(Latin) Literally “a woman who rubs”. The “-trix” ending is the grammatically feminine equivalent of the suffix “-tor” commonly seen in Latin vocabulary indicating an occupation or role. (E.g., actor, senator) The root “fric-” is the same one we see in “friction”. A variety of words meaning “to rub” are found to label lesbian activity, testifying to the general knowledge of one common sexual technique. There are occasional examples in English of the word rubster being used in the same sense, possibly as a direct translation rather than an independent invention.
Benkov reviews how the squeamishness of medieval legal texts in indicating how the word "sodomy" is applied to women's acts effectively erases the lesbian nature of their activity: “women with each other by detestable and horrible means which should not be named or written about.” Which text is placed beside for more simple and clear descriptions of men participating in anal intercourse. Crompton (1980) addressed the question of prosecutions of women for sodomy up to the French revolution, but little additional material has been added since.
Homoeroticism cannot be identified in historic contexts without letting go of modern notions of what it would look like or what other relationships it would be compatible or incompatible with. There are few explicit images of sexual activity between women in Roman art. Brooten (1996) gives two examples of female homoeroticism, only one of which is sexual: a grave relief of two freedwomen clasping hands (dextrarum iunctio) in a manner normally used to symbolize marriage, and a wall painting from Pompeii that appears to show two women engaging in oral sex.