Frotteurism is a paraphilic interest in rubbing, usually one's pelvic area or erect penis, against a non-consenting person for sexual pleasure. It may involve touching any part of the body, including the genital area. A person who practices frotteuristic acts is known as a frotteur. Toucherism is sexual arousal based on grabbing or rubbing one's hands against an unexpecting (and non-consenting) person. It usually involves touching breasts, buttocks or genital areas, often while quickly walking across the victim's path. Some psychologists consider toucherism a manifestation of frotteurism, while others distinguish the two. In clinical medicine, treatment of frotteuristic disorder involves cognitive behavior therapy coupled with the administration of a SSRI.
Etymology and history
"Frottage" derives from the French verb frotter, meaning "to rub". The term frotteur, originally meaning "floor polisher", entered police jargon around 1882. Frotteuristic acts were interpreted as signs of a psychological disorder in 1887 and in ensuing work by French psychiatrist Valentin Magnan, who described three acts of "frottage" in an 1890 study. It was popularized by German sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his book Psychopathia Sexualis, borrowing from Magnan's French terminology. Clifford Allen later coined frotteurism in his 1969 textbook of sexual disorders.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders called this sexual disorder by the name frottage until the third edition (DSM III-R), but changed to frotteurism in the fourth edition, and now uses frotteuristic disorder in the fifth edition. Nevertheless, the term frottage still remains in some law codes where it is synonymous with the term frotteurism.
Symptoms and classification
The professional handbook of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, lists the following diagnostic criteria for frotteuristic disorder.
- Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent and intense sexual arousal from touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
- The individual has acted on these sexual urges with a nonconsenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
If the individual has not acted on their interest and experiences no distress or impairment, they are considered to have a frotteuristic sexual interest, but not frotteuristic disorder. Some sexologists distinguish between frotteurism (as pelvic rubbing) and toucherism (as groping with hands), but the DSM does not. Sexologist Kurt Freund described frotteurism and toucherism as courtship disorders that occur at the tactile stage of human courtship.
Prevalence and legality
The prevalence of frotteurism is unknown. The DSM estimates that 10%–14% of men seen in clinical settings for paraphilias or hypersexuality have frotteuristic disorder, indicating that the population prevalence is lower. However, frotteuristic acts, as opposed to frotteuristic disorder, may occur in up to 30% of men in the general population. The majority of frotteurs are male and the majority of victims are female, although female on male, female on female, and male on male frotteurs exist. This activity is often done in circumstances where the victim cannot easily respond, in a public place such as a crowded train or concert.
Usually, such nonconsensual sexual contact is viewed as a criminal offense: a form of sexual assault albeit often classified as a misdemeanor with minor legal penalties. Conviction may result in a sentence or psychiatric treatment.
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- Freund, K. (1990). Courtship disorders. In W. L. Marshall, D. R. Laws, & H. E. Barbaree (Eds.), Handbook of sexual assault: Issues, theories, and treatment of the offender (pp. 195–207). NY: Plenum Press.
- UCSB's SexInfo
- frottophilia at SEX ED 601 Advanced Topics in Human Sexuality.