Wanted: the Tickler, for Frotteurism

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The Article: Wanted: The Tickler, for Frotteurism
Written & Compiled by: Tawne Bachus
Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved


The “Boston Tickler’s” Rise to Infamy:

Wanted: Tickler

According to Boston.com, the original “Boston Tickler” story ran in October 2013. This story reported an eye witness account by a Junior at Boston College named Teddy Raddell. He reported being jolted out of sleep by a roommate who went frantically yelling and running out of their bed room and down the stairs at approximately 5 am one Sunday morning. This roommate was chasing a complete stranger, who he said had been touching his feet, while he was sleeping.

The assailant got away. Like all other victims, these students reported that nothing was stolen.

How did he get his name?

Boston.com originally called him “the Tickler”. Barstool sports tried the “Ticklemonster”. Jon Stewart referred to him as the “Boston Weirdo”.

Then on May 27, 2014, Boston.com broke the story wide open with an article that immediately began gaining social media traction. Within about 24 hours after this story, traffic on Twitter, Buzzfeed and the Washington Times began to gravitate toward the name the “Boston Tickler”.

It is believed that this was the name that stuck because of its similarity to the more lethal serial criminal, the “Boston Strangler”, who murdered 13 women in and near Boston, MA, in the early 1960’s (pictured online). The Boston Strangler’s real name was Albert DeSalvo. His victims ranged in ages from 19 to 85 years of age. The average of of his victims: 50 years old. His first 6 victims were over 55 years of age. He earned his nickname because he sexually assaulted his victims and then killed them by strangulation.

As a calling card, he left nylon stockings at the scene of 7 of the 13 victims. On October 27, 1964, a stranger entered a young woman’s home posing as a detective. He tied the victim to her bed, sexually assaulted her, and then suddenly left, saying “I’m sorry” as he went. The woman’s description of her attacker led police to identify the assailant as Albert DeSalvo.

DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967. In February of that year, he escaped with two fellow inmates from Bridgewater State Hospital, triggering a full scale manhunt. A note was found on his bunk addressed to the superintendent. In it, DeSalvo stated that he had escaped to focus attention on the conditions in the hospital and his own situation, but the next day he gave himself up. Following the escape he was transferred to the maximum security Walpole State Prison where, six years later, he was found stabbed to death in the infirmary (similar to a clinic or a hospital). His killer or killers were never identified. (4)

Boston Strangler in Suit Boston Strangler Mugshot

Switching gears to modern times, In a May 27th, 2014 article, buzzfeed.com reported that the Boston Tickler had struck at least 10 times in the Chestnut Hill, MA area.

However, by that time, Boston College students had already been reporting Boston Tickler attacks for approximately 2 years. Initial reports described him as being a 5’8” tall, black male in dark clothing wearing a hoodie. Some of these students also reported that they had seen this man watching them (aka voyeurism) through a window while they were having sex.

The Boston Tickler

Sgt. Michael O’Hara commented on this case saying “You don’t know what this guy is going to do or if he has a weapon. You need to lock your doors. It’s not as safe as you think.” (5)

By now, the police had plenty of time to construct a profile of the Boston Tickler. We assume that some of the items on this profile had to include the following:

  • He is targeting college aged men.
  • He “attacks” in the early morning hours (I believe like 3 am – 5 or 6 am).
  • He doesn’t seem to have a lot of fear. He appears to have no problem attacking people living with roommates, who are also home at the time of the attack (and that’s kind of crazy to me).
  • He seems to attack upstairs (I read several news stories that included a detail about him fleeing downstairs to leave the home).
  • He doesn’t appear to carry a weapon.
  • He doesn’t appear to steal anything.
  • He’s entering homes through unlocked doors and often the front door.
  • And of course, his physical features, as described earlier.

On Wednesday morning of June 11th, 2014, wcvb.com (“Boston’s News Leader”) broke a new story about the Boston Tickler. Apparently he had broken into 3 homes the day before the story was published.

  • The first attack occurred at 3:50 am (6)
  • In one of these attacks, another college-aged male living with roommates, reported being woken up to a man hunched over his feet. David Master, a roommate in the house, woke up to the screams of the victim. The Boston Tickler then easily began to flee from the scene.

