Choking in the Bedroom: Why This Porn-Driven Trend Has So Many Women Frightened During Sex

Have you ever felt frightened during sex? If you are a woman, there is a good chance that your answer is ‘yes.’

An alarming new study from Indiana University School of Public Health found that over one-quarter of women report feeling scared during sex. Many of these women say their fear stems from choking, a growing trend in America’s bedrooms. Also described somewhat euphemistically as ‘breath play,’ choking has become more popular in recent years, thanks in large part to pornography.

And, as is so often the case, it’s women—and girls—who are bearing the brunt of this new erotic trend, with girls as young as 14 years old reporting being choked during sex. (And here is the scariest part: Many of these women say that the choking was nonconsensual and done without warning or prior discussion). 

Since pornography is so ubiquitous and so competitive, websites seek out more hardcore and taboo material in order to gain viewers and increase their bottom line. Sadly, this often involves increasingly dangerous acts for women who are in the adult entertainment business. A recent survey found that 88 percent of the most popular porn videos include acts of physical aggression towards women including slapping, spanking, name-calling, choking and other violent behavior.

These acts do not occur in a bubble. Watching these videos inherently changes the way men view women and the way they approach sex. A new study from Yale found that men who watch pornography tend to‘animalify’ women, and to view them as being less intelligent and less capable of higher reasoning and thought processes. In other words, they don’t view women as fully human, but rather as lower-level beings who offer sexual entertainment not mutual humanity.

And, a recent meta‐analysis of pornography consumption found that men who viewed porn were more aggressive, and that “Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.” 

Does this mean that men who watch porn are more aggressive, or that more aggressive men tend to seek out porn in the first place? It’s hard to know, but the truth is likely somewhere in between.

What does all of this mean? Should we avoid watching pornography altogether?

While I would not tell people they cannot watch erotic material, I would encourage them to be thoughtful consumers when it comes to the sexual programming they watch. Not only because the safety of the women in the videos is important, and watching violent sex videos only increases the demand, and the hence the trauma endured by these women (many of whom report being pressured or even forced into the sex industry), but also because it could negatively shape your sexual response and the things you find sexually appealing.

For women, I would advise them to be wary of allowing a partner to choke them, especially if you are newly dating. 

If you do want to try choking in bed, realize that if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk— and he may view your struggling as part of the “play” and not a sign of distress. As such, you need a non-verbal cue like pinching his arm or pounding the pillow or his shoulder to let him know you need air. But remember, only try this with a partner you trust! And if you don’t want to try choking, you can say that. Make it a point to have a conversation about things you enjoy in the bedroom and things that are absolutely off-limits. This is good practice regardless of if choking is a concern or not. We all need to get better about talking about sex, instead of just having it. Talking needs to come first, and ideally even during. Consent is non-negotiable, ongoing and never up for debate, whether we are talking choking or “vanilla” missionary.

You really need to have a strong trust and to discuss this in great detail beforehand, as this can be a very dangerous act which could end in injury or even death. If someone chokes you without consent, this is assault, even if you consented to intercourse. You can follow up with the police and even press charges if this feels right for you. At the very least, you may want to seek medical attention or speak with a counselor. You can call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Line, 24/7, at 1-800-656-4673.

As for men who are interested in choking their partner, I would advise you to take a step back and maybe try watching different pornography for a little while. See if this is a momentary fetish caused by the pornography you have been watching or if it is something that really is important for your sexual enjoyment. If it is something you really want to try, make sure you do your research so you can engage in ‘breath play’ as safely as possible, and remember, you MUST have consent!

I think it is also important for ALL of us — men and women included — to be aware that porn is not a substitute for sex education. It is not a representation of what women find sexually fulfilling or desirable. Porn is largely made for men, by men, and as such, the accuracy of the female sexuality on-screen is slim to none. We all need to be aware of the fact that most women’s bodies do not look like how they appear in porn, and most women do not find the behavior exhibited in porn (slapping, name-calling, choking) to be inherently sexy. If you want to know what real women find sexy, ASK! Ask your partner about her fantasies. Be open to what she has to say. And read female-friendly erotica or sex-help books like my book Loving Sex which features actual couples and women enjoying sexual pleasure on THEIR terms.

I’m a big believer that sex can be healing, intuitive and filled with meaning and purpose. This doesn’t mean that it can’t also be silly, kinky, or even “edgy,” if that’s what you’re into. But make sure it IS what you are into, and not based on porn which is made for views and profit, not love and intimacy.

What do you think? Has porn impacted your love life? Do you think hardcore porn is putting women in danger?

Got a question or comment for me? Remember, you can find me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

 

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