Help! My Boyfriend Keeps Groping Me!

Here’s a question that showed up in my in box that I think will resonate with many of you:

I have been dating my boyfriend for six months. I like him a lot. He likes to touch my breasts a lot, including when we’re not having sex or during foreplay — just casually, because he enjoys it — he says he just really likes my breasts. Some of the time I’m OK with it, but a lot of the time it feels distracting, like he’s sexualizing neutral situations or invading my space. He even did it one time when I was upset about something and he’d been comforting me. I have told him it makes me feel kind of manhandled and objectified, and I called him out particularly sharply during that incident in which I was upset. He has seemed apologetic but hasn’t quite stopped with the casual breast-touching. I don’t know quite where and how to draw a line with him. I feel kind of ambivalent about it — on one hand, I guess I could just change my attitude about it and go with the flow, but on the other hand, it often annoys me. Am I just interpreting it the wrong way? Should I insist on a no-breast-touching-except-for-sex policy, or ask him to ask me each time he wants to do it, or perhaps declare a temporary moratorium? What would you think might make sense and actually work? I want to communicate clearly, have him understand what this is like for me, and maintain our closeness and trust while coming to some sort of middle ground that makes us both feel good. I’ve taken to attempting ersatz retaliation by squeezing his crotch or nipple occasionally in protest (lightly), which gets the message across but doesn’t make me feel too good about myself, and mostly just makes him laugh. He’s really a good guy and in general works to be a GGG partner for me, I just think he doesn’t get what this is like for me.

I think there are a few different ways you could approach this, depending on what feels most comfortable to you. The first thing, though, is that I don’t think you need to try to change your attitude about it and just “go with the flow.” Your discomfort is valid and you get to have whatever boundaries you want for how and when he touches you.

While it might seem like ersatz retaliation would work, I’m not surprised that it didn’t. Given that men don’t generally experience the same level of unwanted touch, sexual attention, or sexual intrusion that women face, he’s not likely to feel the same way when you do it. So that makes it not really effective for getting your point across.

One of the challenges in dealing with this kind of thing is that it’s easy to slip into the trap of trying to figure out why he does this as a way of strategizing how to respond. The difficulty is that doing that can actually make it harder for you to set your boundaries. While his motivations are a part of this puzzle, they don’t have to keep you from maintaining your bodily autonomy. They’re something for him to figure out so he can change his behaviors, and no matter what they are, you get to have your limits.

So here’s a framework for you to tell him what you need in a way that might be easier for him to hear:

1) Name the behavior. Start with something like, “When you touch my breasts during non-sexual interactions without asking…”  Focusing on the action frames the next part and keeps attention on what he’s doing, rather than why.

2) Describe what meaning you associate with it. Some possibilities might be:

  • It seems like you’re sexualizing me when I’m not feeling sexual.
  • It seems like you don’t care about my boundaries.
  • It looks like you’re not interested in whether I want you to do it or not.

The goal in this part is to talk about what his actions mean to you. We’ll get to how they feel in the next part, so try to keep this piece about what you think they mean.

3) Now, you’re ready to talk about how it makes you feel:

  • Because of that, I feel really invaded.
  • That makes me feel angry about it.
  • I feel upset about it.

The reason this works is that when you explain what you think something means, it becomes much easier for him to understand how you feel. It’s also a lot less likely that he’ll get defensive about this, which will help him absorb what you’re saying. (This is based on the book Taking the War Out of Our Words, which I highly recommend.) Of course, you need to tailor this to your specific situation, but the general format is what happened, what it means to you, and how you feel about it. Put it all together, and you might say:

    • When you touch my breasts during non-sexual interactions without asking, it looks like you’re not interested in whether I want you to do it or not, and I feel upset about that.
    • When you touch my breasts during non-sexual interactions without asking, it seems like you don’t care about my boundaries, and I end up feeling really invaded.
    • When you touch my breasts during non-sexual interactions without asking, it seems like you’re sexualizing me when I’m not feeling sexual. I end up feeling angry about your touching me.

At this point, I’m guessing that he’ll have a response, and the two of you can talk about it. My hope is that he’ll apologize, and there are some important steps to that process, too. It’s essential that he really try to understand how you feel and commit to changing his behavior as part of that. So then, the question becomes: what changes do you want to ask for?

