I’ve been having sex for a few years. My friends, have been having sex for a few years. Over these collective years, I’ve heard countless tales of the thin walls of student housing; the regretful texts to exes leading to sometimes disappointing, sometimes electric reunions; the musicality of bodies and a generous helping of lube; and many other stories spoken with hushed voices and blushing faces.
The latter are stories spoken in a different tone. The way these moments are described is less of a story and more of a question – Is this OK? They describe how, in the throes of passion, a partner overcome with excitement grasped their throat and pushed down until their windpipe was blocked.
What my friends don’t describe readily is the fear they experienced. The sense of panic and terror that comes with a partner not obtaining your consent. The betrayal of a partner assuming, or worse, not caring about your well-being is shocking. It can turn sex – an experience of intimacy, pleasure and fun – into an area of dread, anxiety and, at times, assault.
I often have to refrain from grabbing my baseball bat and seeking out the sexual partners who have hurt me and my friends. Instead, I underline that any sexual act without your consent is assault. If someone has done something without asking you first, that is not OK. Choking without consent is assault. No one should presume your consent, and those who do are not safe sexual partners.
Conversely, when I’m speaking to people who boast about their kinkiness, I always ask, politely but firmly, how they achieved consent. Did you ask your partner for the first time while they were naked, vulnerable and wanting to please you? Then, respectfully, shut up and re-examine whether your sexual needs are more important than your partner’s happiness. (Hint: they shouldn’t be.) Did you ask your partner to do something they were unsure of as a favour for your birthday, graduation, anniversary, promotion or just for doing the dishes? Then, respectfully again, shut up and realize that sex should not be a reward or elicited from your partner through bargaining. Sex is given enthusiastically, without pressure and through open, honest communication.
Conversations about the introduction of kinkier aspects into you and your partner’s sex life are best done outside of the heat of the moment. Bringing it up before you begin to have sex allows your partner to consider your request when not pressured by the expectation of the moment. If someone asks you to consider choking them or being choked, you are entitled to a lot of time to decide, and most importantly you are allowed to say no. Choking is not a sexual act one should step into lightly nor in the heat of the moment. Research using reliable sources such as sexual health educators or sexologists should be read to learn the proper technique. Without learning the proper technique you can seriously harm your partner.
I’ve found myself so traumatized from the experience of being choked without consent that when I was kissing a new partner and they brought their hand up to cup my face, I instinctively karate-chopped their arm and began shouting. This forced us to stop and have a discussion about my experience, the importance of continued consent and a zone of my body that I did not feel comfortable having touched. It is through these conversations about trauma and boundaries that my partner and I were able to build intimacy that improved sex. Whether that sex would eventually include choking is a decision that would be made between the two of us, only after we have built a foundation of trust and, most importantly, consent.