Tickled Pink: Why Some People Get Turned on By Tickling

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When we think of the term ‘fetish’ we probably think about leather and latex, stilettos and whips - maybe even looking at pictures of women’s feet on the internet. Thinking of the word ‘fetish’ usually tends to bring the ‘harder’ styles of sex and kink to the forefront of people’s minds.

Or for some people, what comes to mind may be complicated sexual contraption, BDSM clubs or something seedy and forbidden. What is common, though, is the way that people tend to first and foremost view fetishes in a negative light. People, incorrectly, believe fetishes are the domain of a few people with peculiar tastes. 

In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of people have fetishes. You may even enjoy a few common ones yourself, such as spanking, for example. 

You might say, casually ‘oh, I just have a bit of a kink’.

The terms ‘kink’ and ‘fetish’ are often used interchangeably, but they mean entirely different things. A kink is a behavior or activity that someone enjoys that is considered to be outside the norm of conventional sex. For instance, bondage is a kink where someone gets aroused from being tied up. 

On the other hand, a fetish refers to behavior or an object that gives someone an abnormal degree of sexual pleasure or gratification. Explained very basically, a fetish is getting turned on by something that isn’t meant to be sexy. Like feet, for example. Or balloons. 

But what about something that is intimate, requires physical contact, and makes you squeal with pleasure - but isn’t actually anything to do with sex? 

Here is a look at tickling, one of the less commonly discussed sexual fetishes.

What is tickling fetish?

We already know that tickling is a type of stimulation that is produced by a light touch on parts of the body that are sensitive such as armpits, feet, collar bones, the inner thighs, behind the elbows and knees, ribs, stomach, and so on. 

However, in terms of sexual fetishes, a tickling fetish, or knismolagnia, is arousal that is derived from the act of tickling. 

In some cases, nudity or explicit sexual activity does not even have to be involved. People can get turned on by being tickled, watching others get tickled, or being the tickler. Some people with the fetish even claim to orgasm solely from the tickling.

Sexual tickling is frequently done using fingers, feathers and other similar objects (anything that can be used to tickle, unsurprisingly). It might also be carried out through the act of licking - but again, it’s not sexual.

Most people with this fetish enjoy being tickled in the armpits, feet, ribs, navel, genitals, and breasts. This is why there is likely to be some overlapping with other sexual fetishes such as maschalagnia (armpit fetishes) and podophilia (foot fetishes). But, interestingly, it can also be the person who is performing the act of tickling who derives the sexual arousal from doing so. 

Sometimes, tickling is mistakenly also considered as part of acarophilia, which refers to sexual pleasure that is derived from scratching or getting scratched. In reality, though, they are two completely distinct paraphilias. 

Is tickle fetish the same as tickle torture?

If you type in the term ‘tickle fetish’ into Google, or any other search engine, chances are you’ll be shown a whole host of articles, sites and - of course - pornography relating to tickling. 

But you will also likely come across the term ‘tickle torture’ on your internet travels. It is important to point out that - while they can be similar (and are often mislabelled) they are not actually the same.

Tickle torture, in terms of sexual fetishes, refers to an activity that occurs between consenting partners where one partner allows the other to tie them in a manner that exposes specific bare parts of the body that are sensitive to tickling. 

Although several of the body are deemed ticklish, tickle torture is usually associated with bare armpits or feet. Bondage methods are usually incorporated in tickling torture, where the victim can be bound in a sitting or lying position to expose feet soles or have their arms restrained above the head to expose the underarms to tickling. 

This is why you could technically think of both terms as being the same thing. But, there is also the very legitimate method of torture involving tickling

Chinese tickle torture

If you search the term ‘Chinese tickle torture’ online then it will undoubtedly bring up a multitude of hardcore porn results. But, at least according to some online sources, tickle torture was actually a legitimate method of torture. It appeared in Popular Science magazine in the early sixties and described the Chinese method of torturing prisoners by "tying them down and coating the soles of their feet with honey and then bringing animals to lick them".

Sounds cruel and unusual, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. An article from The Cultural Collective went into more detail about this practice - which was reported to be going on during the Han Dynasty. 

The article highlights how forced tickling can “cause real physical and mental distress”.  This is because the person who is being tickled (and remember, they are being forced) loses control over their body and their system enters a state of tension, fatigue, and anxiety:

Even if it doesn't look as dangerous as being physically mistreated with punches or some special machine designed to maximize pain, it can in some cases result in a brutal death regardless.