At the time this June 11th story broke, another victim came forward and reported an attack one week before these three attacks. This victim lived in an off-campus house. There were also no comments about this victim having any roommates. However, he said he woke up to a man wearing a ski-mask. He also said that as soon as he made eye-contact with the Boston Tickler, he ran downstairs and out the door. (7)

What makes the Boston Tickler tickle? A glimpse into frotteurism:


First, we’ll examine the literal definition, as per the Webster Marian Dictionary (merrian-webster.com):

  • frot•teur•ism noun \-ˌiz-əm\The paraphiliac practice of achieving sexual stimulation or orgasm by touching and rubbing against a person without the person’s consent and usually in a public place—called also frottage.
  • para•phil•ia noun \-ˈfil-ē-ə\: a pattern of recurring sexually arousing mental imagery or behavior that involves unusual and especially socially unacceptable sexual practices.

Second, according to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) a person has Frotteurism (pgs. 691-694) if that person:

  • Over a period of at least 6 months, has recurrent and intense sexual arousal from touching or rubbing against a non-consenting person, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
  • has acted on these sexual urges with a non-consenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • The Basics:
      • Frotteurism was first recognized as a specific paraphilia in the revised third edition of revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R). The DSM-III was published in 1980 and was revised in 1987. It described 265 diagnostic categories in 494 pages.
      • Sidenote: The origins of the DSM date back to 1840, when the government wanted to collect data on mental illness. The term “idiocy/insanity” appeared in that year’s census. By the 1880 census, seven categories of mental health were distinguished: mania, melancholia, monomania, paresis, dementia, dipsomania, and epilepsy.
      • Sidenote: the DSM-I was published in 1952 and featured a description of 106 disorders.
      • Sidenote: The DSM-II was published in 1968 and featured 182 disorders.
      • Sidenote: the DSM-III-R from 1987, contained 292 diagnostic categories in 567 pages.
      • Sidenote: The DSM-IV was published in 1994 and listed 297 disorders in 886 pages.
      • Sidenote: The DSM-V was published in 2013 and contains 947 pages.
      • Sidenote: A new DSM is released once every 10.3 years on average, including 5 DMS’s and 1 DMS III Revision (2014 – 1952 = 62 / 6 = 10.3).
  • May occur in up to 30% of the general adult male population.
  • There appear to be substantially fewer females with frotteuristic sexual preferences than males.
  • Most perpetrators are males aged 15-25 years, but Frotteurism has also been noted to be common among older, shy, socially or sexually inhibited individuals. (1)
  • The vast majority of victims are females. (1)
  • 10-14% of adult males observed in outpatient settings exhibited Frotteuristic behavior.
  • Most males report becoming aware of their sexual interests in “surreptitiously (secretly) touching unsuspecting persons during late adolescence or emerging adulthood.
  • This activity is often done in circumstances where the victim cannot easily respond, in a public place such as a crowded train or concert.

People with frotteurism may hold a vast number of jobs, specifically however in 2002, a Doctor named Martin McDonald began a small crime spree (11).
Dr. McDonald

  • He was practicing medicine in Poplar Bluff, MO with 2010 population of 17,023.
  • In 2002, he was formally charged and placed on a seven-year probationary period for providing 4,000 Xanax tablets to his office manager for extracurricular use.
  • In 2005, he was given an additional 10 years of probation for improper relations with a patient for performing unnecessary and inappropriate breast exams.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that McDonald told the State Board of Registration for Healing Arts that he was a diagnosed frotteur.
  • Shockingly, the Board didn’t suspend his license but just extended his probation until 2017 and made a mandatory suggestion that he seeks mental health assistance from a certified health care practitioner.
  • Following this lack of action by the Board, McDonald was released to fondle 6 more women in 2 different Missouri counties.

Although there is no minimum age for the diagnosis, frotteuristic disorder can be difficult to differentiate from conduct-disordered behavior without sexual motivation in individuals at younger ages. So to properly identify frotteurism (especially in younger people), observations must be made over time.

