What is Groping?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Jail time is one possible consequence for groping.
Jail time is one possible consequence for groping.

Groping is a form of sexual harassment that typically consists of physical touching of inappropriate areas on another person’s body without his or her consent. This type of touching can be grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit, and may lead to jail time. Though the term can also be used to refer to inappropriate or unnecessary public displays of affection between consenting adults, this type of behavior is more properly termed fondling, as it is wanted by both people involved. Groping is generally considered inappropriate in most cultures, and in some areas has become a major public concern.


Groping includes inappropriate or unwanted touching by another person.
Groping includes inappropriate or unwanted touching by another person.

Though different actions can be considered groping, this type of behavior usually consists of one person touching someone else in a way that is inappropriate and unsolicited. While touching a person who does not wish to be touched is generally considered rude or impolite, groping often involves areas of a person’s body that are considered private or sexual in nature. Touching of women’s breasts, for example, or grabbing of the legs, buttocks, and groin of both men and women is often considered groping.

Role of Consent

Groping a coworker could be grounds for being fired.
Groping a coworker could be grounds for being fired.

The consent of the person being touched is one of the main aspects of groping. If a person being touched is threatened, drunk, asleep, or otherwise unable to consent to the touching, then it is considered illegal. This is true even if the person doing the touching is drunk or not fully in control of his or her actions. Additionally, the person being touched does not have to specifically say that he or she doesn't want to be touched before it happens, especially if the context is clearly non-sexual. If in doubt, it's always better to get explicit consent before touching.

Legal Repercussions

Groping might occur in clubs and similar venues as a sign of attraction.
Groping might occur in clubs and similar venues as a sign of attraction.

The penalties for groping vary by jurisdiction and according to how it is classified. In many areas of the US, it is seen as a type of sexual battery and can be punishable by a fine or jail time. It can be seen as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the area, duration, and type of touching involved. If a person performs other unwanted sexual activities at the same time, like flashing or frotteurism — which involves rubbing against an unconsenting person — he or she will usually face a harsher penalty. This type of behavior can also contribute to a hostile work environment, and most workplaces consider it grounds for dismissal, particularly if done repeatedly.

Social Concern

In several countries, including Japan, Italy, and India, groping is considered a social problem. Women are particularly at risk, but men experience it as well. This type of behavior often happens in crowded areas, like city streets, subways, and trains, and people of certain ages or genders may be targeted, depending on the area. For instance, students are often at risk of being groped on subways in Japan. Countries with this type of problem take a number of measures to discourage it, including public awareness campaigns, gender-specific public transportation cars, and harsh legal penalties.

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Discussion Comments


I think a lot of people are calling things groping when it is not . I was on the NYC train where a woman was acting that people were groping her when they weren't. At the supermarket, a potato chip bag rarely touched a woman's arm, and she called it groping. Yes, there are perverts out there who do that. However, there is a lot of paranoia with those women and women's victim-hood that is happening.


I work for an airline. They allowed my groper to still keep his job by downgrading him. I took it to court and everything. He was found guilty and got probation for a couple of months. He is a pastor for a church. I have never spoken to him outside of our airport and held his hand only in prayer. I give him a hug every now and then because everyone knows he is very touchy borderline.

When he pushed me up against the locker and ground his hips into mine, it felt unreal. It was this old guy! Afterward, I went to management and so many people blamed me. He made up rumors that I was sleeping with him on the side.

It's been almost nine months now. I'm so furious and angry every day. I see him and I want to spit on him and push him down a flight of stairs. I know they will give him back his supervisor's job soon. It makes me sick.


I was groped by a boy and it hurt. I felt really dirty. He did it forcefully but I've never said anything, only to a couple of people because it's not like he raped me or anything.


@DentalFloss- I've heard about that sort of thing, and you're right. While not groping, I think that that sort of preference really is a form of sexual harassment. Especially since I imagine it was a lot easier for the girls who were already treated well to do a good job than those of you who felt under-appreciated.


I have never, thankfully, worked somewhere where there was an issue with groping. However, when I worked in food service in high school, I witnessed another sort of sexual harassment based on looks.

