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May 7, 2014 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Homophobia and competitive tickling. Journalist David Farrier explores the "quite weird" world of Competitive Reality Endurance Tickling.
posted by Catch (72 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Haha, what an amazing story.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:45 AM on May 7


Hullo, I am totally not a vampire, and I am looking for large, healthy virgins with throbbing neck veins to perform in a video about competitive hickeys.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:03 AM on May 7 [21 favorites]


This reminds me of those smoking fetish videos that someone posted here a long time ago, but also way more homophobic.

Additionally I hate to be all essentialist here, but those emails from Debbie et all just screamed "male"to me. If a woman is involved in any part of this, may I be tickled to submission.
posted by smoke at 4:09 AM on May 7


All joking aside, I have occasionally run across "definitely not gay" men with a profound interest in teaching wrestling holds to young men, or giving them massages, or having them wear leotards. There's something deeply troubling about individuals like this, even when they're ostensibly pursuing adults.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:20 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


The problem with the plausibility of most April Fools jokes is not their failure to generate a crazy sounding headline. Rather it is that the details beneath the headline don't present a convincing façade. There is no evidence that the outwardly visible vein of batshit craziness extends into deeper strata of the story; the author is palpably grinning. This, by contrast, is exactly how to create a great April Fool hoax: you must be completely serious.
posted by rongorongo at 4:25 AM on May 7


"The more shrieking that homosexuals do, the more our target audience is secure that a popular and well-conceived project is not compromising to their masculinity. Our biggest problem at the onset was convincing suitable males that the Competitive Endurance Tickling activities in which they were about to participate were anything and "everything" but gay.

I do not think that is their biggest problem.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:38 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


From tickled kiwis
Eternal mysteries spring
Internet weirdness
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:44 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


This reminds me of this best of craigslist ad. Not gay! Not at all!
posted by forza at 5:12 AM on May 7 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it isn't sexual, but guys only (not even parallel female events).

I'm quite a bit disappointed that the "Germans" in the first paragraph just led to the domain onwer, not something more lurid. I thought that if someone invents something this weird, chances it being Japanese or German are quite high...

Then again, an athlete competing in this grand sport would be a "tickler", and that translates very badly into German.
posted by pseudocode at 5:22 AM on May 7


Our biggest problem at the onset was convincing suitable males that the Competitive Endurance Tickling activities in which they were about to participate were anything and "everything" but gay.

Well, if you do protest so much...
posted by Dip Flash at 5:26 AM on May 7


Things were getting homosexually complicated.

I think this line sums up the internet pretty well.
posted by Think_Long at 5:43 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


Jack from the UK gets tickled. Well. I've learned a lot.
posted by robself at 5:46 AM on May 7


That feeling where you're reading something and think "shit, I should post this to Metafilter" only to remember that you got there from Metafilter.
posted by 256 at 6:00 AM on May 7 [25 favorites]


Yeaaaaaah...I don't like to generalize, but if you are going through this many hoops to straddle a guy for an extended period of time to touch him lightly, you're so deep in the closet, you've passed Narnia.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on May 7 [18 favorites]


ASIAN MALES ARE PARTICULARLY WELCOME TO APPLY AND ARE AT AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CONSIDERATION PROCESS. Blonde guys with long hair also merit special, but not exclusive, attention.

The photog mentioned at the Jane O'Brien site is Marko Realmonte, who apparently photographs the SF Giants in some sort of official capacity. Here's the about page at his site, which also features his work with the, er, famous Brewer Twins [NSFW].

Whether there's anything gay about all of this is, of course, left to the reader.
posted by mediareport at 6:35 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


if you are going through this many hoops to straddle a guy for an extended period of time to touch him lightly, you're so deep in the closet, you've passed Narnia

Oh, I dunno. There's all that garbage about men not being able to touch each other in anything other than an agressive, punchy way that even straight guys might want to break out of once in a while. I don't see it *necessarily* *always* meaning they're in the closet.

