Women choosing to 'stamp out' groping on public transport

Published:30 August 2019

A new ‘anti-groping stamp’ aims to combat sexual harassment on crowded trains and public transport.

The fact that Japan’s female commuters have rushed to buy a new ‘anti-groping stamp’ is an indication they feel a need to protect themselves.

That’s according to CQUniversity sexual assault researcher Dr Marika Guggisberg, who was commenting on news that invisible-ink stamps designed to identify gropers on Japanese public transport have sold out in minutes.

The new device aims to combat sexual harassment on crowded trains and public transport. It allows victims to mark their assailants with ink that is invisible until revealed under ultraviolet light.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is on people’s radar, which is a welcome development;  however, in crowded places such as public transport, other people’s personal space is almost inevitably invaded,” Dr Guggisberg says.

“Boundaries and taboos in contemporary society demand attention in relation to this form of sexual harassment.

“Frotteurism (derived from the French word ‘frotter’ = ‘friction) is a form of abnormal sexual expression that is triggered by sexual arousal and fantasies.

“It involves forcible sexual touching or rubbing genitals against someone who does not consent to this behaviour, which results in sexual satisfaction.

“The sexual expression, therefore, is driven rather than accidental. This means that the victim’s human’s rights are violated – they (usually girls and young women) are no willing participant or willing recipient of this behaviour.

“Whilst research is limited, scientific evidence suggests that frotteurism is highly prevalent in contemporary society and that offenders usually have a high number of victims.

“Some may believe that this behaviour is harmless, which has been called a ‘nuisance crime’ it can potentially have adverse consequences for victims who can be traumatised by this experience. High levels of distress due to feelings of violation have been reported.

“What frotteurism definitely demonstrates is an invasion to the victim’s sexual rights. Human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents include the right of all persons to be free of coercion, discrimination and violence in relation to sexuality. People have the right to commute on public transport free of sexual coercion.

“The motivation to protect oneself from frotteurism can be explained by feeling vulnerable and a desire to have agency over the situation, which results in feelings of self-efficacy.”

Dr Guggisberg says psychologist R.W. Rogers developed the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), which includes a cognitive threat appraisal that is followed by specific action – fear increases the motivation to act protectively.

“An indication of women’s needs to protect themselves is that the stamp was sold out so quickly. This device may provide a sense of agency while being a harmless way of communicating ‘back off’ to those men who come too close for comfort, whether the underlying motivation is related to frotteurism or not.”