that’s probably because of how society defines cleavage versus a naked penis. Our society has sexualized cleavage. Cleavage isn’t inherently sexual — and even breasts aren’t, as we see from tribal societies where men don’t get aroused by breasts. And cleavage needs clothing to construct it. So in the most natural state for humans, and the state that human seem to have been in for a 95% of our experience, neither breasts no more cleavage were sexually arousing. Covering, and particularly selectively hiding and revealing, creates sexual tension. And specifically, hiding a body part because we think it is so arousing. And then we heighten sexual tension by saying “don’t look at it!” We don’t do anything like that with a penis, which is inherently an even more sexual body part.

      So then you go to the reaction to the flasher. Because we don’t sexualize a penis women rarely find flashing appealing. For women, it feels more like sexual assault, which seems to be one of the intended a fax.

      Guys, on the other hand have mixed feelings about women flashing their cleavage. I suspect that most men enjoy it because of how we define cleavage. But I wrote a blog post called “Men who hate pretty women” who actually get angry at women for doing this. Which puts women in a bind because our society tells women that their worth is based on how sexually attractive they are, so they do things to be sexually attractive and therefore “of worth.” And while most men respond as hoped, some most certainly do not. But I suspect that most women don’t know that some men get angry when they look sexy. Why do some men hate pretty women? I written more here: https://broadblogs.com/2011/12/12/men-who-hate-pretty-women/

      • It’s hardly restricted to cleavage. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian posting her naked body all over Instagram or whatever, or too many Hollywood actresses to enumerate wearing “dresses” that give the illusion they are actually totally naked. Here’s a selection here: http://www.thefashionspot.com/celebrity-fashion/428531-nearly-naked-celebrities-red-carpet/

        The point is, female flashing is celebrated and rewarded. If you’re a female and you want to flash there are many outlets for it, you’ll probably be paid, or you might become famous. If you’re male, it’s frowned upon. It’s discrimination I tell you!

        “So in the most natural state for humans, and the state that human seem to have been in for a 95% of our experience, neither breasts no more cleavage were sexually arousing.”

        The exact same argument could be made for penises. In their natural state they are born free, so by that argument it’s natural to flash and perversely unnatural to cover it up.

      • See how men are hurt by patriarchy.

      • What are you saying, if there was no patriarchy men could flash with impunity?

      • Patriarchy sexualizes and objectifies women’s bodies — reduces us to sexual pleasure for the male. I’ll talk more about why later, But the most obvious motive is to reduce women to one thing, Which ultimately is all about pleasuring men.

        Yet some men are none too pleased about not being objectified. Apparently you are one of these men. But that’s because you all don’t see the downside of objectification. Check this out:

        I Wish Women Saw Me As A Sex Object
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/05/04/i-wish-women-saw-me-as-a-sex-object/
        Want To Be Objectified? Careful What You Wish For
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/05/18/want-to-be-objectified-careful-what-you-wish-for/

      • “Patriarchy sexualizes and objectifies women’s bodies”

        Why do lay the blame of this at the feet of patriarchy, when we have… Kim Kardashian? Don’t you think maybe women are at least as much a part of sexualising and objectifying themselves?

        “reduces us to sexual pleasure for the male.”

        Why not reduced to sexual pleasure for the females?
        http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/straight-women-lesbian-porn

        “Apparently you are one of these men. ”

        Nah, I just like to live and let live and not be shaming other people for their own lifestyle choices.

      • Kim internalizes patriarchy. And accepts the patriarchal bargain: Tangled Up in Femininity
        https://broadblogs.com/2012/09/05/tangled-up-in-femininity/

      • Male nudity is a very uncommon thing thank goodness. But female nudity on the other hand. I can’t surf on the Internet without falling on to countless women flashing their skin half naked or even full naked. Even on news sites there are photos and pop ups of naked women flashing. Movies and music videos are full of women flashing.
        I dare anyone to do a social experiment for a week.
        Try watching TV and movies and music videos and surfing on the Internet and looking at covers of magazines . Whenever a half or full naked person appears take a note. At the end of the week compare how many of these half naked or full naked persons were females and how many were males. I bet the ratio would be more than 1.000/1
        That’s way over than average. Way way over
        There are countless of women of posting half naked selfies on the Internet. As a straight guy it’s nice seeing one every now and then but come on, women have taken flashing to a whole new level with the Internet. They are flashing full nudity to the entire world at once. It’s like it has become a ritual for women, they have to flash full nudity on every user on the Internet.

