There's a Word for Men Who Grope Women

Please don't squeeze the charming.

Posted Oct 12, 2016

Actually, there are lots of words for men who grope women – most of them unsuitable for publication.  You need look no farther than today’s headlines to spot one of those words.  For me, the first word that comes to mind is "criminal," but the desire to grope unconsenting victims itself has a name: frotteurism.

 Men may be the usual suspects when it comes to groping, but both males or females can engage in behaviors or fantasies that qualify as frotteurism.  Anyone who derives sexual pleasure from non-consensual touching is potentially diagnosable with frotteuristic disorder.  Victims may be of the opposite sex or of the same sex as the perpetrator.  The DSM V specifies that the behavior must have persisted for 6 months or more.  Recurring fantasies of sexual groping, even if not acted upon, can amount to frotteurism if these become persistent, obtrusive thoughts that cause significant distress.  (Most of us are probably more concerned about the victims’ distress rather than the perpetrator’s.)

Frotteurism is a paraphilia.  Paraphilia is intense sexual interest and arousal by objects, body parts, fantasies, or situations that do not ordinarily stimulate sexual desires.  Masochism or a foot fetish, for example, are paraphilias.  A person who has one paraphilia is likely to have others as well.  In one study, between 10 and 14 percent of institutionalized men manifested frotteurism, and most of them exhibited other paraphilias as well.

Sexual groping, like rape, is about domination.  The victim is expected to just endure the abuse.  There is also a sadistic element, since the aggressor’s gratification comes as much from humiliating the victim and observing her reaction as from the act of touching. 

Willful, unwanted touching is an arrestable offense. We don’t enable sadistic criminals by rationalizing their behavior. Do we?