By: Carolyn Schmidt
It’s Friday night. Loads of co-eds head to the clubs – imbibing, socializing, flirting, grinding, with those they know and often times with complete strangers; everyone gathered for the sake of celebrating the weekend.
Who knew? That song you love, with the infectious beat (the one you can’t sit still for, no matter how many times you hear it) would soon evoke an “icky” feeling. You see, it was during this song that you experienced an incident with which another clubber erotically rubbed their genitalia against your back and behind. Creating an uncomfortable scenario for you, but a pleasurable one for them.
The scenario depicted above could likely be labelled as Frotteurism by many sexuality experts. Frotteurism is defined as the act of touching or rubbing one’s genitals against the body of a non-consenting, unfamiliar person for the sole benefit of arousal (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Although frotteurs can be both men or women, research indicates that most frotteurs identify as men (Clark, Jeglic, Calkins, & Tatar, 2016).
Frotteurism, also called frottage, is one of the least understood and studied types of paraphilia (Clark et al., 2016). However, some go so far as to suggest this unwanted rubbing is the unassertive and timid “act” of choice by rapists (Horley, 2001). What little research we do have suggests perpetrators of frotteurism assault others in situations that catch the victim off guard, and leave the offender with a clear cut opportunity for quick escape (such as on public transportation modes, in malls and elevators, and on dance floors). The victims are left feeling stunned, ashamed, and unable to say anything to anyone but friends. In fact, they frequently ask themselves “what did I just go through?”
Frotteurism is not a Friday night dance floor maneuver, but rather, a form of sexual assault and punishable by law (Horley, 2001). Frotteurism is rarely reported, leaving the unsuspecting, non-consenting victim to figure out “what do I do next?” It’s impact can leave victims with loads of distress including nightmares, feelings of violation, and even psychological issues requiring medical help (Clark, et al., 2016).
Unless victims speak up about this unacceptable behavior and have their assaulters arrested, then the perpetrators next move is pretty clear: leave the club and get a late night pizza. After all, the perpetrator already finished everything else he/she intended for that evening, right there on your hip.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). Washington, American Psychological Association.
Clark, S. K., Jeglic, E. L., Calkins, C., & Tatar, J. R. (2016). More than a nuisance: the prevalence and consequences of frotteurism and exhibitionism. Sexual Abuse, 28, 3-19.
Horley, J. (2001). Frotteurism: A term in search of an underlying disorder?. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 7, 51-55.