Ode to the throat (2022)

You can listen to this musing here or read it below.

Please don’t take this musing as a detailed anatomical lesson but rather as an invitation to explore the throat’s complexity. The throat is, or must be, my favourite part of the human body, as it carries so much symbolism, essential anatomy, and capacity for pleasure. It is the ending of the spine and the separation between mind and body. With the blood, air, spine, vocal cord, nervous plexus and tongue passing through, it’s not strange that it’s often perceived with both fear and vulnerability. As something that must be protected and as something that can be claimed. Enclosing it with a collar, choker, or lease. It is an old-school BDSM symbol of owning and belonging. I remember a friend telling me how something clicked into place when she first put a lease on her new dog. It was like the puppy were given its purpose in life, to be her dog and trade obedience and devotion for food and companionship. At first, there were a few moments of hesitation before the feeling of belonging took place. But, since that day, they have been inseparable.

It’s hard to know what is the hen and egg in this situation. Did the throat become associated with vulnerability and ownership because of the collar, or was the collar’s placement chosen based on an already existing symbolism?

The spine or the cervical vertebrae is the body’s central pillar that balances the weight of the head against the forces of gravity and motion. It turns, tilts, and bows to direct the visual attention and build the surrounding salience landscape. Therefore, guiding or bounding the head’s movement is directly related to one’s understanding of the world. Then, there is this particular moment in the play when one gives their throat away like a cat or a dog trusting their owner and expressing submission. The vertebras are glued together by this jelly-like, slow-moving, and flexible material of the discs, so when motion pulls on one vertebra, the next follows in a chain reaction. The same activity continues at the shoulders and hips into the arms, legs, fingers and toes. So, one can direct the entire body through the spine by manipulating the throat. Each joint or connection point in this mechanical system supports a certain weight and pressure before the surrounding muscles start to protect, compensate, continue, or block the motion. Then at the breaking point, there is both fear and surrender—where everything vibrates between the two. And the whole being is highly attentive, ready to protect itself, either by following or tensing up—submitting or fighting.

Simultaneously the blood is beating through the arteries, supplying the brain with oxygen and the muscles with life force. Choking the flow makes the surrounding world hazy and slow. And there are often feelings of euphoria and surrendering. At least when it’s conscious and consensual, when one feels safe. It’s one of the most common kinks or even THE kinky thing non-kinky people do without thinking much about it. A hand around the throat during sex to claim ownership. From time to time, there is a media hysteria about the dangers and judging it to be pornographic (you can read my musing about it here.) And it’s partly true; choking the blood flow is much more dangerous than the air. But also much more likeable, that’s why people do it. A lack of air leads to panic rather than euphoria. The blood flow is dangerous precisely because it’s nice.

However, there are so many steps on the way before someone passes out. And going “all the way” is rarely the goal. Instead, simply feeling heartbeats at the fingertips can be exhilarating—the flow of life in another being—entrusted with overseeing and manipulating that. And a slight pressure that raises the heart rate often gets interpreted as excitement when the body tries to normalize the blood pressure. There is a spike in awareness that slowly drifts off into pleasure. Compared to martial arts, when the goal is to choke someone out as quickly and efficiently as possible, kinky throat play is slow, often intending to stay on the edge for as long as possible. Mix it with acts of intimacy, like breathing together, staying in eye contact, or making love. Also literary, putting one’s life in the hands of another is a highly personal act of trust, surrender and submission, so treat it like that. And don’t haste or joke it away.

Choking the air using the throat is something I would never do and actively want to warn about because the windpipe is made of fragile cartilage that can collapse under pressure. And to open up a collapsed windpipe, you better have a hospital within reach by the time the body needs air again. So simply don’t do it. However, lightly touching the windpipe is fascinating because it is so thin that one can feel the vibrations of the vocal cord. Moans, sighs, and thank you sir’s. In tantric philosophies, there is an idea that blockages around the throat express themselves as the lack of expression in the world, like not daring to speak up and stand up for one’s truth. So grabbing, ever so lightly, the vocal cords controls the ability to speak.

Next to the arteries and windpipe is the nerve and muscle plexuses. Primarily the Sternocleidomastoid that connects the collar bone to the sternum and skull. It’s a muscle often filled with pressure points and tensions (you can read about them here if you want to know more). Grabbing them when grabbing the throat can send anything from a shiver to a shock of warnings down the spine. Yet it’s long and strong enough to raise someone onto their tippy-toes, yet it’s only a couple of centimetres away from the fragile windpipe. So the throat is both sensitive and strong at the same time. I believe that learning how to touch the throat is a superb way to express control and power—feeling the difference between muscles, bones, vertebras, arteries and cartilage. It is a display of knowledge and authority. It’s a little bit like tying the arms, hands and fingers and understanding how to adapt the rope bondage to the more fragile parts of the body. That feels more vulnerable because they are fragile and asserts more power because that vulnerability is held. It’s a feedback loop worthy of being mastered, I believe.

Finally, the tongue, I almost forgot it. It grows surprisingly deeply into the throat. Tying it, pulling it out and directing its movement affects the whole throat and, therefore, the spine, the limbs and the entire body. There is something animal-like about it—to interact with the world using the tongue. Licking as a sign of appreciation and drooling as a sign of excitement, and tasting as an exploration. It’s one of the first evaluations of what goes into the body and what doesn’t. I could go on forever. But I think the point I’m trying to make is; be aware when you grab someone by the throat. Appreciate it for all that it means, in its fragility and strength. And maybe it will also become your favourite body part.