      • Well that isn’t flashing. And it means something very different when we eroticize one sex but not the other. Which is why it isn’t flashing. Usually when women do flash their boobs it is wanted and even encouraged.

        Also, the computer can tell what sex you are so you are going to get way more images of naked women than I do.

      • Read from this link and couldn’t make any sense of it.

        Would Kim Kardashian keep doing what she does if every single male suddenly committed suicide? I say yes, absolutely she would, which is why all this talk of patriarchy is just nonsense.

      • Well, try again on the link.

        Kim Kardashian would keep doing what she’s doing if she felt like it gave her money and status. So the question is whether the culture immediately changed if all men suddenly committed suicide? No. So she could still get money and status, but probably less of each.

        Patriarchies tend toward objectifying women’s bodies, and I will talk more about why that is later. In a nutshell: it helps to reduce women to one thing. It is even used to dismiss serious women, Like portraying Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the house, Like a porn star.

        In the meantime I will say that our cultural objectification can be used by some women to gain money and status. Like Kim Kardashian.

      • Women posting personal naked selfies in their bathroom is indeed flashing. I am not talking about ads or movies but women posting themselves selfies naked for all the world to see without having any gain.

      • That’s fine. If that’s what you want to call it. These women seem to be flashing for the same reason that many men do: they think it’s a turn on for the person who receives the picture (I mentioned two different motives that men have). The main difference is that man who receive a picture of a woman flashing her boobs tends to be happy about it. And that’s probably because our culture eroticizes breasts but not penises (Or vaginas really).

      • “So the question is whether the culture immediately changed if all men suddenly committed suicide? No. So she could still get money and status, but probably less of each.”

        Well, 50% less if 50% less audience. But you seem to admit that even if society lacked males, she would still get money and status from showing her body. I mean, you can say you don’t like it, you can disagree with it, but please don’t call it patriarchy, if words have any meaning. If a situation can exist lacking males, it’s hardly patriarchy.

        “Patriarchies tend toward objectifying women’s bodies”

        Correlation does not equal causation.

        Yes of course, males like women’s bodies, and therefore if males rule, then female bodies will certainly be on display.

        But if females ruled, there is a good chance female bodies would ALSO be on display. Why? Because females like showing their bodies. We live in a society where women have more rights and more equality than virtually any previous point in history. Are women’s bodies therefore less on display than they were previously? Hardly.

        I know these thesis of yours are very attractive because they support your world view, but the data simply does not support it.

        “it helps to reduce women to one thing.”

        If women displaying their bodies makes women being about their bodies, then surely, if for example, women were banned from displaying their bodies, Kim Kardashian was flung in jail, it would subtract from what women are, their sexuality and their bodies. Is that what you want, women not being about their sexuality or their bodies? What if women actually don’t want that?

        Whenever an academic wants to throw human history on its head in favour of a brave new world of doing things their new way, the frequent result is that they end up defying human nature and therefore it can never happen.

      • “If a situation can exist lacking males, it’s hardly patriarchy.”

        Men and patriarchy aren’t the same thing.

        Patriarchy is a system that everyone internalizes. I have worked to get patriarchy out of my head but have not been completely successful. For instance, I still tend to associate science with men, even if at a much lower level than the average person. Most people have a strong association of science with men, whereas I have a slight association. That comes from society privileging men’s access to education, jobs in science, and the bias we are taught (that men are better at science) makes it more likely that men will try to be scientists AND get hired to be.

