The Sex Trend That Has Women In Its Grip



Choking goes by many names – from sexual strangulation to non-fatal strangulation, or breath play – but the definition remains the same: it’s that moment when one person puts their hand (or hands) around the throat of another and chokes off their air supply, or slowly restricts blood flow to the brain. The best-case scenario? It’s happening with your enthusiastic consent, as with Amber, and it’s a thrilling and positive part of sex, escaped from the world of porn and kinky sex play, into your bed. You don’t die.

Worst-case scenario? There’s no consent. It’s abuse, and a red flag – one that indicates that statistically speaking, there’s a good chance this person with their hands around your throat could kill you. If not tonight, eventually. It’s this outcome that worries domestic violence campaigners, who view strangulation through its darkest lens, and believe that the rising popularity of choking puts women at risk. Others fear that strangulation has become so normalised that women, especially younger women, feel pressured to agree to it even when they feel unsafe.

What’s undeniable is that more people are experimenting with breath play in the bedroom. Australian statistics are hard to come by, but a recent US survey found that 21 per cent of women reported having been choked during sex. Another US study found that 58 per cent of university students had been choked during sex, with a quarter having been choked by age 17.

“It’s always on the table now. I think the issue is it’s become normal so men will often try before asking, which can be really scary. Some women do like it, but I also wonder if that’s cultural pressure. You don’t want to seem boring or conservative.”

– Anonymous

It’s a trend that worries Julia De Boos, an emergency medicine specialist who works in Queensland’s remote north west, and on the Gold Coast. She has a particular expertise in examining patients after they’ve been strangled, or experienced sexual assault. The trouble, she adds, is that when blood stops flowing to the brain, it dysfunctions.

“Because it’s made it into the mainstream sexual repertoire, and there’s an expectation it’s part of what you do, people don’t often recognise it as sexual assault.”

– Maree Crabbe, co-producer and co-director of Love & Sex in an Age of Pornography

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