An Exhibitionist Explained To Us Why He Can't Stop Harassing People
Alfred Esser has been convicted of indecency more than 20 times. He's also founded Germany's first support group for flashers.
This isn't the guy we interviewed. Photo by: Eric Molina I Flickr I CC 2.0
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
My first—and thankfully only—experience with a flasher was a few years back. There were rumors of a guy who roamed about naked in the forest right by the stables where I kept my horse. I didn't pay any attention to the story until one day when I was nearly thrown off my pony. We were out riding and, all of a sudden, after turning a bend in the road, there was a naked man standing right in front of me, leaning against a tree masturbating. I was totally startled and bolted off as fast the horse would allow. Thankfully, nothing really happened but I've certainly given a lot of thought to that man jacking off in a forest in the dead of winter.
In 2014 alone, the German police recorded 7722 instances of exhibitionism and indecent behavior. An act which, according to current laws, could land you up to a year in prison, as well as a hefty fine.
But this flashing act isn't restricted to men. According to Alfred Esser, founder and director of Germany's only support group for exhibitionists, just as many women are into flashing as guys. Apparently, it's harder to notice because many times ladies are capable of satisfying their urges by simply wearing a really low cut top. Few people would be offended by a pair of breasts, but that doesn't change the fact that being harassed by an exhibitionist can be seriously traumatic for some.
A study carried out by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony states that exhibitionists aren't interested in actively harming women, but they are more likely to run the risk inflicting trauma on women and children than they are to restrict themselves from living out their sexual fantasies. It also states that the criminal relapse rate of exhibitionists—when compared to other sexual offenders—is extremely high, but exhibitionism itself isn't recognized to as a gateway offense to a some sort of criminal career.
Photo via Flickr user
Obviously, most people consider it pretty uncool to whip your dick out and point it at whoever's looking. VICE gave Mr. Esser a call to find about more about this phenomenon.
VICE: When was the first time you flashed someone?
Alfred Esser: About 15 years ago. I pulled my pants down in front of an adult woman. It was an exhilarating feeling—especially because she wasn't shocked, frightened or disgusted. I don't think there's any "experts" out there that can explain exactly why I do this. I'd imagine it's something to do with genes, hormones, ones upbringing and whatever childhood sexual experiences you've had.
Can't you just go to a nudist beach or something?
I actually don't know why it's different. Exposing yourself just makes you feel like you're losing control, you know? As if you're intoxicated. It must give off some sort of chemical reaction in the brain or something. I really can't explain it more than that, sorry.
What about the women you flash? Don't you feel sorry for them?
Anytime I've ever shown myself to a woman and she got a fright, I've felt pretty uncomfortable. It's absolutely never been my attention to scare anyone. People are more than welcome just not to look if they don't want to. Luckily there are some women who enjoy it, too. People like that are a gift to us exhibitionists.
But even if a woman chooses just to look away, you've already forced them to see your penis. That's pretty illegal.
Yeah, I know. I've actually been convicted for things like this more than 20 times. That's not even an exaggeration. It's also not a fact that I'm particularly proud of. With the amount of money that I've spent on court cases, I could've travelled the word or bought a Porsche.
A lot of women are scared that they're not only going to get flashed, but that something worse could happen. What do you think about that?
A study by the Center for Criminology in Wiesbaden states that exhibitionists are recognized to be mono-trope offenders, who aren't prone to violence and absolutely not prone to any sort of violent sexual crimes. Exhibitionism is not a typical gateway offense that leads to subsequent sexually-motivated violent crimes; rather, it's more likely to be more an isolated instance.
We also need to take into account that exhibitionism is unfortunately still a taboo in our society. A subject that is made more dramatic then it actually is because of a general lack of available information. If there was easy access to objective educational material regarding compulsive exhibitionism, then I think we could avoid all this unnecessary fear and scaremongering.
Well, that's one way to look at it. What about your partner? Does she know about this?
Yeah, my wife knows about all of this. Without her help I'd never have been able to devote myself 100 percent to this rather controversial topic.
Have you ever experienced anyone reacting positively to your dick waving? If that was to happen, would it kill the buzz?
See, there's a huge misunderstanding there — exhibitionists are often falsely accused of wanting to shock or disgust people, and that they're all violent. That's very much the opposite of what they're usually after. A favorable, curious glance is kind of a dream scenario for us "showmen".
You've been to therapy for this, right? How was that?
I could probably write a book about that experience, to be fair. Many well respected psychiatrists have actually said time and time again that this sort of exhibitionism is heavily anchored in the brain. Both in men and women. I personally think it would be more beneficial for everyone if we somehow taught society a way to deal with the issue, instead. But for that to be able to happen, we'd need to decriminalize it.
So you think people should learn to deal with your passion, instead of having to keep it in your pants? Is that why you started a support group for exhibitionists?
Yeah. The biggest worry for most exhibitionists is that their relatives or friends will find out about what they're into and they'll lose their jobs and completely breakdown. After having so much therapy, I've come to learn that there's a lot of things that psychologists just aren't able to explain. I wanted to do some research for myself — to talk to the people who are involved.
My mission is to create an open space where people can talk freely about the subject. A place where people don't just consider it as some criminal act. We are trying to expand our knowledge of this phenomenon.
Sometimes, when needed, we recommend lawyers who deal with this sort of thing. We are also lobbying to have the outdated legislation concerning this matter changed. Because it's completely draconian and infringes on gender equality laws.
It does't sound like you're going to stop anytime soon. Don't you feel sorry for the victims?
Of course, but there's just some things that you simply can't control.