Frotteuristic disorder, by definition, requires one or more contributing factors that may change over time with or without treatment:

  • Subjective distress (e.g., guilt, shame, intense sexual frustration, loneliness).
  • Psychiatric morbidity. Psychiatric morbidity generally refers to the incidence of both physical and psychological deterioration as a result of a mental or psychological condition. The term usually applies to those who are acutely aware of their condition, despite the mental deterioration.
  • Hypersexuality and sexual impulsivity.
  • Psychosocial impairment, often marked by severe depression and substantial and persistent functional impairment.
  • The propensity to act out sexually by touching or rubbing against non-consenting persons.
  • The course of frotteuristic disorder is likely to vary with age. As with other sexual preferences, advancing age may be associated with decreasing frotteuristic sexual preferences and behavior.

Causes of Frotteurism:

The causal relationship to frotteurism is uncertain and the specificity unclear, however a few theories do exist (10):

  • Social incompetence hypotheses speculates that frotteurism arises because of certain psychological disturbances (e.g., extreme shyness, mental retardation, psychopathology, etc.) that lead to social incompetence, and therefore limit access to consenting partners. Negative childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, may have led to the development of the sexual disorder.
  • Sex drive hypotheses speculates that frotteurism arises because of high sex drives and/or the inability to control sex drives.
      • Differences in the brain of a frotteur exist that cause a lack of impulse control.
      • Random Arousing Bump: An incident occurred in which the individual accidentally rubbed up against someone in a crowded area and became aroused, thus causing such an activity to become a conditioned stimulus for sexual arousal.
  • In summarizing Lussier and Piche’s main argument (more on them later), Dr. Niklas Langstrom said in a 2010 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior that “frotteurism is strongly reinforced behaviorally by immediate sexual gratification with very little cost and investment (albeit at the expense of another person)”.

Can Someone with Frotteurism get Treatment? (1)

Some with Frotteurism can get help through a few different avenues:

  • Psychotherapy: treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider. During psychotherapy, one hopes to learn about their condition and moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors, how to take control of one’s life and respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills.
  • Behavior Therapy: the frotteur must learn to control the impulse to touch nonconsenting victims. Medroxyprogesterone acetate, a predominantly female hormone, is sometimes prescribed to decrease sexual desire.
  • Those who engage in frotteurism may want to consider seeking out communities and individuals who are willing to engage in frotteuristic roleplay scenarios or games like “Edgar Rice Frotteur”, previously called the “Awkward Tarzan Griding Game” (explained in the Games section below).
  • Comorbidity (conditions occurring with frotteurism): hypersexuality and other paraphilic disorders, particularly exhibitionistic disorder and voyeuristic disorder. As well as, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.
      • one study by Dr. Kurt Freund and colleagues on 144 frotteurs found that 68% also had at least one other paraphilic behaviour (with exhibitionism and voyeurism being the most common).
      • Another 1991 study of 60 men published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Dr. T. Templeman and Dr. R. Stinnet reported similar results. (10)

And, while we are on this subject, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health republished a study that was originally completed and published in a December 30, 2006 issue of an international, multidisciplinary journal titled the “Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry”. This article reported that certain drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease induced the development of frotteurism. Specifically, this study reported the case of a 51 year old male with Parkinson’s Disease, who began taking “dopaminergic” drugs for Parkinson’s Disease and developed frotteurism, according to neurologists, only because of these drugs. In addition to frotteurism, this 51 year old also developed “delusional jealousy”. Evidentially, the patient presented “abnormal” deteriorative mild motor impairment and additional lack of or negligible cognitive function, thus providing evidence that these disorders were not typical of advanced Parkinson’s Disease. As a result, Pergolide was reduced and Quetiapine, an atypical neuroleptic, was introduced with subsequent subsiding of the paraphilic disorder and improvement of delusional jealousy. (9)

The Evolution of Frotteurism:

The term “frotteurism” comes from the French verb “frotter,” meaning “to rub.” Originally, frotteurism was also known as “frottage”.

“Toucherism” is a term closely related to frotteurism. These terms are effectively interchangeable—the only minor difference being that “toucherism” refers specifically to hands-on groping acts and fantasies, while “frotteurism” refers to both hands-on and hands-off acts and fantasies.

A person who suffers from frotteurism is known as a “frotteur”.

Frotteurism is particularly common in Japan, where it is known as “chikan” and is regarded as a public safety problem, as it occurs on crowded trains, buses, elevators and at bike stands. (2)

Similarly, a research study including 459 undergraduate college students in a major U.S. metropolitan city was conducted on frotteurism and concluded that it most often occurs in places related to public transportation (buses, trains and subways, for example). (3)

Impact on Society (Who’s doing it and how many victims are there?):

Much of the academic and clinical research on frotteurism has been conducted on individual case studies, most of which identified the frotteur as a pathological opportunist.

