Tickling Someone Who Doesn't Like it – Clueless Or Sadistic?
In a recent article, I discussed the question of whether tickling (of a child, friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend) is just good clean fun, or whether it can be considered abuse. Interestingly, in researching both articles, I discovered that most results for the searches “tickle abuse,” “tickling abuse,” and “tickling as abuse” were for erotic websites.
When I read that first article to a group of professional colleagues, I was surprised at the response: while I wasn’t sure if anyone would “get it,” in fact, everyone started nodding knowingly, and a couple people had their own stories to tell. Clearly, I was onto something.
Why is tickling so popular, and how does it fly under the radar as a form of abuse?
I believe the answer lies in the fact that the victim involuntarily disguises his or her own discomfort (both physical and emotional) with the resulting involuntary laughter. Even if the tickler knows that the one being tickled doesn’t like it, he or she can plead ignorance of the fact by drawing attention to the apparent merriment of the victim.
While many ticklers may, in fact, be oblivious to the pain they are causing, others do know and don’t care. In my research, I came across tickle abuse victims who stated that they told their tormentors (between tickle sessions) that they did not like it. Pre-arranged “stop” signals were ignored. And it may be worth noting that the tickle abusers mentioned were, with the exception of a stepmother, male–husband, boyfriend, father, or older brother–and virtually always bigger, sometimes by quite a margin.
Now consider the following discoveries:
o Victims described their tormentors as “sadistic” and “bully.”
o A tickler dad called his sons “sissies” when they complained.
o Victims stated that “he pins me down so I can’t get away,” “he doesn’t take me seriously when I say ‘stop’,” “I can’t defend myself,” and “I thought I was going to die.”
o Victims stated that they couldn’t breathe, cried, choked, gagged, wet their pants, felt sick, and/or vomited.
o One victim called tickling “an awful tool of humiliation.”
I will mention again that several ancient cultures have used tickling as a form of torture.
In summary, while a person who enjoys tickling others, may, for a while, get away with the claim that he (or she) doesn’t realize the victim isn’t having fun, it quickly becomes clear that he knows it but doesn’t care. Not respecting another person’s boundaries is abuse. Restraining a person against that person’s will is abuse. Touching a person in a way he or she doesn’t want to be touched is abuse. Period.
If you are a victim of abusive tickling, know that you have every right to complain, ask for help, call the authorities, ask your tormentor to go for counseling with you, and/or get out of the relationship.
If you are the tickle abuser, stop. Get help. Find an acceptable outlet for your aggressions. And/or leave.