The 10 Second Workshop
by DK Leather, Copyright 2006
This workshop (and indeed this article) at NO time endorses or advocates breaking the law or risking your health. It is for INFORMATION ONLY. I am NOT a medical professional but have been personally indulging in this form of play for several years and hope that I have learned a thing or two along the way.
This information IS about love, life, exploration, and consensual breath control in which everyone intends to remain healthy. This is NOT about a flippant temptation of death. Many people are afraid that by giving information they will encourage someone to play this way and if that person ends up dead, they will feel responsible. This strikes me a lot like the argument of those that say if teenagers are kept in the dark about sex, they won’t do it. I prefer ‘informed consent’ or ‘risk aware consensual kink’, in other words; if you’re going to do it no matter what anyone says anyway, at least learn how to do it a little more wisely. However, for your information? The USA law enforcement estimates that between 250 and 1,000 deaths per year occur through breath play.
Swimming underwater or holding your own breath intentionally for long periods are a) you taking your own risks and b) far less risky inherently, due to control, lack of fear, lack of adrenalin or endorphins and most importantly, YOU are in control of your breathing in those circumstances. Breath play is about messing with someone else’s breathing, it’s DIFFERENT as it affects a body completely differently. So STOP thinking you know it’s ok because you can hold your own breath for so long!
HISTORY, PRACTICE & DANGER
The documentation of the practice of erotic asphyxiation goes back to the 1600′s at the very least. Back then it was used as a form of THERAPY for those suffering from impotence!
In BDSM, breathplay refers to the practice of restricting or controlling the flow of air and thus oxygen into the body of one or more participants also known as ASPHYXIATION. The RUSH that is a direct result of both the fear and the lack of oxygen in the brain is the ‘kick’ that people into this kind of edge play are after. That’s the ‘high’ that breath players are chasing (see ‘why’ further down).
The myth that the hanged man orgasms at the moment of his death is a common one, the ADRENALIN rush from the experience of real danger and the dramatic notion of dying in someone’s hands all adds to the dangerous attraction and mystique of this practice. The TECHNIQUES used to achieve this vary from scene to scene and thus the level of risk involved also varies enormously. However, acknowledge that under most if not ALL circumstances this practice is firmly within the definition of EDGE PLAY.
The body’s natural reaction is to try/want to breath, that is its own WARNING SYSTEM, ignore it at your peril! Jay Wiseman, one of the most widely respected BDSM authors/practitioners, strongly recommends not indulging in it at all (refer to his links at the bottom of the page). I fully intend to make you healthily afraid in the hope that you will at least hesitate and seriously think before you choose to indulge in this dangerous practice.
So, first things first; in order to give yourselves the best possible chance of safety you should a) learn the appropriate ANATOMY and particularly in regard to the body’s responses to oxygen deprivation (scare yourself for real, read the section below on specific health risks) and b) attend a full workshop, learn the things to avoid, the ways to circumvent the dangers as much as possible whilst discovering ways to play with the least risk of harm. Did you know for example, that the chances of successful resuscitation from Cardiac Arrest are only 10%? Or that someone can literally drop dead instantly (adrenalin dump)? Or indeed with as little as 10 SECONDS of simple breathing withdrawal? Get medical training if possible, or have someone on hand who HAS had. Learn the risks.
WHY DO PEOPLE DO IT?
- Oxygen deprivation effects; a lower amount of oxygen available (warning; hypoxia – see below) or no oxygen (warning; anoxia – ditto) you start to feel a little dreamlike and lightheaded, sometimes even induces a semi-hallucinogenic state.
- Danger / fear / excitement – the adrenalin high, similar to adrenalin/high risk sports. Endorphin rush.
- Contrarily, lowered breathing and intense, calming relaxation.
- The many elements involved of bondage, fear & danger, submission, masochism, trust, dominance, sadism e.g. the Top exerting control over a fundamental, basic function. Be wary of the bondage aspect (see health warnings; fainting).
- STRANGLING This usually involves compression of the carotid arteries (look it up, don’t guess) to prevent blood from reaching the brain
- SUFFOCATION This involves somehow reducing the level of oxygen in the air available to breathe (usually gradually)
- BREATH PLAY The process of making someone more conscious of, directing, or using breath in play (see methods)
- ROLE-PLAY/PSYCHOLOGICAL The safest way. Games of covering the mouth whilst leaving the nose unblocked for example, ‘pretending’ to control the breath, whilst not.
