Frotteurism is characterized by an obsession that involves rubbing parts of the body against unsuspecting and non-consenting people for the purpose of sexual arousal and gratification. The majority of frotteurs are male, and usually this act involves the pelvic area or erect penis. Generally speaking, the act is most often committed under circumstances where the victim does not have the opportunity to respond, and the perpetrator can easily escape, such as a crowded subway, a concert or another busy public place. This activity is considered illegal and can result in prosecution.

Symptoms of Frotteurism

The symptoms of frotteurism are fairly straightforward and basically include the act itself and any interference this condition causes to everyday life. Anyone, male or female, can suffer from this condition, but the most common occurrences initiate with 15 to 25 year-old males. Symptoms and signs to look for if frotteurism is suspected are as follows:

  • Sexually arousing fantasies, urges and behaviors that involve touching and rubbing against an unfamiliar person.
  • Rubbing the pelvic region, penis or other areas of the body against non-consenting persons in public places for the purpose of sexual arousal and gratification.
  • Using the hands to touch an unsuspecting victim in an inappropriate area, such as the breasts, buttocks or genital region.
  • Fantasies during the act that the frotteur is involved in an intimate relationship with the victim.
  • The acts become obsessive, recur and begin to interrupt normal, daily functioning.

Causes of Frotteurism

Like many mental illnesses, the exact cause of frotteurism is not known. The impulse to carry out this behavior generally begins to subside by the age of 30, but has the potential to continue throughout life. Research suggests that this type of behavior can actually begin to manifest by accident when the sufferer accidentally touches a stranger and becomes sexually aroused. Once this effect is realized, the patient may seek out a repeat of the sexual feeling by purposefully engaging in the act of frotteurism. As the patient becomes more comfortable with carrying out these acts, the behavior then becomes reinforced and is perpetuated.

Diagnosis of Frotteurism

People who suffer from frotteurism are not usually inclined to seek professional help for the condition. This may be due to denial, embarrassment, shame or fear of arrest for the behavior. Often, patients are forced to seek help by an order through a court of law once they have been identified as potential frotteurs. A therapist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, will conduct a person-to-person assessment and direct questions regarding behaviors, preference and fantasies involving sexual arousal. It may also be helpful to interview the victim and any persons who may have personally observed the act. If the patient admits to this type of behavior as being the preferred or exclusive means by which he or she reaches sexual gratification, a diagnosis may then be made.

Treatment Options for Frotteurism

While a large majority of people who suffer from frotteurism will never seek or be forced to seek professional help, there are treatments which can help to alleviate symptoms for those who wish to stop this behavior. A female hormone, in the form of a prescription medication, may be recommended to decrease sexual desire until the behavior is corrected. Additionally, therapy options may benefit by teaching the patient to control the impulse to touch people without consent. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often used to help a patient become aware of the debilitating activity by recognizing triggering events which may lead to symptoms. Once aware, methods of prevention and distraction can be exercised to help overcome the behavior.