Is Frottage (Dry Humping) Considered Safe Sex?

Benefits and Potential Risks of Sexual Rubbing

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Frottage is the technical term for "dry humping." It is defined as sexual activity in which people rub their bodies against each other without penetration. It can be performed either naked or fully clothed and is not the same thing as masturbation which involves the manual stimulation of the genitals.

As such, frottage may or may not involve skin-to-skin contact. With that being said, dry humping can sometimes expose you to bodily fluids, including vaginal secretions and pre-seminal fluid ("pre-cum"), as well as potentially infectious sores, warts, or lesions.

While the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is less than with other forms of sex, that doesn't necessarily mean you have nothing to worry about.

Purpose

Frottage is a common sexual activity used by adults and adolescents alike. It can be used as foreplay or a form of safer sex. Depending on one's cultural or personal beliefs, frottage is sometimes seen to provide sexual relief without compromising one's virginity.

Frottage is often used as an introduction to sex in younger people who are not ready to "go all the way" or fear an unintended pregnancy.

Frottage doesn't involve penetration or even genital stimulation in some cases. Therefore, some people may not consider it to be "real sex." It all depends on one's definition of sex.

Possible Risks

When performed fully clothed, frottage is a very safe form of sexual contact. With the exception of kissing, there is no exchange of bodily fluids and only minimal skin-to-skin contact.

Frottage performed naked does increase the risk of certain STDs. These are ones in which an infection is passed through contact with skin and or body hair. Examples include

Generally speaking, you cannot pass chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis, or trichomoniasis by dry humping. There are few, if any, documented cases of this occurring.

By the strictest of definitions, frottage does not involve fingering or masturbation. Rather than directly stimulating the genitals, frottage infers the rubbing of the body more generally to achieve arousal and orgasm.

Forms of Frottage

A similar sexual act, often used by lesbians, is called tribadism. It involves the rubbing of the vulva against a leg or other body part for sexual stimulation. Tribadism is generally performed naked and, as such, may facilitate infection with HPV, crabs, or molluscum contagiosum.

Among gay or bisexual men, "frot" is a practice in which erect penises are rubbed together. The practice (also known as the "Princeton rub") can be considered a form of frottage if no hands are used. It can be practiced fully clothed but generally infers skin-to-skin genital contact.

Intercrural sex involves at least one male partner who thrusts his penis between his partner's thighs for sexual pleasure. The partner may be clothed or unclothed.

When performed undressed, frot and intercrural sex both pose the same theoretic risk of infection as tribadism.

Non-Consensual Frottage

Frottage can sometimes be used as a form of sexual assault. Inappropriate and unwanted sexual rubbing has long been described in medical literature as frotteurism and is considered to be a form of paraphilia (sexual arousing disorder).

A desire for non-consensual frottage is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as frotteuristic disorder (FD). It can be diagnosed when there are recurrent and intense sexual fantasies about rubbing one's genitals up against another in a sexual manner without their consent.

By definition, FD must persist for no less than six months and interfere with the person's well-being, relationships, or safety (as well as the safety of others). FD is not the same thing as consensual frottage, which is a normal and healthy means of sexual expression.

A Word From Verywell

Despite the potential risks, frottage is still much safer than vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If frottage is being used to prevent STDs, you can make it even safer by covering the genitals or any sores, abrasions, cuts, or lesions on the skin. This may include wearing underwear or placing adhesive bandages over unexplained bumps or sores. 

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