I think it’s totally fair for you to tell him that you want him to ask you about touching your breasts in non-sexual situations. If he has to stop and use his words, it’ll give him an opportunity to explore what he’s doing and why. It will also demonstrate to you that he values your autonomy and that he understands where your boundaries are. When it comes to things like this, I think that the way to find the middle ground is for him to learn how to invite sexual energy into the situation (here’s my favorite way to do that) rather than assuming it’s ok.

One thing- you might also want to consider how you’ll deal with his learning curves around this. Whatever it is that’s prompting him, he’s probably developed some habitual patterns, and those might take some time for him to successfully change. You could, for example, simply take his hand off of your breast. Or you could take his hand away and tell him, “This is that thing we talked about.” If he’s genuinely trying to modify what he does, that will likely be enough. If he gets pushy or insistent, or if he doesn’t seem to be trying to change, that’s another conversation you’ll need to have with him.

I hope that helps!

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23 Responses so far.

  1. ism says:

    It’s possible that he associates other emotions in addition to sexual feelings with the act of feeling up your breasts. Maybe he has fond memories of all the times he’s gotten to do it, and the comfort and care you express for each other in all of your couply sex rituals (like the fun leading up to and basking/caring after) the act of sex (assumption, but stay with me here). Perhaps by now it’s just a kind of “muscle memory” for similarly emotionally motivated physical touch, like hand holding or comforting non-sexual hugs, and he’s kind of conflated the feelings he wants to express with the actions he chooses. This is the optimistic possibility of why. I’m not construcive here in saying how to approach that. Covered quite well already 🙂

  2. ism says:

    to add: to be clear in no way do i mean to imply what he does is OK just because it might ‘come from a good place in his heart.’ He needs to be using his brain here, and G-man’s advice you can help him do so!

  3. Male says:

    “If he gets pushy or insistent, or if he doesn’t seem to be trying to change, that’s another conversation you’ll need to have with him.”

    God forbid we say anything about a woman l–ving (I’ll censor the word for the faint of heart) a man because he’s using her as an object. It has to be “another conversation” — conversation, as in he gets to defend himself, right? Because we live in a happy, liberal utopia, where men are only misguided souls who need a little stern correction every now and then!

    Maybe the woman or a woman like her is reading the comments here, and Glickman has approved my comment. I would like to offer different advice than his. If a man you’ve let very close to you, gets pushy or insistent, or if he doesn’t seem to be trying to change, you should prioritize the option of leaving him, or if you don’t feel safe leaving him, seek help in the form of women’s services, which are hopefully available in your area. No “another conversation” with him.

    Glickman apparently has either not known any women who are in troubled or abusive relationships with men and go through months of despair and trauma trying to “fix” them, or he has, and has just psychologically turned those months or years into something he can ignore. I’ve only watched a few women go through this and it’s a complete waste of time. We don’t even have to talk about the physical, emotional and property damage involved. These women were wasting parts of their lives on abusive men and seeing that makes one feel a certain kind of sadness that I would be surprised if Glickman was familiar with.

  4. NaughtyB says:

    I am one of these men that have trouble keeping my hands of my partners breasts.
    I wouldn’t put it down to affection or a type of hand holding in my case, just the fact I am horny and can’t resist my girlfriends body. I occasionally get told of for groping but never taken the telling off as too serious or breaching her personal space, But I do obviously stop. I think making it very clear with sat down discussion that it is upsetting would be enough to stop me doing it.(although it would break my heart to stop)
    But then if you can’t touch your partner now and then what’s the world coming to?
    Where does that leave spontaneous love making etc..
    I think there should be a balance between both and really that should be obvious in your partners body language if she is looking pissed off, had a hard day or upset it is not the right time to “go for a grope”
    I agree that squeezing his balls isnt the right way to show him you don’t like it. If I was groping my partner and she squeezed my balls I would think waahey game on 🙂

  5. Bill says:

    I feel that anyone has the absolute right to not be annoyed in an intimate relationship. It’s a right. If what he’s doing is annoying, simply tell him that what he’s doing isn’t something that you want him to do… of course it should be done in a reasonable mature way, with understanding, and love — but it’s a two way street of how we treat each other — the “I wants” can be in different directions —

  6. Jane says:

    It’s been 10 years since I left my ex-husband who did exactly this to me on a daily basis. He would come up behind me and grab my breasts and/or crotch. I’d be washing the dishes or brushing my teeth or something like that. He thought it was so funny. It wasn’t funny. It made me feel completely on edge all the time because guess what? Non-consensual sexual touching is sexual assault. Yes, even if you’re in a relationship with the person you’re non-consensually grabbing. Seriously, dudes who think you have the right to grab at your girlfriend’s or wife’s body go fuck yourselves. Being horny or thinking she’s smoking hot is irrelevant to the fact that she has the right to have you respect her boundaries. It’s been 10 years since I put an end to my marriage, but reading this brings up all the rage I had about this behaviour as though it was yesterday.

