I was initially startled in early 2020 when, during a post-talk Q. and A. at an independent high school, a 16-year-old girl asked, “How come boys all want to choke you?” In a different class, a 15-year-old boy wanted to know, “Why do girls all want to be choked?” They do? Not long after, a college sophomore (and longtime interview subject) contacted me after her roommate came home in tears because a hookup partner, without warning, had put both hands on her throat and squeezed.

I started to ask more and the stories piled up. Another sophomore confided that she enjoyed being choked by her boyfriend, though it was important for a partner to be “properly educated” — pressing on the sides of the neck, for example, rather than the trachea. (Note: There is no safe way to strangle someone.) A male freshman said “girls expected” to be choked and, even though he didn’t want to do it, refusing would make him seem like a “simp.” And a senior in high school was angry that her friends called her “vanilla” when she complained that her boyfriend had choked her.

I feel sorry for Gen Z. Choking has been around forever, of course, though when I was in college running across a woman who liked to be choked was unusual and vaguely concerning. But now it’s a fad, and people are doing it to fit in and seem daring. Sort of like the Trans stuff.