Portraits of Frotteurism
With two nice children and a thriving business, Dale is a respected pillar of his community. But there are also these strange rumors that he has groped women while passing them in restaurants, or walking by them at the office.
Chris lives in lower Manhattan and takes the subway every morning and evening. He knows what he does is wrong, but many of the women don’t even seem to notice.
Tan, a 19 year old college student who was at a packed concert last night stands at the counter in the police office. “Ok, explain to us again what happened?” the officer says.
Frotteurism: Definitions and Key Thoughts
Frotteurism is the non-consensual rubbing against another person as a means to achieve sexual arousal. Frotteurism is categorized by the American Psychiatric Association (in the DSM-IV) as a paraphilia: a pattern of non-socially acceptable sexual behavior. Other paraphilias include voyeurism and exhibitionism.
Also according to the American Psychiatric Association, the diagnostic criteria for frotteurism are as follows:
- Recurrent, intense, or arousing sexual urges or fantasies, that involve touching and rubbing against a non-consenting person
- The person has acted on these sexual urges or fantasies, or they cause the person significant distress, to a degree they are disruptive to everyday functioning
- A person who practices frotteurism is known as a frotteur
The term frotteurism is derived from the French verb frotter, which means “to rub.” The designation frotteur comes from a French word literally meaning “rubber” or “one who rubs.” During an act of frotteurism, the frotteur will usually make contact with the target using his/her hands or genitals.
Frotteurism is not to be confused with “frottage” which is sexual rubbing (naked of clothed) that is consensual, and which takes place during normal sexual activity. Frotteurism is often referred to as non-consensual groping. The majority of frotteurs are males, and the majority of frotteurism targets are female (however, male-male, female-female, and female-male incidents do occur).
Frotteurism directed toward a child, by an adult, is a common early stage of child sexual abuse. A frotteur will often make a transgression while in a crowded place such as a concert or a crowded train. Frotteurism is a criminal offense, and is considered a form of sexual assault.
Action Steps: Treatment of Frotteurism
1. Avoid Places of Temptation
If one is struggling with frotteurism, a preliminary strategy for success involves avoiding areas where temptation occurs. Avoiding busy trains, lines, or places with dense crowds may help in resisting the temptation of inappropriately touching another person. This is not an end-all strategy, but is equivalent to an alcoholic getting the beer out of the house.
2. Identify Triggers
Identify triggers; that is, acknowledge any times, situations, or internal experiences that make it more difficult to avoid frotteurism. Some common internal triggers are being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. These are often remembered by using the acronym HALT, and knowing to identify these experiences early will help in preventing frotteurism type behaviors.
3. Identify Strengths and Assets
Has anything been helpful in the past in preventing frotteurism? Perhaps feeling connected with friends, having things to look forward to, or some other internal or internal stimulus has been helpful. Identifying assets and strengths will help in the battle against frotteurism.
4. Behavior Therapy and Psychotherapy
Frotteurism is a serious sexual problem. Meeting with a licensed professional may be key in overcoming frotteurism type behaviors.
5. Medication Therapy
In some cases drugs and hormones, such as Medroxyprogesterone, have been prescribed to decrease frotteur urges.
For more information on sexual health related issues and to schedule an appointment with a Thrive Boston sex therapist, visit our Boston Sex Therapy page. Appointments scheduled within 24 hours.
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Rosler, A., and E. Witztum. “Pharmacotherapy of paraphilias in the next millennium.” Behavioral Science Law, 18, 1 (2000): 43-56.
Seelig, B. J., and L. S. Rosof. “Normal and pathological altruism.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49, 3 (2001): 933-959.
American Medical Association. 515 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60610. Telephone: 312-464-5000.
American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. Telephone: 1-888-357-7924. FAX 202-682-6850.
American Psychological Association. 750 First Street NW, Washington, DC, 20002-4242, Telephone: 1-800-374-2721 or 202-336-5500.