Frotteurism is a sexual disorder which includes rubbing against non-consenting adults to reach sexual gratification. According to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Frotteurism falls under paraphilias which are objects, situation and/ or individuals that are beyond normative standards that are used to gain sexual arousal. Prevalence of Frotteurism and other paraphilias is not identified wholly, mainly due to people not recognizing them as problems and even if they do, are reluctant to speak about them. However, many sex offenders are likely to show traits of one or more paraphilias, frotteurism being one of the most common.
A person who engages in frotteurism is a frotteur and could have heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual interests. Many sexual disorders exist among men, but female frotteurs are not uncommon. The diagnostic definition of frotteurism clearly states that the encounter should be with an unsuspecting or non-consenting adult; if frotteurism involves a child, it is considered as child abuse. Frotteurism most commonly occurs in public places such as crowded public transport areas and large crowd gatherings such as public concerts, where the frotteur knows that his or her intentions cannot be easily identified.
Symptoms and Types
The most common from of frotteurism includes rubbing one’s genitals over the clothing or body of the victim, but it could also involve rubbing oneself against the genitals or body parts of the victim. Either way frotteurism is considered as sexual assault and the offender if, identified may be entitled for legal penalties and psychiatric treatment according to the degree of the problem.
The symptoms of frotteurism include;
- recurrent sexual arousal and fantasies related to touching or rubbing a non-suspecting person
- impairment of day-to-day functions of the frotteur due to paraphillic sexual needs
It is important to note that paraphilias can exist along with normative sexual needs and are also highly culture bound. For instance, fetishes in some cultures are not considered abnormal. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identifies the condition as a psychological disorder only if these recurrent and instance desires to conduct frotteurism lasts for over six months continuously.
The causes of frotteurism are not systematically identified, mainly because proper statistics about frotteurs don’t exist. However, one of the main reasons for initial frotteurism-related desires is gaining sexual arousal and satisfaction through accidental rubbing. In other words, a person who experiences sexual fulfillment through an accidental rubbing against a non-consenting or unsuspecting individual may continue to do this. However, the correlation between the occurrences is highly subjective. It is also a known fact that victims of sexual misconduct are likely to develop non-normative sexual behaviors in comparison to those who have not had any such experiences.
Even though modeling can cause frotteurism or other paraphilias, it is also likely that those who grow up with many sexual constraints may develop such desires too. The mere fact of people not being able to express sexuality openly can lead to gaining of satisfaction through indirect means. Others who lack access to sexual encounters may go on to obtaining gratification through such means.
Frotteurism clearly causes discomfort to victims, but usually no physical harm. Delinquency can be aroused when frotteurs are pinpointed. Cases where cutting, shooting, and beating or other forms of physical violence directed against the victims are not rare. However, since such behaviors most likely occur in public places, the victims have support around them.
Like mentioned, most people who engage in frotteurism stay well away from counseling centers and psychiatrists. Most who come for treatments do so either because they know it’s a criminal act or because they are embarrassed about their desires. Thus, treating those who do seek help of psychologists is easy. Some of the common treatment methods for frotteurism are discussed below.
Diagnosis and Tests
An individual is diagnosed as suffering from Frotteurism only if he or she displays the above symptoms for at least six months continuously. In addition, the person should act out of paraphillic desires. In other words, if one manages to suppress their desire for frotteurism, he or she cannot be diagnosed as suffering from this mental condition.
Treatment Options and Care
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of therapy for frotteurism and other paraphilias. Teaching how to control their unusual sexual desires and teaching techniques of identifying and altering distorted thinking patters is what CBT does. Convert sensitization, pairing an unpleasant experience with the sexual desire is also effective, but not as much as teaching the client to convert harmful sexual desires to healthy ones. Other common and easy-to-follow behavioral practices include asking the client to engage in non-sexual and harmless acts whenever the frotteurism desire arises in their minds. Chewing gum, listening to music, etc helps sufferers to pass the paraphilic phase, while seasoning their minds gradually to getting used to living without such desires.
Orgasmic reconditioning is also an effective treatment for frotteurism, where the client is asked to focus on more socially acceptable things when they are about to reach an orgasm. Gradual conditioning of their minds would lead them to let the unusual desires go as a whole, so that they can engage in healthy sexual activity without distress. Another common belief is that people who lack social contact and healthy relationships tend to develop paraphilias. Thus, teaching them social skills is also a part of psychotherapy. Some skills taught include conversation skills, skills needed to develop intimate relationships, assertive skill training and skills needed to carry oneself in a social situation. Sex education is usually a part of all therapy that deals with sexual disorders.
The 12-step program is a hybrid of the above forms of psychotherapy. group therapy is also known to be effective in treating frotteurism. Medications usually consisting of antidepressants used for alleviating stress aroused due to the sexual desires. Long-acting Gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH, medical castration), Antiandrogens, Phenothiazine and mood stabilizers are also often used. So long as others around them abstain from stigmatizing those with unusual sexual desires, people with such difficulties of social adjustment can seek treatment and lead fulfilling ‘normal’ lives.