Inspired by last week’s cautionary tale about combining food with sex, this week’s edition will feature two riskier kinks/sexual practices, cock-and-ball torture and erotic asphyxiation, with tips on how to minimize these risks. Whether you’re a connoisseur of erotic asphyxiation or don’t consider yourself an inch past vanilla, this week’s column is sure to be educational for all.

We’re jumping right into cock-and-ball torture (CBT) also called ball-busting or tamakeri (which also refers more widely to Japanese pornography featuring this type of activity). CBT, as you might expect, often involves a significant amount of pain and humiliation, thus solidly landing itself under the umbrella of BDSM (bondage & discipline, domination & submission, sadism & masochism). To find out more about this incredibly diverse set of kinks and fetishes, check out my column from December 2, 2016 in the Sexy Mac archives [Editor’s Note: this article can also be found online on our website, themacweekly.com]. CBT activities can vary widely depending on the participants, but commonly include flogging, genital spanking, temperature play, bondage and weights, electrostimulation and sounding (insertion of objects into the urethra). The scrotal region is famous for its sensitivity to pain, and testicles just seem so fragile in their tiny little skin sack. How hard can you squeeze/hit/pull them before serious injury occurs?

Somewhat surprisingly, those things can take a pretty serious thrashing before erotic masochism turns into an emergency room visit. When engaging in CBT, it’s particularly important that all parties be sober and alert, so that the top/dominant partner can differentiate between sounds of pleasurable pain and cries for help, and so the bottom/submissive partner has full sensory awareness and is not slow to react to severe and non-sexy pain, which might indicate a problem. According to an online archival version of a 1992 issue of Bound and Gagged magazine (a BDSM focused publication), good rules of thumb for avoiding injury include: starting with light sensations and increasing intensity slowly (particularly with new partners), removing bondage or bindings every half hour to allow blood circulation to return to the area, and “never tying someone by the balls to a wall.” Words to live by. Injuries from CBT can vary in severity, ranging from light bruising to hematomas (rupturing of large blood vessels and pooling blood pockets), testicular torsion (twisting or kinking, disrupting normal blood flow) and most seriously, rupturing of the testicles. As with both of the activities in the column this week, do extensive research and invest in trusted sex toys/props before experimenting with this type of play.

Now we’re moving right along to erotic asphyxiation, which may seem less severe than CBT but can actually cause much more serious issues if performed unsafely. Also called asphyxiophilia, hypoxyphilia or breath control play, this type of sexual activity involves some sort of suffocation, strangulation or other manner of decreasing oxygen flow to the brain. In the 2000 book The Relativity of Deviance , author John Curra writes that erotic asphyxiation “can increase feelings of giddiness, lightheadedness, and pleasure, all of which will heighten masturbatory sensations.” Enthusiastic participants have also reported hallucinations, feelings of euphoria or ecstasy, out-of-body experiences and cocaine-like addictiveness. Unfortunately, a Live Science article from 2012 reports that approximately 160 people die annually in the United States from autoerotic asphyxiation alone (meaning that the person cut off their own oxygen supply and nobody else was involved).

The existence of “safe” erotic asphyxiation has been a highly polarizing debate within the BDSM community for decades. One side of the aisle says that there’s no such thing as “safe” breath play, but participants must decide for themselves whether the possible pleasure is worth the possible risk. The other side believes that if certain schools of martial arts (eg. Judo) can include techniques on safe choking, then the BDSM community can too. The bottom line is that, like most kinky activities, participants need to do essays-worth of research on safe(r) techniques and start slow when practicing them on one’s self or a partner. As for some commonsense tips you should keep in mind as a baseline: do not leave someone alone with their breathing impaired (eg. the late Baptist Reverend Gary Aldridge, who was all alone, “found hogtied, wearing two complete wetsuits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask”); if someone falls unconscious, do not continue to choke them or impede their respiration in any way (and it’s a good idea to get medical help if they don’t wake up promptly); find ways to impede breathing that do not involve pressure on the throat, because the organs inside can easily be crushed.

Sex is one of those activities, like driving a car, riding horses or drinking alcohol, that involves some inherent risk no matter how safe you play it. Every person has different values, and thus a different ideal balance between risk and reward. More dangerous sexual practices like the two discussed above must be researched, judged and consented to by all participants to most effectively minimize risk and maximize pleasure. Stay safe, everyone!

Questions? Comments? Insults? Email dhawkins@macalester.edu but remember that it won’t be anonymous.

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