What Is Erotic Asphyxiation?

6 Facts About Erotic Asphyxiation

Narcissistic Personality By Mar 01, 2021

Erotic asphyxiation (EA) is an increasingly common sexual practice, particularly among young people. It is a high risk activity that can lead to accidental death. It was first depicted in the 1791 novel Justine (Les infortunes de la vertu) by Marquis de Sade. Popular among people who engage in bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, it has become normalized through its depiction in pornography.

In this article you will learn about:

Let’s get started.

What is Erotic Asphyxiation?

Erotic asphyxiation is a sadomasochistic fetish of consensual strangulation during sexual activity, granting absolute power to one person through the complete surrender of the other. It is also known as breath play, erotic chokingsexual asphyxiation.

Common types of erotic asphyxiation

Some of the most common types of non-fatal strangulation are the constriction of the throat by:

  • Using one or both hands
  • Apply pressure with a forearm
  • Applying pressure with a knee or foot
  • Use of objects, such as a strap, rope, belt, scarf, cord, scarf, necklace, plastic wrap, etc. 

Physical outcomes of erotic asphyxiation

Some of the consequences of erotic asphyxiation:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Brain damage
  • Hoarse voice
  • Paralysis
  • Motor and speech disorders
  • Stroke
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence 
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Seeing dark spots
  • Tunnel vision
  • Memory loss

Why do people choke each other during sex?

Erotic asphyxiation is said to enhance sexual arousal and magnify the intensity of orgasm.

“We found that many people into choking remember growing up and watching porn with choking in it,” said Dr. Herbenick. “In a country where porn stands in for sex education and family conversations about sex, some young people do what they see in porn.”

How common is erotic asphyxiation?

According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and lead by Dr. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health. “It is especially among young adults.”

People Choked During Sex


People Who Have Choked Others During Sex


Dr. Herbenick says there has been a shift in sexual behavior over the last two decades. The study found that choking during sex is most prevalent among 18-29-year-olds, among whom 40% had either choked a sexual partner or been choked by one.

“We found that 21 percent of women had been choked during sex as had 11 percent of men,” said Dr. Herbenick. “We also found that 20 percent of men and 12 percent of women had choked a partner.”

The study also found that 23 of the 347 female respondents expressed feeling frightened during sex as their partner had attempted to choke them by surprise and without consent.

How is erotic asphyxiation different from non-fatal strangulation?

What differentiates non-fatal strangulation from so-called erotic choking is context, intent, and consent. While both erotic asphyxiation and non-fatal strangulation are dominant behaviors, there are some important distinctions:

Erotic asphyxiation is:

  • Consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of mutual sexual pleasure.
  • Is not intended to cause harm.

Non-fatal strangulation is:

  • Non-consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of abusive power and control.
  • Intended to cause harm and induce fear.

Is erotic asphyxiation as dangerous as non-fatal strangulation?

Although erotic asphyxiation is consensual and occurs in a different context from non-fatal strangulation, it poses the same dangers.

Certified sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson explains, “Sexual choking or breath play is really dangerous. Even in the BDSM community, it’s never safe. There is always a lethal risk.”

Moreover, the rise in erotic asphyxiation has led to a quarter of American women report feeling scared during sex. due to a rise in non-fatal strangulation that takes place during sex without consent.


  • Glass, Nancy & Laughon, Kathryn & Campbell, Jacquelyn & Block, Carolyn & Hanson, Ginger & Sharps, Phyllis & Taliaferro, Ellen. (2007). Non-fatal Strangulation is an Important Risk Factor for Homicide of Women. The Journal of emergency medicine. 35. 329-35. 10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.065. 
  • Herbenick D, Fu TC, Wright P, Paul B, Gradus R, Bauer J, Jones R. Diverse Sexual Behaviors and Pornography Use: Findings From a Nationally Representative Probability Survey of Americans Aged 18 to 60 Years. J Sex Med. 2020 Apr;17(4):623-633. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.01.013. Epub 2020 Feb 17. PMID: 32081698.
  • Debby Herbenick, Elizabeth Bartelt, Tsung-Chieh (Jane) Fu, Bryant Paul, Ronna Gradus, Jill Bauer & Rashida Jones (2019) Feeling Scared During Sex: Findings From a U.S. Probability Sample of Women and Men Ages 14 to 60, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 45:5,424-439, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2018.1549634
  • Thomas, K. A., Joshi, M., & Sorenson, S. B. (2014). “Do You Know What It Feels Like to Drown?”: Strangulation as Coercive Control in Intimate Relationships. Retrieved from http://repository.upenn.edu/spp_papers/168 
  • Savage, Dan (2020, September 9). Savage Love: Why Is Choking During Sex Common Among Young Adults? Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Engle, Gigi (2020, July 21). Why Some People Are Turned on by Choking During Sex—and How to Do It Safely, According to Experts. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Phetasy, Bridget (2017, November 2). So You’re Into Choking… Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Wint, Camilla. (2018, March 23) Acute Upper Airway Obstruction. Retrieved March 1, 2021.

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Manya Wakefield is a recovery coach specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and coercive trauma. Her expertise has been featured in publications such as Newsweek, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. In 2019, she launched the social impact platform Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, building a global audience through human rights advocacy. The same year, she published the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship,’ which is used in domestic violence recovery groups around the world. In 2020, Manya developed The Coercive Control Legislation Global Database. She is also the host of The Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.