Hands around my throat
June 5, 2015 7:13 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I have discovered that he likes to choke me sometimes during sex and I like to be choked. How do we learn to do this safely?

We haven't been in relationships before where we have explored our kinky sides and it's been fun finding out we like some rough play - biting, spanking etc. But we'd like to take it further. He has previously put his hands around my throat while doing it from behind which we both liked a lot. But last night he asked if he could put a belt around my throat and I agreed. It was totally consensual and we agreed a safe word beforehand (becasue I've read here that's what you're supposed to do) and a great time was had by all. But I can't help thinking that it's not the safest behaviour for people who don't really know what they're doing and I don't really want him to have to explain to my parents that he killed me or gave me brain damage or something during sexytimes. I don't know how to gauge when the pressure is pleasurable but not safe - there was a point when I could really feel it on my windpipe and was slightly light-headed but I liked it - and I didn't know if I should stop. If I actually pass out that's kind of too late so how do I find the "line"? We have a great relationship with total trust and communication so I know if I gave the safe word it would stop instantly, but how do I actually know when to say it if that's not a stupid question? Also this wouldn't be an all the time thing, it's just a small part of the developing repertoire so far.

We live somewhere small and conservative so I've seen recommendations here before to meet up with people or go to some kind of class but that's not an option. I'm looking for total newbie resources for how we can both get the choking dynamic without putting my health in danger but I'm not really sure what to search for. We both liked the thicker leather of the belt rather than the idea of silk scarves but I'm not sure what "equipment" we can get (at low cost) without going for full-on scary-looking (to us as amateurs) stuff. Any personal anecdotes are welcome as well as blogs or sites or whatever.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Maybe I'm really naive but I don't see how you can say your safe word if you're being choked, or if you pass out from being choked. I suggest you add a throwaway email address here so that other more experientially knowledgeable mefites might feel more comfortable contacting you.
posted by mareli at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would suggest having a safe "motion" in addition to safe word. I read once on here that someone's signal during sexy times was grabbing their partner by the wrist. Something simple like that, but fairly unusual to do during sex (unless you're restraining each others arms, then you'd probably need a different one.
posted by monologish at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mod note: This is an answer from an anonymous commenter.
A verbal safe word during choking isn't always the best. Instead, I've done stuff where I'll grab onto a forearm, and as long as I maintain the same pressure, we keep going. If I loosen my grip or start gripping harder, that's an immediate stop.

On the question about when to draw the line as the choke, that's hard. It helps to have discussions beforehand about just how much choking there will be. "So I'm going to choke you while I count slowly to ten, and if you're still holding onto your arm with the same pressure, then we'll stop for five minutes, then we'll go again." That's a good way to keep the chokee getting carried away in the moment.

You'll want to look at general safety and how dangerous various levels of oxygen deprivation are, though. Trying googling "breathplay". You'll note that some people think it's impossible to do breathplay safely
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:47 AM on June 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Pro domme who does breath play here. Have a bunch of keys in your hand. If you drop them either deliberately or because you're passing out, that's the safe word.

Be aware that breath play is never completely risk free.
posted by Mistress at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

You are engaging in "breath play" or "erotic asphyxiation" and you will find quite a bit of information under those search terms.

No activity is risk free except sitting like a lump on the couch and even then, hell, an airplane might crash on your house. Being well informed about the risks of this kind of play is essential. People get passionate about the topic, of course, because if done wrong you can be injured or killed, so you will be reading not dry text but sometimes pretty floridly expressed opinion with loads of shouty comments.

Many BDSM groups forbid any kind of breath play at parties. Others do not.

A couple principles: first, do not -affix- anything tightly around your neck. Whatever you're playing with has to be managed all the time by your partner and has to un-choke as soon as it is released. Second, your partner has to stay with you not only during the play but for a good half hour afterward. Third, if you want to use toys use ones that distribute the pressure (as in, no dog choke collars. The belt is fine).

