The psychology behind streaking

Shawntaye Hopkins

Beau Mehdi Jarfi had a feeling.

He took off his clothes and began sprinting across the field at Smith Stadium. A roar of laughter and applause erupted from spectators as police officers trailed behind him.

Jarfi, a senior from Cincinnati, said he acted completely on impulse.

There is no handbook to describe a streaker’s mental makeup, but there may be a legitimate excuse for their desire to expose their assets.

Still, that doesn’t change the penalties – a definite misdemeanor and a possible felony.

Psychology offers a few explanations for why people streak.

Rick Grieve, an associate professor of psychology, said he doesn’t know the particular cases of the two men who have recently run naked across the football field. But he said there are psychological disorders that would prompt someone to streak. However, the occurrence is usually caused by social pressure, he said.

Elizabeth Funke, a junior from Evansville, Ind., said she remembers the rush she felt last semester when she ran nude from the fine arts center, into a fountain, and quickly in and out of Helm-Cravens Library.

Funke said she would never have streaked by herself. She had three friends with her.

Jarfi streaked during Western’s Aug. 28 game against Union.

He was caught by police and charged with disorderly conduct and fleeing and evading in the first degree.

Jarfi was released the from the Warren County Regional Jail on a $1,000 unsecured bond the next day.

Another man streaked during the Sept. 6 football game against West Virginia Tech.

He got away.

This streaker also spawned an uproar. But if he’d been caught, he could someday find himself explaining a felony charge to potential employers.

Campus police Capt. Mike Wallace said indecent exposure and disorderly conduct are Class B misdemeanors.

But fleeing and evading police is a Class C felony if there is risk or potential danger to a person or property, he said.

Louisville freshman Crystal Patton said the incident has discouraged her from attending anymore football games.

She was sitting with a group of friends during the Union game when she heard the laughter. Looked up, she saw Jarfi’s buttocks.

“It grossed me out,” she said.

Patton said she didn’t know the consequences for streaking, but she guessed at a reason.

“For attention,” she said. “In any school, in any grade, people do stupid things to get attention.”

Grieve agrees.

He said it is not surprising that the two incidents happened at a football game. Grieve said a crowded place can be a venue for people who crave attention. Some may get the attention they desire by painting their face or holding up a sign.

Others will streak.

Grieve said streakers who desire attention know that people will talk about them for days after the incident.

Peer pressure is another reason.

College students are more likely to give in to prodding from friends than adults, Grieve said. He said students tend to react to dares from their peers.

Grieve said some people also believe they will win the esteem of others if they streak.

Jarfi called himself a free spirit.

He said he acted on his own accord and his friends had little to do with his decision. Jarfi said he believed people with a sense of humor would find streaking funny.

Patton said she was so disgusted by the display that she left the game early.

Jarfi said he was aware that he could get arrested before he took off his clothes, but he didn’t know the university’s consequences or the possibility of a felony charge.

“I’m sure a lot of Western students would agree that my actions weren’t worthy of a felony offense,” Jarfi said.

Despite those consequences, Grieve said he thinks the university will see more bare bottoms in the near future. People tend to minimize the likelihood that they will be caught and overestimate the success of their actions, he said.

The last streaker escaped. He jumped a fence, ran across University Boulevard and past the railroad tracks.

The fact that he got away, Grieve said, increases the chances of someone streaking, because it made the act seem more successful.

The football team’s next home game is Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.

Wallace discourages any streaking in the future.

“I would think over it very carefully before I attempted something like that again,” Wallace said.

He would not comment on specific actions that police are taking to stop any possible streakers.

Wallace said penalties for Class B misdemeanors include 90 days in jail and a $250 fine. The penalties for a Class C felony are 10 years in prison and fines of $1,000 to $10,000.

There could also be some penalties from the university.

Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life, said students could face consequences set by him or the University Disciplinary Committee. The committee reviews incidents and sets appropriate disciplinary action.

Bailey said streaking could violate Nos. 8, 10 or 22 in the Student Handbook.

No. 10 refers to “disorderly conduct or lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression on University owned or controlled property or at University or supervised functions.”

Bailey said students are required to wear proper attire to functions and No. 8 – unauthorized entry – could apply. No. 22 refers to any violation of rules, policies or guidelines.

Bowling Green senior Katie Muchmore said she believes the streaking will end when students realize there are serious consequences involved.

“I think they probably just got caught up in the excitement,” she said.

Jarfi talked with Bailey after the Union game and was placed on disciplinary probation. He said he is thankful he didn’t get into more trouble.

Grieve said there are also psychological disorders, such as histrionic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, that could lead someone to streak.

People with histrionic personality disorder are flamboyant, overly sexual, impulsive and attention-seeking, Grieve said. Borderline personality disorder has many of the same characteristics, but with an emphasis on impulsiveness.

Both these disorders are rare, Grieve said.

He said someone who is under the influence of alcohol would likely involve in flamboyant activities because alcohol impairs judgment.

Jarfi said none of those factors applied to him.

“People should take themselves a little less seriously sometimes,” Jarfi said. “I hope I was able to raise a smile.”

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]