Definition: path•o•log•i•calˌ paTHəˈläjikəl/ (adjective)

  1. involving, caused by, or of the nature of a physical or mental disease.
  2. compulsive; obsessive.

As well, a large amount of the research conducted on frotteurism, has been completed on people while they were incarcerated, which may have an impact on the study results.

That being said, two professional criminologist, Dr. Patrick Lussier and Dr. Lynn Piche, reported the following statistics about the prevalence of frotteurism in children and adults, in a 2008 book (10):

  • Non-clinical samples of children: Between 4% and 10% of US children commit activities of frottage, while between 6% and 8% have touched others’ sexual parts. There may be cultural differences, as rates of sexual touching in Swedish children (aged 3 to 6 years) were as high as 25%.
  • Clinical samples of children and adolescents: Between 26 and 46% of sexually victimized children have committed acts of sexual touching with between 22% and 34% having committed acts of frottage. Between 6% and 19% of juvenile sex offenders have a history of sexual touching or frotteurism against a non-consenting partner.
  • Non-clinical samples of adults: Based on some fairly large-scale surveys, approximately 30% of the general population of adult men has committed at least one act of frotteurism.
  • Clinical samples of adults: Based on a number of studies comprising various paraphilias and paraphilia-related behaviours, approximately 10% have committed acts of frotteurism.
  • Editor’s Note: I find it interesting that in the studies done on adults, the percentage of people committing frotteurism dropped dramatically from the Non-Clinical to the Clinical results. Is this simply because the adults knew they were being watched?
  • A 1987 study by Dr. Gene Abel and his colleagues published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, found that their sample of 62 frotteurs had a mean (the average your used to, where you add up all the numbers and then divide by the total number of numbers) of 849 acts of frotteurism but a median (the single middle value in a list of values) of only 29. This means that the 31st person on this list, had committed only 29 acts of frotteurism.
  • A 1993 study by Dr. J.A. Shaw and colleagues published in the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law reported that of the 25 juvenile sex offenders they examined: 15 acts of frottage had been committed, for a mean number of about 0.6 acts per sex offender.
  • A later 2001 study also published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence by Dr. S.C. Zolondek and colleagues included about 80 frotteurs. They reported that the mean number of victims as 9 and the mean number of acts as 15.

Frotteurism in Modern Pop-Culture:

To be quite frank, it was extremely difficult to find examples of frotteurism anywhere.

Movies About Frotteurism:

The list of movies about “Frotteurism” is apparently limited to 3 films (please correct me on this by emailing customercare@radio3way.com).

Each of these films is old and French, but none were actually related to our subject, resulting in a short list of movies that are lost in the translation somewhere. Perhaps, the use of the word frotteurism declined in the original French language as a new use for it emerged in the English language. It would be logical to conclude that the French may not have wanted their use of this word to be confused with the newer and rapidly growing, darker English version. As mentioned early, in this article, the term “frotteurism” comes from the French verb “frotter,” meaning “to rub.” In context of use, the French term appears to be applied only to situations involving the cleaning of inanimate objects, like windows.

That being said, here is the short list of films about “frotteurism”:

  • Le frotteur (1907): a short film about the World’s worse cleaning man. Youtube has an excerpt from this film at http://youtu.be/cLvO9gFh67M.
  • Le mariage du frotteur (1914): a short film aka “the Marriage of a Cleaner”.
  • Le jour du frotteur (1932): aka “Day of the Wiper/Cleaner”.

To make a long story short, if you would like to see movies or videos that show frotteurism, as it relates to our subject, YouTube is probably your best option. I watched quite a few videos shot on phones that had plenty of older gentleman in public rubbing on innocent bystanders, mostly women, who looked shocked and horrified… especially those who looked down to see someone’s chubby friend poking at them through their pants.

Games Container or Permitting Frotteurism:

Edgar Rice Frotteur (8) was designer & developed by Adam Henriksson (from Sweden) with Thomas Perl, Johann Sebastian Joust creator: Doug Wilson, and Proteus musician: David Kanaga. They created this game at the 2012 Nordic Game Jam. It is played over a 48 hour period and was originally titled “the Awkward Tarzan Grinding Game”.

