Outing is exposing the private life and particularly the sexual preferences or activities of a person to public knowledge without that person's consent. The term is sometimes also used to mean publicly disclosing other personal characteristics, such as political affiliation or religion, that the possessor wishes to keep secret.
The original or primary use of the term referred to making public a person's homosexuality, thus forcing that person "out of the closet". This was often done by militant supporters of homosexual rights, under the idea that all gays were aided when the true numbers and prominence of gays became publicly known. There has been much controversy over the morality of outing in the homosexual community.
By analogy with the use of the term for publicly exposing a person's homosexuality, "outing" has also been used in the BDSM and Spanking community, to mean publicly disclosing a person's interest or participation in BDSM or erotic spanking activities. In particlar, posting online or publishing information which connects a scene name with that person's legal identity is considered outing. Many people consider outing to be a serious violation of privacy, and a highly immoral act. Since it usually involves disclosing only truthful information, it is usually not legally actionable as libel or slander. Even where invasion of privacy is subject to legal action, victims of outing often do not peruse legal recourse, for fear of spreading the information even more widely.