Erotic asphyxiation or breath control play is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. The sexual practice is variously called asphyxiophilia, autoerotic asphyxia, hypoxyphilia. 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.
Author John Curra wrote, "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."
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."
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."
Historically, the practice of autoerotic asphyxiation has been documented since the early 17th century. It was first used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. The idea for this most likely came from subjects who were executed by hanging. Observers at public hangings noted that male victims developed an erection, sometimes remaining after death (death erection), and occasionally ejaculated when being hanged. However, ejaculation occurs in hanging victims after death because of disseminated muscle relaxation; this is a different mechanism from that sought by 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. Sometimes, complicated devices are used to produce the desired effects. 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 of autoerotic asphyxia range from 250 to 1000 deaths per year in the United States.” Cases have also been reported in Scandinavia and Germany. Autoerotic asphyxiation may often be mistaken for suicide, which is a major cause of death in teenagers.
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. 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 material or sex toys present, or with evidence of having orgasmed prior to death. Bodies found at the scene of an accidental death often show evidence of other paraphilic activities, such as fetishistic cross-dressing and masochism. In cases involving teenagers at home, families may disturb the scene by "sanitizing" it, removing evidence of paraphilic activity. This can have the consequence of making the death appear to be a deliberate suicide, rather than an accident.
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. Some individual cases of women with erotic asphyxia have been reported. The mean age of accidental death is mid-20s, but deaths have been reported in adolescents and in men in their 70s.
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.
- Peter Anthony Motteux, English author, playwright, translator, publisher and editor of The Gentleman's Journal, "the first English magazine," from 1692 to 1694, died from apparent autoerotic asphyxiation in 1718, which is probably the first recorded case.
- Frantisek Kotzwara, composer, died from erotic asphyxiation in 1791.
- Sada Abe killed her lover, Kichizo Ishida, through erotic asphyxiation in 1936, proceeding to cut off his penis and testicles and carry them around with her 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 dead in his bathroom in 1968 with his body graffitized and a noose around his neck.
- Vaughn Bodé, artist, died from this cause in 1975.
- Stephen Milligan, a British politician and Conservative MP for Eastleigh, died from autoerotic asphyxiation combined with self-bondage in 1994.
- Kevin Gilbert, a musician and songwriter, died of apparent autoerotic asphyxiation in 1996.
- Michael Hutchence, Australian singer-songwriter and member of rock band INXS. His death was ruled as suicide by the coroner but was believed by his family and partner to be the result of autoerotic asphyxia.
- Kristian Etchells, British National Front party member, in 2005.
- Iván Heyn, Argentinian economist died in Uruguay in December 20, 2011.
- In Herceg v. Hustler, Diane Herceg sued Hustler magazine, accusing it of causing the death of her 14-year-old son, Troy D., who had experimented with autoerotic asphyxia after reading about it in that publication.
- Reverend Gary Aldridge, of Montgomery's Thorington Road Baptist Church, died June 24, 2007 from "accidental mechanical asphyxia"; he was "found hogtied, wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask."
- David Carradine died on June 4, 2009 from accidental asphyxiation, according to the medical examiner who performed a private autopsy on the actor. His body was found hanging by a rope in a closet in his room in Thailand, and there was evidence of a recent orgasm; two autopsies were conducted and concluded that his death was not suicide, and the Thai forensic pathologist who examined the body stated that his death may have been due to autoerotic asphyxiation. Two of Carradine's ex-wives, Gail Jensen and Marina Anderson, stated publicly that his sexual interests included the practice of self-bondage.
In the novel (and later movie adaptation) Rising Sun, death as a result of this type of sexual arousal is explained when it is offered as a possible cause for a murder victim's death. In the film World's Greatest Dad, the protagonist's teenage son accidentally kills himself with asphyxiation whilst sexually aroused. The protagonist then staged his son's death as a suicide, which consequently gave him the opportunity to rise to infamy via a literary hoax. In the film Ken Park a character named Tate practices autoerotic asphyxia. Autoerotic asphyxiation occurs in the cold open of Six Feet Under episode Back to the Garden. Kenny from South Park dies from suffocating while wearing a Batman costume and practicing autoerotic asphyxia costume in the episode Sexual Healing. In the season four episode of Californication, Monkey Business, the character Zig Semetauer is found dead in his bathroom by Hank, Charlie and Stu after suffocating due to autoerotic asphyxia, to which Hank quips "I'm not averse to the occasional choke-n'-stroke, but this is a prime example of why one must always use a buddy system."
- John Curra (2000). The Relativity of Deviance. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc. p. 111. ISBN 0-7619-0778-5.
- George D. Shuman (2007). Last Breath: A Sherry Moore Novel. Simon & Schuster. p. 80. ISBN 1-4165-3491-1.
- Dr. E L Lloyd (29 March 1986). Points: Hallucinations, hypoxia, and neurotransmitters. British Medical Journal Volume 292. p. 903.
- "Erotic Asphyxiation". Lust Magazine. 1997.
- 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 (3): 371–377. doi:10.1192/bjp.159.3.371. PMID 1958948.
- O’Halloran, R. L., & Dietz, P. E. (1993). Autoerotic fatalities with power hydraulics. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 38, 359–364.
- Uva, J. L. (1995). "Review: Autoerotic asphyxiation in the United States". Journal of Forensic Sciences 40 (4): 574–581. PMID 7595293.
- Innala, S. M.; Ernulf, K. F. (1989). "Asphyxiophilia in Scandinavia". Archives of Sexual Behavior 18 (3): 181–189. doi:10.1007/BF01543193. PMID 2787626.
