There’s Absolutely Nothing Gay About Competitive Tickling, Right?

"Tickled," a new documentary, pulls back the curtain on tickle porn.

Tickling is an early pre-verbal form of communication between babies and their parents. For adults, though, it can be a way to make someone smile, or to get someone’s attention. For others, it’s a form of foreplay.

Entertainment reporter David Farrier was surfing the Web when he encountered an ad looking for men ages 18-24 to enter a “competitive endurance tickling contest” in L.A.. Curious about the project, he reached out to organizers.

“Their first reply was ’We don’t want to deal with a homosexual journalist,'” the out Australian writer told Indiewire. Considering how homoerotic male-on-male tickling is on the face of it, Farrier was only inspired to dig deeper.

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The result is Tickled, a new documentary that unveils an underground empire dedicated to a singular fetish—an empire full of secret identities, dashed hopes and illicit activities.

“They have tickle cells all over the U.S.,” reveals one subject in the film’s trailer (below). “They’re everywhere.”


Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve paint this seemingly silly endeavor with sinister strokes: In the course of making Tickled, they were deluged with hateful emails and threats of legal action from tickle-video producers.


During the film, we hear from participants whose lives have unraveled after their videos went public.


And when Tickled premiered at Sundance in January, one of its subjects was in the audience and became so furious that the cops were called.

Is this just for laughs—or are we looking at the next Making a Murderer? Find out when Tickled hits theaters June 17.

Jeremy Kinser is a pop culture writer based in Los Angeles, where he once crashed the Golden Globes. His role model is Patsy Stone.