Pinching, also known as nipping and tweaking, is the act of compressing a portion of skin (and underlying tissue), typically between thumb and index finger. Depending on how and what body part is pinched, this may cause a somewhat unpleasant or painful sensation. There may also be other fingers, or objects, involved.
Light pinching allows one to feel the texture and consistence of the body part and tissue. Hard pinching is particularly painful when the pressure is concentrated on a small area (e.g. when using one's fingernails). Pinching, when intended to cause pain, is also often combined with pulling and/or twisting.
Any part of the body can be pinched, but particularly polular in Vanilla scenarios are:
Pinching is not always unpleasant; self-pinching is for example a good means to get relief from itching, or, like rubbing and kneading, to restart circulation in a body part that has become numb for some reason (e.g. cold). Pinching is also a typical technique to test a body part for sensitivity or insensitivity.
Types of pinching
There are various different types of pinching, which are not always clearly distinct:
As a gesture of affection or friendly teasing, light pinching may be accepted among close friends or family members. In most cultures, it is not accepted among other people because, much like a pat or slap, it is considered an attack against the pinched person's body, dignity and/or privacy.
Pinching as an offense
Harder pinching that causes pain is generally considered an inacceptable offense (except when done as a legitimate punishment by a person in authority, see below). Children may be scolded or punished for pinching other people or animals.
Pinching for punishment
In some cultures, pinching as a form of corporal punishment is common for minor offenses of a child, typically at home or school. Most commonly the ear is pinched, although other body parts (e.g. nose, arm) are also possible. Pinching may cause as much pain, but comes with less connotations of violence than a slap - maybe because it involves no swinging arm and makes no sound. In Western countries, it was quite common in the past, but like all forms of corporal punishment, has become frowned upon and unpopular in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
In past centuries, hard, very painful and violative pinching with instruments such as big pliers was used in torture.
In BDSM, any part of the body can be pinched to cause pain and/or humiliation. Particularly popular for pinching in BDSM are erogenous zones such as the nipples or, to a lesser degree, the genitals. Very often clothespins or clamps are used as pinching tools, usually while the bottom is in bondage and thus helpless. They create a sharp, local pain that lasts for as long as the punisher wants with very little effort and little or no risk of injury. After some minutes, the pain may become numb, but is revived when the pin/clamp is removed and blood is allowed to flow back into the capillaries.
In vanilla sexuality and among spankophiles, pinching the partner's bottom is very popular, both to show one's affection, for teasing, or as an erotic act. It usually doesn't cause too much pain since there is a considerable subcutaneous fat layer under the skin of the buttocks, which distributes the applied pressure over a comparatively big area of tissue. Pinching the buttocks is often more like a massage technique (see also kneading). Still, after a good spanking, pinching can revive the pain in the buttocks, and thus get a more punitive quality.