Smash Talks: Choked Up

Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your queries through our anonymous contact form here.

Dear Smashera,

Recently I engaged in a bit of casual sex, and the casual in the casual sex took an unexpected turn. Without warning, mid-coitus, the person I was with choked me. I found this to be sort of violating, especially since it just happened.

I have spoken to many friends about this and they have all shared that choking is pretty commonplace. I’m not really surprised by that, though I am surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. I had an abusive childhood and that had an effect on me, resulting in a disinterest in experiencing violence in the midst of something I find pleasurable. The two are not linked for me.

However, I worry that I am actually boring in bed. Not that choking is some sort of golden ticket to epic sex but there is a question of, “If everyone is doing this, what else am I not doing?” Also, I was wondering if you have any advice about how to make sure these kinds of surprises don’t occur. I practice safe sex in the sense that I openly ask people’s status before engaging, but I guess kinks/fetishes have always unfolded throughout the time spent together.


Please Don’t Choke Me

Dear Don’t Choke,

First of all, I’m sorry that you had an unpleasant and unexpected encounter. It’s really shitty when things like that happen, but I’m really glad that you’re acknowledging your feelings and talking to people about them. Sex going awry can be a humorous anecdote in some cases, straight up sexual assault in others, or, very often, somewhere confusing in between. It sounds like this scenario, although brief lived, has sent you into a bit of a funk.

I’m curious if you were able to talk to this sexual partner about what happened. A “Hey, in the future, I am really not into that,” can help them get the hint that rougher play is not for everyone, so long as you feel safe saying that to them. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe while they’re owning their feelings.

I think you’re on the right track by wanting to address this — pre-sex — with future partners. You’re already on track to having this conversation by being comfortable talking about safe sex. That’s a good time to throw out any hard limits of your own. Maybe you could open the door by asking if there’s anything they especially want or don’t want. This exchange doesn’t have to feel contractual. With practice, I’m sure you can find a way to make this feel natural and even hot. Just setting up a sexual situation by checking in with your partner and making sure they like what’s happening can help keep the lines of communication open. Likewise, giving positive and negative feedback is super helpful to whoever you’re getting busy with.

What concerns me is that this seems to have shaken your confidence a bit. Casual sex is not necessarily a mark of confidence, but being able to consistently and responsibly talk about sexual health with casual partners can take a bit of chutzpah. Was this feeling of “not being good enough” always present in your life? Has it always been a part of your sex life? If this is a new thing or a recurring problem, it’s time to get down to brass tacks with it. You mentioned that you survived an abusive childhood, which can shape how you process emotion and information. If you were made to feel inadequate by a parent or caretaker as a child, it’s likely that self-doubt will rearise in your adult life in situations that are even mildly analogous.  You might consider getting yourself a therapist to start teasing out where your self-doubt comes from.

That being said, I wouldn’t dwell too hard about your proficiency as a lover. Having limits and not being into something doesn’t mean that you’re not great at the stuff that you are into.  Like any skill, not liking some things doesn’t mean you’re bad at all of it. When you find yourself in a sexual scenario again, I’d like to challenge you to remain present with yourself and your partner(s), and notice positive feedback that you’re getting. Try to remain present and not get into your own head.



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