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Archive for January 19th, 2010

It’s been a while, as I haven’t had a backlog of questions. (You people are obviously just too well-adjusted. Or you think my advice stinks. Or something. Anyway!) I have a new question this week that’s fairly simple, but may send me off on a tear about the topic anyway. So here goes.

My partner and I have discovered that we love it when he puts his hand around the front of my throat. Is there a way to do this that is safer than any other way, in terms of placement or pressure? We’re not trying to restrict air or bloodflow; it’s just the symbolism of it.

So, knowledgeable questioner: you obviously already know that restricting either airflow or bloodflow can be dangerous, and in fact, there’s no “safe” way to do it. Does that mean I don’t do it, or don’t think anyone should? Hell no. It just means that it’s all about managing risk, rather than believing that you’re being safe. I saw an amazing presentation on breathplay in all its permutations by Lee Harrington some years ago, and that was the main message I took away from it.

What you’re doing, though, is much less risky, though I would advise you to look more deeply into the risks as you go forward, because we all know how these things can escalate. As far as simply placing a hand around the throat, though, here’s some things to keep in mind.

First off, don’t press hard or squeeze. If the symbolism is all you’re after, there’s no reason for him risk entering into actual choking. If you’re doing this as part of vigorous sex, watch out for him being on top and putting his weight on that hand, or you on top and leaning into his hand, both of which will put more pressure than you want or may even be aware of in the heat of the moment.

Second, get the placement right. The temptation when putting a hand on someone’s throat is to place the palm over the Adam’s apple and squeeze a little with your fingers. This position very easily tips over into the two things you want to avoid: airway and bloodflow restriction. Just a little pressure on the larynx can begin to restrict airflow, not to mention that the trachea is fairly easy to crush. This type of choking is also much more unpleasant in general than the bloodflow-restricting kind, as it causes a choking feeling in the throat and can easily initiate panic – for good reason. The fingers at the sides of the throat, on the other hand, can begin to restrict carotid artery flow – the blood going to your brain. This is what causes that floaty feeling that eventually leads to fainting – a very high risk type of play.

But that position, done very gently, can feel very protective, loving, and controlling without any pressure at all. Save it for times when you’re not also engaged in anything vigorous that might distract him from how much pressure he’s applying.

A safer and still symbolically strong position goes like this: Hold your hand up in front of you with the fingers together and the thumb out (your fingers and thumb will make an “L”). Now put the crook made by your fingers and thumb against your throat, directly under your chin and above the larynx. Your fingers and thumb should point upward, lying along your jawline. From this position, you can press upward with your whole hand, creating a feeling of control and force without actually putting any pressure on dangerous points. Do not squeeze the hand together, as this will cause the same problem of putting pressure on the blood vessels at the sides of the neck. Do this to yourself, and then teach him to do it.

Remember: pretty much any type of BDSM play is going to involve a certain amount of risk. This is why I prefer the RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) system to the SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) system: I don’t really believe that any kink, or any sex for that matter, can be completely safe. (I prefer the term “safer sex” to “safe sex” for that reason as well.) Then again, why do we do these things if not for the thrill? Besides, skydiving, playing sports, and driving your car carry far more risks than BDSM. I often think that some people do kink – and extreme sports – because we live in a way that our ancestors never dreamed of, and that is almost entirely without physical risk. Or rather, there is risk, but not in a way that we’re consciously aware of in the moment. (You’re probably driving on the highway daily and inhaling enough pollutants to kill you in thirty years, but when was the last time you were chased down by a tiger?)

Which reminds me: if you haven’t seen David Cronenburg’s Crash, you should.

And if you have a question for me, you should comment here or email me!
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