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When used in a sexual context, groping is touching or fondling another person in a sexual way using the hands; it generally has a negative connotation, and is considered sexual assault in many societies. The term 'frotteurism' may be applied when a person rubs up against another person, typically using their sexual parts. Touching a consenting person's body during sexual activity, massage, or medical examination is not usually considered groping, though the term is sometimes used to include clumsy, selfish, or inappropriate sexual touching. Areas of the body most frequently groped include the buttocks, breasts, and thighs on a woman, and the penis, testicles and buttocks on a man. Gropers might use their hands, but pressing any part of their body against another person can be considered groping.
The incidence of groping varies around the world, and some countries have acquired a reputation for it. In some countries, it is common for a woman's buttocks to be pinched or slapped in a crowded area. In many countries, unwelcome groping or touching of any part of another person's body is illegal, but in almost all countries it is considered unacceptable behaviour. Italy used to have a reputation for men pinching women's bottoms, and the term groping could perhaps be applied, but it was not a common term at that time (mid-20th century, for example). Japan has a reputation for females being groped on trains and buses to the extent that the authorities have implemented anti-groping campaigns, which has received considerable media attention and been the subject of serious study in recent years.
In Japan, men who grope women in public are called chikan (痴漢, チカン, or ちかん); and the term has also extended to describe the act itself. Crowded trains are a favourite location for groping and a 2001 survey conducted in two Tokyo high schools revealed that more than 70% of students had been groped while travelling on them. As part of the effort to combat the problem, some railway companies designate women-only passenger cars during rush hours. While the term is not defined in the Japanese legal system, vernacular usage of the word describes acts that violate several laws. Although crowded trains are the most frequent targets, another common setting is bicycle parking areas, where people bending over unlocking locks are targets. Chikan is often featured in Japanese pornography.
The issue of groping in Japan does not just affect females but males as well. Such is the concern about groping that a film has been made about it. The film I Just Didn't Do It by Japanese film director Masayuki Suo, based on a true story, focuses on a male office worker acquitted of groping after a five year legal battle. The criminal courts have traditionally been lenient in cases of groping and have only recently made efforts to combat the social problem with tougher sentences.
Groping is considered illegal when there is no consent. The legal charge can vary from state to state but generally is considered to be sexual battery, sexual groping, or "unlawful touching". In some jurisdictions, groping is considered "Criminal Sexual Conduct", in the second to fourth degree, if there is no penetration.