Search Our Academic Library

“If Their Face Starts Turning Purple, You Are Probably Doing Something Wrong”

Full Article Title: “If Their Face Starts Turning Purple, You Are Probably Doing Something Wrong”: Young Men’s Experiences with Choking During Sex.

Open Access: No



Choking/strangulation during sex has become prevalent in the United States. Yet, no qualitative research has addressed men’s choking experiences. Through interviews with 21 young adult men, we examined the language men use to refer to choking, how they first learned about it, their experiences with choking, and consent and safety practices. Men learned about choking during adolescence from pornography, partners, friends, and mainstream media. They engaged in choking to be kinky, adventurous, and to please partners. While many enjoyed or felt neutral about choking, others were reluctant to choke or be choked. Safety and verbal/non-verbal consent practices varied widely.



Sexual “choking” – using hands, a limb, or a ligature to apply pressure to the neck during sex – is a form of strangulation. It has become prevalent among young people in the US and elsewhere. It is common among all sexes and genders. “In sex between women and men, men are significantly more likely to choke/strangle their partners and women are significantly more likely to be choked/strangled, whether consensually or non-consensually.” In this study of undergraduate and graduate student men in the US, “Men frequently cited pornography as how they first learned about choking during sex.” One participant, “who first began watching pornography at age 14 or 15, recalled seeing choking and other diverse sexual behaviors in pornography, adding “I’ve sought all kinds of porn because basically, because I’ve got bored of regular porn at some point in my life.””  Moreover, “reactions like their partner gasping for air, gagging, coughing, face changing colors, and tears were of some concern to the men in our study and sometimes prompted participants to ease off the choking pressure or to stop entirely. However, some men considered these physical responses as pleasurable discomforts that co-occurred with their partners’ pleasure and not necessarily reasons to decrease intensity or stop.” “Aside from occasional mentions of being aware that choking could bruise a person, cause loss of consciousness, or kill someone, the men in our study did not describe an awareness of other forms of potential harm of being choked. Further, none of the men we interviewed expressed any awareness, knowledge, or concern about potential cumulative effects from being choked numerous times (e.g., traumatic brain injury); however, some did express concern about the intensity with which they choked their partner(s) or with which they were asked to do so. Several men indicated feeling afraid of unintentionally hurting or killing their partners. A few others seemed to be playing along the edge of that fear and possibility, eroticizing the fact that choking put them in a position to stop their partner from breathing or potentially kill them, while reassuring their interviewer that they did not actually want to kill their partner(s).”



Herbenick, D., Guerra-Reyes, L., Patterson, C., Rosenstock Gonzalez, Y. R., Wagner, C., & Zounlome, N. O. O. (2022). “If Their Face Starts Turning Purple, You Are Probably Doing Something Wrong”: Young  Men’s Experiences with Choking During Sex. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 48(5), 502-519.




Was this article helpful?
0 out Of 5 Stars
5 Stars 0%
4 Stars 0%
3 Stars 0%
2 Stars 0%
1 Stars 0%
How can we improve this article?