The folks who make them audition, however....
posted by mediareport at 6:38 AM on May 7


That Brewer Twins link has male nudity, and is not safe for work. Also, it has nothing to do with the Milwaukee Brewers.
posted by themanwho at 6:39 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


This is amazing, and kind of awful, and oddly I crossread it with this article about EVE Online developers fighting an MMA champion, and how homoerotic that got...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:46 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


There's an update to this story - a theory that this might be linked to infamous Usenet troll David D’Amato.
posted by Catch at 6:55 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


[To be clear MeFi is not an NSFW-free zone — warning added on poster's request.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:56 AM on May 7


So one would assume that eventually there would arise through competition a "champion" who would be totally unresponsive to tickling. Then a challenger with similar talents would arrive on the scene. Then you have two guys trying to tickle each other but neither reacts. What then? How long does the match last? Is it an endurance thing? Is that even good for business? You'd just end up with two dudes, facing off like Karpov and Kasparov, in a small town in Indiana promoted worldwide as "The Tickle in Fickle, Indiana" tickling each other for hours, with stone-faced expressions throughout? Imagine the audience - do they stay for the whole match, or just kind of wander off after a while? How weird would that be, for everyone involved?

So many questions...
posted by chambers at 7:13 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


Um ...of course the audience is gay men, but it's really important that the that the models be straight, because that's a huge part of the fetish. So of course they're trying to make the whole thing seem as non-gay as possible, even to the extent of feigned homophobia. They seem to be going weirdly overboard but I don't see how it's any different in kind from lots of other straight-for-gay porn, just degree. What am I missing?
posted by neat graffitist at 7:22 AM on May 7


So many questions...

I know! I hope this piece is the start of some sort of long-form exposé because it ended way too soon.
posted by Drab_Parts at 7:23 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Um ...of course the audience is gay men, but it's really important that the that the models be straight, because that's a huge part of the fetish. So of course they're trying to make the whole thing seem as non-gay as possible, even to the extent of feigned homophobia. They seem to be going weirdly overboard but I don't see how it's any different in kind from lots of other straight-for-gay porn, just degree. What am I missing?

I think the problem is that it might not actually be feigned; there are a surprising number of very sad Craigslist ads that say things like "looking for another man to do man stuff and give blowjobs to each other NO GAYS NO HOMOS" and similar things. These are people who truly, truly believe they are straight in some way because they absolutely cannot handle the idea of being gay and can't reconcile the fact that they are sexually interested in men with their belief that homosexuality is a sin or evil or dirty or unclean in some way. Yeah, the bonkersness of this is kind of amusing but underneath I think there are a lot of sad people doing really intense mental gymnastics to cope with their sexual needs in a way that is compatible with their self-loathing beliefs.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:35 AM on May 7 [15 favorites]


Soooo, that guy on Craigslist was lying about being bitten on the wang by a rattlesnake and needing immediate first aid?
posted by dr_dank at 7:50 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


How queer!
posted by Segundus at 7:54 AM on May 7


Soooo, that guy on Craigslist was lying about being bitten on the wang by a rattlesnake and needing immediate first aid?

No, he's legit.
The snake, however...
posted by Floydd at 8:01 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


One of my friends once saw a job ad from a "family friendly company run by a family" that was looking for people to be tied down(!) and tickled on camera. They promised it wouldn't be weird.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:10 AM on May 7


A general rule of thumb is if you find yourself saying something "will not be weird", it has definitely already gotten weird.
posted by Think_Long at 8:46 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Things were getting homosexually complicated.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:20 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


This makes my head hurt.
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on May 7


The snake, however...

I should have known—the snake had a hisp!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:21 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


Okay, I'm at 00:06:02 in the video.

The interviews have just ended and now... am I watching porn? I can't tell if I'm watching porn.

There's 01:21:03 of this. Huh.
posted by pickles_have_souls at 9:24 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


am I watching porn? I can't tell if I'm watching porn.

Where's Potter Stewart when you need him
posted by theodolite at 9:48 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


Why Do These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?
posted by lalochezia at 9:56 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


Our biggest problem at the onset was convincing suitable males that the Competitive Endurance Tickling activities in which they were about to participate were anything and "everything" but gay.
Everything, eh? Phwoar.
posted by Merzbau at 10:08 AM on May 7


I feel that getting your kiwis tickled crosses a line.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:20 AM on May 7


Pruitt-Igoe: "I feel that getting your kiwis tickled crosses a line."

If getting your kiwis tickled is crossing the line, then I don't want to be unlinecrosse...ummm...over here...ermmm...something something clever involving crossing line...
posted by Samizdata at 11:38 AM on May 7


I'm a little confused. Do gay men spend an inordinate amount of time tickling each other?
posted by double block and bleed at 2:20 PM on May 7


Do gay men spend an inordinate amount of time tickling each other?

