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Dear How to Do It,
One of the odder things I’ve discovered about my sexuality is that I’m
into getting choked. Like … really into it. Cheryl from the show Archer caliber. The way that other guys get immediately hard if you play with
their nipples, I get rock hard as soon as someone puts a bit of pressure
on my throat. With a few tops I know—with lots of trust built and conversations before about safety, limits, clear signaling, etc.—it has
gone to the point of me blacking out (after which they immediately
stop). And like that Smarter Every Day video where they do the
experiment with hypoxia, it’s a really weird experience! The
disorientation is a bit of a trip. And, for me, also weirdly hot.
I also now totally understand why autoerotic asphyxiation is a thing,
and why someone should never do that alone. I mean, you literally cannot
form the thoughts to realize you are in danger, so a clear-minded person
around is essential.
So. Obviously not the safest of activities. I read what I could on the
internet about chokeholds and oxygen deprivation to the brain. But
considering internet research of medical issues is sufficient enough to
give the world the anti-vax movement, I’m less than trusting of just
myself and my Googling abilities. As y’all have experts you turn to:
What say them? Are there any risks major risks with getting blacked out
for the briefest of moments possible? I wouldn’t want to find out the
hard way that I could be putting myself at risk for cardiac arrest or
something that would not have necessarily occurred to me safety-wise,
apart from the obvious.
Don’t do this. I hate to take the wind out of your sails, but it’s in service of getting oxygen to your brain. If you’re passing out from
getting choked, you’re going too far and you’re risking your life.
Breath play is a thing, one that many enjoy. I’m not judging, but I’m
also not advising it, especially not as far as you’re taking it. Even if
we examine the words of Tristan Taormino, who wrote about “safer” (not “safe,” per se) ways to engage in breath play in her seminal The
Ultimate Guide to Kink, she drew the line at passing out. “If you see
his eyes rolling back in his head, stop,” she wrote.
To understand the extent of the risk, I reached out to Madeleine
Castellanos, a psychiatrist who specializes in sex therapy with couples
and individuals. When you pass out during breath play, it’s because
cutting off the blood supply to the head results in a lack of oxygen to
the brain, a condition called hypoxia. This can cause brain damage. “The longer the brain tissue is without oxygen, the higher the chance of this happening,” Castellanos wrote in an email. “With each instance, there is the possibility of more brain damage. It is impossible to control how
much or how little hypoxia will occur with erotic asphyxiation, even if
there is a partner present, and it may only take a minute or two to
result in death or permanent brain damage.”
Shook yet? Here are some other potential effects of hypoxia, per
· Inflammation that may take days to resolve and result in
“depression, irritability, issues with attention, aggressiveness, or
other mood issues. If the hypoxia results in brain damage, these mood
and attention issues can become permanent with noticeable changes in personality.”
· Elevated blood pressure and stress response that could put you at
risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis.
· Changes in electrolytes, which could lead to heart attack, though Castellanos notes, “For this to happen, the decrease in oxygen usually
has to be significant and for more than just several minutes.”
· Mechanical damage to your neck structure, which, in extreme
cases, could be permanent.
So, erotic asphyxiation, especially taken to the extreme that you do, is
a no from me. I want you to feel good, but you have to be alive to do so.
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a trans woman in my mid-30s. I transitioned nearly a decade ago and
have had bottom surgery. By all accounts, I hit the transition
jackpot—not only do I pass for cis in a skimpy bikini, I’m
conventionally attractive, live in a progressive city, and have a
thriving career and a lot of amazing friends. Life is good, and I’m
happier than I’ve ever been.
What I do not have is a lot of dating experience. I’m a solid Kinsey 1,
so I’m primarily interested in men. But in my estimation, 99 percent of
men on the apps are just not interested in dating a trans woman. I’m not complaining, because it is what it is, and I’m not going to beg anyone
to love me, but because I pass so well, I find I have to make a big show
of being trans to ensure they actually read my profile, then watch as
they unmatch me. It’s exhausting and doesn’t feel like a good use of my time. My problem is that with cosmopolitan dating culture being almost
entirely on the apps, I really don’t know where to meet single men. I’m
not ignoring bisexual guys here, but there’s also not a great way to
find them. There are not a lot of straight or bi men in my social
circles either. I also fear the same level of rejection (or even
violence) meeting guys in regular social situations. I’m fine to
continue “dating myself” for the rest of my life if that’s how it has to be, but I feel like I’m missing something here.