- AWARENESS Making your partner aware of their breathing, verbal domination of breathing i.e., “slow down, calm, take long slow breaths… hold it… release… good girl/boy”
- PRACTICAL Gas Mask, Scuba, straw or snorkel etc. Not very safe but can be made safer by learning methods in the workshop. Asphyxiation can occur as a result of restricting ones airflow by these methods or a rubber mask, a plastic bag, choking; learn much more before you think of doing so.
When you cease someone’s breath flow by any of these methods you are risking their life. If you (and THEY) choose to do so however, try lessening the risk a little by the following practice. Blow your OWN breath out, OUT, all the way (subtly) and then make your action and CEASE before you yourself begin to struggle.
This is the process we prefer to use. If you do choose to indulge in breath play further than role play or domination of breathing, it is erotic and far safer than any form of practical (using force or physical aids) breathing deprivation. For best understanding it requires a workshop attendance or personal tuition, so just ask…
This process involves ‘sharing’ your own breath with a partner. Note that your exhaled breath contains far less oxygen, and contains the process of breathing’s byproduct of carbon dioxide. It can be incredibly erotic because it’s basic action is in kissing. You breathe in fresh air through your nose whilst kissing the other (consenting) person and holding their own nose, and match your own breathing pattern to theirs i.e. as they breath in, you breath out, as they breath out you breath in – RELAXED, CALMLY and SLOWLY – and make sure they know to breath SLOWLY and controlled. Your partner MUST be fully aware and able to control their own physical reactions, including knowing that the more calmly relaxed the process is, the less danger there is. This process allows you to inhale fresh oxygen via your nose and deliver it (in smaller doses as it’s your ‘exhale’) directly into their lungs.
When using this method, actually pushing your breath into someone is seriously stupid and dangerous, so merely allow them to ‘gently breathe in’ your own ‘exhaled air’, mirroring their breathing patterns and them mirroring yours… no pressure, no force, or you could cause real damage and risk real danger. Think of it in terms of that childhood game of ‘mirroring’ hand movements, stood in front of a friend, copying each other slowly and calmly!
If done correctly this form of breath play is the least dangerous of the physical methods, however, DO NOT continue this for more than a few breaths, or their oxygen levels will lower considerably, and you risk the things you are about to read about below.
NOTE: I have shared this method with a doctor, an actual bona fide medical practitioner from within the UK BDSM scene, who was a sworn advocate of NO breath play before seeing one of our breath play workshops (at the Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar some years ago). He has confirmed to me personally that of all the crazy ways that people do indulge in ‘breath play’, this is probably the least dangerous he has seen, the safest method and one he would recommend in what is always going to be fundamentally an unsafe game. In other words, if people insist on doing breath play, do it this way.
Physiological, emotional, legal, possible long term health risks, common injuries (though statistically, those that die of this play are most often playing alone and using a mechanism that doesn’t protect them in case of fainting). PLEASE either research all the serious and potentially fatal health risks – or attend a workshop – before attempting this form of ‘play’. Contact me personally if you wish to and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
SPECIFIC HEALTH WARNINGS – PLEASE DO READ
There is NO SAFE WAY that suffocation or strangulation can be done with NO RISK
- FAINTINGThe most common worry/concern (and in some cases the very aim) of breath play. Unfortunately the first warning sign of unconsciousness is PASSING OUT.
TIP: A faint is the body trying to ‘hit the deck’ in order to rush blood back to the head/brain. DO NOT mess with this, if someone passes out LET THEM DROP right to the floor, naturally ensuring they don’t fall onto or against anything harmful or dangerous in itself. LET the body get horizontal and hopefully they’ll regain consciousness fast. A fainting person not able to drop may result in FITTING/SIEZURES etc. Therefore DO NOT TIE them down, to or against anything, do NOT restrict that bodily instinct during fainting for dropping for any reason, it’s there for life saving good reasons and yes, this means DON’T do breathplay with a restrained partner. Get that? NO RESTRAINTS! Also this enables survival instinct to kick in and they can push you away if they need to (NOTE: you shouldn’t be doing this at ALL if you wouldn’t allow that within such a dangerous activity). This also means it’s best done standing (to allow for a fall), NOT laying down already.
- AUTOEROTIC ASPHYXIATION(i.e. DIY) can be considered as the most dangerous form of breath ‘play’ (I use the term loosely because it really is playing with death) and every year people die because of it. The often-underestimated risk of temporary paralysis as a result of lack of oxygen in the brain is sadly a reason why people can’t get up and therefore die of asphyxiation. It is the most common way that people die from breath play i.e. being alone. The temporary paralysis mentioned in the history/practice section is often the cause. Have the odds at least a little in your favour; DON’T DO IT ALONE!
