Erotic asphyxiation is the practice of intentionally restricting the flow of oxygen to the brain, for the purposes of heightening sexual arousal. Most of us know this as choking.
Many of us can attest to our first encounter with choking as a moment that was equal parts scary as shit and arousing. My initial foray into choking came as a surprise, when I assessed that yes, a mostly random Tinder guy’s hands had casually found their way around my small neck while we were making out. I don’t know what gave me the most pause: the fact that I lowkey was gasping for air, or that I liked the feeling of doing so, in an erotic context.
I’m not alone in that regard, as I’ve come across many men who like the feeling of dominance that comes with being the one doing the choking, and I’ve also been in agreement with other women who like the exhilaration of being choked. However, anyone can derive pleasure from being the choker or the chokee, and vice versa, whether or not they admit to it.
There are levels to choking–all of which require caution and consent–as it is a form of both edge and breath play. The breath part of it goes without saying, but choking also functions as a form of edge play because of the anticipation of harm that could hypothetically result from engaging in it.
It’s important to figure out your kinks and sexual desires, and engage in safe and consensual encounters during which you can let your freak flag fly. But no amount of fucking is worth the potentially irreversible consequences of a lack of caution and care during play. Before you incorporate choking into sex, sit down with your partner and assess the risks. Make sure you are both aware of each another’s limits not only when it comes to choking, but also to any other types of play you have planned. Ideally, these check-ins should occur on a regular basis.
When safety and comfort are prioritized, breath play can really become a thrilling experience. But please remember not to spring choking on people during sex–talk about it beforehand!
If you plan on exploring choking and other forms of breath play, keep the following in mind:
As with any sexual act that tests you or a partner’s limits, consider incorporating a safeword for when shit gets too uncomfortable. For choking specifically, consider clear hand gestures that can be used to halt the action at any point.
The neck is an erogenous zone for many people and there are many ways to cater to it that don’t involve the breath. Try kissing, lightly biting, or sucking a partner’s neck. If you’re into the idea of adorning your neck, there’s always the Golden Whip Necklace or Pinwheel Necklace, which allows you to engage in some very soft BDSM play. You can also achieve sexual euphoria via other forms of power exchange, like having your wrists handcuffed or pinned down.
Education is Key
If you have questions about choking or want to learn about pressure application techniques, it’s better to do your research, than to just engage in choking and hope for the best.
The internet can be a good place to turn to if you are serious about getting into kink/BDSM practices, or if you’re not quite ready to walk into a BDSM club and experience breath play up close and in person.
One online resource that can be particularly helpful is FetLife.com, which is the Facebook of the BDSM community, and although it’s a social networking site, there are several discussions groups that users can join, and engage in open conversations about interests techniques and safety. And if you’re looking for literature, Jen Miller’s book BDSM 101, is a comprehensive introduction to everything from edge play, fetishes, and sexual fantasies.
If you’re ready to talk with an expert, you can always reach out to local sex shops, as most hold workshops and classes on BDSM, and are usually taught by certified sex educators.
Regardless of how you receive your kink education, it’s important to keep an open mind and to learn ways to engage in risky sex acts in safer ways.
Tiffany Lashai Curtis is a freelance writer, sex positivist, and graduate student currently pursuing a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter, talking about her sex life and everyone else's.