Giuseppe Elio Cammarata / EyeEm

The popularity of sexual choking is soaring, but health experts say erotic breath play can be deadly if precautions aren't taken.

The practice of sexual asphyxiation -- depriving a partner of oxygen during sex -- is more popular with men than women. It is also more popular among ghey males than lesbians.

People who are into breath play say it can heighten sexual arousal and make orgasms more intense.

TerryJ / E+

According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20% of men say they choked a partner to near unconsciousness during sex. Only 12% of women said they choked a partner during foreplay.

Women and girls have reported being choked during sex without their consent and it has been used in controversial "rough sex" defenses.

One man was acquitted of murder when he successfully convinced a jury that his partner accidentally died during rough sex.

Here's what experts say about Erotic Asphyxiation (EA):

"EA is truly very risky and may lead to serious injury, including cardiac arrest, brain damage from lack of oxygen, and death," says Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST, who specializes in sex therapy.

"Knowing EA may lead to experiencing irregular heart rate, cardiac arrest, and death, most experts advise against it."

jpique / E+

"Before a couple considers EA, it's best to set time aside to communicate their interests in detail — specifically what types of boundaries are needed," added Brito.

She said couples should use nonverbal cues to alert a partner if they come dangerously close to passing out.

  • holding something in your hand, such as your keys, and dropping it when you'd like to stop
  • tapping three times on your partner's hand or nearby surface
  • snapping your fingers

 
Brito also says it is important to give consent before erotic breath play begins.

You and your partner should discuss your boundaries before you're in the heat of the moment, and consent should be given at each stage of play.

This has been your Medical Minute.