Criminal Charges from Choking During Sex
People may engage in intentional strangulation or suffocation during sexually intimate situations. This is known as erotic asphyxiation or colloquially “breath control play.” It is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain to provide sexual arousal. Non-consensual acts while engaging in this paraphilia can lead to serious criminal charges.
Your personal experiences with sex can drive feelings of love and intimacy with your partner, and they can fulfill the raw and animalistic instinct to satisfy sexual urges at times. For many people, sexual experimentation adds an element of excitement to the bedroom experience. Some believe it can open the door to a deeper level of intimacy and may increase pleasure. Impeding breath during sex, such as through strangulation, is not a new activity. However, this taboo act is becoming more normalized and commonplace. More than that, this type of sexual experimentation is increasingly being forced on unsuspecting women and men.
Prevalence of Unwanted Choking During Sex
How common is choking during sex? In a recent survey analyzed by the Indiana University School of Public Health, approximately 24 percent of adult women and more than 12 percent of adolescent women reported feeling scared while engaged in sexual intercourse. In addition, more than 10 percent of adult men and almost 14 percent of adolescent men had similar experiences. Almost 10 percent of the respondents reported that the source of their fear was being choked or strangled unexpectedly. In another survey conducted by the Aspen Institute, approximately 13 percent of 14 to 17-year-old females had experienced being choked during sex.
The Physical Impact of Impeding Breath
There are several reasons why the act of choking a partner may venture into bedroom activities. Some people specifically ask their partners to choke them during sex because a lack of oxygen can create a deeper sense of euphoria and may heighten the sensation of orgasm. Other people request that their partner to strangle them to fulfill a rape fantasy or for other reasons.
In a growing number of incidents, however, the physical act of choking a partner during sex is not requested by the individual and may be nonconsensual. Furthermore, the topic has not been discussed previously by the couple. Instead, one person takes it on himself or herself to explore this aspect of experimentation. The result extends beyond surprise. It can transcend to fear and physical pain experienced by the non-consenting partner.
When Strangulation During Sex Goes Too Far
Choking is only one of many taboo activities that consensual sexual partners can incorporate into their bedroom activities. However, this act can easily go too far. An individual may specifically ask to have pain inflicted on them or to be in a situation where he or she feels out of control or fearful. Even when the partner consents to it or specifically requests it, strangulation or choking during sex goes too far when a couple’s safe word is not honored. Likewise, it crosses an important line when an individual feels pain, fear or a lack of control in a sexual situation when it has not previously been discussed and agreed to or specifically requested.
Strangulation During Sex in Modern Culture
Porn is freely available online. Despite steps to prevent porn from being viewed by minors, many adolescents have easier access to hardcore images and videos than they had in previous generations. In fact, one study reveals that approximately 64 percent of teens and young adults actively search for porn on a weekly basis. More than that, the availability of porn that exposes viewers to aggressive acts, such as strangulation during sex, is significant. In a study published by the Journal of Research, up to 40 percent of porn videos on one of the leading Internet pornography websites showed aggressive sexual acts without consent.
Normalizing Choking Across Age Groups
Several studies have analyzed the impact of exposure to Internet pornography on teens. Analysis through these studies indicates that porn can disorient teens about their sexual beliefs and may distort their sexual expectations. Many young people do not realize that strangulation during sex is a taboo act that should be mutually agreed-to by both partners up-front. They assume that their partner wants and expects it. This same normalization of strangulation in the bedroom extends to older age groups as well.
Pornographic acts depicting choking during intercourse are found in other more traditional media sources as well. For example, a new HBO series called ‘Euphoria’ shows a teenage boy engaged in a hardcore and explicit act with a teenage girl. The boy begins choking the girl. When the girl asks him to stop, he is shocked by the request. While this scene makes a statement about the impact of porn on modern sexual expectations, it lends itself to the normalization of strangulation at the same time.
The Lack of Consent During Consensual Sex
When a couple agrees to consensual sex, they may need to define exactly what they are agreeing to. Despite pop culture’s presentation of impeding breathing during sex, the reality is that this act is not always consensual. In addition to inciting fear and inflicting pain, it can even cause life-threatening injuries. While some people are into this type of act or are interested in experimenting with it, it is risky and dangerous to assume that it is wanted, consented to or expected.
With this and other activities that extend beyond plain vanilla activities in the bedroom, have an open conversation with your partner beforehand to learn what the other person is into and open to. The lines should be clearly defined beforehand.
Criminal Charges for Impeding Breathing or Circulation
In Texas, a person commits a crime if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impedes the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth. If the person being choked or suffocated is a family member or dating partner, then the charge is a Third-Degree Felony. This is referred to as Assault Family Violence by Impeding Breathing or Circulation (sometimes the word “occlusion” is used). This is found in Texas Penal Code 22.01.
So, you might ask, “Is choking someone that wants to be choked seriously a felony?” The answer is, “Yes, but…” It is a “defense” to the crime the “victim” consented to the assault. The same chapter of the Texas Penal Code allows for the defense of consent.
It is a defense that, “[t]he victim’s effective consent or the actor’s reasonable belief that the victim consented to the actor’s conduct… [and] the conduct did not threaten or inflict serious bodily injury.” (Tex. Pen. Code Sec. 22.06).
As with any “defense,” just because the defense applies in your case does not mean a criminal charge will not be filed. It also does not mean that the case will be dismissed. In fact, Texas law specifically contemplates that a jury may have to decide if the defense applies. When a person is charged with a crime, the prosecuting attorney does not have to allege facts to disprove the existence of a defense. If at a trail, there is some evidence of the defense, then a jury decides if there is a reasonable doubt about whether the defense applies. (Tex. Pen. Code Sec. 2.03).
Obviously, if choking occurs privately between two consenting adults, then police are not at all likely to be contacted. If police are not contacted, then a criminal charge is almost certainly not going to be filed. The issue arises where there is confusion or carelessness about whether consent is given.
If in Doubt, Do Not Talk About It After the Fact
Phone calls are recorded, and messages are saved. Anything you say or type will be used against you. An apology will be viewed as a confession by police and prosecutors.
If you have any reason to believe that you may be investigated or prosecuted for Impeding Breathing or Circulation, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not assume just because you thought it was consensual that everything will work out just fine. Do not assume you will be able to explain your confusion and everyone will understand.
Withdrawal of Consent During Sex
Unwanted choking or other “rough” conduct could result in a partner withdrawing consent for sex all-together. Any time there is confusion, miscommunication, or disrespect of someone’s consent, then there is the potential for sexual assault charges. Much like Impeding Breathing, if you have any reason to believe a partner may accuse you of continuing sexual acts without consent or after consent was withdrawn, then contact a defense attorney immediately. This is not a situation in which you want to rely upon your ability to talk things through and smooth everything over.