Based on a survey he conducted for his fascinating book Laughter, neuroscientist Robert Provine notes that adults and adolescents are seven times more likely to be tickled by members of the opposite sex. When asked whom they would most like to be tickled by, there was a fifteenfold disparity.
Because tickling is traditionally played as a game since early childhood, many people who find it gratifying discover a fascination about it right from their puberty. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the so called online tickling community has so many young followers compared to the congregations devoted to other erotic interests.
The varying range of ages (and, consequently, of points of view about one’s own sexual life) is only one of the several characteristics that make the interest on tickling and the community conveying it very difficult to classify.
Another problematic feature of this group is its overall invisibility in the general media and even in the fetish or BDSM subcultures. Of course, the first requirement for a minority to speak out and get together is to know that they exist; in other words, they need to identify as a group. However, although you could receive a strong “Yes” if you asked a person who clearly displays signs of sexual interest in tickling if she or he finds it “pleasurable” (or other vague asked questions), it is not uncommon to see a confused expression on the interlocutor if you asked if she or he has a “tickling fetish”.
The experience of arousal from tickling has been indeed classified as a fetish by psychologists and it falls under the term “knismolagnia”.
While people who do not accept the definition of “tickling fetichists” often engage in unorganized “tickle dates” without any particular role, rule or timetable, people who describe themselves as either “tickler” (the tickle top), “ticklee” (the tickle bottom) or “switch/versatile” (a person who could be both) see tickling games as part of a “soft sadomaso”, where the top takes delight from torturing a usually restrained bottom by tickling the most sensitive spots of his vulnerable body and having him laugh hysterically, cry or beg.
Tickle enthusiasts often suffer from the ugly duckling syndrome, thinking they might be alone or part of a very scant group.
On Google search engine, even if you manually remove all results involving children (by adding “-child”, “-kid”, etc., to the search) and make sure that what you’re looking at is actual tickling (by adding “foot OR feet”), you get more than 1 million pages about adults getting tickled.
The most popular adult clips website on the net, Clips4Sale, with over 20 million visitors every month, hosts 800 production companies about female tickling and 200 about male tickling, with dozens of thousands of videos.