Q: In a frank exchange early in our courtship, I told my girlfriend that I have no kinks. As a faithful reader of Savage Love, I'm obviously not opposed to kinks — but I've never had any inclinations in that direction and am probably a typical hetero vanilla. As a result, I'm damn near clueless in that area. Last night, my girlfriend placed my hands around her neck and asked me to choke her. My instant reaction was to say no, not out of any objection in principle but because I thought it might be dangerous in my inexperienced hands. Later I did comply, but I was definitely holding back. I dearly love my main squeeze — clever pun there, huh? — and I want to be GGG, but... well, you see my misgivings. I know about safe words, but can we count on them when the recipient's larynx is being compromised and she may be close to passing out? For the record, I had no difficulty in acceding to her request to be bitten, as I know where and how hard I can do that without causing damage, but choking is an area of darkness for me. And let me note that my girlfriend has no grounding in medicine, physiology, or anything that would lead me to be comfortable trusting her judgment about choking.
—Choke Holds Obligate Kink Education
A: I have friends who are professional Dominants — women who will stick needles through the head of their client's cock and post the bloody pics to Twitter — who refuse to do breath play and/or choking scenes.
"It's impossible to control for all the variables," says Mistress Matisse, a professional dominatrix with more than 20 years of experience. "People think choking isn't kinky, but it is. People think it's a low-risk activity, but it's not. Choking isn't just about the lungs. It can affect the brain and the heart — it can affect the whole body — and if the bottom has underlying health issues, things can go disastrously wrong. I feel strongly about this."
Wrapping something around someone's neck — your hands, a belt, a rope — is the most dangerous form of breath play, Matisse emphasizes, and simply cannot be done safely. Fragile bones (like the hyoid bone), nerves, arteries, veins — the neck is a crowded place, it's vulnerable, and putting sustained pressure on someone's neck is extremely risky.
Matisse also notes: "The person doing the choking needs to be aware that they're on the hook legally — for at least manslaughter charges — if the person who asked to be choked should die. People have gone to jail for this kind of 'play.'"
Jay Wiseman, author of SM 101, not only takes a similarly dim view of choking, CHOKE, he's served as an expert witness at the trials of people who choked someone to death during sex.
"It's always inherently life-threatening, and it's always inherently unpredictable," says Wiseman. "It's more dangerous than suffocation, as you can get into deeper trouble more quickly. People have died from a few seconds of being choked. There simply are no landmarks — meaning, you can't say to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that if you 'only' choke someone for 30 seconds, they'll be okay. People have died after being choked for less than 30 seconds."
I'm tempted to leave it there, CHOKE, because I worry that anything else I might say — anything remotely equivocal — could result in one idiot choking another to death. But the fact of the matter is that choking, despite the risks, is a relatively common kink, and almost all deaths related to breath play occur during solo scenes, not partnered scenes. So I'm going to give you a little advice about meeting your girlfriend's particular needs safely, i.e., without wrapping your hands around her neck.
So your partner wants to be choked?
"What most people who are into choking want is to feel controlled," says Matisse. "So put your hand over her mouth. Grab her hair, wrap an arm around her shoulder — not her neck — and put your other hand over her mouth. That should satisfy the urge."
Another option, CHOKE, is a gas mask. If it's not too disturbing a look — if it's not a boner-killer — you can put a gas mask on someone, cover the breathing hole with the flat of your hand, and cut off your partner's air. All they have to do when they need a breath is shake their head, which will break the seal created by your palm and allow them to breathe.
And finally, CHOKE, you could — if you really like this woman — take a stage combat class or book a session with a fight choreographer. There are safe choke holds used on stage, where the person being choked is in control and no actual pressure is placed on the neck.
Follow Mistress Matisse on Twitter @mistressmatisse. Follow Jay Wiseman on Twitter @JayWiseman.
Q: My boyfriend of four months is great, we're in love, and the sex is amazing. Now for the but: A strange man takes my boyfriend out once or twice a year for a fancy lunch and gives him a lot of expensive new underwear. At these lunch "dates," my boyfriend returns the underwear the man gave him last time, now used and worn. It seems obvious to me that Underpants Pervert, as I've dubbed him, is masturbating with these old pairs of underwear. This has been going on for SEVEN YEARS, and it makes me so uncomfortable that I asked my boyfriend to stop. He agreed, but he went back on the agreement the next time Underpants Pervert snapped his fingers. My boyfriend says he likes this guy, doesn't feel objectified in a bad way, enjoys their lunches, and thinks of him as an old friend. When I see my boyfriend in his underwear, all I can think is, "That pervert is going to be masturbating into those soon," when I should be thinking, "My boyfriend is so sexy." You'll probably take Underpants Pervert's side — since you're pro-kink and an older gay man yourself — and tell me to get over it. But what if I can't?
—Having Issues Stopping Boyfriend's Underpants Man
P.S. My boyfriend is 28 and straight. I'm a 25-year-old cis bi woman.
A: Get over it.
P.S. And if you can't get over it? Well, I guess you could issue an ultimatum, HISBUM: "It's me or Underpants Pervert." You would essentially be asking your boyfriend to end a successful long-term relationship (seven years) — a relationship of a different sort, yes, but a relationship nonetheless — in favor of a short-term relationship (four months). You've already asked your boyfriend to stop seeing this man, and he chose the perverted fag over the controlling girlfriend. If you can't get over it and you decide to issue that ultimatum, HISBUM, don't be surprised if he chooses the pervert over you a second time.
Q: Just wondering why I can't find any coverage in your many years of letters concerning the effects of pubic lice on sexual health and relationships.
—Asking For A Friend
A: No one has ever asked me about pubic lice, AFAF. Some people believe pubic lice have been driven to extinction — at least in the West — by the shaving-your-pubes trend, which is now in its second or third decade and shows no sign of abating. But that theory, which I once believed myself (and could explain why no one asks me about it), has been thoroughly debunked. So I can't tell you why pubic lice haven't come up in the column. It's a mystery.
Q: The one thing I would have added to your advice for MISSCLEO, the mom who caught her son stealing panties: If she can afford it, after the talk about where the bra came from, she should give him an Amazon gift card. Maybe $50 to $100? No matter how close they are, he's not going to ask his mom to buy panties for him, but she can give him the means and then assiduously ignore boxes that show up with his name on them.
—People Are Nice To You
A: Thanks for sharing, PANTY.
Dan interviews victims' rights lawyer Carrie Goldberg, our hero: savagelovecast.com.