So the key takeaway is this - tickle fetish (and colloquially named ‘tickle torture’) is OK among consenting adults. Legitimate, forced, tickle ‘torture’ is not. 

Tickling fetish in history, literature and media

Historically, tickling has been well-documented - and not just by the Chinese. This seemingly innocuous activity has piqued the interest of minds like Charles Darwin - who related tickling to social relations, suggesting that tickling provokes laughter due to the anticipation of pleasure.

Similarly, William A. Rossi wrote in his book “The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe” (1973) that foot tickling was commonly used for intimate purposes. 

Tickling was also said to have been used in the Russian Empire and Ancient Egypt for sexual arousal, so it looks like it has always been, at least on some level, and activity that human beings are apt to associate with the erotic.

But one of the most interesting examinations of ticking fetish has to be in the documentary ‘Tickled’ in which filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reeve set out to examine the world of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ but uncover a bizarre secret in the process.

During his research for the documentary, discovered a network of “tickle cells” - groups of recruiters used by the mysterious and elusive Jane O’Brien Media to cast young men - all over the US and the rest of the world. These men were flown to Los Angeles, paid handsomely, and given starring roles in - of all things - tickling videos under the impression that it was ‘competitive endurance tickling’ and - most certainly - not sexual in any way.

Rather than provide major spoilers for this interesting documentary - it can just be said that the film delves into the erotic undertones of tickling, the intimacy, and the seeming excitement from watching someone powerless to stop their body from reacting; completely without control.

Why does tickling turn some people on?

So we’ve acknowledged that - yes, sometimes we clearly think it’s sexy - but this does not really explain why such an innocent act can become something that causes sexual arousal.

As with other forms of sensation play, tickling usually turns on some people because they get off on the physical sensation that it elicits. In its more gentle forms, any form of teasing caress can be considered a tickle. 

When tickling is used in submission/domination scenarios, those that are doing the tickling may enjoy the ability and control that they have to make those on the receiving end to squirm, while the tickled may enjoy the restraints, blindfolds, or the feeling of helplessness in general. Some submissives, particularly those that are not fond of tickling, may especially enjoy the torture-like aspect that comes with being tickled.

In most cases, you may not be able to tell outright if you or your partner has a tickling fetish. Here are some of the more obvious signs to look out for:

You or your partner enjoy tickling as foreplay. If you or your partner are aroused by tickling during foreplay, you may have a tickling fetish that you might want to explore.

Your partner openly admits to you that they enjoy tickling. The most obvious way to tell if your partner enjoys tickling is if they reveal it to you openly.

So is it common to be aroused by tickling?

Like with most fetishes, it is not easy to gauge just how common tickling is because it is not documented (people do not often respond to surveys or scientific research about their personal sex lives).

Additionally, even when sex surveys are carried out, things like taboo, stigma and shame may cause people to withhold information about what they do in bed. That being said, having a tickle fetish is very much a thing, with more and more forums beginning to tackle the topic as participants take part in discussions anonymously. 

You only need to look at the volume of online content related to sexual tickling to gauge how common (or indeed how popular) it is. Not taking into account your personalized search results from Google - a likely ballpark figure for ‘tickle porn’ will bring back a hefty 600,000 hits at your disposal! Not to mention plenty of ‘how to tickle your partner’ style articles, as well as dating sites and meetup apps that cater to this specific audience - which we’ll take a look at now.

How to explore your tickling fetish

When exploring any kind of fetish, kink or sexual preference, the first place you will start is obviously going to be the internet. And if you’re into tickling - the internet will not disappoint.

Search online for ‘tickle sex’ or ‘tickle dating’ and see what comes up. Sure, it might skew your personalized results for a while - or make the ‘suggested videos’ on your next porn search seem a little bit more interesting, but try it and see the wealth of websites at your fingertips. 

Among these is OnlyTickling.com, a site dedicated to woman-on-woman or man-on-woman tickling and does not contain explicit images or nudity. Other sites such as Tickle Hotness, UK Tickling, Tickling Videos, and Tickling Submission offers exclusive tickling porn videos with categories such as barefoot tickling, lingerie tickling, topless tickling, fully nude tickling, and forced tickling orgasms that you can explore. 

