Exhibitionism as a disorder was first described in a scientific journal in 1877 by a French physician and psychiatrist Charles Lasègue (1809–1883). Typically, the part(s) of the body exposed when referring to "flashing" are bare female breasts and/or buttocks. In theory, however, flashing and exhibitionism can also involve the genitalia or buttocks of either gender. A "male flasher" stands in stark comparison to this definition as the latter usually refers to a male indecently exposing his penis to an unwilling observer.
A research team asked a sample of 185 exhibitionists, “How would you have preferred a person to react if you were to expose your privates to him or her?” The most common response was “Would want to have sexual intercourse” (35.1%), followed by “No reaction necessary at all” (19.5%), “To show their privates also” (15.1%), “Admiration” (14.1%), and “Any reaction” (11.9%). Only very few exhibitionists chose “Anger and disgust” (3.8%) or “Fear” (0.5%).
In psychiatry, exhibitionism is only considered a paraphilia when the practice interferes with the quality of life or normal functioning capacity of the individual. According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition, exhibitionism is classified as 302.4, and many psychiatric definitions of exhibitionism broadly define it as "sexual gratification, above and beyond the sexual act itself, that is achieved by risky public sexual activity and/or bodily exposure." Beyond bodily exposure, it can also include "engaging in sex where one may possibly be seen in the act, or caught in the act." Source