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Breathplay is a form of edgeplay that is a hard limit for some BDSM players. However it comes in many forms and you may find a variety you enjoy. This article discusses the various forms of breathplay, risk and safety and how breathplay feels.

There are many ways you could break down these forms, below breathplay is devided into three categories.

- Compression of the carotid arteries

- Compression of the trachea or wind pipe

These two are often combined, for example when trying to stop bloodflow in the carotid arteries you may be applying pressure to the trachea.

Throttling with the hands and strangling with a rope share the same risks however when using the hands pressure can be controlled more easily. A hanging scene is more dangerous again with the subs body weight applying the pressure to the neck, tip toes will work as well as being off the ground. First the sub needs to be firmly on the ground then the rope removed. You cannot trust that you will be able to remove the rope with your hands. Always have EMT scissors ready. Never drop a sub into hanging as this could damage the spinal cord.

If the purpose is to reach unconciousness a stranglehold is very effective and can achieve this in roughly three seconds. This is much more comfortable for the sub.

- Other play that restricts airflow

Hand over mouth – putting your hand over a partners mouth during sex is probably the most common form of breathplay. The hand can form a tight seal with the option of blocking the nose to increase the intensity. This is a good place to start for beginners to breathplay especially in the missionary position where the Top can watch the bottoms reactions.

Bagging – many plastic bags have holes in them to prevent children suffocating once you have found a bag without these holes you can begin bagging. Thinner bags can be used but it is possible for the sub or Dom/me to rip through them with hands or teeth. This may be preferable if you are trying it for the first time for a sense of security. A thick bag is difficult to rip through as the plastic thins and stretches before it tears. A pair of EMT scissors should be on stand by especially if you have taped the bag. Choosing a clear bag is important as it allows you to watch the sub’s reactions. If they insist on darkness a blindfold can be added under the bag.

When bagging you do not need to tape the bag. Some feel that taping the bag adds an inescapable element to the session making the experience more authentic however the dom/me can tighten the bag around the neck with the hands which still restricts the air but has the bonus of being able to remove the bag much faster without removing the tape.

It is important to remember that if the sub panics and thrases around it will be more difficult to remove the bag. Another important point is that the sub may suck the plastic into their mouth, this can cause panic as the bag has blocked the airway.

Rebreathing – is breathing the air from the breath you have just expelled. The oxygen in the air diminishes with each recycled breath. Rebreathers are used in vanilla applications such as diving, these are unsuitable for breathplay as they add oxygen at intervals to replace what is lost. BDSM rebreathers can be purchased online they are masks with a bag that inflates and deflates as you breathe. The Dom/me can squeeze air out of the bag or hold it to stop it refilling to control the play.

Dunking – holding someone underwater immediately stops them breathing in. The experience is very disorientating with the obvious risk of drowning. It is very difficult to guage a sub’s reactions and you certainly could not rely on bubbles in the water as an indicator of what is going on.

Shared breathing – when a couple exchange breaths so that the first breath of air is passed between them. This can be done mouth to mouth for a very intimate scene or by connecting gas masks with the right tubing and connectors. The principle is the same as rebreathing where the oxygen is diminished when recycling the air.

Suffocation – forcing someone’s face into a pillow is a form of suffocation and is often done during rough sex. Putting a pillow over someone’s face is a very different feeling, it is altogether more claustrophobic. Facesitting can also be used to suffocate, the male equivalent being gagging on cock while the nose is pinched.

Holding your breath is the safest form of breathplay as the body will breathe automatically should you pass out. You must still guard against falling.

It is possible to tightlace a corset to induce fainting. The corset would need to be steel boned for this and will incumber breathing with even a small waist reduction. Your partner will need to be proficient in lacing a corset in order to undo it quickly enough, failing that the laces would need to be cut to release you.

Whatever form of breathplay you practice the following tips will help you make your play safer:

Keep eye contact, total enclosure masks and blindfolds are much loved by subs but eye contact is the easiest way to tell where your sub is. Drooping eyelids as if falling asleep tell you they are nearing unconciousness, you may want to try to keep them in this stage. Suddenly wide eyes are a sign they are about to black out if you do not want them unconcious restore air now. If there eyes close after this assume they are out and restore air. If the sub didnt reach unconciousness they will still experience a buzz from being so close.

As you cannot use a safeword you can get the sub to tap out when uncomfortable, using a safe gesture is not advisable as the sub may not be able to think straight. If in bondage have them hold an object; when they are passing out their grip will loosen and the object will fall.

Make the space safe by moving objects out of the way and have a cushion ready for the sub’s head if they want to lie down afterwards. To avoid the sub falling, play on a chair or better yet the floor. This is especially important if you cannot easily support the sub’s weight. The sub may fall even if they are not losing conciousness.

How does breathplay feel?

For the Top breathplay is a huge responsibility as you literally have a life in your hands, a balance needs to be striked where this is kept in the back of your mind without ruining the scene. Similarly for bottoms who are trusting you with their safety they must be aware of the risks without the fear of what could go wrong spoiling the fun.

Methods such as rebreathing feel slower and relaxing for both parties. The sub may space quickly and feel as if they are drugged or in a trance, slipping slowly into unconciousness.

Methods such as strangulation feel like a short rush, they are very intense for both parties. It feels more aggressive and really plays on physical strength of the d/s dynamic. The sub struggles feeling the tightness around the neck, the blood pounding in the head, they still cant breathe and their struggles are futile, then the realisation that they are passing out. The Dom/me puts the pressure on and there is a satisfaction in that. They watch the sub struggling, the struggling becomes weaker and the eyes widen as they realise they’re about to knock out.

Coming to is a confusing time, this is also true for regaining from the brink of unconciousness. The dom/domme needs to reassure the sub as for a moment they may not be aware of where they are. Note that waking in bondage can add stress to this confusion.

How safe is breathplay?

This question is highly debatable and is too big to be discussed here. The writing of Jay Wiseman on the topic is prevalent on the web but there are many others who would counter his view so read widely.

It is certainly safer to play with a partner as a lone player cannot remove a bag or rope if they pass out. Learning basic CPR would obviously be beneficial but this is not to be considered a safety net.

The risks of breathplay are:

Ruptured or inflamed trachea

Laryngitis

Fracture of the larynx

Damage to bloodvessels

Stroke

Spinal damage

Seizures

Cardiac arrest

Death

Strangling and hanging carry more of these risks than some other methods such as rebreathing. This is because of the pressure put on either the trachea, carotid arteries or both. This is not a definitive list however from it we can see that those who are prone to seizures, at risk of heart attacks and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women should not practice breathplay.

Copyright © Sky Gazzard

4 Responses to Breathplay

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  • Loran says:

    I have never and would never do this. There are some things that are simply too iffy to consider. This can lead to not only to a bruise or injury which may be forgivable, but to a death which will cause regret, legal problems, and an unlivable conscience. Life is risk, but the intelligent individual weighs the risks and rewards and then makes a choice. You can not call back a sneeze, unring a bell, or reverse a tragic mistake.

  • Karla Morane says:

    I find breath play to be highly erotic. Yes, I know the dangers, and I know how opposed to this activity many people are. But I fully believe that as long as one is aware of the risks, there are safe ways to do it. Thanks for this article.

  • ron_belly says:

    I’m not sure how common breath play is with all players, but most of the Lifestylers I know do engage in some form of breath play or another.

  • FurriaK says:

    I’ve played… or rather say “survived” auto-asphyxiation (self-bondage game) And pushed myself near to blackout. Issue was, that i was too sure in my ability to free my hands.

    Luckyly, one of the leather belts was clipped bad enough and with some of the last “no, please” attempts, i managed to tear if off…. that was deepest breath in my life, and i realised it was pretty bloody dangerous. BUT what don’t kill you, make you… yeah, right.

    I ended up on thought, near-blackout experience giving you chance to look at your possible end, kinda get used to death for the “future usage” and cum extra-messy with this heart boost.

    So… i’m not saying EVERYONE should try breathplay as “necessary for your relationship”, but if you trust your partner and if you practice with pre-cautions, there’s nothing to fear.

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