        Here is more on how everyone, including women, can internalize patriarchy: Why Do Women Fight Against Their Own Interests?
        https://broadblogs.com/2011/10/21/why-do-women-fight-against-their-own-interests/

        Because we all internalize patriarchy, even if all men died everyone left would still have this schema in their heads.

        Because patriarchies value men over women they reduce women to their bodies and judge them (both the reduction and the judgment create a sense of male superiority). Women internalize it too.

        This isn’t necessary since you don’t find it in all cultures, like partnership-oriented tribal societies.

        “But if females ruled, there is a good chance female bodies would ALSO be on display. Why? Because females like showing their bodies.”

        And the reason Women with good bodies so often like showing them (so that’s not all women) is that they are rewarded for it. Women internalize that their worth is based on how attractive they are, Which is what you’d expect in a patriarchy.

        “We live in a society where women have more rights and more equality than virtually any previous point in history. Are women’s bodies therefore less on display than they were previously? Hardly.”

        Right. And that is largely due to backlash. Because the more women gain rights the more we focus on their bodies. Naomi Wolf wrote a best-seller about this called “The Beauty Myth.” I wrote a bit about it on my blog: Low Self-Esteem? Blame Beauty Myths
        https://broadblogs.com/2013/02/18/low-self-esteem-blame-beauty-myths/

        There’s nothing wrong with women being partly about their bodies and their sexuality, Just as men are partly about their bodies and their sexuality. But it reduces women to be only about that.

  2. I actually was considering reading this post which in fact, I’ve just done but I was expecting to see things about why flashers flash but what was on my mind was why men often expose themselves to either women or young girls in public but reading this I think my perspective might have to take a back seat. and again I’m going to talk about the blindness subject again but this time only fleetingly. when you can’t visually see is it still considered that the other person is flashing? I guess that’s probably something that i’ll have to find out but in discussion only and I always try to seek out consent I never do anything without consent and in fact am rather reluctant to even go there. a lady friend I know once asked me the question if I wanted to see her naked and I stupidly said yes. stupidly because I asked around and the person I asked who was in a relationship by the way and who is also blind said if your intentions are to be considering a relationship that’s when things like that are supposed to happen so I backed out of that one by the skin of my teeth and changed my mind and had to acknowledge that despite knowing this girl for at least 2 years and she would come over for a meal on a semi regular basis I was more or less keeping to the boundaries even though she was a consenting person I still felt like I couldn’t take any chances that I was going to get into trouble and by the way I was just using that brief senareo as an example and the fact remains that there’s often a hell of a lot of things to think about. I will add one more thing though. often becoming aroused people say that visually seeing something is enough to set a person off that works for some but for some it’s not quite that way.

    • You are a good example of the fact that men don’t actually need to have a visual stimulus to get aroused. And, “when you can’t visually see is it still considered that the other person is flashing?” Reminds me of the “if a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it did it make a sound?” On the latter I would say no. On the former I’m not sure. It’s their intent so if they don’t know that the other person is blind in their own mind they certainly are. They just don’t realize that they aren’t being successful at it.

  3. I wonder if it’s the same though process for guy’s who like to show dick pics. Seems like the same guy’s or mindset. Though “streakers” seem a little different. Guys or people who do that, typically seem to like to do that during a big event, like sports stadium and run on the field or stage. And it’s about attention and celebration and making a scene more than anything.

  4. So the one guy quit flashing when he discovered he was offending women. Surprise, surprise. Betcha Trump dominated the flasher vote.

  5. Now that’s a perspective I had never thought to inhabit! They can’t be doing it to impress women, because as you say, women are rarely impressed by an unasked for penis waved around in front of them. I can’t see how they get much power out of the situation either, unless it comes from frightening women. I thought it was a sickness actually, some kind of mental imbalance!

    • Well they don’t get any real power anymore than rapist and batters do. Maybe that’s why they feel compelled to do it over and over, Because it isn’t real power so it doesn’t really satisfy.

