Erotic asphyxiation: Wikis


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Breath control by a gasmask and a wet piece of leather in a BDSM role play

Erotic asphyxiation is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. It is also called asphyxiophilia, autoerotic asphyxia, hypoxyphilia, or breath control play. Colloquially, a person engaging in the activity is sometimes called a gasper. The erotic interest in asphyxiation is classified as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatrist Joseph Merlino stated that it meets the criteria for a disorder "because it has the potential for lethality or serious injury."[1]



"The carotid arteries (on either side of the neck) carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain. When these are compressed, as in strangulation or hanging, the sudden loss of oxygen to the brain and the accumulation of carbon dioxide can increase feelings of giddiness, lightheadness, and pleasure, all of which will heighten masturbatory sensations."[2]

Author George Shuman describes the effect as such "When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it induces a lucid, semi-hallucinogenic state called hypoxia. Combined with orgasm, the rush is said to be no less powerful than cocaine, and highly addictive".[3]

Concerning hallucinogenic states brought about by chronic hypoxia, Dr. E L Lloyd notes that they may be similar to the hallucinations experienced by climbers at altitude. He further notes that no such state occurs in hypoxia brought about by sudden aircraft decompression at altitude. These findings suggest to him that they do not arrive purely from a lack of oxygen. Upon examining the studies on hypoxia he found that "abnormalities in the cerebral neurochemistry involving one or more of the interconnected neurotransmitters, dopamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and β-endorphin had been reported in all the conditions associated with hallucinations."[4]


Historically, the practice of autoerotic asphyxiation has been documented since the early 1600s. It was first used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.[5] The idea for this most likely came from subjects who were executed by hanging. Observers at public hangings noted male victims developed an erection, sometimes remaining after death (death erection), and occasionally ejaculated when being hanged. Note that, however, ejaculation occurs in hanging victims after death because of disseminated muscle relaxation; this is a different mechanism from that sought by AEA (autoerotic asphyxiation) practitioners.


Various methods are used to achieve the level of oxygen depletion needed, such as a hanging, suffocation with a plastic bag over the head, self-strangulation such as with a ligature, gas or volatile solvents, chest compression, or some combination of these.[6] Sometimes, complicated devices are used to produce the desired effects.[7] The practice can be dangerous even if performed with care and has resulted in a significant number of accidental deaths. Uva (1995) writes “Estimates of the mortality rate range of autoerotic asphyxia between 250 to 1000 deaths per year in the United States.”[8] Cases have also been reported in Scandinavia[9] and in Germany.[10][11]

Accidental death

Deaths often occur when the loss of consciousness caused by partial asphyxia leads to loss of control over the means of strangulation, resulting in continued asphyxia and death. While often asphyxiophilia is incorporated into sex with a partner, others enjoy this behaviour by themselves, making it potentially more difficult to get out of dangerous situations[12]. Victims are often found to have rigged some sort of "rescue mechanism" that has not worked in the way they anticipated as they lost consciousness.

In some fatality cases, the body of the asphyxiophilic individual is discovered naked or with genitalia in hand, with pornographic magazines nearby, with dildos or other sex toys present, or with evidence of having orgasmed prior to death.[10] Bodies found at the scene of an accidental death often show evidence of other paraphilic activities,[13] such as fetishistic cross-dressing and masochism.[6] In cases involving teenagers at home, families may disturb the scene by "sanitizing" it, removing evidence of paraphilic activity.[14]

The great majority of known erotic asphyxial deaths are male; among all known cases in Ontario and Alberta from 1974 to 1987, only one out of 117 cases was female.[6] Some individual cases of women with erotic asphyxia have been reported.[15][16][17][18] The mean age of accidental death is mid-20s,[6][19], but deaths have been reported in adolescents[20][21][22] and in men in their 70s.[10][19]

Autoerotic asphyxiation has at times been incorrectly diagnosed as murder and especially so when a partner is present. Some hospitals have teaching units specifically designed to educate doctors in the correct diagnosis of the condition.[citation needed]

Lawyers and insurance companies have brought cases to the attention of clinicians because some life insurance claims are payable in the event of accidental death, but not suicide.[23][24][25]

Famous cases

Newspaper photo taken shortly after Sada Abe's arrest in Tokyo on May 20, 1936.
  • Frantisek Kotzwara, composer, died from erotic asphyxiation in 1791, which is probably the first recorded case.
  • Sada Abe killed her lover, Kichizo Ishida, through erotic asphyxiation in 1936, proceeding to cut off his testicles and carry them in her handbag for a number of days. The case caused a sensation in 1930s Japan and has remained one of the most famous Japanese murder cases of all time.
  • Albert Dekker, stage and screen actor, was found in 1968 with his body graffitized and a noose around his neck in his bathroom.
  • Vaughn Bodé, artist, died from this cause in 1975.
  • Stephen Milligan, a British Conservative MP for Eastleigh, died from autoerotic asphyxiation combined with self-bondage in 1994.[26]
  • Kevin Gilbert, a songwriter, musician, composer, producer and collaborator, died of apparent autoerotic asphyxiation in 1996.[27]
  • Kristian Etchells, British National Front party member, in 2005.[28]
  • In Herceg v. Hustler, Diane Herceg sued Hustler magazine for the death of her 14-year-old son, Troy D., who had experimented with autoerotic asphyxia after reading about it in that publication. [29]

