No choke


Dear Andrea:

I just had a friendly breakup and we still see each other around. Sex with him was so great, I worry that I may never experience such great sex again. But I have a question about something.

There were two instances right before we broke up when we were making love and he put his hand around my neck, in a choking way, and applied pressure. We had been together for more than a year and I didn't feel threatened, so I just pulled his hands off. I always meant to ask him about this, but then we broke up. Now, though, I'm analyzing everything. I never felt scared, but I wondered why suddenly, out of the blue, he'd start pulling this move. I'd read your column and remembered something about choking fetishes, so I got online — sure enough, I discovered it's called breath-play. Now I'm pissed because he was trying to introduce something into our sex life (normally a great idea) that could be dangerous — and honestly, I think he should have asked me first.

Should I confront him even though we broke up? Am I making this a bigger deal than it is? Now I feel my temper rising, thinking how dare he introduce a dangerous (albeit titilutf8g for some) sexual practice without asking me first. Maybe it's good we broke up, since who needs a guy who can't talk about things he wants to do in bed?


Choked Up

Dear Up:

Casually introduced, non-negotiated breath-play, huh? That would be one of the few practices still capable of rousing me from my so-many-years-out-here-in-the-trenches-near-somnolent state of "whatever, dude." Of course it's not OK not to ask! Breath-play can kill you. Well, to be fair, lots of things can kill you, but breath-play has a better chance than most.

I don't know precisely how many deaths are caused annually by erotic asphyxiation. First aid and S-M safety instructor Jay Wiseman, this subject's generally acknowledged go-to guy, says in his much-posted article on Breath-Play (read it at "The American Psychiatric Association estimates a death rate of one person per year per million of population — thus about 250 deaths last year in the United States. Law enforcement estimates go as much as four times higher."

So it's small, tiny really, by population — and that tiny number also includes all the cases of autoerotic asphyxiation, the only sex act that regularly puts its practitioners in the running for a well-deserved Darwin Award. Even AAE fans usually get out alive, of course, it's just that "usually survivable" is not a great ad slogan. So why does anybody buy? Do they have a death wish, or what? There are some who do, but I don't think that's the big draw. Some folks are turned on by the idea of flirting with death, or of being out on the edgy edge where only the edgy people go. Others, probably most, just like the sensation, which can (reportedly! I am a big fraidy-cat myself) be intensely ... intense. Boyfriend, in all likelihood, had never given the danger a thought; he was just trying to give you (and by association, himself) a big old rush.

Oh, right, but back to the part where you could die. Just to clear this up: autoerotic asphyxiation is much more dangerous than doing it with a friend, but the scarifying part about the deaths during partnered play is that they don't seem to be either predictable or preventable — it's not as simple as, say, noticing that your partner has passed out and taking your hands off. The primary danger is not that the person will black out from simple lack of oxygen, but that the lack of oxygen will set up a chain reaction (complicated, and well-described in Wiseman's article) resulting very rapidly and completely unpredictably in cardiac arrest.

So. This is not the sort of thing you just spring on someone all willy-nilly and hope they like it.

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