Frotteuristic Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

In today's article, we'll talk about frotteurism, a sexual disorder that seems to primarily affect men.
Frotteuristic Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

Last update: 14 July, 2020

Has someone ever brushed against you with their genitalia in a crowd? Has someone ever tried to rub up against you on a bus? Unfortunately, this type of behavior is very common. It’s called frotteuristic disorder, and it can be very unpleasant or traumatic for its victims.

Frotteurs are individuals who seek sexual pleasure by rubbing their genitalia on other people in a pathological way. Today, we’ll explain the main characteristics of this type of sexual paraphilia and its possible treatments.

Frotteurs look for crowded, busy places so that they’ll go unnoticed.

What’s frotteuristic disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), frotteurism is a paraphilic disorder. Individuals who suffer from these disorders use unusual objects or situations to engage in sexual fantasies, impulses, or behaviors in order to feel pleasure.

In the case of frotteurism, the unusual situation is the action, fantasy, or unstoppable desire to rub themselves on or touch another person without their consentTo qualify as pathological, it has to have been going on for at least six months. The person must also meet these conditions:

  • They act on their desire to rub themselves on or touch another person without their consent.
  • Their sexual fantasies cause clinically significant suffering.
  • The nature of their sexual desire causes problems at work, at home, or in other areas of their life.

The idea of physical contact without the other person’s consent, along with their reaction to the physical contact, is what arouses a frotteur. The bodily areas that usually interest them are those associated with sexuality, such as the genitalia or breasts. Also, they tend to remember these encounters while they masturbate.

Some people holding on to the rail on a bus.

Some of the people who engage in this behavior don’t do so in a compulsive way and it doesn’t cause them significant suffering. They do it every once in a while, and they have other motives to do so. When this behavior isn’t pathological, it isn’t the individual’s primary source of sexual arousal.

It’s important to mention that rubbing on or physical contact with a significant other or involuntary contact with a stranger doesn’t qualify as part of a paraphilic disorderFor it to be considered a pathology, the person has to do it voluntarily and without the other person’s consent. Another condition, as we mentioned above, is that it needs to cause clinically significant suffering or be impediment to a person’s daily life.

Who are frotteurs?

The profile of a frotteur tends to be male, and they typically start this behavior as adolescents. They sometimes show signs of shyness, frustration, or feelings of inferiority. Other important characteristics are:

  • Acting without the other person’s consent.
  • Intense and recurring sexual arousal.
  • Their behavior isn’t part of foreplay.
  • An elevated sexual desire to rub their genitals or touch someone else’s.
  • Seeking out crowds of people in order to go unnoticed.
  • They don’t usually seek help.
  • Their desires and fantasies are involuntary and cause significant suffering.
  • This kind of behavior tends to diminish at age 25.
A crowd of people.


In most cases, people with frotteurism or any other type of paraphilic disorder don’t seek help. If they do, it’s because they feel profoundly guilty.

Different kinds of treatments are available. For example, with cognitive therapy, the therapist evaluates the patient’s beliefs in order to modify them with cognitive restructuring. This type of treatment seeks to discover the meaning the patient gives to their behavior. Also, they need to know what led them there in the first place. In addition, the therapist needs to analyze the patient’s fantasies. In a psychotherapeutic approach, the therapist should emphasize the patient’s legal responsibilities, their relationship with eroticism, and their shyness, among other things.

That being said, the best course of treatment for frotteurism is still up for discussion. Another unanswered question is what causes it. In fact, Scott Johnson and collaborators conducted a study that was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. They reviewed the available research on frotteurism and found very little. Thus, they concluded that a thorough exploration of the subject is crucial to find new answers to these important questions.

In conclusion, it’s important to keep in mind that understanding and being aware of the disorder is absolutely essential for treatment. It’s true that it often goes unnoticed, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause problems. In some places, frotteurism is a crime. As a result, not seeking treatment for frotteuristic disorder could result in serious legal consequences.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Belloch, A., Ramos, F., & Sandín, B. (2010). Manual de psicopatología. McGraw-Hill:Madrid.

  • Johnson, R.S., Ostermeyer, B., Sikes, K.A, Nelsen A.J, &Coverdale, J.H (2014). Prevalence and treatmente of frotteurism in the community: a systematic review. Journal of the American of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 42 (4), 478-483.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.