  7. Lynn says:

    I am in a new relationship and he does this at restaurants and in front of my kids. He said they can’t see so it’s not a big deal. ….but it’s a big deal to me. Why do men feel it’s ok?

  8. Meagan Blanchard says:

    In response to NaughtyB’s comment about “what’s the world coming to when you can’t touch your partner now and then?” . . . I’m just… floored really. That’s not what the original questioner is talking about, nor any of the other people commenting.

    There’s a huge difference in sexual touching when it’s clear that sexual touching is green on all fronts. That kind of touching is awesome. I love that kind of touching.

    I also love comfort touching. A back rub, a quick kiss, a loving hug. Lingering touches on arms, hands, knees. All of these can feel sexual sometimes – such as when sex is actually happening. But outside of that, they are just comforting – or fun touches that can lead to sex. These types of touches are generally ALWAYS welcome unless I’m in dire pain. These types of touches reinforce the idea that you care about me and what I feel.

    Pretty much all touching on my breasts feels sexual (except when I breast fed my daughter). The same with my bum and crotch. I’m pretty sure most women feel that way. It is NOT okay to just walk up to me and start groping me there. Ever. I don’t care if we’ve been married for 15 years or only dating for 5 months.

    Sexual touching when I’m least expecting it (as in Jane’s example of when she was doing dishes or brushing her teeth) makes me feel objectified. I’m not an object you can pick up and fondle at your leisure. An object doesn’t care, it doesn’t have feelings. Women do and we don’t belong to anyone.

    You wanna know what’s super-freaking sexy? Consent! I love that!

    You wanna touch my boobs, ass, crotch, etc, start small! Comfort touch, then ASK for sexual touches. Put your arms around my waist, kiss my neck, my ear. Tell me how awesome my breasts look in that camisole I’m wearing to bed. Creep your hands around my waist and up to my ribs — then ASK. “You look irresistible. Can I touch you?” There’s nothing non-spontaneous about this. You had sexual feelings and acted on them in the moment. Yet, I still feel respected – and beautiful – and loved. And sexy. Had you just started groping I’d have felt little better than a whore.

    You can still have unplanned sex and respect your partners’ personal boundaries and personal space.

  9. Samantha says:

    Mr. Clickman, after having read the women’s comments above, would your advice change at all?

  10. Dan says:

    Married 10 yrs. my wife hates it when I grope her; I’m learning to “get it” on this one.

    First, for a guy, so much of touch for us is ALWAYS sexual; so we don’t get it. Affection, warmth, communication. That’s what I’m saying when I touch her ass. What she’s hearing: GROPE.

    Here’s the deal: reciprocity. That’s what’s sexy. So, if she isn’t “there” when I touch her? Why do it. Better to touch her shoulder, her waist, her hair. Like moving in for a kiss; you check her out first as to where she’s at; then you make your move. I was in a marriage for decades where I NEVER got kissed back. Touch is best when it is RECEIVED in the touching.

    Yes, got to talk about this; every couple. Made me think of your article on complimenting a woman, how we guys only do it as to her LOOKS. We men need to get creative with our touch; seek reciprocity, no?

  11. Michael Foley says:

    My experience has been, if I don’t get along with a woman regarding something that is an intimate behavior, one way or the other, I just wind up leaving them.

    There’s no reason to put up with a bad fit. People don’t change their sexuality. What is this fighting with the guy who likes to touch your butt or breasts from behind while you’re at the sink, by caressing you. For every woman like you, there are ten who wish there man would do it more often.

    You were right to have left him, and he should have moved on happily.

  12. Debra B. says:

    Michael Foley, you poor thing….. When this person does it 20 times a day it’s annoying… that’s why. She wasn’t fighting with him for “groping” her, she didn’t like it that often.

    What men don’t understand is that girls/women are having to fight off men from fondling or groping them from the time they are twelve years old. UNWANTED fondling/groping. Women grow up thinking this is how it should be, even if they don’t like it or would rather it be during a love-making session.

    I had this problem with my boyfriend wanting to touch my crotch every time we got together, even when we said goodbye at the door whether we had sex or not. It is VERY ANNOYING.

