Why Do Guys Like to Tickle Girls?

A simple question like "Why do guys like to tickle girls?" can lead to a lot of complexity. It is connected to play, intimacy, sexuality, and aggression.

First, tickling is a form of play, separated from everyday experience, with its own rules. It harkens back to childhood play.

Boys engage in rough and tumble play which teaches them to defend themselves and to moderate aggression. It gives them confidence and skills for social interactions later in life. There is a theory that tickling evolved to teach people to protect their most vulnerable areas in hand-to-hand combat. The most ticklish areas are the most vulnerable. Men can comfortably fall back on those experiences in the play of tickling.

Also, parents tickling their children is a bonding activity, with the parents giving the child pleasure. This is also transferred over to a boy tickling his girlfriend.

Tickling is intimacy, bonding, the feeling of belonging together  — and leads to more. There are several aspects of this.

Tickling involves touching the body. In the stages of physical intimacy, there are several stages that involve touching the body: hand to shoulder, hand to waist, hand to head, hand to lower back and upper front, and hand to lower front. (There are several other stages mixed in among these. See our page on intimacy for a list of the 12 steps of intimacy.) Tickling the neck would fit in about at the hand-to-head level and the ribs at the hand-to-upper-front.

Touching a woman's body gives a man pleasure -- male sexuality is primarily visual and tactile. Tickling typically gives pleasure, indicated by the giggling and facial expressions. (Even a fraction of women who claim not to like being tickled give the physical signs that they do get pleasure from it.) Giving and receiving pleasure serves as a bonding activity.

Since tickling fits into the stages of physical intimacy which lead to intercourse, tickling can be viewed as sexual play. It may occur in the progression of stages. It may establish a level of physical intimacy that leads to having sex. It may serve as an outlet for sexual tension in couples who do not otherwise participate in the more intense levels of physical intimacy.

Tickling also fits with male aggression. It gives the boy a chance to dominate the girl. She can't say "No" and as Leonard Shlain pointed out, male pornography in its various forms typically involves having sex with women who can't say "No," so in a way, tickling fits into male fantasies.

Tickling among siblings can sometimes be a substitute for violence and establishing dominance, and that may be present in couples as well.

These are some of the reasons that boys like to tickle their girlfriends. Tickling is play. It bonds the couple together through the exchange of pleasure and builds intimacy. It is connects to the stages of physical intimacy that lead to intercourse, and substitutes for intercourse in some couples. It expresses aggression, which is a part of male sexuality.