Maxine's Journal

Adventures of the Polka-Dotted One

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Bicon Follow-Up 3 - SM/Breathplay, with link to Jay Wiseman's Essays
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Post SM for SMers session discussion on Breathplay (or 'erotic asphyxiation')-

This topic was apparently of interest to several people, so I 've taken the time to hunt down the links I didn't have to hand on the afternoon, and write down a few of the suggestions I had for where potential breath-players might move to instead..

I mentioned Jay Wiseman's dire warnings about this topic, which can be found at the link below. It's a lot of writing, but when you're playing with the life of someone you care about - or in fact anyone at all, if you want to avoid a murder/manslaughter charge should things go wrong - it's criminally stupid not to be as informed as possible and I will capitalise the next bit because it's important: CONSENT IS NOT A VALID LEGAL DEFENSE IF THINGS GO WRONG. If you or your partner aren't willing to read about and understand the risks fully, simply don't do it at all. Bad breath play risks LIVES.

(After understanding the risks fully you may not want to anyway – this is serious stuff, and even scenes where things don't go obviously wrong can result in cumulative brain damage. That is, the more times you do it, the more of your brain you lose.)

http://www.jaywiseman.com/SEX_BDSM_BreathPlayMain.html – Seriously. Read it.

[Update, July 2015: Mr Wiseman's site seems to be broken, but you can find the same set of resources archived at http://www.leathernroses.com/generalbdsm/wisemanbreathcontrolintro.htm and also a video summary at https://vimeo.com/29696495 ]

However... there are things that I would class as 'breath play' which Mr Wiseman doesn't talk about, and I would consider to be relatively safe, even having read and fully understood these warnings. Also, importantly, these exercises are unlikely to land you with a murder charge if things do go wrong. These are:

Instructional breath play –

Breath exercises such as one might do with a singing teacher - counted breaths, diaphragm exercises, and others that increase rather than decrease the amount of air going into the lungs.

Instructed deep breathing

Tantric breath exercises such as 'circular breathing' in which one partner breathes in at the same time as the other breathes out (at a small distance apart).

These exercises are psychologically very intense, without necessarily having damaging effects (traditionally these are all assumed to be therapeutic). The idea is to use the breath as a point of focus, rather than to restrict it.
(NOTE: hyperventilation is not without risks either, including alkalinization of the blood . None of these activities should be performed for extended lengths of time without being aware of these risks. Ask someone with medical training if you want to be sure.)

Physical 'safer' breath play

Kissing and instructing a partner to 'breathe through you' (the top continues to breathe in through their nose) – sounds bizarre, but is relatively safe for both parties and a VERY heady sensation. This does cut down on oxygen levels to some degree, so again, this is NOT completely safe, merely safer.

External breath control: In her book 'Radical Ecstasy' Dossie Easton describes a technique used by masseuses to encourage breathing deeply and regularly, simply by laying a hand gently on the belly of the other person, just above the navel, and moving it up and down – the instinct is to naturally follow the hand, so hand movements automatically control the pace of breathing. Subtle, but effective. Note this is not about crushing the chest in any way. Movements are gentle and slow, and the aim is to increase empathy, not to exert will with great force. The effect should be more psychological than physical.

Things I will NOT do, as a top:

I will not perform any sort of breath play where my partner cannot pull back and control their own breathing – no gas masks, no bags, no cling film, no masks without airholes, and if a hand goes over a mouth it will be loosely so that my partner can breathe normally when they need to.
I will not put pressure on the neck in such a way that either the windpipe, or the major arteries to the brain will be affected (in other words, I will not put pressure on the neck). 
I will not put myself, or my partners knowingly at risk of brain damage or heart attack.

A few alternative types of play that give a sensation of being not in control: immobilization/bondage, particularly of the head, mummification (without covering the airways, obviously!), fear play (knives, needles, heights, any other sort of phobia used under controlled conditions), sensory deprivation.

Questions, suggestions and constructive technical criticism welcomed.


Play safe, folks.

[Additional update, July 2015: In case anyone has stumbled across this post whilst looking for tips on how to safely experiment with solo breath play (otherwise known as auto-erotic asphyxiation), the answer is quite honestly "you can't." Sorry. If you don't have a romantic partner and are determined to engage in any sort of breath play, even including the things I have listed as 'safer' in this post, you might want to consider finding a friend who is willing to 'spot' for you, who will be present in the room to provide first aid or call an ambulance in case things go wrong. Even with something as simple as unassisted breath-holding or tantric breathing, the risk of things going badly wrong goes up exponentially without at least a 'spotter' present. My personal position on solo breath play is PLEASE DON'T. There is no way to experiment safely with erotic asphyxiation on your own.]

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(Deleted comment)
Heya lovely, I do think there is a point where boundaries are a good thing to have, and tbh I'm rather pleased that the bit that squicked you was listed under the things I won't do, rather than my list of suggestions! At the same time yes, it is good to know about these things even if you have no intention of taking part, in case it becomes relevant - say you hear someone you know is doing this and want to explain why it's a bad idea rather than just going 'eww'.
lots of credit to you - and hugs!


Seconding the "squicked by things on the list you wouldn't do" thing. Breath play is scary stuff, and not the kind of fun scary that makes for fun times. Thanks for the information, though. I always like being better informed.

Thanks for posting this - I found it very useful and helpful, though I wasn't at the SM for SMers session.

My sub likes the feeling of a hand on his throat, but we're going to need to have a very decisive talk about what exactly that will consist of, as I am not willing to be a part of something that could put him at the kind of risk explained so well by Jay Wiseman's articles, even if he is.

I was in a different group at that workshop.. I'd wanted to join the edgeplay discussion, but since I wasnt in the space to handle discussion of needles (I have a phobia), I went into the safety/interrupting scenes one instead. Would have been great to discuss breathplay, though

I'm very much in agree with everything you say - most people really dont have an understanding what the implications (short term and long term), of altering someones breathing significantly are. I think you're absolutely on the nail with your boundaries here - and I'd be worried about anyone going further without a very good understanding of the physiology involved.

For reference - hyperventilation is dangerous because it tends to flush the CO2 from the lungs, then then the bloodstream - making some pretty significant blood chemistry changes. Other things that mess with the CO2 balance are also dangerous - water-boarding (or any other breath control that uses inversion), can similarly cause blood chemistry changes (as well as triggering serious panic reactions).

Heya, this was actually from the post-workshop discussion, after several questions had been raised that people hadn't had time to cover and wanted answers on separately.

Regarding the implications though, my dislike of this sort of play stems from the fact that I *do* understand the implications better, coming from a scientific background (including study of biochemistry, physiology, phamacology) I'm pretty well placed to say 'this is a bad idea', whereas someone without that knowledge might just shrug it off and say 'but it feels good'.

I guess at the end of the day people have the right to do whatever they want to their own bodies, including damaging them permanently, I just have no intention of being a part of that.

Wow, thank you so much for posting. I didn't make the workshop but wish I had done now!

As someone who has tried restricting breath (and enjoyed both receiving & giving) in the past, it has really made me think. My own rule has been to never combine with bondage, so the person bottoming can give physical signals, and to never do it for very prolonged periods. You always think that the person on bottom will be able to signal, or that you will know when to stop but these articles are a really good reminder of why this isn't always the case.

Will certainly be exploring more psychological ways to get the same effects in future.


"You always think that the person on bottom will be able to signal, or that you will know when to stop but these articles are a really good reminder of why this isn't always the case."

Definitely. Signals are not always obvious, the person you are playing with may pass out so suddenly they don't have time to, or you may not react quickly enough - the one time I have actually passed out was when an irresponsible top didn't take my tapping out seriously (I will name names privately, because I feel he's genuinely dangerous). Plus, hypoxia itself doesn't always feel like a bad thing - from a subjective point of view it feels good, even at the point where you're risking or causing brain damage, which is what makes it so very dangerous.

Oops, forgot the point I was trying to make: when irresponsible guy didn't take my tapping out seriously, he only held out for a couple more seconds, by which point I was out cold and incapable of signalling further. There isn't a huge margin of error here, and I consider myself pretty lucky at this point to still be alive.

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