So, choking. The word itself brings to mind a catastrophe—you choke on a piece of food and almost die, a la Mrs Doubtfire. But for many people, it’s a kink they are either super interested in, or have already tried. Not uncommon at all!
Choking during sex is also known (more pleasantly) as breath play, or erotic asphyxiation. For some, the feeling of giving up control to a partner is exhilarating, and the vulnerability of being choked—recontextualizing an aggressive act as an intimate, erotic one—can be mind-blowing. When the pressure lifts, the rush of endorphins can make you feel giddy, lightheaded and result in a more intense orgasm. For the person doing the choking, the trust given by their partner can feel like an honor, and the anticipation and heightened sense of responsibility is similarly very sexy.
Choking is literally depriving your brain of oxygen, and it’s dangerous in the wrong hands. During sex, this is best practiced between trusting, consenting partners, rather than casual hookups (unless it’s been previously discussed and you feel 100% safe). If it feels wrong or scary, whether you're being choked or doing the choking, stop what you’re doing.
As a further disclaimer: When it comes to choking, even experienced BDSM practitioners have misgivings, for good reason—this practice can result in permanent harm or death. We at Nox think knowledge is power, trust and consent are key, and a light touch is your safest bet.
Take a class...no, really!
Since there is no 100% safe way to engage in breath play, we recommend you see a professional. A certified sex therapist can make a referral, or a practicing dominatrix who sees couples. Brick-and-mortar sex shops often host classes too, so if you’re curious, check out what’s available in your area. A working knowledge of the neck’s anatomy is important, and CPR training doesn’t hurt, either.
Before engaging in breath play, you and your partner need to have a talk. From acceptable techniques to limits, safe words, sounds and gestures, this is not something you can do without talking first. Never use drugs or alcohol before engaging in this type of play.
Even if you’re a seasoned breath player, you don’t want to go from a handsy makeout to a full-on chokehold. Start by letting your partner place hands gently on your shoulders, chest and neck, applying pressure gradually. Focus on the area in a gentle, nonthreatening way, building up to the moment.
Play it safe!
There are ways to engage in breath play without choking, like placing a hand over the mouth, but leaving the nose unobstructed to breathe. This gives a similar thrill, without getting into dangerous territory. If you crave something more aggressive, ask your partner to hold you from behind with one arm around your chest and shoulders. If it has to be the neck, how about your partner holding your neck firmly from behind?
If you're going to engage in choking, always place your hands on the side of the neck, not the front. This creates the sensation of choking but doesn’t obstruct the trachea and your partner’s breathing. This is a crucial point—you should never, ever put pressure on the trachea. Remember that the carotid arteries are located in the sides of the neck,and these supply blood to your brain. Caution should be exercised here too.
Since breath play may render you unable to say a safe word, make sure to agree on a gesture beforehand. For example, the thumbs down, two taps on your partner’s arm, something unmistakeable is best.
Not to sound like a broken record, but we can’t stress this enough: Safety first!
There are some unhelpful myths about breath play, such as only ‘damaged’ people enjoy it, or that it covertly invites abuse. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Like any other form of kink, advanced or for beginners, breath play requires trust and maturity from both partners, and what you like in the sack does not make you a bad person, as long as you're playing responsibly.
If you're into learning about different kinks, we've covered group sex, bondage, using a 'yes, no, maybe' list, pain as pleasure, dirty talk and more. Explore our restraints and sensation play section here.