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On tickling as foreplay

I fucking hate tickling.

Why the actual fuck is tickling portrayed as a sexy thing? I’ve seen so many films and books in which the gleefully happy couple engage in a spot of playful tickling that then leads to a sexy snog, or a fuck, and I find it unfathomable. Moreover, I’ve had guys try to initiate a good shag with me by pinning me down and gleefully prodding at my reflexive bits.

It ticks some of the hot boxes, sure – you’re getting close together, there’s physical contact. But that is absolutely and completely where it ends for me.

Why tickling is beyond horrible

Tickling is

a) aimed primarily at making someone laugh, which as far as I’m concerned has absolutely no place in the bedroom. If I’m fucking you and anything about that process induces laughter I’m liable to call the whole thing off and storm to the bathroom for an angry, solitary, straight-faced wank.

b) something that parents do to their children. Unless you want me to call you ‘Daddy’ then tickling will never be a prelude to me taking my knickers off.

c) painful. Yes, I know I’m laughing, but it’s a reflex thing. Tickling makes someone laugh, but for many people it is actually a phenomenally uncomfortable, horrible feeling. My mouth might be curved into a smile, my laughter ringing in your ears, but my eyes will be burning with the closest I ever come to genuine hatred.

d) really really fucking annoying. Power and control can be sexy, when it’s something that you’re voluntarily giving up to a person. But losing control simply because someone slightly stronger than you is poking you in places that you are physiologically incapable of not reacting to is about as sexy as a smear test. You’re not controlling me through the force of your will or because I’m so hot for you that I’ll submit to your command, you’re just making my body do things it has to do. You shouldn’t be proud of your achievement any more than you should be proud that my irises contract when you turn a bright light on.

Seriously, fucking stop it

Why do I feel the need to have this rant? Because ticklers don’t seem to know any of this. Ticklers find it hilarious to give me playful pokes in the ribs to watch me squirm or to punctuate a point they’re making. Ticklers will hold me down and giggle as I try to wriggle free. They’ll tickle me and think it’s hot that we’re writhing together, even though my writhing is involuntary. And they will interpret my reflexive laughter as enjoyment.

I cannot say:

“Haha, no, seriously. Haha, seriously this is so horrible. Haha oh please stop I hate it so much.”

Because it doesn’t sound serious then, does it? It’s hard to say a meaningful no through involuntary laughter, and it’s especially hard to explain that you hate it if someone’s misguided enough to believe they’re doing something playful and sexy.

Haha, no honestly stop it now

I know that some people like it. Some people enjoy the playfulness and the physicality. I don’t expect films and books to stop using tickling as foreplay any time soon, but what I would like is to see is at least one scene where person A initiates a quick tickle, and person B refrains from giggling, pushes A firmly away, and then proceeds to throw a righteous fucking shitfit.

It’d give a bit of balance. It’d show people that there’s diversity around tickling just as there’s diversity around who likes buttsex and whether or not you spit or swallow. It’ll show us that no matter how harmless, any specific type of physical contact will never have universal appeal. It’ll be beneficial not just to people like me who hate tickling, but to people who don’t like cuddling, who don’t like jizz on their face, who prefer not to be stroked or touched in other ways we usually assume are standard.

I’d like for it to always be OK to turn this sort of thing down – to articulate your preferences and have your partner actually listen. With something like buttsex they usually would. But for tickling? Not always. I’ve often told people I don’t like tickling only to be greeted with ‘haha, you love it though, don’t you, come here…’ followed by a repeat of exactly the irritating, painful twattery I’d just expressed a dislike for.

OK, it’s not the world’s greatest problem, but it annoys me. Because every time I get tickled the pain of the tickle and humiliation of laughing through the misery is compounded by the knowledge that when I say to the tickler afterwards “please never do that again” they’ll see the residual reflex-laugh flicker across my face and find it difficult to take me seriously.

So listen very carefully, observe my straight face and angry eyes and straightforward, serious tone:

If you ever ever tickle me, I will punch you in the mouth.

It’s a reflex thing.


  • gammidgy says:

    Someone once told me that to tickle for more than a second or so is bullying. Sounds about right to me.

  • Teal says:

    Okay. Wow.

    Huge obligatory disclaimer time: you should never tickle someone who’s not into it. That shit’s not okay. Touching someone in a way they don’t consent to is assault.

    That being said, it’s interesting to me that people feel so strongly about this – it feels sort of weird that an activity that a whole bunch of people (I among them) view as a fetish a whole bunch of other people would view as horrible torture. I guess it just further demonstrates the wide spectrum of human sexuality, like you said.

    Anyway, in defense of tickling:
    a) The whole “no laughter during sex” rule that some people have is really weird to me. Sex should be fun. It would kill the mood for me if I had to be dead fucking serious while I was screwing.

    b) Some parents spank their children (not that I’m in any way trying to defend the practice), but you see plenty of people still getting off on spanking.

    c) Plenty of people get off on pain. It’s kind of interesting that even many people who get off on pain can’t stand to be tickled (again, spectrum of human sexuality).

    d) That’s part of what makes it arousing – you’re performing a small, seemingly inconsequential motion that forces out big reactions. It’s a really deep form of power exchange, because you’re making someone lose control of their own bodies. And tickling fucking takes *skill*. Unless your ticklee happens to be just off the charts ticklish, you can’t simply go poking about willy-nilly and expect to get good reactions. Everyone is ticklish and different spots and everyone responds differently to different techniques. You have to learn to read your partner and figure out how their body works and what they’re feeling. So yes, I am damn proud of my achievement when I make my partner laugh.

    So, if you don’t like tickling, whatever floats your boat. Obviously anyone who tickles someone who doesn’t want to be tickled is at *best* a total asshole. But don’t knock it either.

