Recently, parents have learned they have to worry about the “Choking Game,” as the mass media and YouTube have picked up on teenagers playing the “Choking Game,” although there is nothing new and nothing playful about this terrible activity.
The website called “Choking Game ~ Pass Out Game ~ Fainting Game ~ Black Out” (here) reports that “75% of children ages 9-16 know how it’s ‘played’ or have ‘played’ themselves.” A number of adolescents have recorded their experiences with the choking game on YouTube (for which I am not providing links).
What is the choking game?
Wikipedia (here) defines the “choking or fainting game” as the practive of inducing “a partial or complete loss of consciousness brought about by the intentional deprivation of oxygen to the brain.” There are several ways of doing this, most commonly by strangulation or hanging, either alone or with a partner or a group.
Obviously, if you attempt to hang yourself just to the point of passing out, and you are alone, there is the possibility of something going horribly wrong, and a number of young people’s deaths have been called suicides, when in fact, they were just accidents caused by the choking game. So, the choking game, for many adolescents a cheap way to get high, carries a very high price indeed: death. What is going on here?
The history of the choking game
These young risktakers documenting their choking games on YouTube may be surprised to learn that they are taking part in a very ancient practice. According to the Choking Game website (here), the choking game is “a traditional activity passed on for generations through whispers youth on playgrounds, at school, camp, and from friends.” The big change today is, of course, the Internet, where adolescents post videos of themselves playing the choking game and parents can seek information about the choking game.
When Aldous Huxley, decades ago, wrote about the ways that people have from ancient times sought natural highs (psychedelic experiences), he mentioned the practice of regulating breathing, often through prolonged religious chanting. Later, Stanislav Grof proposed “holotropic breathwork ®” as a form of transpersonal psychological development (more), through regulated breathing with the supervision of trained professionals.
What is erotic asphyxiation, and how does it relate to the choking game?
Beyond the high, the rush, even the mystical experience, another thrill associated with the choking game is that it can be sexually stimulating. “Autoerotic asphyxiation” has been known for centuries. As Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope reports (here), the practice is referred to by the eighteeneth century pornographer the Marquis de Sade and the twentieth century Nobel Prize laureate, Samuel Beckett.
According to Wikipedia (here), erotic asphyxiation has been known since the seventeenth century. Among famous cases of this variation of the choking game is that of Sada Abe, whose murder of her employer by erotic asphysiation in Japan in the 1930s is the basis for one of the most widely banned films of all times, In the Realm of the Senses (more). Recently, a Baptist minister in Alabama was found dead, wearing two wet suits and other paraphenalia suggesting that he had died while practicing a variation of the choking game (more).
According to the Choking Game website (here) autoerotic asphyxiation “”involves a sexual aspect; self choking does not.” The actions are pretty much the same, and, unfortunately, so are the results. It is difficult to believe that adolexcent boys would not be motivated by the possibility of a sexual turn-on.
What can be done about the choking game?
The Choking Game website gives a list of possible warning signs (here) and stresses parental involvement and discussion. During my years of teaching high school, a well-meaning law enforcement officer would make presentations on the dangers of drugs. He would also report on the latest fad of using various household substances to get high – and on the dangers associated with them.
I often wondered whether the students heard these warnings as in fact a sort of “how to” and even a challenge to take the risk. But, he felt that he had to do something.
That is the problem for parents and teachers with the choking game. What can you do? Are you, in fact, giving your adolescents information about the choking game, which they have never heard of? Are you perhaps challenging them to torment their parents with the choking game, something else to worry about?
You might find these articles of interest: “Florida Bans Hallucenogenic Salvia” (here) and “Can Men Be Sexually Harassed by Women?” (here).