See also


  1. ^ Wikinews members (Friday, 5 October 2007). "Dr. Joseph Merlino on sexuality, insanity, Freud, fetishes and apathy". Wikinews. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  2. ^ John Curra (2000). The Relativity of Deviance. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.. p. 111. 
  3. ^ Last Breath: A Sherry Moore Novel. Simon & Schuster. 2007. p. 80. 
  4. ^ Dr. E L Lloyd (29 March 1986). Points: Hallucinations, hypoxia, and neurotransmitters. British Medical Journal Volume 292. p. 903. 
  5. ^ "Erotic Asphyxiation". Lust Magazine. 1997. 
  6. ^ a b c d Blanchard, R., & Hucker, S. J. (1991). Age, transvestism, bondage, and concurrent paraphilic activities in 117 fatal cases of autoerotic asphyxia. British Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 371-377.
  7. ^ O’Halloran, R. L., & Dietz, P. E. (1993). Autoerotic fatalities with power hydraulics. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 38, 359–364.
  8. ^ Uva, J. L. (1995). Review: Autoerotic asphyxiation in the United States. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 40, 574–581.
  9. ^ Innala, S. M., & Ernulf, K. F. (1989). Asphyxiophilia in Scandinavia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 18, 181–189.
  10. ^ a b c Janssen, W., Koops, E., Anders, S., Kuhn, S., & Püschel, K. (2005). Forensic aspects of 40 accidental autoerotic death in Northern Germany. Forensic Science International, 147 (Suppl.), S61–S64.
  11. ^ Koops, E., Janssen, W., Anders, S., & Püschel, K. (2005). Unusual phenomenology of autoerotic fatalities. Forensic Science International, 147S, S65–S67.
  12. ^ Autoerotic Asphyxiophilia on 'Sexinfo' website, University of Santa Barbara, Ca.
  13. ^ Bogliolo, L. R., Taff, M. L., Stephens, P. J., & Money, J. (1991). A case of autoerotic asphyxia associated with multiplex paraphilia. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 12, 64–73.
  14. ^ Downs, Martin. The Highest Price for Pleasure, featured by WebMD
  15. ^ Danto, B. (1980). A case of female autoerotic death. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 1, 117–121.
  16. ^ Behrendt, N., Buhl, N., & Seidl, S. (2002). The lethal paraphilic syndrome: Accidental autoerotic deaths in four women and a review of the literature. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 116, 148–152.
  17. ^ Martz, D. (2003). Behavioral treatment for a female engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation. Clinical Case Studies, 2, 236–242.
  18. ^ Sass, F. (1975). Sexual asphyxia in the female. Journal of Forensic Science, 2, 181–185.
  19. ^ a b Burgess, A. W., & Hazelwood, R. R. (1983). Autoerotic deaths and social network response. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 53, 166-170.
  20. ^ Shankel, L. W., & Carr, A. C. (1956). Transvestism and hanging episodes in a male adolescent. Psychiatric Quarterly, 30, 478–493.
  21. ^ Sheehan, W., & Garfinkel, B. D. (1987). Adolescent autoerotic deaths. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 367–370.
  22. ^ Edmondson, J. S. (1972). A case of sexual asphyxis without fatal termination. British Journal of Psychiatry, 121, 437-438.
  23. ^ Cooper, A. J. (1995). “Auto-erotic asphyxial death: Analysis of nineteen fatalities in Alberta”: Comment. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 40, 363–364.
  24. ^ Cooper, A. J. (1996). Auto-erotic asphyxiation: Three case reports. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 22, 47–53.
  25. ^ Garza-Leal, J. A., & Landrom, F. J. (1991). Autoerotic death initially misinterpreted as suicide and a review of the literature. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 36, 1753–1759.
  26. ^ Police probe MP's suspicious death BBC News, 8 Feb 1994
  27. ^ Joel Selvin (September 16, 1996). "More Than 'The Piano Player'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  28. ^ National Front member died during sex act Oldham Advertiser, 27 Jan 2005
  29. ^ John W. Williams (1990). "Can the media kill? A syndrome, a case study and the law". Retrieved 2009-03-23. 

Further reading

  • Robert R. Hazelwood, Park Elliot Dietz, Ann Wolbert Burgess: Autoerotic Fatalities. Lexington, Mass.: LexingtonBooks, 1983.
  • Sergey Sheleg, Edwin Ehrlich: Autoerotic Asphyxiation: Forensic, Medical, and Social Aspects. Tucson, AZ: Wheatmark, 2006.
  • John Money, Gordon Wainwright and David Hingsburger: The Breathless Orgasm: A Lovemap Biography of Asphyxiophilia. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991.

External links

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