  6. My sister-in-law told me a story about when she was very young, going to school in Karachi, Pakistan where all school kids wore a uniform. She was walking to her school and a man who used bicycle for transportation looked directly at her and flashed her. She immediately freaked out and had a very loud reaction to it and threw pebbles at the disgusting adult man. The man didn’t look as if he felt as confident and good about himself after the reaction he got from her. I assume his motive was to make a young girl who had the confidence and courage to walk to school feel inferior. Most girls and women, especially in Pakistan would remain quite about such incident and internalize shame and powerlessness in return. So the man, who likely didn’t have the means to get an education himself, wanted to remind a school going girl that she is still just a girl and therefore his inferior in this world. Her reaction, to not stay quite but immediately and loudly call him out for his obscene act likely shattered the sense of power he thought he had over girls and women. So I do think it is often about men wanting to feel a sense of power over women by doing something that “shows their manhood” in a way they know would leave girls and women uncomfortable/ashamed, then getting away with it.

  7. One reason could be that women have a lot to ‘declare’ and men have nothing much to do so.

    Moreover, given a choice, even women would rather watch other women than watching men…..out of envy or…. jealousy !!

  8. Generally speaking, I think flashers are just plain immature and obviously out for attention. As for those barely dressed runway gals, their milieu (for want of a better word) is so commercialized and artificial that it is more of a turn off than anything else.

    If I could sum up both in one word, it would be “shallow” — but who am I to knock others for doing what they gotta do.

    • “As for those barely dressed runway gals, their milieu (for want of a better word) is so commercialized and artificial that it is more of a turn off than anything else.”

      A lot of women will be glad to hear this!

  9. An interesting post: and loved the comment section too…. Do you feel that flashing could be somehow related to sending dick pics via private Message… I have received a bunch in Instagrame… And of course ignored the message… I blocked one of the users because he kept on sending me messages, but did not found it offensive but maybe quite funny… I D K? Anyway, I kept on thinking about the issue… Do you think that they do so because knowing or believing that you might look at them (it) turns them (even?) more… I know this is a little bit off topic… But I wanted to ask you what do you think 😋 muchas gracias 🌞

    • Well I mentioned that flashers appear to have a couple of different motives, depending on the flasher. Some of them seem to think that women are as turned on by a penis as men are turned on by breasts. And that might be what you got coming your way, as opposed to the second type which is more about feeling a sense of control over women. But since these are personal pics I suspect you would know better than me what the motive was.

  10. As always, I’m late to the party. But this post has been sitting neglected in my email for a while and I finally had time to read it.

    I have had two experiences with this in my lifetime. One at age 15, I was riding my bike and someone in a parking lot asked me for directions. I (stupidly) stood outside his van and gave him directions. He then showed me that he was masturbating. I screamed and took off. The other time I was 21ish, sitting on the porch outside my first post-dorm apartment, smoking a cigarette. A man walked up and asked me for a light. As I lit his cigarette, I noticed his penis hanging out of his waistband. I screamed and ran in my house.

    My older sister is a therapist. When I told her about the second time it happened, she told me that I really shouldn’t worry about these people. She said that if they have half a brain, even they know that this approach to picking up women and getting laid is completely ineffectual. So he knows it won’t work. He’s usually not going to push the issue once you scream. Most of them are just pathetic, but harmless. Had either one of them wanted to grab me, they could have without showing me their penis first.

    Not sure if this contributes to the conversation, you’ve obviously had some creative comments about this….

  11. With its scholarly coverage, this article takes the fun out of flashing 🙂 I guess a bad reputation is also a reputation. People who indulge are likely to be on the fringes with nothing to lose would be my guess. Safer than killing and raping.

    • Many women will be grateful that the fun is taken out of flashing.

      If you look at various types of sexual assault there are various motives for doing it, but the most common tends to be trying to feel a sense of power over others. Like when Cary Stainer was raping and murdering women he said, after being caught, “for once in my life I felt like I had a little bit of power.” That is a very common type of motive for rapists to admit.

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