Safewords are pretty easy to handle. You hold a little bell or sound-making article in your hand, and if you ring it or drop it, that counts as saying your safeword. Mine is a brass bell with a red "remove before flight" streamer.

I love this kind of play, and have done it for years without being hurt.
posted by jet_silver at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Basically don't. What you do instead is come close, evoke similar thoughts or impressions, but stay clear of the actual risky stuff: merely touch the neck, chest, face, jaw, hair. Put a hand on it briefly on one side or the other. Play with the mouth or chin in a rough, suggestive fashion. If you let hands on the neck, do it momentarily, incompletely, symbolically, and on parts of the neck that are definitely not carrying blood vessels or airways (read and learn where these are). If you put some sort of collar or symbolic neck restraint on, ensure it is loose to the point of a large dangling gap against the skin the entire time, ideally a structure with no ability to tighten. Don't leave it on for long or make any sustained pulling on it.

But basically don't: people who do this stuff seriously are usually either extremely hesitant or outright prohibit it. The boundary between safe and unsafe is too narrow, and you will eventually accidentally walk over it, have an unconscious convulsing person on your hands way too easily.
posted by ead at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

What others say above, but one thing to add -- Never alone. Never alone. Never alone.

I mean, unless you really want to meet David Carradine.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:51 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not in "the scene", merely read a lot about the kink community.

Breathplay is "a thing", but it is extremely dangerous. Kink porn do it by having third-party (including paramedics) present but off camera. Pro doms are there to dom, not to jack off (at least, at first), and constantly check on the wellbeing of the sub.

To be completely blunt, as I don't know you and I don't even know the scene, DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT LEARNING MORE ABOUT THIS, and that means you need to join the scene, even if it's just to join FETLIFE and ask for advice. And you can't learn this from a book or reading a couple MeFi posts. You need to consult a pro domme who has experience in breathplay and know the best practices. And YOU NEED HANDS-ON experience and you can't do it from a book and a few posts.

For your case, you two will need to ask a hard question. Did you actually like the loss of control / life in someone else's hand... or did you actually enjoy the apoxia (lack of oxygen)? And your partner, does he like it because you're excited... or because he ENJOYS holding your life in his hands?

The "(relatively) safe" way to do it is to NEVER exert force to the FRONT of the neck (i.e. constrict the airway). Kink porn "fake" ropes around the neck by never having it attach to anything (i.e. a rope necklace / choker), or only exert pressure from the FRONT or SIDE, or simply have the dom put their hand ON the neck, but don't exert the pressure. Remember, porn is mostly acting. Obviously, this only deals with the loss of control and not apoxia.

If you actually are into the apoxia... this gets REALLY dicey. One possible way to warn your partner off is raising your arm (NOT restrained) that requires muscle tension to stay up. If you lose consciousness, your arm will collapse and your partner will know to back off. However, this obviously is VERY UNRELIABLE if he's engaged in "enthusiastic conjugation" at the time.

Again, please do NOTHING until you have consulted a real breath-play domme (male or female) in person and have physically learned the lessons before even attempting it in your private life. Safety is primary here.
posted by kschang at 9:46 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

In judo, we do a fast double-slap of whatever surface is handy to signal that we want a choke hold to end. The mattress, headboard, your partner's body, your own body....anything.

The sound is very easy to detect and hard to mistake (unlikely false neg/false pos), and even if you're feeling woozy, most people can still make their hands do this.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2015

This is hugely controversial in BDSM circles and please do not do this until you figure out what you're doing. If you want to get a choking feeling without risking your life, try a gag. There are many for sale online, or you can use stuff around the house like wadded up clothing, rope, neckties, etc. To kick it up a notch, have your partner put plastic wrap around your mouth (not over your nose) and then put duct tape over it.

If you like the sensation of something around your neck, get a posture collar (don't put rope around your neck).

