EROTIC MAGAZINE FOR WOMEN AND COUPLES » Sex Tips and Insights » Whats’s the psychology behind choking during sex

From “choke me, Daddy” memes to horror stories from first Tinder dates—as explored in our Sexual Choking Safety article—it feels like everyone and their Mom is into being choked these days. But, outside of the prevalence of depicted in porn, how do people come to associate with a seemingly violent action? And what is the psychology behind choking during sex?

The act of being choked during sex can provide pleasurable physical sensations as well as mental ones, though many confuse one with the other or lump them together. Beyond that, there are many different types of chokes to elicit different sensations that all fall under the same umbrella, that is choking. This is why a new language was created to help differentiate the various types of chokes based on what they are restricting–or not–and to aide individuals both in identifying what they enjoy about choking during sex as well as communicating it to their partner(s).

While it is important to understand why we are drawn to different types of chokes, be it the mental or physical aspects, there isn’t a single answer as to why one develops this. Kink-affirming therapist Julia Koerwer LMSW stresses that psychologists and scientists don’t definitively know why people are drawn to different kinks. “Some people link their interest in a kink to a specific thing that happened in their life, some people like exploring different sensations through kink, some people think that society considering something taboo makes it more appealing, and some people feel as if it’s a completely random interest they were born with.”

Before you can even get into the different types of sexual chokes, it can be helpful to differentiate between the physical and mental draws to this act. Koerwer recommends asking yourself how you want to feel during a scene. “If you want to feel restrained or feel pressure on your neck, that might be the physical aspect. If you want to feel controlled, helpless, submissive, maybe you’re more drawn to the mental aspect.”

How to examine your desire behind choking during sex:

For the person receiving this sensation, the desired feeling should illustrate much more than “turned on” or “aroused”. These are great feelings and by no means have to accompany this act, but they also don’t tell us much. Dig deeper to uncover how the act of being choked makes you feel, and what it is you enjoy about it. Also, take note of the parts of choking you do not enjoy as this can help point you to which type can best suit you. For example, if you like feeling restrained and submitted by the choke but dislike the physical discomfort, a fantasy choke will fit your needs more than a breath or blood choke.

If you are the person administering the choke, it is not relevant which choke you like since you are not the receiver. As the giver—or the top—it is your job to both understand the safety and mechanics behind any choke you wish to use as well as creating space for the bottom to experiment and understand so that they feel empowered to ask for what they want unrelated to your choking desires.

Elyssa Helfer, sexologist and kink researcher, cautions those looking to push their limits. “For many, the intent when it comes to experiencing physical pain is to elevate their pain threshold. This could be looked at in a similar way to the ways in which someone might increase weight capacities when strength training; the intent is on the expansion of ability.” With something as risky as choking during sex, the desire should be to find what feels good to you—whatever that is—and not seeing how much you can tolerate.

Fantasy choke: a choke with no restriction to blood or breath

Physical draws to a fantasy choke

As a fantasy choke does not apply restriction to breath or blood flow to the brain, the physical sensations involved in this type of choke are focused more as skin on skin. The neck and chest region is already a delicate and vulnerable space given the proximity to vital organs and functions—so much as having a hand, fingers, or any object lay there can already feel invasive. Some individuals may find a certain light pressure or covering of this area to feel grounding, especially when without discomfort. A fantasy choke tends to embody that Frankenstein choke we see in steamy movies invoking press-your-back-against-a-wall-and-take-me vibes. It has a feeling of immediacy but also intimacy and control.

Mental draws to a fantasy choke

Mostly, fantasy choke plays on the mental aspects of using consensual choking in our play. This type of choke can feel naughty as if we are acting out some sort of capture fantasy or playing with the idea of being rough without acting it out. Overall the feeling of control and the responsibility that comes with it is what draws many people to choking during sex. It is the inability to discern between the different types of chokes based on the desired feelings that often have individuals confusing their draw to the act.

Blood choke: a choke with restriction to blood flow to the brain

Physical draws to a blood choke

A blood choke cuts off the second valve of oxygen to the brain. This individual does not have the oxygen restricted to their lungs, but is playing with the restriction of oxygen from the lungs to the brain. Even if an individual plays with this lightly and does not come close to the risk of passing out, they can still get the same endorphin high when the carotid arteries are temporarily blocked. It is believed that the brain produces endocannabinoids to bring the body back to a stasis when under duress. While a blood choke may not give you the same high as cannabis, many who enjoy this type of choke report light buzzy sensation during the choke as well as pleasure from the rush of blood back to the brain following the release of pressure. 

Mental draws to a blood choke

Edge play can be a mental thrill just as much as a physical one—the kink equivalent to extreme sports and roller coasters. Because a blood choke has the possibility of leading to passing out, this type of edge can feel like it flirts with death. In reality, passing out is a safety valve for the brain. Loss of consciousness should only last a matter of seconds once you allow the blood flow to return from the carotid arteries. If you’ve ever watched professional MMA or Jui-Jitsu, you are familiar with this occurrence. However, one does not need to lose consciousness to reap the mental draw to a blood choke. 

Breath choke: a choking during sex with restriction to breath via the nose or mouth

Physical draws to a breath choke

A breath choke can find an individual noticing different sensations in their body from the lack of breath to the lungs. Individuals who pair this choke with sexual play can find it heightens their pleasure and even orgasm. If you’ve ever held your beath during the peak of pleasure, think of this as an extension of that play. Though the physical sensations don’t have to be directly related to genital pleasure. Kaia, a submissive with a penchant for any type of sensation, is a fan of her breath being restricted due to “a shade of blue-violet behind my closed eyes that doesn’t exist in reality”. With any kind of deprivation, new sensations occur or may heighten existing ones. It just so happens that this type of deprivation is incredibly riskier than, say, dawning a blindfold. 

Mental draws to a breath choke

Similarly to how one pays extra attention to breath in a meditative fashion, playing with breath can be a transcendent experience for some. Limiting something as necessary to the body as oxygen can be attractive to an individual who enjoys the focus on cherishing and appreciating something they may usually take for granted—like breathing. This can be literal or a metaphor to other seemingly mundane activities they don’t take as much time to appreciate. 

Incorrect (trachea) chokes: a choke that applies pressure to the trachea

Physical draws to an incorrect (trachea) choke

Some individuals may purposefully use unsafe chokes which can involve using the fingers to forcefully press against the sides of the throat but more often focus on the trachea. This type of choke often produces discomfort or pain. Kaia is drawn to less safe trachea chokes for the sensation. “While I enjoy choking during sex in general for the power dynamic, when I’ve been the recipient of a blood choke or a fantasy choke, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I find blood chokes to be an uncomfortable type of pain, and I find that I’m really drawn to just the feeling of a hand pressing down on my neck.”

Mental draws to an incorrect (trachea) choke

There are a variety of reasons an individual is drawn to a physically unsafe choke, including the perseverance of withstanding pain or the thrill of looking danger in the face.

While it is not advised to engage in an unsafe choke, understanding the draws to this edge play can help individuals understand how they can elicit these feelings with other actions that may be less risky. So, if you are after the feeling of pressure and helplessness, perhaps heavy bondage is worth a try. If the skin-to-skin is an important aspect, facesitting or body bondage can satisfy your craving.

No matter why or how you became interested in choking during sex it is imperative that if you wish to practice it, you understand all of the risks involved, learn proper safety, and educate yourself on the different types of chokes that you and your person want to do. If you have only been exposed to one variation of choke, you may need to experiment with other types in order to figure out which one brings you pleasure.

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