Breath Play: Yay or Nay?

Breath Play: Yay or Nay?
Martin Moore
Written by
on , updated on

I didn’t know for a long time how to swim. But that didn’t stop me from holding my breath and jumping into the pool. I’d jump in, and in one rather hapless situation I was thrown in by my cousin – kids can be mean that way – into the pool and flail my arms to get back up when I thought I was drowning. This was a strange kind of thrill for me…So I understand why people risk both their senses and their lives for breath play.

Hey, I’m not advocating jumping into the deep end even if you don’t know how to swim. Neither am I advocating risking your health – spine, heart, and brain – to indulge in something that can actually be fatal. I’m writing this article because there are people out there who want to experience this thrill that breath play brings with it. And those people could use some more knowledge about this kink they’re so into.

Firstly, this article will help you to understand what breath play is, how safe or risky it is for you, and if you want to indulge in it. And let’s say you already find the idea of choking – among other things – exciting, this article will also provide you with some safety tips and ways to indulge in it. People, please understand that breath play isn’t really a game. 

It’s risky, it’s serious and at times it’s hot…but not if you end up brain-damaged. There’s nothing fun about death while orgasming either but let’s hope neither you nor I would ever have to go there. Read up on this article, and possibly every other article you can find on breath play – on the internet or otherwise – before deciding what you want to do about this interest of yours.

What Is Breath Play And How Risky Is It?

A lot of articles I found don’t fail to mention how risky it is to indulge in breath play. But, what exactly is breath play? Breath play or as one can scientifically call it erotic asphyxiation involves one partner restricting the breathing of another partner during a sexual encounter. When you indulge in solo breath play it’s called autoerotic asphyxiation.

Breath play is one of the areas of BDSM and so it involves a dom and a sub. Usually, the sub is the one whose breath is being restricted by the dom. This restriction of air, and by air I mean oxygen, is done to intensify an orgasm. You could wonder why a person would want to stop breathing for a while just to have an earth-shattering orgasm. But as I said before, some people are just wired this way.

The Risk Factors Involved With Breath Play

There are other reasons why people indulge in breath play, but more on that later. Know that during breath play, you technically place your life in your partner’s hands – so there are certain risks involved. There’s a controversy here about if solo breath play is safer than doing it with a partner or vice versa. 

Many say when doing solo, it’s safer. This is as you control the amount and type of restrictions you want to impose on your breathing. But then again, if you pass out with a mask on, unable to take it off or breathe properly, there’s hardly any safety there. 

And then again, with a partner, if by chance they don’t notice your safety gestures or signs or God forbid they ignore them for just 5 more seconds, it will make a lot of difference to your health…and not in a good way.

How is it done?

You see, this controversial BDSM ‘edge-play’, besides some masks or hoods, also requires a trustworthy partner. There are some other ways also though, besides the usual nose-pinching, that you could use to indulge in breath play. For instance, kinging or queening – this is when you literally smother your partner’s mouth and nose with your genitals. 

Gas masks, hoods like a latex gimp or slave hoods, and even bags or plastic wraps are used for breath-holding. A rebreather might also be used for breath play. Other extreme varieties of methods used to accomplish breath play are hanging and corseting (compression on chest). Yes, Victorian women and possibly every woman before them, did hate their corsets because yes, they actually restrict breathing.

Putting pressure on the trachea or around the neck or putting pressure on the carotid artery can also restrict breathing. This is why there are just so many things that could go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing here. One minute the two of you might be panting sexily and the next moment you’re calling 911 because your partner might be having a heart attack.

The History Behind Breath Play

Believe it or not, there’s some legit interesting history behind the origin of breath play. But before I get into that, have you heard of that choking game, “passing each other out“? No? Yes? Well, guess what, the tendency towards a fetish such as this starts early. A game such as this is actually played among children in many areas of this wonderful world we live in.

History has more than once proved that breath play has been enjoyed to fulfill a sort of death fantasy. The closer to death the “gaspers” feel, the more excited they become. This is probably why most adolescent boys, who didn’t know better, were found with magazines that, well, excite adolescent boys…but they’d been found choked to death with women’s items of clothing. This is nothing but an extreme case of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong.

Back in the 1700s even, in the good old golden days where people were allowed to watch other people hang – not hanging around, but hanging to their deaths – onlookers noticed that some of the prisoners (I’m guessing) got erections while they were hanged. So the connection was made and what came out as a cure for erectile dysfunction or even impotence? Asphyxiation, that’s what. The doctors really had free reign back in the days.

