Women Report Surprise Choking During Sex and It’s Scaring Them
A new study has found that nearly a quarter of adult women in the U.S.A. have felt fear during sex. Among 347 respondents who elaborated on the reason behind the fear, 23 described having being choked unexpectedly.
“This [is] choking that no one had talked about and it got sprung on somebody,” Debby Herbenick, author of the study and a professor and sex researcher at the Indiana University School of Public Health, told The Atlantic.
Researchers attribute their findings to the proliferation of hardcore and easily accessible pornography. This has led to an increase in aggressive sexual behaviors off-screen, too. Senior Editor at The Atlantic Kate Julian also discovered disturbing changes in sexual experiences attributable to porn in her in-depth scrutiny of sexual behaviors of American teenagers and young adults: “In my interviews with young women, I heard too many iterations to the count of ‘he did something I didn’t like that I later learned is a staple in porn,’ choking being one widely cited example.”
The study used data sourced from 2,533 individuals, aged 18 to 60, to figure out who had had scary sexual experiences, and what exactly had scared them.
23.9% of adult women, 10.3% of adult men, 12.5% of adolescent women, and 3.8% of adolescent men who had ever engaged in oral, vaginal, or anal sex reported feeling fear in a sexual situation. When asked to describe the nature of the situations in a text box, the themes of the descriptions included sexual assault/rape, incest, being held down, unideal condom use, anal sexual behaviors and choking, among others.
Aside from sexual assault and rape, some of the most common descriptions of sexual situations that respondents found scary involved non-consensual choking. According to the research, 13% of sexually active girls aged 14 to 17 had been choked nonconsensually.
Some respondents referenced being choked, with simple phrases like “started choking me” (woman, 18) or, “Had hands around my neck” (woman, 44). Another 44-year-old woman wrote, “Put his hands on my throat to where I almost couldn’t breathe.” Others described nearly, or completely, losing consciousness: “Choked me to almost passing out” (woman, 50), and “They wanted to try breath play or choking. I said I didn’t, they started choking me before I consented and I passed out” (man, 45).
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According to the study, “most of the choking instances described appear to have not been discussed by partners in advance; the other person just started choking the respondent. Consequently, some worried they were being strangled: a common form of intimate partner violence, especially committed against women who partner with men.”
This study is helpful in understanding the many ways that sexuality is experienced, the good and the bad. The finding underscores that unwanted and frightening things can happen during sex — more frequently to women than men — that are otherwise desired and overall pleasurable. It is important to understand that consent doesn’t end with a green light to begin the sexual encounter. That’s where it begins. The next step is simple; it’s asking “What are you into?”