The Game is played with a slew of PlayStation Move controllers, all precariously hung with long rope from the ceiling. Each controller glows with a particular color (blue, green, yellow, red and clear). The rules stipulated that all players must be hanging on to two like-colored “vines” at any given moment and the object is to corner other players into tangled positions where it was impossible for them to move (pictures and video online).

PlayStation Move ControllerPlayStation Move Controller

On a sidenote, the Nordic Game Jam is online at nordicgamejam.org. Unfortunately we missed this one this year too, just as we missed the IG Nobel Prizes mentioned in our first podcast on Necrophilia. In 2014, the Nordic Game Jam was held from February 14th – 16th, at Aalborg University in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their logo is a picture of a globe with a Viking helmet with horns.
Nordic Game Jam

  • It cost 250 Krones or $45.50 USD to be a participant
  • It costs 5 Krones or $0.91 USD to go and just watch
  • It is one of the biggest game expos in Europe with over 45,000 convention attendees (editor’s note: comicon 2014 in Phoenix, AZ had 78,000 attendees (according to Wikipedia, but local news outlets reported this number over 90,000 attendees).
  • Presentations of the latest games and best hardware
  • Gaming tournaments
  • Retro Gaming Zones
  • And, of course, the “Game Jam,” where people get together and create new games
  • For more information in English, please visit: http://ztg.pl/invade-poland
  • A copy of their logo is directly below…

The subject in Fashion:

Finding information on this subject in fashion, was just as difficult as finding information in the other areas of pop culture, but if you happen to want “unofficial” Boston Tickler merchandise visit Campus Teez.

They created “Wanted” t-shirts that have a picture of Elmo, wearing a ski mask (pictured online).

They’re on sale for $18 and at the time this article was beginning to be written (July 6th, 2014), 122 people had marked that they were attending the Facebook presale event and 122 x $18 = $2,196 …not too bad.

Tickle Me Elmo T-Shirt

Humor Related to Frotteurism:

Riddle #1:

  • Q: What is the best way to deal with frotteurs?
  • A: Sand paper pants

Riddle #2:

  • Q: What’s about six inches long and produces a white, frothy substance when rubbed back and forth and in and out?
  • A: A toothbrush.

Mock “Wanted” Poster:

Wanted: Tickler

Works Cited:
(1) http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/frotteurism
(2) http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/frotteurism
(3) “Sexual abuse : a journal of research and treatment”: 2014 Mar 4 pg by Clark SK, Jeglic EL, Calkins C, Tatar JR. PubMed ID: 24598839 (http://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/24598839/More_Than_a_Nuisance:_The_Prevalence_and_Consequences_of_Frotteurism_and_Exhibitionism_)
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Strangler
(5) http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/a-serial-tickler-is-breaking-into-boston-homes-and-terrorizi
(6) http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/10/the-boston-tickler-strikes-again
(7) http://www.wcvb.com/news/serial-tickler-targeting-men-in-brighton/26430364#!9ruZr
(8) http://venuspatrol.com/2012/10/off-the-vine-a-closer-look-at-awkward-grinding-game-edgar-rice-frotteur
(9) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16904253. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Dec 30;30(8):1539-41. Epub 2006 Aug 9. “Hypersexual behaviour, frotteurism and delusional jealousy in a young parkinsonian patient during dopaminergic therapy with pergolide: A rare case of iatrogenic paraphilia.” By Cannas A1, Solla P, Floris G, Tacconi P, Loi D, Marcia E, Marrosu MG. PMID: 16904253.
(10) http://drmarkgriffiths.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/rubbing-someone-up-the-wrong-way-a-beginners-guide-to-frotteurism – “Rubbing someone up the wrong way: A beginner’s guide to frotteurism” by Dr. Mark Griffiths. Posted August 10, 2014.
(11) The Pitch Blogs. “Dr. Martin McDonald, diagnosed frotteur, is accused of fondling 12 unwilling breasts.” By Mandy Oaklander on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 4:18 PM. http://www.pitch.com/FastPitch/archives/2011/01/03/dr- martin-mcdonald-diagnosed-frotteur-is-accused-of-fondling-12-unwilling-breasts.

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