Frot (slang for frottage; ult. from the French verb frotter, "to rub") is a non-penetrative form of male to male sexual activity that usually involves direct penis-to-penis contact. The term was popularized by gay male activists who disparaged the practice of anal sex, but has since evolved to encompass a variety of preferences for the act, which may or may not imply particular attitudes towards other sexual activities. Owing to its non-penetrative character, frot has the safe sex advantage of minimizing the transmission risk for HIV/AIDS; however, it still carries the risk of skin-to-skin sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV and pubic lice (crabs), both of which can be transmitted even when lesions are not visible.
Concept and etymology
Genital-genital (GG) rubbing is sexual activity in which there is rubbing contact between the genitals, in the same naming convention as genital-anal sex and genital-oral sex. This type of sexual intimacy is not restricted to humans. GG rubbing is a term frequently used by primatologists to describe the act among female bonobos, and is sometimes used in reference to GG rubbing among male bonobos, under the term penis fencing. As such, penis-to-penis rubbing between males is thought, according to various evolutionary theorists, to have existed before the development of hominids into humans and bonobos, and may or may not have occurred in the homosexual activity of both of these genetically related species.
The modern definition of frot emerged in a context of a debate about the status of anal sex within the gay male community; some in the anti-anal, pro-frot camp insist that anal sex ought to be avoided altogether. One view argued that the popularity of anal sex would decline, presumably with a corresponding drop in HIV rates, if gay men could somehow be persuaded to stop thinking of anal sex as a "vanilla" practice, but rather as something "kinky" and not-quite-respectable—as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s, when gay men who preferred to do only mutual masturbation and fellatio sometimes used the disparaging slang term brownie queen for aficionados of anal sex.
Gay activist Bill Weintraub began to heavily promote and recommend the gender-specific meaning of "penis-to-penis rubbing" as frot on Internet forums sometime in the late 1990s, and said he coined the term. "I don't use the word 'frottage,' because it is an ersatz French word which can indicate any sort of erotic rubbing," he stated. "Frot, by contrast, is always phallus-to-phallus sex." Weintraub believes that is what actual sex is – genital-genital contact.
Alternative terms for frot include frictation, which can refer to the wider meaning of frottage but also penis-penis sex specifically, sword-fighting, Oxford style, Princeton rub, and Ivy League rub.
Frot can be enjoyable because it mutually and simultaneously stimulates the genitals of both partners as it tends to produce pleasurable friction against the frenulum nerve bundle on the underside of each man's penile shaft, just below the urinary opening (meatus) of the penis head (glans penis).
Since frot is a non-penetrative sex act, the risk of passing a sexually transmitted infection (STI/STD) that requires direct contact between the mucous membranes and pre-ejaculate or semen is reduced. HIV is among the infections that require such direct contact, and research indicates that there is no risk of HIV transmission via frot. However, frot can still transmit other sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV (which can cause genital warts) and pubic lice (crabs). Vaccines are available against HPV.
Comparison with anal sex and debates
Some gay men, or men who have sex with men (MSM) in general, prefer to engage in frot or other forms of mutual masturbation because they find it more pleasurable or more affectionate than anal sex, to preserve technical virginity, or as safe sex alternatives to anal penetration. This preference has led to some debate in the gay male and MSM community regarding what constitutes "real sex" or the most sensual expression of sexual intimacy. Some frot advocates consider "two genitals coming together by mingling, caressing, sliding" and rubbing to be sex more than other forms of male sexual activity. Other men who have sex with men associate male masculinity with the sexual positions of "tops" and "bottoms" during anal sex.
During anal sex, the insertive partner may be referred to as the top or active partner. The one being penetrated may be referred to as the bottom or passive partner. Preference for either is referred to as versatile. Some frot advocates insist that such roles introduce inequality during sexual intimacy, and that frot is "equal" because of mutual genital-genital stimulation. The lack of mutual genital stimulation and role asymmetry has led other frot advocates to denounce anal sex as degrading to the receptive partner. This view of dominance and inequality associated with sex roles is disputed by researchers who state that it is not clear that specific sexual acts are necessarily indicative of general patterns of masculinity or dominance in a gay male relationship, and that, for both partners, anal intercourse can be associated with being masculine. Additionally, some frot advocates, such as Bill Weintraub, are concerned with diseases that may be acquired through anal sex. In a 2005 article in The Advocate, one anal sex opponent said that no longer showing anal sex as erotic would help avoid HIV/AIDS, and opined that some gay men perceived him to be antigay when he was only trying to keep gay and bisexual men alive and healthy.
The view that anal sex is something that should be discouraged is not supported by all frot supporters. Author Joe Perez states that Weintraub and his followers have "gone overboard" in their enthusiasm for frot by claiming that supporting frot means disowning anal sex or that the latter is "inherently degrading, unnatural, or disease-spreading." He says Weintraub and his supporters' views should be taken "with a grain of salt if you can" and that he hopes for more inclusive frot communities.
Gay men, and MSM in general, who prefer anal sex may view it as "[their] version of intercourse" and as "the natural apex of sex, a wonderful expression of intimacy, and a great source of pleasure". Psychologist Walt Odets said, "I think that anal sex has for gay men the same emotional significance that vaginal sex has for heterosexuals." The act is generally viewed as vanilla sex among MSM, and is often thought to be expected, even by MSM who do not prefer the act. "Some people like [anal] because it seems taboo or naughty," stated author and sex therapist Jack Morin. "Some people like the flavor of dominance and submission... some don’t."
MSM who defend the essential validity of anal sex have rejected claims made by radical frot advocates. Others have at times disparaged frottage as a makeshift, second-rate form of male/male intimacy—something better left to inexperienced teenagers and "closeted" older men. Odets said, "No one would propose that we initiate a public health measure by de-eroticizing vaginal sex. It would sound like a ridiculous idea. It's no less ridiculous for gay men."
The Huffington Post contributor and sexologist Joe Kort proposed the term side for gay men who are not interested in anal sex and instead prefer "to kiss, hug and engage in oral sex, rimming, mutual masturbation and rubbing up and down on each other", viewing "sides" as simply another gay male sexual preference akin to being a top, bottom or versatile, and adding that "Whether a man enjoys anal sex or not is no reflection on his sexual orientation, and if he's gay, it doesn't define whether or not he's 'really' having sex."
A 2011 survey of gay and bisexual men by the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that out of over 1,300 different combinations of sexual acts practiced, the most common, at 16% of all encounters, to be "holding their partner romantically, kissing partner on mouth, solo masturbation, masturbating partner, masturbation by partner, and genital–genital contact."
Among other animals
Genital-genital rubbing has been observed between males of other animals as well. The homosexual activities of bonobos are of special interest because of their genetic closeness to humans; and like humans, their sex drives are not reproductively-driven. Among bonobos, frottage frequently occurs when two males hang from a tree limb and engage in penis fencing; it also occurs while two males are in missionary position. There is also a special form of frottage called rump rubbing in which males stand back to back on all fours and rub their genito-anal regions together.
Frot-like genital rubbing between non-primate males has been observed among bull manatees, in conjunction with "kissing". When engaging in genital-genital rubbing, male bottlenose dolphins often penetrate the genital slit or, less commonly, the anus. Penis-to-penis rubbing is also common among homosexually active mammals.
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