You know what they say: one man’s tickle is another man’s torture.
Or something like that.
I’d been looking forward to seeing the Tickled documentary since it came out over the summer. It follows a weird concept–this is an objective statement, believe it or not–of investigating Competitive Endurance Tickling competitions and the person behind these events.
But that’s not why I was interested in it. I was more curious to see how the tickling itself would be portrayed.
I may not tell you this if you asked, but I’ve always been very ticklish. If I were to tell you, the followup question would be, “Where?” And the followup to that is, inevitably, you trying to tickle me in that spot.
If you made it that far, you’d find out 2 things:
1.) I laugh when tickled.
2.) I find it torturous.
And that was the concept I wanted to see explored in the movie. On a basic level, I suppose it was addressed, but not fully. That just wasn’t the focus of the film.
They did touch briefly upon how supposedly the CET contests were part of a military study on possible torture tactics. The idea of the military using tickling as torture was immediately dismissed by the documentary, but as someone who suffers from extreme ticklishness, I wholeheartedly understand the principle. I’d like to think, had I somehow obtained important secrets that a government wanted to learn, I’d be able to withstand certain kinds of torture in order to keep that information classified.
But I can’t say I’d be able to do so if I were tickled.
There’s something about being tickled that feels especially sinister and cruel. Because you’re laughing, it’s impossible to be taken seriously when you are also saying, “No, stop, stop, stop.”
The specific feeling of powerlessness and being so completely misunderstood (in the case of well-meaning ticklers who claim to think we’re actually enjoying the misery) is hard to explain. Unfortunately, if you’re a woman, I probably don’t need to.
The documentary gave glimpses into the type of power play going on in the actual tickle competitions, equating it to torture porn, but it was much more focused on exploring the person behind the strange events.
So it wasn’t the PSA on tickling I would have liked to have seen.
I guess that’s left up to me.
Okay, here it is: When it comes to tickling, laughter does not necessarily mean enjoyment. Laughter does not necessarily mean encouragement. A “stop” screamed in between mirthful cackles does not negate the instruction. Being ticklish is not an invitation to be tickled.
I can’t believe I actually had to write these words, but there’s a lot I can’t believe these days.