merissanathangerson

Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation 101

In Mental Health, Sex on March 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Dear Yenta,

I recently heard about autoerotic asphyxiation. If someone dies this way, is it suicide by masturbation? I am confused.

Sincerely,

Creeped Out in Texas

You say potato, he says hanging can be delightful.

Disclaimer: PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I DO NOT CONDONE LIFE-THREATENING SEXUAL PRACTICES.

Dear COIT,

Also known as “The Breathless Orgasm,” erotic strangulation is a complicated method to orgasmic madness. In layman’s terms, this sexual practice involves restricting airflow either through a noose, a plastic mask, or any other number of methods in order to induce a type of hallucinogenic blissed-out state.

The pleasure-causing agent is hypoxyphilia, defined by Sex-Lexis.com as “facilitated by the lack of oxygen produced by self-strangulation or from being strangulated or asphyxiated by a sexual partner, up to, but not including, the loss of consciousness.”

Restricting airflow has been a means of inducing highly ecstatic and/or sexual states since the 1600’s. Breathwork is generally used as a religious and spiritual healing method, and used to calm the body and/or induce extreme pleasures. See Conscious Breathing: How Shamanic Breathwork Can Transform Your Life by Joy Manne. So it makes sense that this type of breath control/restriction induces something of a high, like being on the top of Mount Everest and heaving for air.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation, according to GoAskAlice, “is the practice of cutting off the blood supply to the brain through self-applied suffocation methods while masturbating.”

Asphyxiation, ie, cutting off breath, was used to cure erectile dysfunction back in the day. And when men die by hanging, they often die with an erection. This whole phenomenon is complex, and related to oxygen flow, blood flow, and perhaps the eroticization of death and dying. This, coupled with an orgasm, is supposed to provide complex and intense pleasure.

Obviously, when toying with breath restriction, there is the possibility of going too far. For example, see this explicit opening to Six Feet Under where a man dies when strangling himself with his belt to increase his self-pleasure. Or, check out this article in the UK Sun when a pop-star died of “unknown causes.” Doug did it too, on Weeds.

This is rarely a case of suicide, and more often than not, a case of a failed exit plan and freak accidents. Ie, when someone dies from poorly executing their sexual fetish. Most people who engage in this practice do so knowing they are toying with the possibility of death, and therefore make a point to have an emergency way out of their noose.

According to ForensicPsychiatry.ca, “the individual is usually careful to use some kind of safety mechanism intended to prevent accidental death in the event of unconsciousness. In most cases hypoxyphilic deaths are a complete surprise to family and friends as the deceased was typically in a good mood and giving every indication that they were looking forward to the future.”

David Carradine died this way in 2009, read this article from FOX News for more details on his death by erotic strangulation.

The mechanism involved in this type of pleasure is classified as a mental illness in the DSM manual. I am not inclined to agree. Autoerotic Asphyxiation is considered a “paraphilia,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “a pattern of recurring sexually arousing mental imagery or behavior that involves unusual and especially socially unacceptable sexual practices (as sadism or pedophilia).” According to American medical practitioners it seems to be socially unacceptable to want to strangle oneself for the fun of it. As long as they don’t die, I hold off on all judgments.

For more detailed info, try reading:

The Breathless Orgasm: A Lovemap Biography of Asphyxiophilia
by John Money, Gordon Wainwright, David Hingsburger

Autoerotic Asphyxiation: Forensic, Medical, and Social Aspects
by Sergey Sheleg

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