Dan Savage: To Choke or Not to Choke

Plus, a relationship based on panties.

In a frank exchange early in our courtship, I told my girlfriend that I have no kinks. As a result, I’m damn near clueless in that area. Last night, my girlfriend placed my hands around her neck and asked me to choke her. My instant reaction was to say no, not out of any objection in principle but because I thought it might be dangerous in my inexperienced hands. Later I did comply, but I was definitely holding back. I dearly love my main squeeze — clever pun there, huh? — and I want to be GGG, but… well, you see my misgivings. I know about safe words, but can we count on them when the recipient’s larynx is being compromised and she may be close to passing out?

— Choke Holds Obligate Kink Education

I have friends who are professional Dominants — women who will stick needles through the head of their client’s cock and post the bloody pics to Twitter — who refuse to do breath play and/or choking scenes.

“It’s impossible to control for all the variables,” said Mistress Matisse, a professional dominatrix with more than 20 years of experience. “People think choking isn’t kinky, but it is. People think it’s a low-risk activity, but it’s not. Choking isn’t just about the lungs. It can affect the brain and the heart — it can affect the whole body — and if the bottom has underlying health issues, things can go disastrously wrong. I feel strongly about this.”

Wrapping something around someone’s neck — your hands, a belt, a rope — is the most dangerous form of breath control/play, Matisse emphasized, and simply cannot be done safely. Fragile bones (like the hyoid bone), nerves, arteries, veins — the neck is a crowded place, it’s vulnerable, and putting sustained pressure on someone’s neck is extremely risky.

Matisse also noted: “The person doing the choking needs to be aware that they’re on the hook legally — for at least manslaughter charges — if the person who asked to be choked should die. People have gone to jail for this kind of ‘play.'”

I’m tempted to leave it there, CHOKE, because I worry that anything else I might say could result in one idiot choking another to death. But the fact of the matter is that choking, despite the risks, is a relatively common kink, and almost all deaths related to breath play occur during solo scenes, not partnered scenes. So I’m going to give you a little advice about meeting your girlfriend’s particular needs safely, i.e., without wrapping your hands around her neck.

“What most people who are into choking want is to feel controlled,” said Matisse. “So put your hand over her mouth. Grab her hair, wrap an arm around her shoulder — not her neck — and put your other hand over her mouth. That should satisfy the urge.”

Another option, CHOKE, is a gas mask. If it’s not too disturbing a look, you can put a gas mask on someone, cover the breathing hole with the flat of your hand, and cut off your partner’s air. All they have to do when they need a breath is shake their head, which will break the seal created by your palm and allow them to breathe.

And finally, CHOKE, you could take a stage combat class or book a session with a fight choreographer. There are safe choke holds used on stage, where the person being choked is in control and no actual pressure is placed on the neck.

My boyfriend of four months is great, we’re in love, and the sex is amazing. Now for the but: A strange man takes my boyfriend out once or twice a year for a fancy lunch and gives him a lot of expensive new underwear. At these lunch “dates,” my boyfriend returns the underwear the man gave him last time, now used and worn. It seems obvious to me that Underpants Pervert, as I’ve dubbed him, is masturbating with these old pairs of underwear. This has been going on for SEVEN YEARS, and it makes me so uncomfortable that I asked my boyfriend to stop. He agreed, but he went back on the agreement the next time Underpants Pervert snapped his fingers. My boyfriend says he likes this guy, doesn’t feel objectified in a bad way, enjoys their lunches, and thinks of him as an old friend. When I see my boyfriend in his underwear, all I can think is, “That pervert is going to be masturbating into those soon,” when I should be thinking, “My boyfriend is so sexy.” You’ll probably take Underpants Pervert’s side — since you’re pro-kink and an older gay man yourself — and tell me to get over it. But what if I can’t?

— Having Issues Stopping Boyfriend’s Underpants Man

P.S. My boyfriend is 28 and straight. I’m a 25-year-old cis bi woman.

Get over it.

P.S. And if you can’t get over it? Well, I guess you could issue an ultimatum, HISBUM: “It’s me or Underpants Pervert.” You would essentially be asking your boyfriend to end a successful long-term relationship (seven years) — a relationship of a different sort, yes, but a relationship nonetheless — in favor of a short-term relationship (four months). You’ve already asked your boyfriend to stop seeing this man, and he chose the perverted fag over the controlling girlfriend. If you can’t get over it and you decide to issue that ultimatum, HISBUM, don’t be surprised if he chooses the pervert over you a second time.


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