Tickled Pink
July 3, 2005 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Tickle Me.

I read this small article and it got me thinking. What's the nature of tickling? Why can we be tickled and what's it for? Does it have an evolutionary biology basis and if so, are other mammals ticklish? Is it like an obscure nervous reaction of sorts? Why are some of us ticklish and others not? Why are some parts of our body ticklish and others not? Why does that change?

Are you ticklish and if so, what tickles you and is it pleasureable or not? Can you tickle yourself? How do you like to tickle others? How do/would you like to be tickled? Are you a rampant tickler and if so, do you piss people off? Hands up those who despise it and how do you react when its done to you? Tickle me pink please.
posted by peacay to Science & Nature (23 answers total)
I think tickling, like laughter, is a bonding ritual. It is a way of testing the possibilities of intimacy with little risk.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:16 AM on July 3, 2005

I find tickling aversive. I've always assumed it existed to alert me that I was about to be envenomated by a nasty arthropod.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:35 AM on July 3, 2005

I enjoy a brisk like tickle but anything beyond that and my sides begin to hurt and I have a very fundamental urge to punch the person offending me. I can not "tickle" myself, but I can get the sensation if I use a feather or something on the back of my root, but then its more of an enjoyable itch sesnsation then a true god honest "tickle"
posted by crewshell at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2005

The back of your root?

I'd love to know the answers to your first paragraph, but haven't a clue.

But I am extremely ticklish, everywhere. I hate being tickled, I used to lash out at college classmates who'd paralyze me that way. I do, however, wake my other half up with some underarm tickling. Which isn't very nice.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2005

My boyfriend loves to tickle my feet. It produces a sort of "BWAAAHAHAHA NOOOOOO STOP TICKLING MEEEEE!!!!" reaction. I get a good laugh out of it (and so does he) but at the same time I can't stand it. Tickling is so strange.
posted by elisabeth r at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2005

I dislike being tickled, myself, although I will tickle certain ticklish friends of mine occasionally as a way to get a reaction out of them. I cannot tickle myself.

I once had a brief sexual relationship with a guy who had a tickle fetish. Apparently there is a whole community for this, which for some people may also be related to foot fetishism, but not always, and they have their own porn, as well as pursuing scenes of tickling in non-porn movies. Since it involved him being tickled and not me, I was GGG (good, giving, and game, [tm] Dan Savage) and went along with it, although, as with any fetish that is not your own, it got kind of boring having to do it every single time.
posted by matildaben at 12:07 PM on July 3, 2005

I like my feet and back to be tickled, but softly. Any tickling with the intent to make me laugh hysterically will result in the tickler being punched in the mouth.
posted by gaspode at 12:15 PM on July 3, 2005

I'm extremely ticklish and I really dislike being tickled. The tickle sensation for me is so powerful that it almost approaches the feeling of pain. Occassionally a lover finds tickling me irresistable, even more so after I've asked them to stop. Those lovers become ex-lovers right quick. Yuck.
posted by bonheur at 12:26 PM on July 3, 2005

I *LOVE* being tickled. One of my earliest memories is lying in bed tickling my inner elbows. I'm talking about the soft, surface tickling not the deeper rib & muscle grabbing type.

Feet, ankles & back are the best bits. And the armpits, especially the edges which causes a fluttering/vibrating sensation in my ear. I'd be interested to know why this is.

Not quite reached the level of matildaben's ex- tho'. Tickle pr0n? Lordy...
posted by i_cola at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2005

I dislike being tickled. Really, really dislike it. I have tolerated very light tickling on few occasions out of a need to be polite, but if you tickle me any harder, my gut response is to strike out - hard - with my elbow, fist or foot depending on where I'm being tickled. Coming from a 100 Kg guy, that response can be painful. The last person to tickle me got saved because I converted the elbow strike to a push in time, but that person still landed a few feet away.
posted by madman at 1:37 PM on July 3, 2005

Here's the theory that I heard once, and I like it.