This hidden kink was always there. Only now people are more willing to talk about it. Agreed, that this is risky but there are some safety measures or even alternatives to the riskier kind of breath play. So, you might want to look into it in the next sections. But before that, know a little more about breath play and why people want to do it.

Why Do People Practice Breath Play?

Well, psychological attractions to that sense of thrill aside – not everyone jumped into the pool like an idiot as a kid like I did – there are some concrete reasons as to why people are interested in breath play. To begin with, when the oxygen to your body is limited, the brain releases hormones to counter this loss somehow. 

Adrenaline (the basic flight or fight hormone) and endorphins are released in your system as lack of breath signals danger to the body. This natural response to a situation like this will also heighten sexual stimulation. This is the rush that people are after when they indulge in breath play. Also, you feel a bit lightheaded when the oxygen supply is limited to your brain and that adds to the list of why breath play can both be fun and dangerous.

Besides these two reasons, there’s always the dominant-submissive dynamic in any BDSM relationship where it’s a huge turn-on for one person, or both of them when one person controls the other. Here, you’re literally controlling how much the other person will breathe. Submissives on the other hand, really like the feeling of having their breathing controlled.

The power dynamic also stems around the factor of trust. When you’re with a partner in a play like this you’re trusting them entirely with yourself and your safety. You could say, in a way, breath play strengthens the trust between two consenting adults. Only, we can just hope that there are no misgivings leading to mishaps. Breath play is enjoyed extremely by masochists as well.

What Can Go Wrong During Breath Play?

When I jumped into a pool as a kid who didn’t know how to swim, I always had this strange belief that nothing could go wrong. I was in the water, mostly drowning but almost all the time I made it up. It was either me pushing myself up or the people around me who made sure that I didn’t die. Needless to say, I learned swimming really quickly but I have a feeling I lucked out. When I sit and think about it, I realize that a lot of things could have gone wrong.

Breath play is sort of similar that way. You think you could take being choked or that you’ll know when to stop but chances are you’re just winging it, believing nothing can go wrong. Well my friend, if this is the case the brain damage has already begun. It’s scientifically proven that you lose some brain cells every time you deprive your brain of the much-needed oxygen – and when indulging in breath play, you’re depriving yourself regularly.

What Happens In The Brains During Breath Play?


During breath play, that light-headedness that you feel, yeah that isn’t safe either. It’s not a cocktail people, it’s your neurons and nerve endings failing to communicate with each other. Besides a brain that will most absolutely be oxygen deprived and fry itself over time, you also have to worry about your heart. Both erotic and autoerotic asphyxiation can lead to cardiac arrest. 

The injury or fatality is usually unintentional but it’s there. The spine and the larynx also suffer as well. This is because at times you have to physically hold the masks or the neck. This is to prevent your submissive partner from breathing when they’re on the edge. In the heat of the moment, you might hurt their body more than you think. You’ll need to have extensive knowledge of human anatomy to even consider breath play.

Safety Precautions to Consider While Engaging in Breath Play

Just safe words aren’t going to do it, you need safe gestures to go with it. And make sure you have significant self-control during sex – you cannot ignore the safe signs or words or gestures, not even for one second. Choking restricts the blood flow to the brain, so you also must have proper aftercare planned. 

This includes a visit to the doctor if you or your partner were unconscious. You should also check for comorbidity or any kind of allergies that your partner might have, and check for asthma before considering breath play. Breath play can be potentially life-threatening if taken lightly. 

There’s just no way of knowing if your partner is going to have a cardiac arrest (ventricular fibrillation or pressure on the carotid artery – both are life-threatening). Or if they will be unconscious a second later because there’s some potentially dangerous brain damage or if they pose any other threat to injury. That’s why there are alternatives. 

Some Alternatives You Can Explore

Talk to some friends. I know reading stuff on the internet seems like the safest and most discreet bet but you need to get some first-hand feedback about breath play. If you’re willing to believe me I’ll tell you what my friends said. Two of my most adventurous friends let me know that they use alternatives to actually making someone stop breathing. 

This is different than erotic or autoerotic asphyxiation in the sense that the risk is relatively lower. Self-controlled breathing restrictions, for instance, relies on the psychological impact of hyperventilation and simulate classic breath play! You become more conscious of your own breathing and don’t have to rely on dangerous props this way. 

Your dom might control how long you’ll hold your breath. Or you might introduce punishments if you fail to get as excited as you thought you’d be, but at least you’ll be safe with the alternatives like tantric breathing. Or do this, hold your breath while masturbating… whatever you do, make sure you’re safe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.