By Rayni Joan

The first time I experienced being groped in public, I was sitting near the rear exit of a bus in Mexico City. Since I was wearing a full, calf-length skirt, carefully arranged to cover me, I didn't worry about keeping my legs crossed. Knowing I had about a ten or fifteen minute ride ahead of me, I alternately daydreamed and fleshed out my plan for the English classes I was on my way to teach. The bus stopped every couple of blocks, people got on and off, and I paid little attention. Suddenly, to my horror, something was thrust up my skirt, between my legs, and collided with my pubic area. I screamed as I saw the hand come out quickly. It belonged to a strange man who jumped off the bus and ran away as the door closed and the bus accelerated. It happened so fast that his face was a blur in my memory. I felt thoroughly violated. No one around me seemed to notice.

The general meaning of groping is blindly searching around or feeling for something, as in groping for the light switch in the dark. But the sexual meaning of groping has to do with what happened to me on the bus in Mexico, that is, aiming for and rubbing up against a sexual part of another person's body for the explicit purpose of some sort of sexual gratification. Groping is shocking when a stranger does it and it's not particularly pleasant when a lover does it either because groping involves a power relationship. The groper intends to receive sexual gratification in the moment and he doesn't ask. He simply takes. Part of the thrill seems to be the shocking response of the woman groped.

Actor Christian Slater was arrested in 2005 for "forcibly touching the sexual parts of another person for the purposes of degradation." Apparently an intoxicated Slater groped the woman's backside as she stood in line to buy a soda. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was accused by at least 15 women of groping, earning him the nickname of Gropinator. The women described a number of groping experiences, all including the element of shock. According to the Los Angeles Times, one woman said Schwarzenegger approached her from behind, slipped his hand under her t-shirt, tweaked her nipple, then walked away.

Groping apparently is a common feature of Japanese pornography, and groups of men are known to meet and exchange groping stories for laughs. Groping is clearly a form of degrading and abusive behavior.