Our supervisor was only 20 when I started working there, and he was very obvious in his preference of girls over boys as employees; furthermore, he showed huge favoritism to the girls who he deemed attractive, of which I was not one- I was about 17 and still at the tail end of the pubescent awkwardness phase.

The girls who showed up, however, with great makeup or who came in on their off-days wearing skimpy outfits and "dropping by" to "say hello" got more, and better hours. They also got raises faster.

While I admit that these girls were good at their jobs, and least some of them were, it was clear to some of us that he didn't give these girls perks based on their work ethics.


@wavy58- I am so glad to hear about an office harassment that was solved. I have known a few people in similarly uncomfortable situations who just never knew quite what to do. They were so familiar with the person doing the harassing, or felt that it might hurt their jobs, that it was hard to do anything at all.


Every woman at my office had at one time or another had problems with a certain supervisor. He thought it a sign of familiarity to walk by and slap them on the butt or gently squeeze their thighs in a meeting. He never did any hardcore groping, and I think this confused the ladies. They didn’t appreciate his displays of “friendliness,” but they didn’t feel they had enough to nail him.

Finally, a new lady became very offended and confronted him right after he touched her. He went into his little speech about just being friendly, and she went straight downtown and filed criminal charges against him.


I hate going to outdoor festivals because of crowd groping. People are so jam-packed that I don’t always know who did it to me, and even if I did, I couldn’t get away.

I went to a music festival in a big park last year, and people had crowded together to see the headliner. It was dark except for the streetlight and stage lights up ahead, and I was encircled by young men. One or more of them kept subtly touching me inappropriately. I tried to squirm my way out to another location, but there just was no room to squeeze through. I had to endure the harassment for the whole show.


Playing it off as an accident probably happens a lot. That’s what happens to me in crowds in the city where I live and work.

Every now and then, I will feel a hand squeeze my butt or leg so gently and then hear a voice say, “Oh, excuse me!” I know that it was intentional, because if it had been an accident, it would have been more of a brush or a swipe rather than a cupping.

I think we must have a gang of subtle gropers on my street! It’s never the same guy, and it seems to happen every few weeks.


Groping occurs pretty frequently in some workplaces, and at times, the victim is treated poorly for telling a superior about it. That’s what happened to a lady in my church.

She used to work at a factory. She never wore revealing clothing or did anything to invite flirtation from any of her coworkers. She was simply a pretty lady surrounded by animalistic men all day.

When more than one of the men began to quickly and abruptly grope her and then say, “Excuse me,” like it had been an accident, she reported it to her supervisor. The main boss called her in and fired her for trying to cause trouble!


@letshearit - I really think that more big cities need to start making public groping more of an issue by creating safe zones in crowded areas.

I had the misfortune of getting groped while exiting a crowded elevator and I was more mad than anything. It is such a violation of your personal space and I hate knowing there are so many perverts out there that can get a way with things like that just because there are so many people around.

How does everyone think cities should go about making crowded areas safer from groping?

I think all cities should have an optional separate train car for women. I also think there should be a an option for women only elevators.


Experiencing unwanted groping can be very traumatic for a person and if this happens to you make sure you tell the authorities. It seems to me that more and more people are suffering from groping incidences on crowded subways, making it especially unsafe for women to travel alone during peek hours.

Interestingly some countries known that groping in a crowded train is a serious problem and they have started by creating women only train cars that run during peek hours and late at night.

When I was visiting Tokyo I found it really novel that they had these protective trains painted in pink and that there was security around at all times. The women only train cars even had marked wait areas just for them. It was really great to see a city taking personal safety so seriously.

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    • Jail time is one possible consequence for groping.
      Jail time is one possible consequence for groping.
    • Groping includes inappropriate or unwanted touching by another person.
      Groping includes inappropriate or unwanted touching by another person.
    • Groping a coworker could be grounds for being fired.
      Groping a coworker could be grounds for being fired.
    • Groping might occur in clubs and similar venues as a sign of attraction.
      Groping might occur in clubs and similar venues as a sign of attraction.