Wiggly and Giggly
Dear Patrick: I like to be tickled! I don’t think this is a very intimidating desire. I’m not asking anybody to hurt me. I just want to be tickled until I lose control and can’t stand it any more. It’s easy to do, or so you would think. But you would not believe the trouble I’ve had persuading a lover to devote a little time to tickle games. Why? Do you understand this? Maybe if you talk a little bit about my fantasy, it will be less intimidating for my girlfriend. I hope to soon be:
Dear Wiggly and Giggly: Whether your fantasy is intimidating to a partner (or not) depends on their point of view about what “sex” is or what activities it should include. For many people, still, sex happens when a man penetrates a woman with his penis and moves around inside of her until he comes. That’s the basic, post-industrial, Western definition of sex despite all of the work sex educators have done to, at the very least, get an orgasm included for the woman. I personally would wish we could also broaden that paradigm to include same-sex partners whose genitals don’t define their gender.
You don’t say what your gender is, just the fact that you have a girlfriend. But in my experience, girlfriends of all sexual orientations rarely expect to be the active partner during sex, whether they are butch or femme or kiki. So part of the problem may be that you are asking your partner to take over and create a scenario for you that does not focus on her body or her desires. You are taking pleasure from something that does not necessarily give her any pleasure at all—other than, perhaps, the satisfaction of a job well done.
Can you have a conversation in which you clarify whether your partner is shy about taking charge or reluctant to give pleasure when it’s not clear what she will get in return? There’s also a possibility that she simply thinks it is “weird” (or some other judgmental adjective) for a person to enjoy an erotic activity other than heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position. Even people who don’t have conservative religious affiliations often feature the same values as the Southern Baptist Convention.
One more thing can be an obstacle for the novice tickler. When asked by a partner to provide a technique that is not taught in Sex Ed 101, the question arises: How the hell do I do that? Your lover may not know HOW to tie you up or tickle you. The fear of being awkward or incompetent can ruin the thought of trying anything new in bed, even if it’s just using a cock ring or putting on a pair of nipple clamps. There is a dearth of literature about tickling, so I don’t have a good book to recommend for your partner unless one of my readers can suggest a text I haven’t seen. But I can suggest a hands-on session for teaching purposes. Sometimes the best way to get your partner to do something you like is to do it for them first, and do it in such a way that they can “get” why you like it. So show her how you like to be tied up, what you like to be tickled with, and how these implements (or fingertips) should be used. She may decide that she likes it, too—or she may simply get enough information to be able to give you the wild ride you describe in your question.
Unless the average person runs into somebody they like who can provide calm, clear education about alternative sexualities, most of us tend to assume that what we think of as “normal” is also the same for others, and is what they like as well. It can be a big shock to run into somebody who loves cunnilingus instead of intercourse, or wants to be tied up, or likes to watch some porn during sex. You can see how low the bar is here. For most folks, tickling is associated with a nonsexual game you play with little kids. Its erotic value for an adult is mysterious unless you share the same thrill.
My understanding of the tickling fetish is that it includes several elements that have erotic potential. One is the feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming sensation. Instead of having to endure endless, critical self-talk, the theater of consciousness is taken over by reflexes and direct, unevaluated experience. Before you can judge what is happening, you are riding another wave of physical stimulation. Our bodies sometimes don’t know the difference between various intense states. So we may associate a lot of different things with being turned on—anger, fear, love, or something physical like tickling. If tickling is combined with bondage, the feeling of helplessness is doubled. One is no longer responsible for what one is doing or experiencing, so there is no need to feel guilt or hesitation.
Returning to a prior state in which one was beloved and yet also being tormented can create a delicious predicament and allow one to re-experience the unconditional love and delight of childhood, or at least an adult state in which certain executive functions that inhibit pleasure are annulled. If the tickler perseveres to the point of causing their “victim” to lose control and perhaps urinate, we need to open a conversation about the eroticism of urination, which mimics some of the sensations of ejaculation. When “forced,” it also creates the feeling of being taken over by the power of another, which can be potent sexual fodder for the Id. Being overpowered can be interpreted in all kinds of different ways, one of the most common being a pleasant and ego-gratifying rush of feeling that you are desired so much that another person is willing to go to great lengths to explore you and secure you as their daring and plaything.
I don’t know if any of this duplicates your experience of being tickled, or if you feel I am being way too academic and intellectual about a pretty basic experience. I hope you at least take away the message that, in order for a partner to buy into a desire like this, he or she or they need to know what’s in it for them. Quid pro quo. Maybe you can offer a session of oral sex done to their exact specifications, or an hour-long massage, or a shopping spree. I hope you and your lover can come to an amicable arrangement. I personally prefer bargaining in which pleasure is traded for pleasure. It’s one way to bring new techniques into a relationship and prevent it from going stale.
Sexually successful fetishists learn how to be erotic maestros, so they can offer a partner an effective tidbit in exchange for an activity that may appear to be one-sided in the beginning. If a lover learns that you will reciprocate if you ask them to work hard for the sake of your orgasm, you will have a lot more takers when you bring out the rubber catsuit, gas mask, tennis racquet, or what-have-you.