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«Monsieur le commissaire»; Images galantes et esprit de l'etranger (“Gallant images and spirit of the foreigner“) (1905)
A man makes an unwanted sexual advance on a woman
A sign outside of a bicycle parking lot in Chiba, Japan, warns "Beware of groping".

In a sexual context, groping is the act of intentionally touching another person in a sexual manner without their consent. The term generally has a negative connotation in many societies, and the activity may be considered sexual assault[1] or otherwise unacceptable. Touching a consenting person's body during sexual activity, a massage, or a medical examination is not usually considered groping, though the term is sometimes used to include clumsy, selfish, or inappropriate sexual touching. Areas of the body most frequently groped include the buttocks, breasts, vulva and thighs on a woman, and the penis, testicles and buttocks on a man. Gropers might use their hands, but pressing any part of their body against another person can be considered groping.

The practice of women being subjected to a pat down by officers, such as customs or security officers at airports, is controversial.[2] Such behaviour by public officials requires a clear legal authorization.

Toucherism, considered a paraphilia, is a practice of a person touching another non-consenting person with their hands, typically in crowds, for their own sexual pleasure. Groping may be featured in pornographic films.

Cultural incidents[edit]

The incidence of groping varies around the world, and some countries have acquired a reputation for it.

Italy used to have a reputation for men pinching women's bottoms, and the term groping could perhaps be applied, but it was not a common term at that time (mid-20th century, for example). Japan has a reputation for men groping women on trains and buses to the extent that the authorities have implemented anti-groping campaigns, which has received considerable media attention and been the subject of serious study in recent years.

In parts of South Asia, including India,[3] Nepal[4] and Bangladesh,[5] public sexual harassment or molestation (often known as "street harassment") of women by men is widely referred to as Eve teasing.

There was an incident in Australia in August 2019 when the host at a charity event offered his cheek to a female guest presenter for a peck, before turning his head and kissing her on the lips. The presenter publicly said “that kind of behaviour is intolerable and the time for women being subject to it or having to tolerate it is long gone." The host apologised for his behaviour.[6][7]

In June 2022, British MP Christopher Pincher was suspended from the Conservative Party after it was alleged that he had groped two men, while drunk, at London's Carlton Club.[8]

Combatting groping[edit]

In many countries, non-consensual sexual touching of any part of another person's body is considered to be sexual assault and is illegal, but in almost all countries it is considered unacceptable behaviour.

In practice, women are the predominant targets for groping. To combat groping, street harassment, and Eve teasing of women in crowded public places, some countries have also designated women only spaces. For example, sex-segregated buses, women-only passenger cars, and compartments on trains have been introduced in Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, the UAE and other countries to reduce such sexual harassment.[9][10][11][12]

Some places in Germany, Korea, and China have women's parking spaces, often for related safety issues.[13][14][15] Many more countries, including Canada, the United States, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom also grant parking privileges to pregnant women, for safety or access reasons.


A sign on a station platform in Osaka, Japan, showing the boarding point for a ladies-only car

In Japan, a man who gropes women in public is called chikan (痴漢); and the term also describes the act itself. Crowded trains are a favorite location for groping and a 2001 survey conducted in two Tokyo high schools revealed that more than 2/3 of female students had been groped while traveling on them.[16] As part of the effort to combat the problem, some railway companies designate women-only passenger cars during rush hours.[17][18][19]

While the term is not defined in the Japanese legal system, vernacular usage of the word describes acts that violate several laws. Although crowded trains are the most frequent targets,[20] another common setting is bicycle parking areas, where people bending over unlocking locks are targeted. Chikan is often featured in Japanese pornography.

This issue affects men in a different way. Since Japan has a very high conviction rate (99% by some sources), innocent men may have difficulty proving their innocence in court.[21] The film I Just Didn't Do It by Japanese film director Masayuki Suo, based on a true story, focuses on a male office worker acquitted of groping after a five-year legal battle.[22] The criminal courts have traditionally been lenient in cases of groping and have only recently[when?] made efforts to combat the social problem with tougher sentences.[23][24]

United States[edit]

Groping is illegal in the United States.[clarification needed][25] The charge can vary from state to state but generally is considered to be sexual battery, sexual groping, or unlawful touching. In some jurisdictions, groping is considered criminal sexual conduct, in the second to fourth degree[clarification needed], if there is no sexual penetration.

