Breath play

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What it is

Breath play involves controlling or restricting the flow of air into the lungs of a submissive or bottom. Like some other BDSM activities this one can obviously be quite dangerous.

There are two main ways of controlling someone's air flow:

  • By restricting the flow of air into the submissive's mouth or nose, or
  • By constricting the submissive's neck.

Most commonly this is done to someone who is restrained or bound in some way so as to ensure that they are unable to interfere with or remove whatever devices or method their top or dominant is using to control their breathing.

Why it is done

While not always done for erotic reasons, erotic asphyxiation can be a form of BDSM breath play. The reduced level of oxygen reaching the person's brain can physiologically cause sexual experiences to be heightened or changed and for some people this is desirable. It can be, and often is, done solo. This is quite dangerous and there have been many deaths when this has gone wrong and no second person was present to release the restriction.


In a more strict BDSM sense having one person in control of another's vital flow of oxygen can be highly symbolic and a powerful expression of dominance or authority. The dominant gets to see and feel that he is in control by the changing colour of his partner's face, their gasping or other attempts to get enough air. The submissive, of course, closely and intimately feels the flow of air into their lungs being manipulated by their partner.

Devices for the mouth and nose

  • Gags
  • Rubber or latex fully-enclosing hoods
  • World War I (or II)-style gas masks
  • Plastic wrap (also known as cling wrap, Saran Wrap, or Glad Wrap)

For the neck

  • Strangulation using one's hands. There can be a significant symbolic element of physical power to using hands. While bondage may be used in other techniques and methods of breath play, strangulation can allow the submissive to struggle, particularly when the dominant is physically more powerful than they are
  • Using a rope or leather belt around the neck

See also