Tickling Your Fancy
Almost all of us have tickled someone or been tickled ourselves, sexual or not—but how much do you know about tickling and how it rings some people's chimes? Here are five nuggets of tickling knowledge.
1. Knismolagnia. If “tickle fetish” is a little too casual for your tastes, this is the scientific term for sexual arousal through tickling. (You're on your own for how to pronounce it, though.) To satisfy the word geeks out there, we get the word “tickle” from tikelen in Middle English.
2. You cannot tickle yourself. In a blow to self-stimulators everywhere, the human body generally does not allow for self-tickling. Scientific theory posits that tickling may function as a vestigial protective reflex, warning us when the most vulnerable points on our body are aggressively touched. If this is so, it may explain why tickling ourselves doesn't work – our brains know we are touching ourselves, and so the reaction is not triggered. This also explains the tickle fetishist's dilemma: tickling is one of the few fetishes which cannot, by and large, be practiced effectively without a partner.
3. Tickling is and isn't BDSM. Tickling to elicit sexual pleasure is one of many activities which can be quite vanilla or very, very kinky. There's a reason why "slap and tickle" is Cockney slang for intercourse, given how prevalent a little giggly tease of the fingertips features in foreplay. At the other end of the spectrum, cases of tickle torture have been documented throughout history. The courts of China's Han Dynasty were particularly fond of this treatment for nobility, as it left no lasting effects – which is an equally compelling reason for sadists to employ the technique on willing victims who must remain unmarked.
4. Feet are where it's at. Many tickle aficionados prefer to concentrate on the soles of the feet, and that's no accident. Feet contain higher concentrations of nerve endings than any other area of the body. It's no wonder we feel the pain of a stubbed toe so acutely, and it's easy to see how sexual a tickling touch there can be. Add in a light massage and a tender little lick or two to the instep and...what was I saying?
5. It's more common than you think. Most studies find that about 85% of the population enjoys the practice of tickling in one form or another. Although it's impossible to know how many find it arousing, there's no question that tickling is one of those pleasures that most of us indulge in from time to time but few of us speak about. In fact, at the risk of making a bad pun, you might say that it tickles our fancy.