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home > sex & society > sexual variants > frottage
The term 'frottage' is the French word for 'rubbing'.
It usually refers to men who touch another person, usually a woman, in a public place. For instance, he 'accidentally' presses his body against hers in a crowded bus. A more agressive form is stroking a leg, grabbing buttocks or even breasts, usualy under the influence of alcohol. The man experiences feelings of sexual excitement; the woman often just gets irritated or infuriated. If she calls the police, he can be charged with sexual assault. If he is a first offender he will probably get off with a light sentence, but may be ordered to undergo some sort of therapy for his 'strange' behaviour.
Frottage is universal
Of course, the desire to touch is not strange. Making physical contact, touching, feeling, stroking, are all natural ways of initiating sex and of arousing sexual feelings in both men and women equally.
Before people actually have sex, they first meet. For a shorter or longer time, they send out signals through the way they look, dress, walk, talk, etc. Their 'body' language indicates they are attracted to the other person. If this attraction is mutual and people feel they are compatible, a very subtle and gradual process of making sexual advances takes place. The actual physical contact, the touching, kissing and making love follows as a matter of course.
Frottage and the sexual system
In reality, things don't run this smoothly. People rarely feel mutually attracted to each other in the same way and at the same time. Circumstances and timing are important for a man to overcome a woman's reservations. He wants to make love to her, she sets conditions. In general, a man takes the initiative on the basis of the signals a woman sends out. But she usually sends mixed or contrary signals, and he may think (tell himself) that she is willing when she is not. No need to say that this collision of interests between male and female usually leads to conflict. It has been called 'the war between the sexes'.
Frottage as an obsession
Forbidden or secret sexual behaviour is an important stimulant for most people. Because frottage leads to risky situations, it is very exciting. Fear of detection may combine with strong desire and become what is called an 'obsession'. Certain types of people are inclined to become habitual offenders. Thus, like other sexual variants, the ordinary and common desire to touch may lead to behaviour that is resented and seen as unacceptable by others and by society at large because it is felt to be an invasion of privacy.
Usually, however, no harm is done, and a simple rejection can put an end to it. Sometimes it can even be quite arousing, depending on the way the frotteur goes to work, and the woman may be ready for great sex after she gets off the bus and comes home.
To call the police or have a friend beat up on the 'rapist' is mostly an overreaction which does more harm than good to all involved.
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