—1 in 100
Dear 1 in 100,
Meeting men as a trans woman in your mid-30s is hard in no small part
because “meeting men as a woman in your 30s is hard, period,” a friend
of mine who’s a trans woman told me when I asked to discuss your
question. That’s not to downplay the elements at hand that speak
directly to the trans experience—rejection based on your gender identity
and the threat of transphobic violence—but there is a certain
universality you’ve touched on.
My friend tells me she’s had no luck making meaningful connections on apps—some dates, some casual sex, and that’s about it. There are apps specifically made for dating while trans, but she has no experience with
them nor does she know anyone who has. She surmised that they probably
“turn into the same thing that Grindr usually does, which is connecting
you with 45-year-old cis dudes who will maybe talk to you weirdly even
if it’s complimentary.” (Still, search “trans” or “transgender” in an
app store if you’re curious to try.)
Your best bet, in her experience, is to ask friends to set you up, which
will have the added bonus of being a litmus test for that friendship
(“It might reveal something about the people she keeps in her life if
any of them have a problem with it,” she explained). Also: queer spaces.
In a city like New York, scenes only welcome to cisgender gay men are
rarer than they used to be; you can easily find clubs and bars that
attract a pan-queer crowd featuring men with an array of queer tastes.
And finally, a call to action that may or may not be relevant to your
specific search but that my friend asked me to include nonetheless:
“Trans men, ask out trans women. We don’t know where to find you,” she said, adding: “They tend to treat us like humans, in my experience.”
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve found myself in a somewhat unusual situation. I’m a 30-something virgin (I’m a woman). I wasn’t a late bloomer—more of a morning glory. I dated all through high school, with the usual teenage clumsiness about
sex. Around senior year, I got as close as I’ve gotten to date to
“cashing in my V chip.” In retrospect, the event was traumatizing. There wasn’t a breach of consent or anything like that, it was just beyond
cringy and awkward. I realized in that moment it was not how I wanted my
first time to happen, and that was that. Even before then, I’d been completely terrified of sex partially because of a very religious
upbringing and because I thought I was supposed to look and perform like
a Venus goddess right out of the gate.
Over the next decade, I went through phases of “I’m never having sex” to “I could … but … could I?” to “If it’s so awful, why is Cosmo always
saying how wonderful it is?” to “Nope, I’m going to live like a nun.” Now I’m in a new phrase: I decided I was ready (yay!), and sex was
something I wanted to do. After a long list of frogs, I found a good
not-frog. He’s the first person I’ve felt comfortable enough to talk to this about—in fact, he’s the only one who knows about the
sex-that-wasn’t incident. We’ve talked through the having of the sex and
my anxiety over it multiple upon multiple times, and every time he’s
been patient and caring and non-judgy. We’ve both made the joke that
he’s like my sex therapist. Suffice it to say, he is the one I want to
be my first, because I feel that I can trust him.
Here’s the other problem: I’m still terrified. I’ve been through all the articles and had talks with myself about it. I know I’m ready. But I’m
also over 30 and pretty much feel like I’m going to mess up or humiliate myself in front of him and then have to shrivel up and die of
embarrassment. All this despite his assurances to the contrary. Part of
me says it’s normal anxiety, because it’s a major thing. But then the
other part of me thinks I’m some kind of freak that needs to see a
licensed sex therapist. I know there are other “late bloomers” out
there, but since we don’t have the support group started yet, here I am.
—Short of the Finish Line
Dear Short of the Finish Line,
I feel for you, and I also feel that you really needed to get that off
your chest because you didn’t ask me a question. I mean, literally not a single one in three paragraphs. So allow me to affirm you: It’s nice to
have a magical first time, but many of us don’t experience that and
actually have to learn the magic. It was quite emotionally mature of you
at a young age to realize you’d pushed yourself past the threshold of
comfort and then modify accordingly. There’s nothing to be embarrassed
about for understanding your limitations and waiting until you’re ready,
and even if there were, your not-frog knows all this and accepts it. He
knows you don’t have practice and are likely to be unskilled in certain
ways, and he’s OK with it. Trust his kindness, go as slow as you want,
let him teach you things, and know that barring any recurrence of
trauma, sex gets easier and more fun the more you do it.
The anxiety could melt away once you prove to yourself that you’re
capable of feeling good and making him feel good. You’re not a freak,
but seeing a therapist is never a bad idea, so I’d look into that, too.