No. Which is why the producers and consumers of such product can remain assured of their straightness. Same business model as Playgirl.
posted by PMdixon at 2:53 PM on May 7


Forza pointed us to a "best of craigslist" link. I'm pretty sure that the "knife fighting" the author describes does not involve edged weapons, or in fact anything that might be useful in actual combat. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that the acronym "JO" refers to something NSFW.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:40 PM on May 7


There is a surprising amount of people in tickling communities both gay and straight who report, truthfully or otherwise, that there is nothing sexual about their interest in it. Many of them are obviously obfuscating a sexual component -- for video producers obviously the main audience is going to be people interested in tickling sexually, but I believe it's also entirely possible to enjoy tickling very much without being aroused or without arousal being the focus.

Nor do I think that only being interested in tickling with one gender necessarily implies a sexual/romantic interest in that gender. I am thinking of individuals who for whatever reason don't have sex with or have romantic relationships with the same people they enjoy BDSM with.
posted by wrabbit at 4:50 PM on May 7


The physiology of tickling is rather fascinating. Apparently the tickling reflex needs both the pain and the touch nerves combined to elicit the reflex action, but both the physiology and the use of it in various mammals is not fully understood, with theories covering the playful bonding aspects and the side effect of teaching/reinforcing the conscious defense of a creature's weaker spots.
posted by chambers at 4:59 PM on May 7


This reminds me of this best of craigslist ad. Not gay! Not at all!

Oh god the first time I saw that ad I think I ruptured something laughing so hard. I have inflicted it on multiple people.

And yeah. These guys are so far in the closet they're at Cair Paravel. It's sad. You like dicks. That's okay. Come out here into the real world where most people don't care that you like dicks.

Society needs to come up with a new Gay Archetypal Model that includes everyone from drag queens to suited execs. You know, like straight people have. "We're here, we're queer, and we're all kind of over it so if you could get me those TPS reports tomorrow that would be awesome."

I use Craigslist sometimes when there are, uh, needs. The number of ads that say "100% straight but I need it up the ass from another man" are depressing as all fuck. I keep having to resist the urge to email them and say "You like dick. That's okay. It doesn't mean you have to love Judy Garland and interior decoration all of a sudden."

It's just so sad that these men feel so trapped.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:25 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]


... Wow, that video. That's some fully-dressed porn right there.

"Not a fetish ... endeavour (sic)" my left foot.
posted by CKmtl at 5:59 PM on May 7


ASIAN MALES ARE PARTICULARLY WELCOME TO APPLY AND ARE AT AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CONSIDERATION PROCESS

Hey no fair quoting my Grindr profile
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:57 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


wait does grindr have profiles
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:57 PM on May 7


Dylan Reeve asks, Who is Jane O'Brien?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:59 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Dylan Reeve asks, Who is Jane O'Brien?

I did ask that. This whole thing was a bit like some sort of horrible car accident - I couldn't look away. I just kept Googling things.

My current theory is that Jane O'Brien doesn't exist.

I think Debbie Kuhn, probably does. I suspect the whole thing is run by Kuhn and Norman VanDerKoos.

Beyond that it seems to involve the photographer, Realmonte, who certainly takes some "pretty gay" photographs, but then art can be confusing like that. And also Kevin Clarke who is almost definitely the creator of quite a lot of niche gay porn.

I really don't understand what's actually going on though - I assume they are making straight-for-gay fetish porn and, as neat graffitist suggested, want to avoid making it too gay for the sake of the fetish.

I don't think that TerriTickle is involved, but clearly the occupy the same niche.
posted by sycophant at 7:14 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]


My jaw dropped when I saw this post this morning because I think there is a deep, deep connection between tickling and (male) homophobia-- a connection which points to a neurological disorder related to schizophrenia as a primary cause of homophobia-- but I never, ever expected to find anything which showed them in relationship more direct than inference by two steps removed.

It turns out that schizophrenics often have the otherwise rare ability to tickle themselves:
Why can’t we tickle ourselves while schizophrenics can?

