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Portrait of ashamed young woman covering mouth with hands thinking about choking during sex

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As sexual liberation becomes more evolved, there will be things we see as normal that would have shocked people decades ago. Women asking men out. Phone apps designed specifically for hookups. Pocket vibrators. Choking during sex….Hold up. Is choking during sex “normal” now? According to reports from The Sydney Morning Herald, many young people believe that choking during sex is no big deal. But experts warn that choking can lead to long-term damage, and even death, further complicating the rise in popularity of erotic asphyxiation.

As we work towards a world where kink-shaming comes to an end, where does choking – a confirmed dangerous activity – fit into that? And why exactly do people like it anyways? Here’s what psychologists and researchers have to say about it.


Choking Has Gone Mainstream

If you’ve spent any time on a porn site lately, you’ve seen the choking category – sometimes categor(ies). At times, it’s basic hands-on-neck choking, but other forms of erotic asphyxiation can involve putting a plastic bag over someone’s head, compressing their chest or replacing their oxygen with the inhalation of a different gas. The idea is to limit oxygen flow to the brain, temporarily. However people prefer to do it, it looks like this kink has transitioned from fantasy porn online to real-life behavior that’s permeating hookup culture.

One study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior interviewed 4989 American college students and found that 58 percent of women had been choked in a sexual setting, and 25 percent had been choked by age 17. The research has found that choking is a highly gendered activity, and it’s mostly men doing it to women.

The Sydney Morning Herald story describes several young people saying they assumed choking was a pretty common practice by now. One account in The Guardian tells of a man reaching for a woman’s throat during a casual makeout session. When she asked why he did that, he simply said “I dunno, I thought you’d like it.”


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