Facts & Info

BDSM Breath Play Basics

Erotic Asphyxiation

If breath play—softer sounding words for erotic asphyxiation—holds no allure for you, you probably wonder why anyone would restrict their oxygen supply and how it could be hot.

Why Do People Engage in Breath Play?

Those on the other side are usually motivated by one or both of two major factors. One, a euphoria or altered state can result from hypoxia—lack of oxygen—with changes in dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. This intensifies orgasm. Two, the power dynamic and extreme submission or control is itself a powerful aphrodisiac for some kinky BDSM lovers.

How Safe Is Breath Play?

Let’s be straight: breath play is not safe sex. It is so dangerous that even people into extreme kinks refuse to go there. The no-go zone is a practical boundary—avoiding accidental death or manslaughter charges is the name of the game.

Death by erotic asphyxiation is common. The first case was recorded in 1718. The FBI estimates 500 to 1000 Americans a year die this way, but the numbers are higher. Many are recorded as suicide. There may be no sign of masturbation or sex at the scene, or families may tidy up before authorities arrive to spare the victim or family the shame and embarrassment. Oxygen deprivation can also lead to brain damage.

That said, breath restriction for pleasure has been recorded for hundreds of years.

How Do Kinksters Engage in Breath Play?

Types of breath play include smothering with a pillow, wearing a mask or hood, hanging, using a plastic bag, a scarf, kinging or queening (suffocating someone with genitals), drowning, or choking with hands, ropes, bonds, or scarves.

There are no real ways to play it safe—you can’t use a safe word if you’re unconscious, and the desired state one wants to reach is very close to the edge.

However, you can make this form of BDSM play somewhat safer with these suggestions.

9 Ways to Make Breath Play Safer

1. Play with someone you trust.

Trust alone doesn’t make a person capable of recognizing subtle physiological shifts, but it helps to have someone who cares enough to be as vigilant as possible.

2. Play with someone who knows CPR.

First Aid and CPR courses are offered for free in many communities. It’s a great certificate to hold for everyday life, inside and outside the bedroom.

3. Never play alone.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is extremely common, and dangerous. It’s more dangerous than breath play with a partner, because no one is there to loosen the bonds when you pass out. Don’t be tempted to experiment on your own.

4. Use moderation.

You can use a mask or scarf that muffles breathing instead of obliterating it with a plastic bag. You can use a shower head to minimize breathing, rather than submerging fully into liquid.

5. If you have asthma, bronchitis, a cold, or lung problems, forget it.

Underlying health conditions have their own problems—don’t add to the usual risks with something that further compromises breathing.

6. Use brief intervals.

Instead of consistent breath restriction, use brief intervals in between bouts of breathing.

7. Hold your own breath without any kind of external force.

Sure, it may sound boring without the life-or-death risk, but you can be sure of exploring safely for years to come.

8. Use a sauna.

You can suffocate in a sauna, and people have, but you’d have to be in there for hours. You can use a sauna for mild breath restriction. Some people report more intense orgasms in saunas, probably from a combination of heat and lowered oxygen levels. Again, having a kink buddy close by is a good idea.

9. Use yoga and tantra breathing practices.

Yoga and tantra, a kind of sex yoga, both focus on breath. Their goal is usually the opposite of breath restriction—energizing the body and sexual energy through more oxygen. Control over the breath and variations in deep and shallow breathing are used to achieve health, energy, and nirvana.

Tantric breath exchange can be powerfully erotic. The oxygen increase from deep breathing following periods of slow breathing can also have hypnotic results, and feel good, and is a much safer practice.

Do you have experience with breath play? Please share your tips in the comments!

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