Laughing as a response to tickling is an evolved reaction to non-existent danger. You sense something invading your space and touching you, your mind and body get all set to defend (with violence, if necessary), and then once you realize that the invasion isn't dangerous, the relief is so great that you end up lauging.

I have no idea if this is a sound theory at all, but I like the explanation. On preview, I would like to add that I, too, hate to be tickled, and this disappoints my fiancee to no end.
posted by starvingartist at 1:46 PM on July 3, 2005

I'm ticklish, always have been, I like it, what makes me laugh more is the anticipation of being tickled. I tickle but if it's not wanted I stop, I think it's a sign of affection and intimacy.
posted by Chimp at 2:17 PM on July 3, 2005

In my completely non-authoritative observation, a person's ticklishness seems tied to how tense they are, how much they trust the person doing the ticking, and what they thought about their early experiences with tickling. I bet it's some sort of protection mechanism, because the most sensitive tickle areas are also some of the most vulnerable points on our bodies.

I also hate being tickled in almost all circumstances. Even things like massages can make me squirm. As I relax, though, I become less ticklish. Also, close lovers can get away with tickles in a way that strangers or casual friends can't. (If they deliberately take advantage of that fact too much, though, they lose my trust and permission to tickle me).
posted by rhiannon at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2005

Years and years ago, I did what must of been a bit of self-hypnosis to tone down my tickle-able level. I'm kind of disappointed that it worked.

I have a hard time not tickling others, too.
posted by catachresoid at 3:05 PM on July 3, 2005

I squeak if you grab my sides. (Yeah, I know, very masculine.) I like having my back tickled, though. But yeah, tickling can be, if used judiciously, a good introduction to intimacy for a couple, or a good addition to foreplay.
posted by SpecialK at 5:48 PM on July 3, 2005

Best answer: For what it's worth, here's a bit of information on the 'tickle response'. The 'evolution' paragraph is especially interesting.
posted by namret at 6:03 PM on July 3, 2005

I think it has something to do with history and anticiptation of touch. In that, you feel what was left behind as much as you anticipate what will come. It's almost as thought you're playing with shadows and harmomic ripples at the same time.
posted by sled at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2005

Used to be ticklish, and made a determined effort to get over it, which worked.
The only thing still ticklish is the roof of my mouth, and I can tickle that with the tip of my tongue, but I don't. (I find it unpleasant.) I have a palatal torus, I have no idea if that's related or not.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:58 PM on July 3, 2005

I'm violently ticklish. Unless you want me to either punch you or throw up on you, I wouldn't suggest it. I find punching people to be a fairly effective method of making them stop. The ones who don't, well, the throwing up has only ever failed once. And then I had an asthma attack and they had to stop tickling me to drive me to the hospital. It's all about how you escalate.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:47 PM on July 3, 2005

I dislike being tickled. Really, really dislike it.

madman, I'm with you. Tickling is not pleasant for me. It is stimulating in the extreme, way too intense for me to stand for more than a few seconds. It goes beyond painful into light torture very quickly. It may cause me to laugh but it's a hysterical, manic sort of laughter, not indicative in any way of pleasure. And what pisses me off is that when I tell people this they seem to take it some sort of challenge. They risk an elbow to the eye, I must tell you.
posted by LeeJay at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2005

odinsdream, I do the same thing. I am very ticklish in most of the obvious tickle zones, but if I go "dead inside"* (i.e., ignore the sensation) I can frustrate all but the most persistent of fondlers.

*I work in retail. Being dead inside is of no difficulty.
posted by jenovus at 1:02 AM on July 4, 2005

I'm firmly on the "hate being tickled" side. I'm very very ticklish, so much so that you have to be really gentle with me during a pedicure or I'll end up kicking the nail tech in the mouth.

My husband has found 2 spots on my back that he can just touch that make me jump, they feel an awful lot like being tickled, but in a very unpleasant way. He likes to poke them when he's standing behind me in line sometimes. He calls them my "freakout spots".
posted by hollygoheavy at 5:14 AM on July 4, 2005

I thought GGG stood for "German Goo Girls"?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:51 PM on July 4, 2005

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