- Janssen, W.; Koops, E.; Anders, S.; Kuhn, S.; Püschel, K. (2005). "Forensic aspects of 40 accidental autoerotic death in Northern Germany". Forensic Science International 147S: S61–S64.
- Koops, E.; Janssen, W.; Anders, S.; Püschel, K. (2005). "Unusual phenomenology of autoerotic fatalities". Forensic Science International 147S: S65–S67.
- Downs, Martin (January 1, 2005). "The Highest Price For Pleasure: A Deadly Turn-On". WebMD. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
- Autoerotic Asphyxiophilia on 'Sexinfo' website, University of Santa Barbara, Ca.
- 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 (1): 64–73. doi:10.1097/00000433-199103000-00012. PMID 2063821.
- Downs, Martin. The Highest Price for Pleasure, featured by WebMD
- Danto, B. (1980). "A case of female autoerotic death". American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 1 (2): 117–121. doi:10.1097/00000433-198006000-00004. PMID 7246503.
- 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 (3): 148–152. doi:10.1007/s00414-001-0271-x. PMID 12111317.
- Martz, D. (2003). "Behavioral treatment for a female engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation". Clinical Case Studies 2 (3): 236–242. doi:10.1177/1534650103002003006.
- Sass, F. (1975). "Sexual asphyxia in the female". Journal of Forensic Science 2: 181–185.
- Burgess, A. W.; Hazelwood, R. R. (1983). "Autoerotic deaths and social network response". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 53 (1): 166–170. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.1983.tb03361.x. PMID 6829721.
- Shankel, L. W.; Carr, A. C. (1956). "Transvestism and hanging episodes in a male adolescent". Psychiatric Quarterly 30 (3): 478–493. doi:10.1007/BF01564363. PMID 13359556.
- Sheehan, W.; Garfinkel, B. D. (1987). "Adolescent autoerotic deaths". Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 27 (3): 367–370. doi:10.1097/00004583-198805000-00017. PMID 3379021.
- Edmondson, J. S. (1972). "A case of sexual asphyxis without fatal termination". British Journal of Psychiatry 121 (563): 437–438. doi:10.1192/bjp.121.4.437. PMID 5077101.
- Cooper, A. J. (1995). ""Auto-erotic asphyxial death: Analysis of nineteen fatalities in Alberta": Comment". Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 40: 363–364.
- Cooper, A. J. (1996). "Auto-erotic asphyxiation: Three case reports". Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 22 (1): 47–53. doi:10.1080/00926239608405305. PMID 8699497.
- 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 (6): 1753–1759. PMID 1770343.
- Police probe MP's suspicious death BBC News, 8 Feb 1994
- Joel Selvin (September 16, 1996). "More Than 'The Piano Player'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
- Michael Hutchence found dead in hotel BBC News, 22 Nov 1997
- National Front member died during sex act Oldham Advertiser, 27 Jan 2005
- Member of Argentine government dies during dangerous sex games Pravda
- John W. Williams (1990). "Can the media kill? A syndrome, a case study and the law". Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Dead Reverend's Rubber Fetish". 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Orloff, Brian. David Carradine Died of Accidental Asphyxiation. (July 2, 2009) People
- "David Carradine’s Official Cause of Death was Asphyxiation". Inquisitr.com. 2009-07-02. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
- Goldman, Russell (2009-06-04). "Police: Carradine Found Naked, Hanged in Closet". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- "Actor David Carradine Found Dead". CNN. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- "Forensic Scientist Says Carradine Death May Be Linked to Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation". Fox News. 2009-06-05.
- Ngamkham, Wassayos (2009-06-05). "'Kung Fu' Star Carradine Dead". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Forensics pointing out the death of David was autoerotic". Thai Rath. 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2009-06-05. (Thai)
- "Carradine Death 'Erotic Asphyxiation'". Bangkok Post. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- Drummond, Andrew (2009-06-05). "Kung Fu Star David Carradine Died 'When Auto Erotic Sex Game Went Wrong'". Daily Record. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- Gardner, David; Drummond, Andrew; Killalea, Debra (2009-06-05). "Kung Fu and Kill Bill Star David Carradine Found Accidentally Hanged After 'Sex Games' in Bangkok Hotel Wardrobe". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Carradine death 'wasn't suicide'". Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- James, Susan Donaldson (June 9, 2009). "Ex-Wife Reveals David Carradine's 'Kinky' Habits". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- "David Carradine Branded 'Strange' by Ex". Contactmusic.com. June 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- "Kung Fu Star David Carradine’s ‘Deviant’ Sex Games, By His Ex-Wife". Daily Mail (London). June 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- McShane, Larry (June 5, 2009). "David Carradine a Fan of 'Potentially Deadly' Deviant Sex Acts, Ex-Wife Said in Court Papers". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Darwar, Anil (June 8, 2009). "Carradine Loved Deadly Sex Games, Says Ex-Wife". Daily Express. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- 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, Wheatmark (August 15, 2006), trade paperback, 208 pages ISBN 1587366045 ISBN 978-1587366048
- John Money, Gordon Wainwright and David Hingsburger: The Breathless Orgasm: A Lovemap Biography of Asphyxiophilia. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Breath play.|
- Well Hung: Death By Orgasm
- Turvey B. "An Objective Overview of Autoerotic Fatalities"
- The Medical Realities of Breath Control Play By Jay Wiseman
- Is there a safe way to perform autoerotic asphyxiation? - Slate Magazine