I Want My Precaution B!
(I wrote the following essay as part of an ongoing debate on breath control in a forum back in the mid-to-late 90's. It has been lightly edited and updated here for this 2009 re-posting.)
Hi Les (et al).
My thanks to you -- and, of course, to the others -- for your kind words. For the record, the "heat" generated towards me (so far at least [grin]) is
well within my ability to withstand. Among other things, after extensive debate and exchange of information, I have pretty much reached agreement with
Michael Decker, who is very arguably this nation's leading teacher of and advocate for breath control -- more properly called axphyxiophilia -- so this
is mostly a rehash for me. Still, that "kindling effect" post was interesting. I'll have to look more into that.
I think a lot of the frustration that emerges when breath control is discussed stems from the fact that most people have received their safety
education largely in the context of preventing infectious disease transmission. Therefore people are used to hearing safety messages like "practice
A is very risky, but precaution B reduces the risk a great deal; therefore, if you engage in practice A please also take precaution B." (Nowadays,
precaution B is often, of course, use a condom.)
There are similar "precaution B" messages regarding bondage (not so tight that the limb goes numb), electricity play (not above the waist), and so
forth. Thus, people are used to hearing a "precaution B" message in connection with a risky behavior.
Unfortunately, given the realities of the physiology of asphyxiophilia, there really is no meaningful "precaution B" that one can take. Yes, one can
take a CPR class and, yes, one can "watch one's bottom carefully" (exactly what one will watch for, and exactly how one will interpret what one detects,
is often left more than a bit vague -- truth is, it's virtually impossible to tell when cardiac arrest is imminent by clinical assessment alone, even by
someone highly trained and experienced) but nobody I know who really knows something about the physiology of asphyxiophilia believes that doing either
of those things will really do anything to significantly reduce the risk involved. Thus, we are left with the distinctly unusual (and unpopular) message
that "practice A is very risky, and there is no significant precaution B, so lotsa luck if you try it" One can certainly understand how people could feel
frustrated, and even cheated.
Unfortunately, about the only thing one could do that would be likely to really reduce the risk would be to equip one's playroom with a defibrillator
and become highly skilled in its use and in the related skills. Last I heard, low-end defibs were costing about $4,000.00 -- so this is hardly an option
for most of us. (Furthermore, defibrillators most definitely do not come with a guarantee of success regarding restarting a stopped heart.) [2009 Update: Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) have come down to the $1,000.00 to $1500.00 range for a basic model.]
Asphyxiophilia is not just another kink. It is a qualitatively different practice, and plays by its own very stark, not-very-forgiving, and often
counter-intuitive rules. You can venture onto its "turf" if you wish, but I'd suggest that you take along as detailed a map as you can get. (As a
rough rule of thumb, the less you know about the details of the vagus nerve, the less qualified you are to do breath control play.) Once again, if
you're going to try doing this, I very strongly urge you to read my "Medical Realities" essay.
"If you're gonna play the game, boy, you'd better learn to play it right." - "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers