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Your Guide to Knismolagnia: Demystifying the Tickle Fetish

Published: MARCH 26, 2024 | Updated: APRIL 12, 2024
Does the idea of tickling or getting tickled, in a sexy way, tickle you? You're not alone. We're divulging all the details of Knismolagnia -- the tickle fetish.

The first time Wren took one of her makeup brushes to her partner’s underarms during a night of kinky exploration, it was kind of a joke.


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“I kind of just wanted to see what would happen, and he instantly started to squirm in this way that made me feel all powerful. Suddenly, I got this sense of, ‘Wait. He actually likes this. He’s turned on,’” she explains to Kinkly. “I grabbed him by the wrists, held them over his head, and basically went at it on his armpits. We were both laughing. But it was still unquestionably erotic.”

While you may not recognize the technical term "knismolagnia," you may be familiar with the concept of finding arousal through consensual tickling. This playful experiment between Wren and her partner gradually became a regular part of their bedroom routine, evolving into frequent tickle play. And they’re far from the only ones who find tickling tantalizing.

Here, we unravel the lesser-known fetish of knismolagnia and where to get started if the idea of tickling or being tickled positively gives you goosebumps.


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Understanding the Tickle Fetish

The term “knismolagnia” actually comes from Ancient Greek for itching. Today, according to Brenda Love, author of The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sexual Practices, it’s now more commonly associated with any instance of tickling in which the party being tickled has given express consent. Love’s writing asserts that tickling can be a physical and psychological release for both the tickler as well as the ticklee, and in spite of her book’s title, this fetish isn’t considered unusual at all.

One 2024 study conducted by Sarah Dagher and Shimpei Ishiyama polled participants about this typically juvenile activity and how they view tickling through the lens of sexual perception as adults. The study examined types of ticklishness, tools used, preferred body parts, and other variables, revealing wide diversity within this fetish. A quarter of participants reported achieving orgasm exclusively from tickling, while 88% expressed sexual satisfaction through tickling alone!

The way that a tickle fetish comes to life will look different for everyone. The implements used, the areas tickled, and the context of your play will all be determined by your tastes, as is true of any fetish.


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The Psychology of the Tickle Fetish

Several psychological factors might determine how and why you like to tickle or be tickled. For example, Dagher and Ishiyama’s research suggests that childhood experiences and exposure to tickling on television may influence participants' preferences for tickling as adults. While the factors that drive this fetish remain largely understudied, there are scientific explanations for why knismolagnia can be so alluring.

If you’ve ever been tickled before, even in a non-sexual setting, you know that tickling can send your nervous system into overdrive, even eliciting the same bodily reactions as fear. Some research has found that our sexual arousal spikes during high anxiety situations. When we’re scared, our heart rate jumps, our focus narrows, we become flushed. It looks and feels a lot like an elevated sense of arousal, doesn’t it?

Tickling also engages multiple sensory pathways. From the light touch of fingertips to the sensation of laughter and squirming, tickling triggers complex physiological responses that can enhance arousal. The intimate nature of tickling, often involving close physical contact and vulnerability, adds another layer of sensory stimulation, making this a playful yet potent tool for enhancing intimacy and arousal between partners.


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As the “ticklee,” you might be drawn to the power exchange that comes with putting your body at the mercy of a dominant partner — even if it means they’re going to use that opportunity to tickle you. You may have a humiliation kink, and being pinned down and tickled like a small child speaks to that.

Read more: 10 BDSM Punishments That Segue Perfectly Into Sex

As the dominant partner, restraining your partner or even blindfolding them to enhance the sexual pain and pleasure of tickling can be visually and mentally erotic. It’s also normal to fantasize about being tickled as well as tickling your partner and switching is perfectly common within the context of kinky play.

Tickle Testimonials: Real People on What They Get Out of Their Tickle Fetish

When asked what continues to make tickle play so enjoyable for her, Wren explains, “For me, it’s always been about either control or lack thereof. [My significant other] and I have tried a lot of different things — we’ve really run the BDSM gamut. Tickling him feels similar to me, at least psychologically, as edging him, spanking him, or tying him up. It’s all about how I can put him in his place in new ways that are still satisfying for both of us.”


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For others, the affinity for knismolagnia is all about the actual sensation of being tickled.

“I’ve met people on forums or Reddit for sessions that are all tickling, no sex whatsoever,” one Kinkly reader weighed in. “It’s still definitely erotic for me, and my mind wanders to erotic places, but it’s really the feeling of being held down and tickled that does it, even if nobody gets undressed. Plus, it feels really good to just laugh.”

“When I have a sexual connection with the tickler, it’s definitely a better experience,” says another Kinkly reader. “I like when my partner knows that I’m getting off on this and really leans into that. But I also like the sensation of being tickled, particularly on the bottoms of my feet and around my ribcage.”


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Though Hunter — another person in the tickle fetish community who actively practices knismolagnia with his boyfriend — didn’t tap into the sexual side of consensual tickling until his 30s, he admits that his preference for tickling started at the precipice of his sexual awakening.

“I remember someone tickled me totally harmlessly at a party when I was early into high school and the embarrassment, the powerlessness, made my insides just flip,” he recalls to Kinkly. “It wasn’t a sexual situation, but it was definitely an awakening for me.”

According to Dagher and Ishiyama, your early, pleasurable memories of tickling are definitely correlated with the enjoyment of knismolagnia later in life. Their research also found a link between tickle fetishists and those who typically tend to enjoy more intense sexual experiences.

Wren definitely relates.

“I don’t think I’ve ever identified as vanilla,” she says. “I’m super turned on by pushing the boundaries with my partner in a safe way. Tickling has been such a great avenue for that. It feels a little naughtier, and that suits both of us.”

Bringing Tickle Play Into Your Bedroom

Ready to explore knismolagnia with a play partner? Here are a couple of places to start.

Learn your erogenous zones

When deciding where to torture your partner with teasing fingers, it’s best to learn the hot spots that will make this experience unforgettable. While the feet, armpits, navel, and ribs are commonly associated with tickling, don’t neglect pleasure points like the back of the knee or the inner wrist.

QUIZ: How Well Do You Know Your Erogenous Zones

Use what’s available to you and get creative

Your hands, your tongue, or your facial hair, if you grow it, are great and easily accessible tools for tickling your partner, but don’t shy away from using whatever you have around your home as deliciously tickling props. An electric toothbrush, a feather, or a paintbrush can feel incredibly erotic when applied generously to the bottoms of feet. As you delve deeper into this fetish, you might want to invest in pleasure products meant to take your tickle play further, such as the Wartenberg wheel.

Pair knismolagnia with sensory deprivation

Take away your partner’s senses during a tickle session to heighten arousal and their sense of anticipation. Try incorporating a blindfold, noise-canceling headphones, a gag, or all of the above to show the submissive party who is the boss throughout tickle play.

Experiment with positions

Bondage can render the submissive unable to prevent tickling, which adds a saucy element to the power dynamic of any session. It’s easy to access every inch of your partner’s exposed body for tickling while they’re handcuffed on their back, but experimenting with hogties or spread eagle ties can also increase the visual stimulus for the person doing the tickling.

Humiliation is your friend

Many submissives derive pleasure because it’s embarrassing or makes them feel small. This is all part of the fun. Discuss what might be most humiliating throughout a tickle session. Is it being bottomless while still wearing a top? Is it wearing a skimpy maid’s costume while the dominant takes the feather duster and goes to work? With healthy communication, humiliating your partner in a safe way can give both parties a steamy adrenaline rush. Using knismolagnia to do it is the perfect launchpad.

Tickling Your Way to Pleasure

Exploring knismolagnia offers a new way to explore intimacy, sexuality, as well as BDSM. As you get started, remember that it’s crucial to prioritize safety and consent when incorporating tickling into your sexual practices. What may be pleasurable for one person may not be enjoyable for another, so always prioritize open and honest communication with your partner.

By approaching knismolagnia with mindfulness and respect, you can create a playful and erotic experience that enhances satisfaction for both parties involved. Happy tickling!

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Elizabeth Kirkhorn

Elizabeth Kirkhorn is a writer and essayist living in Manhattan. She is a graduate of The New School's MFA in Writing and currently lends her voice to a Creative Strategy Role at Dotdash Meredith, where she focuses on health & wellness brands. Elizabeth's writing spans a wide range of kinks and curiosities, and can be found on O.school, MysteryVibe, Byrdie, and beyond. Elizabeth's personal passions include creating fetish content that's friendly and accessible to all...

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