Tickle torture

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Tickle torture is the prolonged use of tickling to abuse, dominate, harass, humiliate, or interrogate an individual. [1] While laughter is popularly thought of as a pleasure response, in tickle torture, the one being tickled may laugh whether or not they find the experience pleasant. [1] In a tickling situation, laughter can indicate a panic reflex rather than a pleasure response, and the tickling may be a consensual activity or one that is forced, depending on the circumstances. [2] In a consensual form, tickling may be part of a mutually fulfilling, physically intimate act between partners. However, tickle torture can cause real physical and mental distress in a victim, which is why it has been used as an interrogation method or to simply show dominance over another person. Usually tickling is done on feet and armpits after tying the person's ankles and wrists. The recipient is also often stripped to their underwear.[ citation needed ]



An article in the British Medical Journal about European tortures describes a method of tickle torture in which a goat was compelled to lick the victim's feet because they had been dipped in salt water. Once the goat had licked the salt off, the victim's feet would be dipped in the salt water again and the process would be repeated. [3] However, it remains unclear if this method was ever used in practice as it is only described in the 1502 Tractatus de indiciis et tortura by the Italian jurist and monk Franciscus Brunus de San Severino – a treatise that actually cautioned against torture in general – and while it seems clear that Franciscus Brunus had not made up this practice, the issue is left open whether the inclusion in the treatise is based on hearsay, (reliable) eye-witness accounts, or personal experience. [4] This uncertainty does not preclude this anecdote from being repeated in popular culture, for instance during a 2013 episode of the British satirical quiz show QI. [5]


In ancient Japan, those in positions of authority could administer punishments to those convicted of crimes that were beyond the criminal code. This was called shikei, which translates as ‘private punishment.’ One such torture was kusuguri-zeme: "merciless tickling." [6]

An 1887 article entitled "England in Old Times" states, "Gone, too, are the parish stocks, in which male offenders against public morality formerly sat imprisoned, with their legs held fast beneath a heavy wooden yoke, while sundry small but fiendish boys improved the occasion by deliberately pulling off their shoes and tickling the soles of the men’s defenseless feet." [7]

A 1903 article[ attribution needed ] described an immobilized suicidal patient at the Hudson River State Hospital who was tied to a bed for his own safety. While he lay helpless, the patient's feet were tickled by one of the hospital attendants, Frank A. Sanders. "Sanders is said to have confessed that while intoxicated he amused himself by tickling the feet and ribs of Hayes and pulling his nose." Sanders also gave his restrained victim a black eye. Another hospital employee came upon Sanders while he was entertaining himself at his patient's expense, and the criminal was brought before a grand jury. [8]

In Vernon Wiehe's book Sibling Abuse, he published his research findings regarding 150 adults who were abused by their siblings during childhood. Several reported tickling as a type of physical abuse they experienced, and based on these reports it was revealed that abusive tickling is capable of provoking extreme physiological reactions in the victim, such as vomiting, urinary incontinence, and losing consciousness due to inability to breathe. [9] There is currently no evidence that tickle torture was ever widespread or was practiced by governments. The very small amount of related documentation discovered thus far originates from England and the United States.[ citation needed ]

Other uses and meanings

The term tickle torture can apply to many different situations that do not include the aforementioned acts of either sexual gratification or malicious torture.

A common form of tickle torture is tickling being used by siblings as an alternative of using outright violence to attempt to dominate each other or settle disputes.

Tickle torture can be an extended act of tickling where the recipient of the tickling would view it as a long time or tickling of an intense nature. This can be due to the length of time they are tickled, the intensity of the tickling or the areas that are being tickled. This can simply be a 30-second tickle applied to the victim's bare feet, which can seem like a much longer time if the victim's feet are very ticklish. While the palm of the hand is far more sensitive to touch, other commonly ticklish areas include the armpits, sides of the torso, neck, knee, midriff, thighs, navel, and the ribs. Many people consider the soles of their feet the most ticklish, due to the many nerve endings located there: this explains why tickling one's feet against their will is the most common example of "tickle torture". [10]

"Tickle torture" may also have other uses, including the act of tickling a person as a means of humiliating someone, or even an interrogation method. This may not be extreme tickling, but could include prolonged tickling upon a sensitive area until the victim has released the required information. In the former case, it could be used as a way of humiliating a person, as the act of being tickled can produce many sounds and sensations that could be viewed as being embarrassing to the victim. In this way, the tickling can continue to the point where a certain reaction is revealed.

This method of "humiliating" could also incorporate the use of physical restraint or restraint using materials. This would be done to leave a desired area of the body bare and vulnerable to the tickling, in a way that the victim would not be able to remove this area from the tickling, and would have to simply endure. This can also be seen as "punishment" or "payback" as the tickler could be using the tickling as retribution from a previous tickling experience or "humiliating event".


In sexual fetishism, tickle torture is an activity between consenting partners. A torture session usually begins with one partner allowing the other to tie them up in a position that exposes bare parts of the body, particularly those that are sensitive to tickling, or the whole body to the access of the tickler. The victim would typically be in their underwear or partially to fully naked, the latter also intended as a form of humiliation while being tickled. Though many parts of the human body are deemed ticklish, tickle torture is commonly associated with the tickling of the bare feet or armpits.