    Women don’t have to put up with behavior they are not comfortable with. If the guy cares about you, he will knock it off when you ask him to.

    Guys – KNOCK IT OFF!

  13. Yvonne Gray says:

    Oh boy, my adult married daughter and I had this conversation today. I have been married 37 years, she 14. Committed relationships. We have both repeatedly asked our husbands not to grab at our lady parts Willy nilly! Yet this behavior persists. It seems to afford our husbands amusement, indeed, they act affronted when informed that you want it to stop. They do love us. Undoubtably. It seems like an immature behavior they will never cease. It is often done when our attention is divided. Like when a child pesters a mother while she is talking on the telephone. I surely do not have the answer. While I do not think it is acceptable, I venture to say that it is extremely common.

  14. MDOG says:

    Hey guys! I read the OP’s description and it sounds a lot like my situation! My boyfriend loves to feel me up a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I like to caress his butt occasionally also. He’s got a great butt! But he does it a lot, and I’ve asked him why. Sometimes it annoys me. Sometimes it doesn’t. He says that he just really likes boobs, and butts. And that since he loves me, he loves mine the most! He tried to say that it was like…when you get a favorite toy or game…You like to replay the game over and over. But what upsets me is when we will be having an argument, and he will quickly touch my boob and then smile cheekily at me. It almost is like his childish way of saying, HA. HA. And it undermines what I was about to say. Cuz he would see me open my mouth to argue back my point and then boob touch. I think it’s a comfort thing though (when we’re not arguing). He just thinks they are soft, and likes soft things. If there was a fluffy dog there he would pet the dog too. 🙂 And of course, I also think he’s trying to touch my boob to try and get me in the mood. Which I’m like….hunny…maybe give me a back rub and then go in for the boob touch kay?

  15. Suzette says:

    I’ve been dealing with this situation for years with my boyfriend and because I live with him and am dependent on the shelter it is really sucking right now. He gets worse when he is drunk and he has been coming home drunk from work. I started grad school today and invested a lot of money to get the house ready for winter so I could have security.
    The other night he grabbed me twice- he goes for my butt crack, worse, which has stopped, butt hole…. Keep in mind this comes with very little physical contact, no hugs, no hand holding in public, no arm around me… I have spoken to him about this many many times. He never really gets it. He does not seem to really understand that I HATE it. So twice in one night and I cock my fist back at him. He throws a fit, pointing at me and saying I am not a good person. Days later (today) he is telling me how it bothered him so bad he needs to be alone (temporarily) and that I need to think about what I want in our relationship. Meanwhile, I have no where to go and homework due and it is starting to get cold outside. Basically, I am going to take off for a couple days in my car with my dogs. I have 150$. Really bummed.

  16. Poz says:

    The world is basically becoming a boring place, men will soon become obsolete, women dont realise the same drive is what is making them want to go out with the girl in the first place, haha the poster who wrote

    ‘I also love comfort touching. A back rub, a quick kiss, a loving hug. Lingering touches on arms, hands, knees. All of these can feel sexual sometimes’

    Just shows girls prefer metrosexual men these days, its pathetic,

  17. Baleegh says:

    Well, after reading all the comments the one thing I found out that it’s a special relationship between man and wife irrespective of the class or country, I am a Pakistani male a retired Major from the military service where I served for 27 years and currently running my own private firm and my wife who holds a master degree in fine arts very happily married for 21 years and have three children where my eldest daughter is completing her university degree in a year or two, still has the same issues in our marriage. I being a groper and my wife sometimes like it or sometime she gets real furious about it, but still we enjoyed a beautiful sex life till now. I grope my wife’s butt during sleep and while awake I grope her breasts only once we are alone not in front of anybody. If she is in a good mood she like it but often furious as mentioned above by other wives. Women are same in all parts of the world and same are men. I think it’s the way we are created. I love my wife and so does she and we remained together in ups and downs in life, but this groping issue remained the same. She has the same desire as commented above to hold her hand not her breasts talk to her for hours and not grab her butt, which I am sorry to say is very difficult to me to do so but I always try to come up to her expectations. We go to dinner together followed by a light romantic movie in a cinema go for long walks late at night, but the groping problem is as persistent as our relationship is, and the most important thing is I love her a lot. At age 44 she is super attractive to me and I can’t think of spending a single day without her as she reciprocates in the same way.

