Dearest Levi B,
I am really into tickling. Really into it. The problem is – I just don’t know how to address it with my partner or incorporate it into our play. Any suggestions?
-The Tantric Tickler
Tickling is actually a bit of a tricky question. Many people view tickling as totally harmless. We tickle babies and children and tickling is often incorporated into physical play, especially among children. Tickling elicits laughter from the person being tickled, implying enjoyment, even delight. When I was very young, I once asked my mother what sex felt like. She described it as sort of feeling like you were being tickled. It’s not difficult to see why you enjoy tickling and why you want to incorporate it into your sexual play. Like I said at the outset, however, tickling is tricky.
Not everyone enjoys tickling. Crazy, you say? Not really. Tickling can be a debilitating act inflicted on the person being tickled. Think about a time a skilled tickler really got you good. When a person is being seriously tickled, they are laughing so hard their stomach hurts, and their muscles are tensed in such a way that it is extraordinarily difficult to move, much less ward off their tickler. They also may be laughing so hard that they are unable to catch their breath in order to voice the words, “No,” or “Stop.” Unless you’ve clearly discussed it beforehand, doing something that robs your partner of their ability to have full function of their body and/or voice is not SOPP. And, for some reason (which I hope some knowledgeable reader will be able to explain to me), tickling makes you laugh – no matter what – even if you absolutely do not want to be tickled or even touched. It can be intensely humiliating, or at least a little unsettling, for a person to be put into a situation where they feel out of
control of their physical responses. Many members of BDSM and leather communities name tickling as one of their “hard limits,” that is to say – a “no” boundary that cannot be negotiated or crossed, at the risk of permanently breaking the trust of the people involved. I’ve met people who want to be whipped, punched, and cut with knives, all while blindfolded and suspended from the ceiling, but say no to tickling because it is so intensely unpleasant for them. Most people reading this column probably do not have feelings quite that strong regarding tickling, but I think it’s important to understand that perspective in order to be as empathetic as possible when discussing tickling with a partner.
Yeah, that’s right – you have to discuss it with your partner (who would have guessed?). I know communication isn’t a novel suggestion, but it’s really the best suggestion. Talk to your partner. Before you begin the conversation, make a list of all of the reasons why you enjoy tickling and/or being tickled. Include what body parts you like to tickle and/or on which body parts you like to be tickled. Share the list with your partner. You might want to think of a scene or situation in which you would like to incorporate tickling, just in case your partner is having trouble visualizing the tickling experience and asks for an example. If your partner is not interested, ask them if they are willing to tell you their reasons for being disinterested. They may be uncomfortable with it for some of the reasons listed above, but they also might simply think of tickling as a “silly,” rather than a “sexy” activity. If so, you might be able to compromise on fulfilling your tickling desires in non-sexual settings. Can you
find satisfaction from a fully-clothed afternoon tickle-fest on Main Lawn? As always, though, remember that “no” means “no.” Don’t try to coerce your partner into something they aren’t comfortable with. If your partner says yes to tickling, you probably will want to start small. Maybe little tickles on the soles of the feet to start. You can work your way up, little by little, to hours of full-on armpit and rib tickling if that’s what you both desire.
An interesting tid-bit that might interest you is that rats (yes, rats, the rodents with a bad reputation that have free reign of the parks, streets, and subway rails in New York City) are ticklish! Rats have ticklish spots and, when tickled, emit ultrasonic chirps, or what we might think of as a rat giggle. Not only do they giggle when tickled, but they also bond very quickly with the one tickling them. Tickling, for rats, seems to be not only pleasant, but also tied to important emotional responses that allow bonding to occur. Depending on how your partner feels about rats, you might want to bring this up when you discuss your feelings about tickling.
Good luck, Tantric Tickler! I hope that you find great tickling fulfillment.
Lusting for You,