After last week’s column was published, I received a lengthy email from a man named Peter Boots. He introduced himself with a mini-resume: “I’m a bit of an expert on both of the subjects you cover, having taught BDSM classes from 1984 to 1992 at SM Gays in London, and from 1993 on at GMSMA until it disbanded ca. 2006, at Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM), and Eulenspiegel Society, a predominantly heterosexual group, all in NYC. I was also an advisor to Bound & Gagged Video on bondage. Since 1996, I’ve also been an advocate for safe breath control practices on numerous discussion groups and websites on the Internet I founded mainly for this purpose.” We continued to correspond throughout the week, and he had a lot of very valuable advice along with some words of warning – particularly about solo breath play, to which he suggested I devote a whole column. In case you missed last week’s installment, solo breath play is a masturbatory activity in which you somehow restrict oxygen flow to the brain. The practice can sometimes result in a drug-like high during orgasm. In lieu of repeating topics two weeks in a row, I’ve chosen to merely quote his suggestions, despite their hefty length. Without further adieu, first-hand information (over several emails) about solo breath play from a professional much more qualified than I.
“The reason I am contacting you, and why I have been organizing breath control groups for over twenty years, is not that it is an inherently dangerous form of BDSM by itself, but because between 1,500 to 2,500 people die in the US alone every year practicing solo breath play, which is usually, and incorrectly, referred to as autoerotic asphyxiation. The reason it is called breath play rather than (autoerotic) asphyxiation, is that there are a number of practices that are different to what most people understand as asphyxiation, namely hand over mouth and nose and similar breath restriction. The range of play is much wider than that. Partnered breath play tends to be quite safe as long as no drugs and alcohol are involved. Unfortunately, there are a very few stupid people who leave their partner alone during breath play; the cardinal rule is close supervision. There have also been instances where murder has been attempted to be passed off as breath play gone wrong.
Many solo practitioners come up with what they think are ‘fail safe’ mechanisms, and there is a huge literature on deaths in solo play, and the failure of these ‘fail safe’ mechanisms. When someone plays alone, even what they think of as the most innocuous activity can turn deadly before they know it. Unconsciousness, followed by death, sets in without warning, something that many solo players simply are not aware of, hence the large number of deaths every year. What is particularly depressing is that people who ought to know better, because they advocated for safe breath play, still turn up as their own victims. I even knew a medical doctor who died that way, and then there are several celebrities, of course. I can guarantee that there are people at your college who are experimenting with breath play, and most of them will do it alone. Preventing a single death is worth all the column inches you have. Young people are disproportionately likely to die in solo play, so the more information there is out there, the better.”
As a final note on this follow-up, Mr. Boots also wanted me to mention that the source I used last week, “Bound & Gagged” magazine (a BDSM-focused publication), received critique for employing overly-cautious advice columnists with lack of first-hand experience about the activities they wrote about. Being cautious is never a bad idea, particularly when in engaging in potentially-risky activities, but everyone’s body has its own limits which, if desired, deserve to be explored.
Completely shifting gears for the conclusion of the column this week: I recently received a question from someone having difficulty orgasming in the presence of their first sexual partner. I assured the person that they were not alone and that this issue is not uncommon. Orgasms are extremely intimate and it takes time to adjust having them by yourself (if applicable) to having them with someone by your side. The problem is only compounded when you add in the extra stress of expecting a partner to be able to bring you to orgasm without a helping hand. Start with no expectations, because orgasms are as much in your head as they are in your genitals and stressing about not orgasming will only become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Send your partner to the other side of the room, close your eyes to block out their presence and then masturbate using your favorite method. It might take you a little longer than you’re used to, but hopefully you’ll eventually reach the stage where orgasming in the same room as the other person has a 100 percent success rate.
Continuing the gradual progression, slowly increase your partner’s participation in your masturbation session. Have them sit on the edge of the bed without touching you, then move to them touching only your ankle with only their hand, next open your eyes at the moment of orgasm to get more comfortable with their presence, etc. It might take time and won’t be without frustrations, but it is possible (for most) to get to the point where you can easily masturbate to orgasm in front of your partner. From there, continue the slow progression to teaching them about your body and how they can best bring you pleasure. Do the old piano-teacher-trick and have them place their hands on yours without pressure, letting them feel how you move and the intricacies of the caresses. If you never get past a certain “stage” described above, that might just be how your body operates and that’s totally okay. Sex can be fun and enjoyable with or without orgasms, but you might be surprised what happens when you stop stressing and just enjoy the ride.
Sappy note: this will be my last Sexy Mac column before graduating. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. I wish you all pleasure in every shape and form.