Have you ever tried to tickle yourself? Try it; you will find that the feeling will be nothing like the sensation you get when someone else tickles you. But why is this the case?
...
in order to differentiate between spontaneous environmental changes and those we cause ourselves, the brain categorizes self-produced movements as being less significant than those initiated external to our bodies. Indeed, fMRI scans have identified increased activity in the somatosensory cortex in response to externally produced tickling (as used in the above study) compared to little or no change in activity seen when participants tickle themselves. This data suggests that activity in the brain differs in response to externally and internally produced stimuli, reinforcing the neurological basis for our ability to consciously distinguish between the two.
...
However, research has now stumbled upon a remarkable feature of schizophrenia showing that, unlike the rest of us, schizophrenics actually have the capacity to tickle themselves! It has been suggested that this phenomenon may be a caused by neurological changes in the schizophrenic brain which disable the patient’s ability to detect self-initiated actions. It is possible that biochemical or structural changes in the brain cause a malfunction in the predictive system of the cerebellum. This results in a miscommunication of information concerning internally- vs. externally-generated actions. Essentially this means that, although the patient is able to process the intent to move and is aware the movement has occurred, they cannot then link the resulting sensation (the tickle) with their internal knowledge of making the movement. It is therefore possible that this deficit in self-awareness or monitoring could result in thoughts or actions becoming isolated from the internal appreciation that they are producing them. Consequently, schizophrenic patients may misinterpret internally-generated thoughts and movements as external changes in the environment. ...
The bridge to sexuality of this tendency to "misinterpret internally-generated thoughts and movements as external changes in the environment" is crossed, in my opinion, when the schizophrenic has sexual thoughts or touches himself sexually.

Such internally-generated thoughts and actions can then be perceived by the schizophrenic as potentially very unwelcome thoughts and actions of another male, even as a sexual assault by another male. It seems to me that a person subject to such deluded perceptions could very easily come to see himself as under siege by gay men.

I'd guess that observation of this process led Freud to his now thoroughly discredited view that "homosexual panic" (pdf here) is the root cause of paranoia.

Neurologist Daniel Wolpert has conducted a series of studies of what he calls the "tit for tat" phenomenon which show another consequence of schizophrenics' tendency to see their own actions as actions of a separate person, and I think these studies also show how this tendency bleeds out into larger society and pushes that larger society toward a general homophobia:
... When the robot pushed on the fingers of schizophrenics they were much better at pushing back on themselves with the same amount of force the robot had applied. Their brains didn’t discount the consequences of their own actions as much as the brains of healthy subjects did.

But the tale of the tit-for-tat experiment doesn’t end there. This past year, Wolpert, now working at Cambridge with another group of researchers, ran the tit-for-tat study a third time. Thirty healthy subjects were recruited. They played the game against themselves and completed a short survey designed to gauge delusional thoughts. The survey asked questions like, “Do you ever feel as if you have been chosen by God in some way? and “Are you often worried that your partner may be unfaithful?”—questions that, on their own, are endorsed by about one in four people.

Wolpert and his colleagues compared the survey results to subjects' tit-for-tat performance. They found that delusional thinkers, just like schizophrenics, were better at playing tit-for-tat by the rules—they were better at pushing back on themselves with the same amount of force the robot applied. A reduced ability to discount the sensory consequences of self-generated actions was not just a consequence of schizophrenia—it seemed to be, more generally, a characteristic of deluded thinkers. ...
One in four people "endorse" questions such as '“Do you ever feel as if you have been chosen by God in some way? and “Are you often worried that your partner may be unfaithful?”' and those very people have-- by implication-- a tendency to mistake their own thoughts and actions for thoughts and actions that other people are inflicting upon them.

I'm not as surprised as I used to be that Christian Evangelicals are so often in the homophobic vanguard, and so often go on and on about the "homosexual agenda."
posted by jamjam at 7:29 PM on May 7 [7 favorites]


Jamjam, wouldn't someone with the ability to tickle themselves be less interested in this sort of video?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:09 PM on May 7


jamjam: Are you seriously implying there is a connection between enjoying tickling and being homophobic? By way of a connection between being homophobic to being delusional to being schizophrenic to being able to tickle yourself to enjoying tickling and/or tickling itself?
posted by wrabbit at 8:15 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Good point, Joe In Australia, and I only have a tentative answer.

I think we see from the responses by the video makers that they are absolutely frothing at the mouth to deny any homoerotic aspect to the obviously homoerotic tickling videos, and I think the point of the videos for their makers and enthusiasts is that the videos help them deal with the homoerotic charge of their own autoerotic activity by providing a model of another activity in which they feel the presence of a ghostly other when they do it themselves, namely tickling, in which the other is clearly present, and this helps them feel less crazy about the tickling, and also about their own autoerotic/homoerotic feelings which are so dangerous to them that they can't be admitted even into consciousness.
posted by jamjam at 8:34 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Kiwi competitive tickler speaks out!
posted by Catch at 8:54 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


