Frottage or frotteurism is rubbing against unknown persons (usually female), often with the clothed penis, for sexual gratification of some kind. Frottage usually involves rubbing the clothed penis against a clothed woman’s leg, buttocks, or pubic region in a public place. Toucheurism is similar but involves full use of the hands on an unknown female’s body, often including the buttocks, legs, crotch, and breasts. Both of these practices usually imply a lack of permission and in this manner are distinguished from activities such as tribadism and “dry humping”. The term frottage is sometimes used to indicate any public rubbing while standing, consentual or not. Indeed some of the sexual fantasy involved in these practices has to do with the fact the victims, usually women, are strangers. The term toucheurism derives from the French toucher meaning touch.
Both frottage and toucheurism are considered sexual deviations or paraphilias (even by the most liberal minds) because they involve violation of personal space and privacy. In most modern societies these practices are punished by law. Psychiatrists have made a clear connection between toucheurism in particular with propensity for sexual aggression including rape. Thus persons, usually men, having a fondness for or record of toucheurism are often carefully watched. Attempts at either frottage or toucheurism in a confined, secluded space is usually classed as attempted rape by law enforcement authorities. For example, a man finding a woman alone using a payphone who attempts to rub against her would usually be subject to more severe charges than one acting so on a crowded subway.
Frottage is not uncommon in young males and is sometimes considered harmless if outgrown towards puberty. There is sometimes an illusion that this activity will please the girl and become consentual. The fact that some popular dances and bar scenes encourage similar contact (thought consentual) may encourage them. Yet older males may practice frottage almost as a hobby – though frottage is rarely their exclusivve form of sexual expression according to studies (Wilson, Glenn. 1987. Variant Sexuality: Research and Theory. Johns Hopkins. Baltimore). Concerts, crowded noisy bars, and rush-hour transportation systems (mainly subways, buses, and trains) are popular locations for this activity. Indeed some devoted practioners of frottage have been known to plan trips on subway trains during specific times when it is most successful for them. These crowded public forums for frottage provide some “cover” because the male may offer a false apology if caught or easily disappear into a dynamic mass of other people. When alcohol is involved such men often claim a sort of clumsiness or exaggerated intoxication to explain their movements. Frottage and toucheurism is also common with mentally defective (ie. Downs syndrome) or socially inadequate (ie. very shy) men.
In crowded buses here in Jamaica many have been heard to give accounts of their experiences being aroused by close contact with other passengers and the bus conductor, if he or she is attractive. The infamous barber shop rub up is also of note where barbers have been known to let their “equipment come to rest on ones shoulder while one is trimmed or shaved and same equipment is known to have risen to the occassion in full attention.
There is a also a rare paraphila (deviant sexuality) which we may term frottophilia for lack of an existing term. It refers to one being aroused by being touched or rubbed by strangers in a public place. While most recipients of frottage or toucheurism do not consent nor enjoy the practice, the occasional person does. We have found reference to teen girls at rock concerts and men in crowded gay bars admitting to enjoyment of the activity by others. It has been described as anonymous, mysterious, and low risk arousal.
SEX ED 601