Frotteuristic disorder, or frotteurism, is the act of touching or rubbing one's genitals up against another person in a sexual manner without their consent, in order to derive sexual pleasure or reach orgasm. Those who practice frotteurism enjoy experiencing a private sexual experience in a public setting. It is one of several criminal paraphilic (sexually arousing) disorders. Although it can occur at any age, the problem is most often seen in young, seemingly shy males between the ages of 15 and 25 but has also been seen in older, reserved, and socially withdrawn men. Frotteurism is thought to be rare among females.
Frotteuristic disorder involves intense fantasies, urges and keen sexual arousal centering on the act of touching an unsuspecting and non-consenting person’s breasts, legs, buttocks, or genitals, or rubbing one’s own pelvic area or erect penis against that person, generally from behind. Frotteuristic behavior is repetitive, and usually occurs in crowded public places, such as trains, buses, elevators, or even crowded streets. Aside from being a criminal activity because it is a form of nonconsensual sex, frotteurism is diagnosed as a mental health disorder when this type of behavior continues for more than six months, or if the fantasies and urges cause significant distress or dysfunction in personal relationships and daily activities.
Though there are many theories, including some centered on social issues that result in a lack of consenting partners, and others centered on an inability to control sex drive, the root cause of frotteuristic disorder is unknown. Risk factors may include a preoccupation with sex or hypersexuality issues, such as unusually frequent and intense sexual urges. Co-existing conditions may include having other paraphilic disorders (most commonly, voyeurism and exhibitionism), nonsexual antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, or brain injury. A history of sexual abuse may play a role in the development of frotteuristic disorder, especially when signs of the disorder appear at an early age.
Unfortunately, those with frotteuristic disorder generally do not pursue treatment on their own and only receive help after they are arrested for sexual assault and treatment is ordered by the court system. And since those with frotteuristic tendencies act quickly in crowded, public places, and often successfully disappear or blend into the crowd without getting caught, there is little information on either prevalence or treatment success rates. Standard treatments for frotteuristic disorder include medication and psychotherapy. Medications such as hormones and certain antidepressants are used to help diminish sexual desire. Behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation training can help manage sexual urges and redirect thoughts to learn appropriate ways to manage inappropriate sexual impulses and behaviors.
American Psychiatric Association. Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5. 2015. American Psychiatric Publishing.
Frotteurism. SexInfoOnline. University of California, Santa Barbara. Updated 3 Apr 2014. Accessed 13 Jul 2017.
Patra APP, Bharadwaj B, Shaha KK, et al. Impulsive frotteurism: A case report. Medicine, Science and the Law. August 8, 2013;53(4):235-238
Mark Griffiths, PhD. Wordpress. Rubbing someone up the wrong way: A beginner’s guide to frotteurism.
Last reviewed 09/28/2017