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I wrote this post after a group discussion of sexualized behaviors in public places. Most people in the group found public displays of affection as titillating when done with a consenting partner and not violate the law.

The topic transitioned to nonconsenting inappropriate sexual touching. For example, touching and rubbing the breasts, buttocks, thighs and pressing an erect penis against a nonconsenting person.

Although the group did not explicitly mention frotteurism, the inappropriate sexual touching or rubbing of the pelvic area on a nonc0nsenting person in public places is similar to the symptoms of frotteuristic disorder. This is not an attempt at diagnosing frotteurism. As a matter of fact, the condition was never a part of the discussion.

The analysis and diagnosis of the disorder are best made in a clinical setting by a trained professional. I thought of frotteurism because of the content of the discussion, and I previously took courses in abnormal psychology and psychopathology.

What is frotteurism? According to the DSM-5, frotteurism is a paraphilic disorder characterized by repetitive and intense sexual arousal, from touching and rubbing against a nonconsenting person.

  • Touching or fondling the person's genitalia or breasts

  • Rubbing one's genitals or pelvic area against the thighs and buttocks

The DSM-4 describes paraphilias as "characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."

The term paraphilia is broad and encompasses several disorders. So, it stands to reason; I list the disorders that fall in the category.

Paraphilic Disorders:

  • Voyeuristic - the act of watching an unsuspecting person who is naked, undressing, and or participating in private sexual activities

  • Exhibitionistic – the act of exposing the genitals to a nonconsenting person

  • Frotteurism – feeling or rubbing up against a nonconsenting person for sexual gratification

  • Sexual Masochism – deriving sexual pleasure from being humiliated, bondage, or suffering

  • Sexual Sadism – unlike the sexual masochist that derives pleasure from being humiliated, bondage, or suffering, the sadist inflicts humiliation, bondage, or suffering on a consenting person for sexual pleasure

  • Pedophilic – sexual attraction or sexual desires for minors

  • Fetishistic – using inanimate objects or non-genital body parts for sexual pleasure

  • Transvestic – being sexually aroused by cross-dressing in apparel for the opposite sex

Common among paraphilic disorders are recurrent and intense sexual arousal.

  • Per the DSM-5, the onset of the disorder is generally in late adolescence into early adulthood.

  • The condition is more prevalent in adult males than females.

  • The behaviors associated with frotteurism are estimated to occur in up to 30% of males in the general population.

  • Though the behaviors related to frotteurism are reportedly more common among adult males than females, only an estimated 10 – 14% of men meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

  • Also, the condition is not well researched, so it may not be easy to accurately determine causation and gender differences.

The behavior is diagnosed as a mental illness if it persists for a minimum of 6 months. Resulting in clinically significant distress leading to impairment in social, occupational, and dysfunction in activities of daily living.

The sexual stimulation from touching and rubbing against the nonconsenting person manifests as an intense fantasy and an urge for sexual fulfillment. The behaviors will likely occur in crowded public spaces such as:

  • Bus

  • Trains

  • Busy sidewalks

  • Elevators

  • Nightclubs

  • Concerts

  • Crowded street festivals

Since the behavior is more often performed in public places, the perpetrator is likely to evade being caught. The person behaves in this manner to satisfy a sexual urge and an arousing fantasy.

There are legal ramifications for the person performing the behaviors (rubbing and touching) associated with frotteurism. Of import, the behavior is performed on a nonconsenting person. If "caught," the person(s) performing the acts is likely to be charged for their actions. If convicted of a crime, it is expected, the person has to register as a sex offender and have restrictions on where the person could live.

Stay Naturally Curious


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 4th edition. American Psychiatric Association.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5th edition. American Psychiatric Association.


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