  • Louisiana: Title 14, criminal law RS 14:43.1;[26] §43.1. Sexual battery: A. Sexual battery is the intentional touching of the anus or genitals of the victim by the offender using any instrumentality or any part of the body of the offender, or the touching of the anus or genitals of the offender by the victim using any instrumentality or any part of the body of the victim, when any of the following occur: (1) The offender acts without the consent of the victim.
  • Michigan: The Michigan Penal Code (except), Act 328 of 1931, 750.520e Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree; misdemeanor. Groping is considered Criminal Sexual Conduct specifically; (v) When the actor achieves the sexual contact through concealment or by the element of surprise.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Age, 12 June 2019, 'Disgusting': man sentenced for groping female runner on Sydney's Bay Run
  2. ^ Bacardi, Francesca (May 9, 2019). "Diana Ross' TSA pat-down investigation closed".
  3. ^ The Express Tribune, July 8, 2013: Eve teasing: The power game, by Tehniya S Afridi.
  4. ^ Smriti Lakhey, "Eve Teasing" Archived 2010-06-20 at the Wayback Machine, Wave # 55, July 2000.
  5. ^ "Eve-teasers beat dead youth in Dhaka" Archived 2014-10-12 at the Wayback Machine, Daily Star, 11 October 2014.
  6. ^ Chung, Laura (September 2, 2019). "'That kind of behaviour is intolerable': Leigh Sales responds to unwanted kiss". The Age.
  7. ^ Goward, Pru (September 4, 2019). "The kiss: let's revise the rules of engagement". The Age.
  8. ^ "Chris Pincher suspended as Tory MP after groping allegation". BBC News. 2022-07-01. Retrieved 2022-07-01.
  9. ^ Marc Lacey (February 11, 2008). "On Single-Sex Buses, Relief From Unwanted Contact". Mexico City Journal. New York Times.
  10. ^ Nechapayka, Tatyana (April 13, 2005). "Belarus rail targets 'smelly men'". BBC News. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  11. ^ "Visually-impaired want railways to clarify stance on riding in women-only carriages". Mainichi Shimbun. April 5, 2007. Archived from the original on April 17, 2007.
  12. ^ "Metro reserves compartments for females". The Telegraph. September 7, 2008.
  13. ^ "Antidiskriminierungsstelle - Fragen und Antworten - Ist die Schaffung von Frauenparkplätzen diskriminierend?". January 25, 2008. Archived from the original on January 25, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  14. ^ "Un parking pour femmes avec des places de stationnement... plus larges". Le January 5, 2010. Retrieved June 6, 2017 – via Le Monde.
  15. ^ Will High-Heel-Friendly Streets Keep Seoul's Women Happy?, Time, 2009
  16. ^ Buerk, Roland (14 September 2009). "Tokyo police act on train gropers". BBC. BBC. BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Untitled Document". December 26, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26.
  18. ^ "Japan Tries Women Only Train Cars to Stop Groping: Tokyo Subway Experiment Attempts to Slow Epidemic of Subway Fondling" An ABC News article.
  19. ^ "Women-Only Cars on Commuter Trains Cause Controversy in Japan". December 18, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-18.
  20. ^ "Anti-groping stamp sells out within an hour in Japan". ABC News. August 30, 2019.
  21. ^ "Tokyo legal drama gets grip on groping". The Standard. Associated Press. 20 February 2007. Archived from the original on 31 July 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  22. ^ Kamiya, Setsuko (2007-02-02). "'I Just Didn't Do It' questions the Japanese court system". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
  23. ^ Lewis, Leo (2004-11-24). "All women trains are only way to defeat Tokyo bottom pinchers". The Times Online. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
  24. ^ Fukada, Takahiro, "In anonymous packed train lurk gropers", The Japan Times, August 18, 2009, p. 3.
  25. ^ "Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. must stand trial over groping allegations - Breaking News - Jerusalem Post".
  26. ^ Justia (US Law)- Retrieved 2012-08-08
  27. ^ Michigan law- Retrieved 2012-08-08