I speak French. I know what the French word “frotter” means. There are only two well-documented qualities known world-wide to instantaneously persuade any and all American babes to “drop-trou” lickity-split: (1) proven employment as an Air Force fighter pilot and (2) the ability to speak French. I’m not a pilot. But I can honestly report that – combined with just a tad of naivety from your mark – that second skill works wickedly well… as advertised. That said, I’ll save y’all a couple of unnecessary translator clicks: “frotter” means “to rub.” As we tradition-minded Americans often do, we’ve bastardized it’s derivations to include: “Frottage” and “Frotteur,” meaning: rubbing and one who rubs, respectively. Now look… I know what you’re thinking. Being a “rubber” is not a crime and has never significantly hurt anybody really. Occasional chafing and eye irritation? Maybe so, for the completely careless – sure. I’ve never known anyone who could prove they’re not indeed even part-time “rubbers” themselves. In fact Masters & Johnson long ago provided key statistics and evidence as to how it can actually contribute to one feeling – umm – self-fulfilled. But today, we’re not talking about that kind of rubbage. I’m here to lay the smack down on something far more dastardly, underhanded and downright illegal – Frottage.
First off, let’s clear the air. Some of you may be tempted to associate Frottage with another well-loved, time-tested game of Grab-ass. I mean, what dude (and occasional lady) in his right mind doesn’t love a random tush squeeze. You get what I’m saying? Grab-ass and Frottage, though sharing similarities, have a very, very clear distinction. Grab-ass just about always involves someone you know and are somewhat intimately familiar with. A good unprovoked butt-squeeze probably won’t be perceived as ill-willed, nor inspire a violent reaction or call to the Po-Po. On the contrary, Frottage, is the act of an uninvited, unprovoked, sneaky-Pete cop-a-feel of a total stranger. Folks who toe the line of getting the absolute smack beat out of them by engaging in this type of behavior are by and large, older’ish (30 and over) men. In 42 years of life in NYC, and a career in bartending spanning two decades, I’ve yet to see a female Frotteur.
In my opinion, Frotteurs are some of the lowest scum on the planet. It would not surprise me in the least, if a significant percentage of these same dudes didn’t have darker secrets lurking. When I see them doing their “thing” in public, I envision them as living in some dark, dank, S&M gear and porn-filled apartment, potentially responsible for far more heinous crimes as a side business (read: sexual harassment, stalking, assault, rape, battery, making body part soup, etc.). All of the guys I’ve witnessed taking part in Frottage are not destitute in the slightest. Rather, they appear to have gone out of their way to blend in; dressing exceptionally well, shaving, and otherwise looking like a productive society member. That’s part of the gag I guess.
So you may be asking yourself: what the hell does this have to do with bartending? Answer: everything. Frottage is no only the domain of uber-crowded NYC and Tokyo subways as is sometimes reported in mainstream media. Frottage happens frequently in bars people. The sickest part is that the (overwhelmingly female) victims are beyond clueless that these guys are copping free feels. Victims simply go about their business, drinking, laughing, storytelling, and otherwise doing what it is guests do at bars. Meanwhile, in Creepville, their all-too-close assailants are methodically moving a random finger, thigh, shoulder, or even a straight-up hand towards their private parts. The ease with which douchebags get away with this gross violation often grows in proportion to how crowded and loud a bar happens to be. However, I’ve seen the occasional creep pull this stunt with only 3 or 4 guests at a bar.
Frotteurs’ profiles’ and behavior are eerily similar and easy to spot (at least by me). As mentioned, these guys will make every effort to appear “normal” and avoid suspicion. They’ll greet you, cash in hand, order a simple cocktail, and usucally tip very well, in order to “buy out” leverage from the bartender. As a barkeep, you’re not going to want to 86 someone who’s bringing in revenue as well as stoking your tip jar are you? It depends I guess. Their M.O. is to pull up a stool or empty crevice next to a good looking girl who almost always happens to be engaged in conversation with someone else (in other words, distracted). Taking this a bit further, the victim’s friends – shockingly – are nary aware of what is taking place either! This is really, really surprising here in NYC where just about everyone is constantly on the defensive.
Frotteurs aren’t after direct conversation or “traditionally” winning a girl over. No. These dudes are creeps. I’m not a psychologist in the slightest. But, I’ve witnessed this activity enough times to tell you that underhanded contact is how they prefer to get their thrills.
Finally, my biggest beef. Far and away, what bugs me the most about Frottage is Hospitality Management traditions. On many occasions, I’ve witnessed ill-gotten feels and have alerted both Security and Management as to what is going on, and requested that these criminals be ejected. What makes me boil is that most times, both Security and Management are hesitant to to do so as they fear losing business. Yes, you read correctly. I have experienced first-hand, how Management (a) claim to doubt my report (b) watch exactly what I’m watching yet claim it’s not happening and (c) walk away from a Frottage-in-progress without taking any action. Go figure.
I did once tend bar for many years at an extremely popular bar in Union Square (which shall remain nameless) which was haunted by a short, bald, white, businessman Frotteur. He went about his creepy business for quite a while. Upon my alerting the manager, the on-duty boss watched, waited and eventually saw the violation. I have to say it was quite amusing my good old manager physically pick this guy up and literately throw him to the curb. The strangest thing about that particular guy was that he was met with the same reaction not one year later. He’s a habitual line stepper who will perhaps learn his lesson only when some girl’s boyfriend sends him to the hospital.
I tell every bartender I work with… your greatest asset is your awareness of everyone and everything going on around you.