One possible way to warn your partner off is raising your arm (NOT restrained) that requires muscle tension to stay up. If you lose consciousness, your arm will collapse and your partner will know to back off.

JFC, don't let it get to the point where you pass out.
posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do very limited breathplay IRL, with a very few partners who I know well and trust. I strongly agree with kschang that you should not take the advice of people online — meaning, frankly, you should not take my advice either. Get in touch with the IRL kink community and learn from pro doms or well-respected and experienced workshop leaders. A tremendous amount of what you read about BDSM online is totally unrealistic fantasy fodder. On many subjects it is okay to try stuff and see how it goes. On this one it is not. The risk is too high. The IRL kink scene also has its share of crazy, abusive, and stupid people. But IRL community acts as a bit of a filter — the odds of getting accurate information are higher if you deal with people who have staked their real-world reputation on not fucking up.

One thing I will say is that it is much harder to fuck up if the bottom is holding their breath voluntarily. For instance, one reasonably safe form of breathplay goes like this: "I'm going to put my hand gently around your throat [or over your mouth, or whatever works for you]. I will not use any pressure. When I do, stop breathing until I let go." This lets the bottom experience a bit of lightheadedness and panic, and the vulnerable sensation of a hand at their throat, without risking much more than they'd risk by holding their breath underwater — as long as they trust the top not to get carried away.

This is still not perfectly safe. (For instance, what if the top does get carried away? It's easier than you'd think. If you are holding onto something during sex, it is very easy to start squeezing it without noticing — and if the bottom enjoys the squeezing sensation it is very easy for them to get carried away and not object, and then suddenly you're doing something intensely dangerous.) But it is much, much safer than what you are doing now.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Choking is not the same as 'breath play'/restriction, and has a very different effect?

From experience in Judo, no pressure is applied to the windpipe, nothing pressing against the front of the throat. This is where you can crush or damage the windpipe.
Gentle pressure is applied to the carotid arteries at the side of the throat, the veins carrying blood away from the head. This increases blood pressure to the head, and to compensate, the body will drop blood pressure all over the body, and boom, the person faints/passes out. If it is correctly applied, the recipient will pass out within 8-14 *seconds*, and as long as the choke is immediately released, they should regain consciousness within 20 seconds.
I can't find any records of anyone being injured or killed from competition judo holds since judo was started, in 1882.
How safe is choking in Judo?

Thing is, this sounds like a very different effect to that of being more lightly choked, but over a longer period of time, as you are suggesting.
However, at least you know it can be done relatively safely, in this particular manner. I suggest getting advice from the judo and or fetish communities.

For belt safety:
A belt applies pressure all round the neck, including the front which seems less than ideal, but if you do use it, don't use a buckle, that could stay tight by itself, eeep! Have a partner hold and tighten two ends if the belt together, without the buckle, so that if they release it, it just falls free.

Finally, safe words are good for one thing, and one thing only - consensual nonconsent, or basically, rape play.
It is... Not something you really need to, or should be using if that isn't your goal.
The idea is if you just say no, or stop, they DON'T stop unless you say your safe word or use your signal (I suggest tapping twice, like in Judo?). You do NOT want to get woozy and forget that you are supposed to be saying 'rhubarb' instead of 'Stop'. So unless fantasy nonconsent is specifically what you want, your safe words should be every word in any language you understand that means stop, or no, or slow down.
posted by Elysum at 5:50 PM on June 5, 2015

Jay Wiseman used to be an EMT. He's written about breath control play. (That essay includes multiple references for investigating further.) His conclusion:
As a person with years of medical education and experience, I know of no way whatsoever that either suffocation or strangulation can be done in a way that does not intrinsically put the recipient at risk of cardiac arrest. (There are also numerous additional risks; more on them later.)

Furthermore, and my *biggest* concern, I know of no reliable way to determine when such a cardiac arrest has become imminent.
This is not an area I would be willing to play with.
posted by Lexica at 8:42 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

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