  • Caramella says:

    I’ve found that the best reaction to something unwanted (because it’s painful, or uncomfortable, or because your elbow is crushing my bicep) is to completely fucking overreact. I’m talking yelling at a volume that makes the neighbours hit ‘mute’ on the TV to listen in. It’s a massive overreaction and often kills whatever good mood existed beforehand, but it shuts down the unwanted activity cold.

    Personally, I hate tickling, but mainly because people do it so horribly. A little flutter of fingertips on the skin is often hot, but when people dig fingers of granite into my ribs while sitting on my legs, it makes me want to throat-punch them.

  • TJ says:

    Word. I hate being tickled without consent. I hate it because it reminds me of being a child (not sexy) and being tickled by my dad (not sexy) and being punished if I fought back or tried to assert boundaries. And being hit back hard if I tried to physically get him off of me. ‘It’s all in good fun’ is a hateful excuse.

    I’m more okay with it when it’s a tickle-*fight* in that we’re both trying to tickle each other and it ends FULL STOP when someone says mercy (or red, or safeword). I can be a lot more relaxed with people that tickling has been negociated with. (‘Safewords apply to things which aren’t sex’ is a really useful philosophy to have.)

    Not as a prelude to sex. Maybe after sex, if we’ve lazed around for a while and now someone needs to get out of bed and do grown-up things but is still sufficiently cuddly that they aren’t really going to of their own volition, then it’s a ‘fun’ mood breaker if everyone is game. More fun than ‘do I have to push you out of bed?’, at least.

  • I’m hypersensitive, and I am also incredibly ticklish, to to me, tickling is nothing short of extreme torture. I get it, my friends think the noises I make – a mixture between a laugh and a shriek – are funny. Not to me. Tickle me for any more than two seconds and I usually end up on the floor.

    Not on the floor expectant that whoever’s just tickled me is about to jump on and fuck me raw. More of an escape method and an involuntary muscle spasm combined. I’m with you, GOTN… it sucks.


  • B0atG1rl says:

    I am almost impossible to tickle, a fact which on discovery inevitably results in the other person jabbing their fingers into my ribs trying to elicit some kind of response. (It’s usually expletive off!). Sometimes being impossible to tickle can actually be as bad as being the person who squeals and falls over at the very suggestion that tickling may occur.

    In case you hadn’t guessed I’m not a fan of ticklers either.

  • Saige says:

    I agree with every single word you wrote here. Every. Single. Word.

  • The Thinker says:

    The only reason people hate tickling is because of the loss of control. That’s what it all comes down to. But really, you can’t control much of anything, so simmer down and stop overreacting.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I don’t think it’s overreacting, and it’s certainly not all about the loss of control. It hurts. It actually, genuinely hurts, and is a horrible sensation.

      Is there any other form of unwanted physical contact about which we’d be willing to say “ah, it’s only play. Stop overreacting”?

  • Me says:


  • Matt says:

    I understand that some people are more sensitive than others, and what may be a pleasurable experience for one, would be torture for another. Personally, I feel that being tickled sometimes can be fun…HOWEVER, having been tickled far too much as a kid (to the point of gasping for breath and fearing that I would actually die from the tickling, as the tickler WOULDN’T STOP), I definitely know where you’re coming from! (I even had nightmares about it for a while, go figure!) Despite all of this, I still find tickling to be a fairly innocent passtime, and yes, maybe even a turn-on, under the right circumstances. However, people REALLY need to listen when someone says “stop” or “no”, because continuing is almost a form of rape, and it can actually be deadly, if the one being tickled can’t breathe or has a weak heart. I’m not against the idea of things that bring people happiness or mirth, but not at the expense of others’ comfort or well-being, either.

    On a side note, I suspect that tickling is painful for those who are hyper-sensitive, or that have mild autism, in that even light touches on the skin can be perceived as painful, rather than pleasurable. Just my theory… (I believe this pertains to me, for example.)

  • Bassman1976 says:

    Agreed, that kind of tickling flat pisses me off. But imagine laying opposite each other and mutually “tickling” each other, slowly working from the toes up. Completely different kind of tickling but very intimate. Just try it. :)

  • Aeveirra says:

    I LOVE being tickled <3 it physically turns me on, and I think it is the sexiest thing in the world <3
    It is called "knismolagnia" tickling fetishism. Basically, people can get very turned on by it.
    Imagine bdsm and tickling…. All tied up , gagged and then mercilessly tickled! People can even orgasm when that happens to them. Seriously have you ever typed in "tickle torture porn" before? I assure you will understand why some people like it.
    What fetish is possibly better than tickling? Almost ALL other fetishes are either gross, painful, or just damn weird.
    I mean really, they are all pretty much nasty. But tickling is hott, feels amazing, is great for BDSM stuff, and is overall the best kink to have, because everyone will accept it.

  • Jim says:

    What’s a shame about this is that bar a couple of responses everyone seems to think tickling = restraining someone and “poking”/jabbing them in the ribs. That’s not tickling, that absolutely is every bit as annoying and uncomfortable as described.

    When I’ve been involved in tickling as foreplay it’s been slow, soft, sensual trailing of the very tips of the fingers or better still, nails gently around the key areas – strictly 100% consentual and very arousing.

    The ticklish/hypersensitive may still detest that, absolutely fair enough and I’d not try to do it in that case. But I’ve been with girls who warned me they were too ticklish and would hate it and only put up with it for mere seconds, but said they’d give it a try – then gone quiet and ended up not wanting it to stop. I think, because they were expecting the ribs-poking nonsense and didn’t know how much they’d enjoy slow soft sensual tickling.

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