  18. New World Thoughts says:


    So a world with more consent, more respect for women and their bodies equals a boring world filled with metro sexual men? Let’s first talk about taking responsibility for our own behavior. Men and women have a responsibility to respect each other, at all times, whether in or out of a relationship. Each time that we respect the other party, regardless of gender, we move forward as a whole in society. The closer we come to truly understanding what it means to respect others, the more we advance- this also includes respecting animals and our natural world.

    All I see in your comment is an unwillingness or inability to see a capable relationship, where a man does not have to grope a woman all the time, and the woman by receiving positive touches that make her feel safe and respect, reciprocate more affection, attention, and warmth. The same thing that men actually crave just as much as sex. It’s unfortunate that men have been taught to disregard emotions, just as women have been taught to disregard themselves. It creates in men this uneven world view that somehow women are their sexual objects, and that’s not even close to true. Women are their equals in every single way, only differing in genitalia, neither one inherently better than the other.

    We all need to work on the consent issue. Just because a woman is in a committed relationship does not give a man the right to grope whenever he wants. If his partner likes it, great. If she doesn’t, then stop. Immediately. Use calm, clear communication to express thoughts on it, and don’t assume that silence is healthy communication or solves the problem. If you have a problem with groping, you have a problem with consent. If you find yourself making excuses. Stop. Just take responsibility for your behavior, and focus on positive touch. Touch she actually wants. A woman is not your property. She does not belong to you. If you disrespect her, she has every right to leave you. Why blame her for your lack of boundaries? Again, take responsibility for your actions and step up.

  19. Anex says:

    To Jane. Yes, men seem to think that groping is funny when it’s not. I really don’t understand what could be remotely funny about it. It’s bloody irritating and destroys any normal feelings about sex and diminishes attraction to the guy 100%. And it doesn’t make me feel attractive either. It feels like being at a teenage disco with ugly pimpled teenage boys just out of nappies, who have never been near a woman before, taking a grab when possible. There’s no need to define a time for touching in words… you simply feel it. It’s just common sense! And, in the family, if the mother does not say anything to the contrary when her husband does this to her, he starts doing it to the daughter too…

  20. Sammy Wood says:

    There is nothing more annoying than being groped all the time. It makes women feel devalued, cheap, like they’re an object. Men, please don’t do it. My partner does it all the time and it’s turning me off him, literally. I’ve actually googled the definition of sexual abuse, because it feels like it’s bordering on that? No means no. if I tell my partner nicely to stop it, he gets moody. Women don’t want to feel like a piece of meat. I’m at the point of yelling at my partner to quit it. If I try to talk to him about it he says ‘don’t you love me anymore’? Crap like that. It’s got nothing to do with that at all. It’s called ‘crossing personal boundaries’. This behaviour is turning me off intimacy altogether. Men, if you think this behaviour is acceptable, you’ve got it WRONG. Your partner isn’t owned by you. To me, it’s more of a control issue. Or the guy thinking ‘you’re my property I can do what I want with you? NO. If you respect a woman what gives you the right to just grope her when you feel like it. If you know your partner doesn’t like it, then stop it. If you don’t, you’ll be left on your own because she’ll find someone that actually respects her boundaries.

  21. Michele says:

    Sorry ladies- if your man (or any man) touches you without YOUR consent, he’s sexually abusing you. You deserve better. It’s your body and your wishes. If he doesn’t “get it”, you by no means should just accept it. No man is entitled to YOUR body. No means NO. Find your voice and use it! Empowerment ladies, learn it, love it, live it and men- it’s about time to get with it. The days of the good ol’boys are in the past!

  22. Press says:

    I’m surprised that all the male commentators have missed out one vital point . For most men physical intimacy is the only form of intimacy they understand whereas most women would rather have verbal intimacy . Imagine if your man gets irritated at you for trying to tell him how your day was all the time ( this is very common with women and most men, though irritated by it, just put up with it). I once dated a girl that had this sort of behavior and only wanted those kinds of touching during sex. I decided to give her a taste of her own medicine by occasionally ignoring her texts and conversation when I wasn’t in the mood. This got her really upset and frustrated and eventually ended up in fights. It also led to me cheating on her with an old girlfriend that enjoyed spontaneous physical intimacy. Eventually she understood my point but by then I was already involved with another girl. The point I’m trying to make is that men are physical when expressing and experiencing intimacy while women tend to be verbal, thus the only way a relationship can function is via compromise on both sides.

  23. Terri says:

    My husband is always doing this and I don’t like it,I would rather he hug me,or wrap his arms around my was,or a smack on the rear,,groping just makes a woman feel uncomfortable, to me anyway

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