When filmmaker and Australian Journalist David Farrier came across an adlooking for young male fitness models whom are attractive, ticklish, and masculine that liked to be restrained and tickled in a completely athletic activity, his curiosity was piqued. This curiosity led to his documentary “Tickled”, which looks at the sport of Competitive Endurance Tickling. Yes, you read correctly.
Farrier’s next move was to watch videos of this. The first one he saw was of a young man in a bright tracksuit strapped to a bed wiggling around and laughing, while four young men straddled him, tickling his feet, stomach, and underarms. Competitive Endurance Tickling involves strong young men trying to see who can be tickled the longest.
Farrier contacted Jane O’Brien Media, who promoted the video he saw. He wanted to learn more and they told him no because he was a “homosexual journalist” and they “desperately [do] not want a homosexual participation base applying for the project”. Although he’s actual bisexual, Farrier was taken aback since the videos in his mind were clearly gay. The O’Brien people bullied him when he began to dig further. Farrier and Dylan Reeve then flew to California to discover tickling competitions.
Their documentary “Tickled” was funded by a Kickstarter project and was a huge hit at Sundance and Variety called it “an engrossing investigative documentary”. But, it also was a very controversial film. During his research, Farrier discovered a network of “tickle cells” who are recruiters used by Jane O’Brien Media to cast young men in the U.S. But, they also exist in the UK, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Canada. They provide the participants for the bizarre videos. Young men are flown to Los Angeles all expenses paid and also paid between $1500 and $30k for one visit, plus they rack up gifts like concert tickets and gadgets,. The tradeoff is that they are filmed competing. The competitions are odd, but seem harmless. The participants are fully clothed and no explicit sex acts are happening. Tickling is viewed as the most innocent thing in the world by most people. The events have a strong sports emphasis and never suggest anything sexual.
The real problems occur when the participants got cold feet and things got rather murky. Many claimed they didn’t understand what was involved or they thought the videos were test material for a reality show or for military research. They never expected to be able to find these videos online, and their requests to remove the videos fell on deaf ears.
Farrier interviewed a man named T J Gretzner, a former participant. When he asked YouTube to remove his tickle footage, he became the victim of an online slander campaign and his career as a professional soccer player was being threatened. A website was even set up giving out his personal details like his address and phone number. Schools he coached at were contacted and told he was a gay drug-addicted child molester, all lies. He lost jobs and money over this. YouTube has many videos of young mens’ “auditions” that are billed as very competitive. Jane O’Brien Media claims they receive hundreds of pictures of men every day.
Tickling is a mix of pleasure and pain, a basic form of human communication, and one of the first ways parents and babies bond. Humans, as well as gorillas and rats respond to the sensations with laughter. But why? Some biologists will tell you laughing and squirming isn’t pleasure but a panic reflex and a way of showing submission to an aggressor to diffuse tenseness. Surprise is an essential part and why we can’t tickle ourselves. Many people hate the sensation and see it as torture. And many people from ancient times to the present have used it as torture.
It’s also an intimate act with a huge fetish community. Jane O’Brien Media insists such films aren’t “adult-oriented”, but there is a huge demand for heterosexual men being tickled by other men. The company gets off on making the videos with straight guys who have no idea what they’re really involved in. There’s no commercial purpose to the videos and they exist purely for the sake of making videos.
Although many revelations are made in the documentary, Farrier set out to make a lighthearted film about the tickling community. “It’s fine to be into whatever you’re into, as long as you’re not hurting other people,” he says. “It’s not a big deal. Just tickle and be happy.” Hopefully, he won’t be slammed with legal action.
Watch the trailer for the documentary and read the original story which appeared in UK’s The Telegeraph at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/08/18/the-truth-about-tickled-how-a-harmless-fetish-documentary-turned/.