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Frotteurism is a paraphilia, a disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner, or other non consenting persons.

Understanding Frotteurism

Frotteurism is a sexual disorder in which a person derives sexual pleasure or gratification from rubbing, especially the genitals, against another non-consensual person, typically in a public place such as a crowded train, or in crowded places such as malls, elevators, on busy sidewalks, and on public transportation vehicles. The person being rubbed is a victim.

The term toucherism is sometimes used to describe the closely related condition involving only touching or fondling without rubbing, although it is generally considered to be part of frotteurism.

A person who suffers from frotteurism is known as a frotteur.  Most individuals with this paraphilia are male and in most cases the victims are females.  Frotteurs typically act out their fantasies in crowded places (e.g., public transportation vehicles, busy sidewalks), which allows for escape and allows for the frotteur to claim that the touching was accidental. The frotteur rubs his genital area against the (usually female) victim's thighs or buttocks, or the frotteur fondles a woman's genitalia or breasts with his hands. While committing the act, the offender typically fantasizes about an exclusive, caring relationship with the victim.

Paraphilias and Frotteurism

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), lists the following diagnostic criteria for frotteurism: The person experiences intense, recurrent, sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving touching and rubbing against a nonconsensual person. The person also experiences significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning because of the fantasies, urges, or behaviors, or the patient has acted on the sexual urges. 

The DSM-IV-TR  list of other paraphilias includes:

Exhibitionism:the recurrent urge or behavior to expose one's genitals to an unsuspecting person.

Fetishism: the use of non-sexual or nonliving objects or part of a person's body to gain sexual excitement. Partialism refers to fetishes specifically involving nonsexual parts of the body.

Masochism: the recurrent urge or behavior of wanting to be humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.

Sadism: the recurrent urge or behavior involving acts in which the pain or humiliation of the victim is sexually exciting.

Voyeurism: the recurrent urge or behavior to observe an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or engaging in sexual activities, or may not be sexual in nature at all.

Transvestite fetishism: a sexual attraction towards the clothing of the opposite gender.

Chronophilias such as Infantophilia: the sexual attraction to infants, Pedophilia: the sexual attraction to prepubescent children, Gerontophilia: the sexual attraction to the elderly.

Other paraphilias: includes rarer behaviors such as telephone scatalogia (obscene phone calls), necrophilia (corpses), partualism (exclusive focus on one part of the body), zoophilia (animals), coprophilia (feces), klismaphilia (enemas), urophilia (urine).

For additional "paraphilias", visit the page List of Paraphilias.

Causes of Frotteurism

There is no scientific consensus concerning the cause of frotteurism. The cause of frotteurism, like voyeurism, and exhibitionism, probably depends on the individual and not on any one common characteristic factor. Most experts attribute the behavior to an initially random or accidental touching of another's genitals that the person finds sexually exciting. Successive repetitions of the act tend to reinforce and perpetuate the behavior.

Treatment of Frotteurism

In cases of frotteurism and other paraphilia where significant potential for negative consequences poses a concern, the need for long-term therapy and monitoring must be emphasized.  For treatment to be successful, the frotteur must want to modify existing patterns of behavior. This initial step is difficult for most people with this disorder to take.

Behavior therapy, reality therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are commonly used to try to treat frotteurism. The frotteur must learn to control the impulse to touch non-consenting victims. 

Drugs and hormones are also treatment options.

Additional Information

For more information about frotteurism or other sexual problem, please click on the linked websites listed below and the visit the glossary that is listed after these websites.

 Mind disorders: Frotteurism
 Behavenet capsule on frotteurism

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