Erotic asphyxiation

Erotic asphyxiation, asphyxiophilia, or breath control play, is the practice of a person (called a "gasper") of intentionally reducing the amount of oxygen to their brain during sexual stimulation in order to heighten pleasure from orgasm. It is similar to a practice by some youth in modern times which is known as the "choking game" which provides a sensation (impending loss of consciousness) described as "cool" even by pre-teens. Self strangulation by hanging from cloth towel dispensers in Canadian schools - Le and Macnab 7 (3): 231 - Injury Prevention In the United States, a 2007 report indicated that the risky behavior is claiming up to 1,000 adult or youth victims a year nationwide, according to FBI statistics. MyFolsom.Com - Folsom CA News, Forums, & Yellow Pages It is a major cause of accidental deaths by hanging.


The act of depriving oneself or another of oxygen for the purpose of achieving or enhancing orgasm is classified officially in the United States as hypoxyphilia, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The APA classifies hypoxyphilia as a mental disorder, as noted by the periodical Psychology Today. Hypoxyphilia falls under the category of psychiatric disorders known as paraphilias, a term that refers to an unusual or unnatural attraction.

Dr. Joseph Merlino, author and psychiatry adviser to the New York Daily News, considers it fundamentally a disorder. "Somebody going into that who doesn't consider it a serious threat to himself is somebody who is not informed," said Merlino in an interview. "It could have a very lethal outcome. It's a pathology, strictly engaging in that, like someone who wants to play Russian Roulette to have the excitement of hearing a click, but the bullet is not coming out. That's a disorder because it has the potential for lethality or serious injury."

A sexual partner may or may not be involved in the act. If a partner is excluded the practice can be referred to as autoerotic asphyxiation, or AEA.

In the BDSM community, interactions of this nature may be referred to as breathplay or sometimes edgeplay, and generally include a partner. Because like other forms of edgeplay breathplay pushes the limits of "safe, sane and consensual", situations involving breath control can be assessed using the acronym RACK or Risk Aware Consensual Kink. Partners are generally expected within this community to be cognizant of and responsible for the dangers that they may take part in.

Various methods are used to achieve the level of oxygen depletion needed such as a plastic bag over the head or self-strangulation, typically by the use of a ligature (scarfing). The practice can be dangerous even if practiced with care and has resulted in some accidental deaths.

Historically, the practice of autoerotic asphyxiation has been documented since the early 1600s. It was first used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction and impotence. 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 practitioners.

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 many do enjoy incorporating asphyxiophilia into sex with a partner, others enjoy this behavior by themselves, making it potentially more difficult to get out of dangerous situationsUCSB's SexInfo. 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 cases autoerotic asphyxiation may have triggered carotid sinus reflex death, but this claim is controversial .

With the exception of the books Autoerotic Fatalities by Hazelwood et al. (1983) and Autoerotic Asphyxiation: Forensic, Medical, and Social Aspects by Sheleg et al. (published in 2006) there has been no comprehensive coverage of erotic asphyxiation.

Teenaged, young adult males: significant cause of deaths in U.S.

According to a March 2007 news story in Sacramento, California, studies have found autoerotic asphyxiation is predominantly performed by males 15 to 25 years old, often characterized as smart, upbeat overachievers experimenting with the practice, usually from families with strict religious backgrounds and loving homes. They are almost always described as heterosexual, and are typically not depressed or suicidal in any way. Autoerotic Asphyxiation Syndrome a Very Real Danger for Young Teens

In a local case, the coroner had ruled that the death of a 16-year-old Folsom boy found hanging from a tree in an isolated section of a public park was an accident, ruling the cause of death was asphyxiation by hanging, autoerotica type. A police investigation had found that autoerotica Web sites had been searched on the boy's home computer. In this case, the determination of autoerotic death was made from a combination of decedent history and circumstantial indicators. © Knowledge Solutions LLC 1996 - 2002 / AN OBJECTIVE OVERVIEW OF AUTOEROTIC FATALITIES by Brent E. Turvey, MS

Because the behavior is of a compulsive type, it is often a repetitive and experimental form of masturbation and self gratification. In such cases, death is not normally an intended outcome, thus the ruling, accidental. However, the risk often appears to have been not properly evaluated by the victim. Since this activity is typically performed alone and in secret, it is difficult to know if someone is involved the practice. However there are some parents and family members watching for physical signs of autoerotic asphyxiation behavior in an individual should look for:

Famous cases

The composer Frantisek Kotzwara died from erotic asphyxiation in 1791, 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.

Stage and screen actor Albert Dekker was found in 1968 with his body graffitized and a noose around his neck in his bathroom.

The artist Vaughn Bodé died from this cause in 1975. Progressive Rock musician Kevin Gilbert died from this in 1996, as did drummer Robin Hanssen.

The death in 1994 of Stephen Milligan, the British Conservative MP for Eastleigh, was a case of autoerotic asphyxiation combined with self-bondage. BBC ON THIS DAY | 8 | 1994: Police probe MP's suspicious death

Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS is rumored to have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation in 1997, although suicide was the official cause of death.

A more recent case is the death in 2004 of the extreme right-wing National Front party member Kristian Etchells.National Front member died during sex act - News - Oldham Advertiser

On March 28, 2007, the New York Times had a front-page story on a teenager who had suffered a heart attack and spent three days in a coma after hanging himself for a "rush".

Teenager Casts Light on a Shadowy Game - New York Times This was apparently an instance of the choking game, which had become a major health hazard to adolescent youth in the United States in the 21st century.

Recent court cases have come to varied results as to whether the unintentional death resulting from autoerotic asphyxiation falls under the "self-induced injury" clause of standard life insurance policies, which prevents payouts for suicide within 2-5 years of policy purchase. In June of 2003, one US court said the intent was not death and therefore the case was an accident, while another in August 2003 said it does technically fall within the terms since death is the logical result of asphyxiation.

Cultural references

Autoerotic asphyxiation is key to the plots of many books, movies, and TV shows.





See also

Further reading

External links

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