Porn sites such as Pornhub and Xvideos also offer some categories that exclusively feature tickle porn.

Depending on your preferences as well as your imagination, you can use a wide variety of toys and objects during tickle play, including feathers, vibrators, light touching using fingers, light electrical current, and even strategic placement of insects or arachnids. 

If you want to try out tickling as a fetish, there are platforms where you can meet like-minded people to further explore your desires. For example, TickleDates.com is a dating site that caters to tickle enthusiasts, allowing you to interact with fellow fans of tickle play. OkCupid also features a “singles interested in tickling’ tag that can also provide a great way to explore your fetish. 

How to introduce ticking with your partner

If you’re in a relationship and want to introduce a new tickling element to your sex life, it’s easy to start off slow - and then build up to more intense tickle play (provided there is consent on all fronts, of course).

To begin with, try ticking the obvious zones of the body - the bottoms of the feet, the elbows and knees, the rib cage etc.  You can begin the tickling using your hands - as this is far more intimate than using an object - and this is important if you are just starting to experiment with this new type of foreplay.

You can then move on to whispering or breathing. It’s common to feel stimulation and arousal from breath on the neck, or a whisper in the ear - so use this to your advantage. If you are the one who is turned on by tickling someone, then you need to make the tickling arousing for them too, remember. You can move on to finger brushing, kissing or licking the neck - all to illicit an unmistakeably ticklish response  - but using erotic methods to do so.

Are there any good tools for tickling?

If you want to use tickle tools, then you can opt for small, brush-like objects. A makeup brush would work very well, or even something like a pencil to gently tickle the surface of the skin. These types of objects work very well on the more sensitive areas of the body, so you can experiment with ‘doodling’ (gently) on the soles of your partner’s feet, and watching them squirm.

You could also use feathers to illicit a similar sort of response - but this isn’t something that most of us generally have lying around the house. You’d be better off visiting a sex shop or online retailer for something like that - or check out most bondage kits available to buy. Most will include some sort of feather-like device.

Or, if you want to make your money go a little bit further, or you’re just generally feeling a little more adventurous, then you could buy a Wartenburg wheel.  These are small handheld rods, usually made of stainless steel, with a spinning wheel at the tip. The wheel is covered in sharp pins that rotate as the wheel is rolled over the skin. It was designed by Robert Wartenburg in the 19th century to test nerve reactions. Advocate.com explains that

they were rolled over patients’ skin to test their sensitivity. Although the sharp tips are not as small as needles, they are legitimately sharp, so be careful and do not apply any pressure. 

So, it seems like a pretty important tool to have in your arsenal if you’re looking to experiment more deeply with tickling and tickle play. Pinwheels seem like they are literally made for the job because when rolled gently back and forth over the skin, they can cause an odd, discomforting, and extremely ticklish sensation.

Investing in tools and toys is a good option for those looking to graduate into the realm of intense tickling, or even the fun and colloquial version of ‘tickle torture’.

Is intense tickling safe?

If you are, indeed, hoping to take part in intense tickling, then you need to think about safety. While the safety risks associated with tickling are minimal as you cannot be damaged or permanently scarred from it – unless you get unexpectedly elbowed by your partner as you tickle them (this can be prevented by adding restraints), just remember to apply common sense. 

There have been very few recorded cases of death by laughter, and in these cases, the affected people were not healthy to begin with - like in the case of Bricklayer bricklayer, Alex Mitchell. In 1975, while Alex was enjoying the television show, The Goodies, he started uncontrollably laughing, History Extra reports:

His wife watched as he guffawed for 25 minutes straight, before collapsing. After the initial shock, his wife was so grateful his end was joyous, she wrote a thank-you letter to the astonished cast.

Alex’s story is very rare. But although very uncommon - it is still possible to die from laughing. Too much laughter can lead to fainting or trigger cataplexy, where muscle movement is hindered. So do proceed with caution, but know that, even with all of this being said, intense tickling is generally considered safe.

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that it is rarely talked about, a tickling fetish is not too crazy or weird of a fetish - it’s just another preference, like used panties or spanking; just another personal kink - with the potential to be a fetish. 

 If you have a willing and consenting partner, you can easily explore it together. Just be sure to do a bit more research and talk to your partner about it so that you both know what to expect.

Oh, and go watch ‘Tickled’. It really is a thrilling doc!