The bondage methods of the tickling usually follows the same basic methods. The object of the bondage is to render the victim unable to remove themselves from the tickling, as well as rendering the ticklish areas of the victim vulnerable. The victim is usually bound in a sitting or lying position rather than a standing one as to expose the soles of the feet which are often among the areas upon which tickling is inflicted. The restraint of the arms above the head leaves the upper body and underarms susceptible to the tickling. This enables the torturer to use whatever they want, e.g. fingers, tongue, beard, feathers, brush, pine cones, salt sticks, electric toothbrush or a hairbrush.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Torture</span> Deliberate infliction of suffering on a person

Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for reasons such as punishment, extracting a confession, interrogation for information, or intimidating third parties. Some definitions are restricted to acts carried out by the state, but others include non-state organizations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Physical restraint</span> Obstruction of physical movement

Physical restraint refers to means of purposely limiting or obstructing the freedom of a person's bodily movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tickling</span> Action of making one laugh through physical touch

Tickling is the act of touching a part of a body in a way that causes involuntary twitching movements or laughter. The word evolved from the Middle English tikelen, perhaps frequentative of ticken, to touch lightly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stocks</span> Restraining device

Stocks are feet restraining devices that were used as a form of corporal punishment and public humiliation. The use of stocks is seen as early as Ancient Greece, where they are described as being in use in Solon's law code. The law describing its use is cited by the orator Lysias: "'He shall have his foot confined in the stocks for five days, if the court shall make such addition to the sentence.' The 'stocks' there mentioned, Theomnestus, are what we now call 'confinement in the wood'".

Sensory deprivation or perceptual isolation is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds or hoods and earmuffs can cut off sight and hearing, while more complex devices can also cut off the sense of smell, touch, taste, thermoception (heat-sense), and the ability to know which way is down. Sensory deprivation has been used in various alternative medicines and in psychological experiments. When deprived of sensation, the brain attempts to restore sensation in the form of hallucinations.

Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression. To these descriptions, one can also add the Kantian notion of the wrongness of using another human being as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. Some sources describe abuse as "socially constructed", which means there may be more or less recognition of the suffering of a victim at different times and societies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Public humiliation</span> Form of punishment whose main feature is dishonoring or disgracing a person

Public humiliation or public shaming is a form of punishment whose main feature is dishonoring or disgracing a person, usually an offender or a prisoner, especially in a public place. It was regularly used as a form of judicially sanctioned punishment in previous centuries, and is still practiced by different means in the modern era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discipline (BDSM)</span> BDSM practice

Discipline in BDSM is the practice in which the dominant sets rules which the submissive is expected to obey. When rules of expected behaviour are broken, punishment is often used as a means of disciplining.

Medical torture describes the involvement of, or sometimes instigation by, medical personnel in acts of torture, either to judge what victims can endure, to apply treatments which will enhance torture, or as torturers in their own right. Medical torture overlaps with medical interrogation if it involves the use of professional medical expertise to facilitate interrogation or corporal punishment, in the conduct of torturous human experimentation or in providing professional medical sanction and approval for the torture of prisoners. Medical torture also covers torturous scientific experimentation upon unwilling human subjects.

Torture, the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain upon an individual to extract information or a confession, or as an illicit extrajudicial punishment, is prohibited by international law and is illegal in most countries. However, it is still used by many governments. The subject of this article is the use of torture since the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which prohibited it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese water torture</span> Torture method

Chinese water torture or a "dripping machine" is a mentally painful process in which cold water is slowly dripped onto the scalp, forehead or face for a prolonged period of time. The process causes fear and mental deterioration on the subject. The pattern of the drops is often irregular, and the cold sensation is jarring, which causes anxiety as a person tries to anticipate the next drip. This form of torture was first described by Hippolytus De Marsiliis in Italy in the 15th or 16th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prisoner abuse</span> Mistreatment of imprisoned people by authorities

Prisoner abuse is the mistreatment of persons while they are under arrest or incarcerated. Prisoner abuse can include physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, torture, or other acts such as refusal of essential medication, and it can be perpetuated by either fellow inmates or prison faculty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interrogation scene</span> BDSM roleplay in which the participants act out the parts of torturer and victim

An interrogation scene is a form of BDSM roleplay in which the participants act out the parts of torturer and victim. As in real life torture chambers throughout the world over, the "torturer" uses threats, humiliation and physical pain to extract whatever information they believe the "victim" possesses. The game is over when the victim has broken and divulged the secret. The length and severity of the scene will vary according to the temperament of the players. Dedicated players attempt to replicate the atmosphere of a real torture session and, as in real life, the "victim" can expect to be stripped naked, tied up, mocked and abused.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Foot whipping</span> Method of corporal punishment

Foot whipping, falanga/falaka or bastinado is a method of inflicting pain and humiliation by administering a beating on the soles of a person's bare feet. Unlike most types of flogging, it is meant more to be painful than to cause actual injury to the victim. Blows are generally delivered with a light rod, knotted cord, or lash.

Rat torture is the use of rats to torture a victim by encouraging them to attack and eat the victim alive.

There are cases, both documented and alleged, that involve the usage of torture by members of the United States government, military, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, health care services, and other public organizations both in and out of the country.

Consensual tickling or tickling fetish refers to any instance of tickling in which the party being tickled has given consent to the party providing the tickling to do so. Some people find tickling to be an erotic experience. They may prefer to be the dominant (tickling) party or the submissive (tickled) party, or they may enjoy both. The people in these roles are often referred to as the "tickler" and the "ticklee" respectively. Some people may prefer to be tickled in specific areas, usually erogenous zones or other particularly sensitive areas of the skin.

Western Cyclone is a 1943 American Producers Releasing Corporation Western film of the "Billy the Kid" series directed by Sam Newfield. The film is also known as Frontier Fighters.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT) is treatment of persons which is contrary to human rights or dignity, but is not classified as torture. It is forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Although the distinction between torture and CIDT is maintained from a legal point of view, medical and psychological studies have found that it does not exist from the psychological point of view, and people subjected to CIDT will experience the same consequences as survivors of torture. Based on this research, some practitioners have recommended abolishing the distinction.


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