This post is the reason why the internet exists.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:08 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Jam jam I mean this affectionately, your theory is as entertaining and insane as the article itself.
posted by smoke at 9:40 PM on May 7 [6 favorites]


That's a high compliment, smoke, and I'm savoring it while I can, because I'm expecting a feeling that someone else actually wrote it to overtake me momentarily.
posted by jamjam at 9:49 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I mean Metafilter's own Dylan Reeve.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:40 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


The internet used to surprise sheltered upbringing me with this level of weirdness all the time in the 1990s. I guess I got jaded, and thought I had seen it all now, but this is right up there!
posted by bystander at 12:50 AM on May 8


I want what jamjam's having.
posted by taff at 5:19 AM on May 8


jamjam, I appreciate the fact that you know your theory is tenuous, but it sounds like you're going out of your way to shoehorn the apparent fact that schizophrenics can tickle themselves into an ad hoc story about homophobia and delusion. As somebody who's actually had a fair amount of experience dealing with mentally ill people, including schizophrenics, I am...unpersuaded. It's not even as if anybody within the story had reported tickling themselves. Besides, how would your theory account for straight tickling porn, and non-tickling, but equally straight-acting gay porn?

There is all of the other psychology/sociology/etc. which underlies straight-acting gay porn, as well as other porn which nominally has some other non-porn narrative, especially when said porn has some sort of "forbidden" aspect.

There is also the more general phenomenon, the technical name of which I have rather conveniently forgotten, of people deriving sexual excitement from things that are not immediately sex-related, but which also create excitement, and which also imitate some but not all of the features of sex itself. It's the same thing which underlies why so many teenagers will watch horror movies on dates, or why many people like performing athletic activities with their dates, or why people in shared stressful situations can develop very strong connections which would otherwise not develop.

Erm. Can't remember the name for it. But, it's a thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:47 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


OK, but can we still go "Why are you tickling yourself, huh? Why are you tickling yourself?"?
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:52 AM on May 8


I'm still totally baffled by the competitive aspect of all this. Like, does the most ticklish guy win? Least ticklish (in which case my husband would have it wrapped up)? Best tickling technique? Do they score points or is it win/lose? Are you disqualified if you become aroused? Or if the person judging becomes aroused?

I really enjoyed this article and follow ups.
posted by shelleycat at 12:33 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]


Also, the more you say it the weirder it sounds tickle tickle tickle tickle tickle tickle
posted by shelleycat at 12:33 PM on May 8 [2 favorites]


This is the story that keeps on giving.

Updates from David Farrier and Dylan Reeve.

A tickling conspiracy blog arises, affirming that convicted fraudster David P D'Amato is the man behind all this, and alleging attempted blackmail of US Service personnel.
posted by Catch at 2:12 PM on May 8


I'm still totally baffled by the competitive aspect of all this.

This is really where the argument that "Competitive Reality Endurance Tickling" is a competitive sport really fails. If in this situation you have an 'attacker' who is the tickler and a 'defender' that is trying to resist responding to it, the 'winner' would appear to be the one who could elicit the laugh response the fastest. That system holds up until there is a defender who does not respond to the tickling. If the opponent cannot elicit a response, then the one who successfully resists must logically be declared the winner.

Therefore, if their selection process prevents such 'tickle-resistant' players that meet all of their other criteria from playing, that means what is truly valued is the spectacle, and not the end result. It then ceases to be a competition and becomes an exposition, not unlike watching a duel between two knights at a renaissance faire who are both trained in stage combat.
posted by chambers at 8:29 PM on May 10


Latest from Farrier is here:
The competitive tickling conspiracy: Part three
posted by sycophant at 9:03 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


From sycophant's link:

I had no idea that all of you Little Gay Kiwis (**not** stating that all Little Kiwis are gay) had your own fleet of virtual submarines.

This sentence has an almost perfect mix of offensiveness and outrage, with the added quality fo being really hard to parse.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:47 AM on May 12


I am aware that "little gay kiwis" is intended to be derogatory, but guys look what little kiwis look like!
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:06 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I name this tiny outrageous submarine the Flamboyant. May God bless her and all who gay in her!
posted by Catch at 2:04 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Surely you mean the Flambuoyant, Catch.
posted by jamjam at 3:57 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


The chick, now 11 days old, is pictured at six days old, being fed its first meal of beef heart strips [...]

Oh, they look cute now, but even as chicks they feed on the hearts of bulls. Imagine what they eat as adults.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:54 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


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