- CARDIAC ARRESTThere is NO WARNING of when things will go wrong; the first sign of a cardiac arrest IS one, caused by the heart muscle not getting enough O2, increased/erratic heart rate as it tries to compensate (cardiac anomolies/arrest).
- TRACHEAL FRACTURESor damage to or rupture of the windpipe, or damage to the larynx because of the applied pressure. If one is careful that is actually the least risk. But alas too frequently people accidentally die from the fact that our body tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the brain and this can cause the heart to flutter or because of the direct pressure on the nerves in the carotids that can literally cause the heart to stop. Apparently it is not easy to resuscitate these arrhythmias. Fundamentally important for anyone thinking about this kind of ‘play’ is that this can occur as quickly as 10 seconds.
- STROKE/SEIZURESdamage to the blood vessels in the neck can dislodge a fatty plaque in a neck artery which can travel to the brain and cause STROKE, damage to the CERVICAL SPINE, SEIZURES, AIRWAY OBSTRUCTION by the tongue and ASPIRATION of vomit/mucus.
- HYPOXIA(lowered O2) This is the most commonly recognised by part-informed breath play practitioners. Sleepy/light headedness with a lowered breathing rate.
- ANOXIA(no o2) Needless to say really, dangerous in the extreme.
- PVCs(premature ventricular contractions) The unpredictability of how quickly this will happen in any one individual in any given circumstances… or indeed how quickly (or if) they will stop, even after the activity ceases. There are documented cases in which the recipient appeared to fully recover but was found dead several hours later. PVCs are probably the most unpredictable risk.
- RESPITORY ACIDOSIS / METABOLIC ACIDOSISLearn the meanings of these frightening looking (for good reason) medical terms.
- ASYSTOLEAnother and more difficult to treat form of CARDIAC ARREST, caused by complicated ‘strangulation’ side effects and sometimes VERY QUICKLY.
- EPINEPHRINE DEATHSA simple and instant ADRENALIN dump i.e. the ‘fight or flight’ response, which can stop the heart instantly. Heard the phrase ‘die of shock’?
- BRAIN CELLSdie due to O2 deprivation, ph balance, blood sugar all being out of whack due to breath play. This can be CUMULATIVE (hypoxia resultant).
- SLEEP APNOEAcan result from breath play, wherein the body stops breathing for up to two minutes at a time whilst sleeping.
- CEREBRAL IRRITATIONresulting from breath play can cause unexpected ratty and AGGRESSIVE behaviour.
- DRUGSgreater complications arise when there are drugs, medications, existing medical conditions, alcohol, depression etc. AVOID.
TRUE STORIES AND REAL LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS
- Jay Wiseman states in his essays that he personally knows of two SM community members who have gone to prison when their partners have died during breath play. Other such deaths can be found in the news:
- A 32-year-old Brit (name withheld [all names withheld out of respect for relatives, but can be verified]) died at the hands of (name withheld) AKA Rubrman, a well-known SM community man in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) during a breath control scene that went badly wrong. The older man subsequently killed himself (presumably remorse) in a Walmart car park.
- Here in the UK a 36-year-old man (name withheld) has gone to prison for 26 years (reduced from 30 after one appeal) due to the death of (name withheld) a female teacher with whom he was engaging in breath play. Currently under appeal to be reduced from murder to manslaughter as there was no ‘intent’. IMPORTANT NOTE: Their play involved a pair of ‘tights’ (hosiery), which is an incredibly unsafe material to use due to its elasticity and dangerous ‘self-tightening’ properties.
These stories are real and there are many more. Real people died and real people went to prison. Be aware of this, they weren’t alone, didn’t die of autoerotic asphyxiation i.e. from lack of help on hand. Even with a cardiac and pulse monitor there is no real safety and no warnings of when trouble begins – the danger is already very present when they register a problem.
- LAWSUITS are you aware that breath play would be very effective grounds for suing re assault or attempted murder?
- INSURANCE and by the way, death by autoerotic asphyxiation or asphyxiation by another, will null and void health and life insurance.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
Forget pride, ego, fear of consequences. Ring 999 in the UK, 911 USA, 112 in the EU or whatever number is correct in your Country for the emergency services. Every human being’s life is worth trying to save, nobody deserves being ‘given up on’ for fear of the consequences, period.