Ask Amy: Fiancé's fetish fails to tickle her fancy

FresnoOctober 9, 2013 

Dear Amy: I'm getting married next year and my fiancé has just disclosed to me that he has a tickling fetish. I'm very naive sexually and I have never heard of that, so I looked it up online and found lots of sites dedicated to the tickling fetish. I love him a lot, and I want to know if this is normal or common.

— Not laughing

Dear Not: I shared your letter with psychologist Jesse Bering, author of "Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us" (2013, Scientific American/Farrar Straus & Giroux), who answers below:

"It's unclear if your fiancé is a true 'titillagniac' (someone whose primary means of sexual gratification is tickling), but since that's extremely rare, more likely he simply has a light tickle kink. In fact, as you have already discovered online with the many fetish websites devoted explicitly to this practice, consensual tickling is usually quite harmless. The key word is consensual.

"As anyone who was ever brutalized by an older sibling's incessant tickling can tell you, tickling done mercilessly against one's will is unadulterated torture. In 1947, the psychiatrist Emil Gutheil described the case of a sadistic titillagniac, a married 39-year-old lawyer whose recurring fantasies involved tickling a woman to death — or at least until she'd convulse, foam at the mouth and lose consciousness. But that's an extreme example, and there's no reason to assume your fiancé would ever force you to indulge in such viciousness.

"In any event, whether his carnal impulses are sadistic or innocuous, one thing to note is that his ticklish desires aren't likely to ever go away. So if you're really 'not laughing' at all about this, you should know going into the marriage that he'll always crave a more understanding partner who trusts him enough not to be cruel, and who'd permit him, with limits, his 'deviant' desires."

My own advice to you is more run-of-the-mill. Whether it is a sexual matter, financial issue or a basic value such as sharing household chores — you two are already doing the right thing, pre-marriage: He is telling you something important about himself and you are carefully considering the impact on you.

Communicating honestly and thoughtfully about this — and other matters — will strengthen your relationship, possibly even more than sharing a benign sexual fetish would do.


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