Here we go again – Media is having a field day connecting the dots in their neverending effort to find the origin to why people are into kinky sex.

Metro in the UK have written yet another journalistic wonder – Fetishes – When Desire becomes dangerous.

The article is fueled by the death of daytime TV presenter Kristian Digby was found on March 1. Early reports suggested that a plastic bag and belt were found near his body. Police suspected he died as a result of auto-erotic asphyxiation, the practice whereby people restrict their oxygen supply in pursuit of a sexual high.

Other “high profile” people are mentioned that have died from this strange expression of sexuality which, according to the article, seem to have its roots in the fetish community.

In 1994 Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in fetish-wear with a plastic bag over his head. Michael Hutchence’s 1997 death was declared to be suicide although his girlfriend Paula Yates insisted it was an act of auto-erotic asphyxiation. And last year actor David Carradine died in the wardrobe of a Thai hotel room with a rope tied around his neck.

My guess is that all these names are mentioned in order to make the conclusions and claims that are made in the article more valid and substantial.

To mention that these people have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation is of course not wrong, but when the author of the article, Scott Tenorman, tries to investigate why people are drawn to auto-erotic asphyxiation then things go wrong.

He interviews Dr Martin Baggaley of the sexual and relationship problems clinic at Guy’s Hospital in London in order to try to unveil the mysterious reasons to why some people are engaging in this sort of sexual activity.

Dr Martin Baggaley states the following:

It’s due to the biological and cultural differences between male and female sexuality.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation is a type of fetish activity which falls under the bondage, domination and sadomasochism umbrella. It gives people a buzz firstly physiologically, by increasing carbon dioxide in the blood, but also psychologically as people often dress up in fetish-wear while they’re doing it.

There are of course differences in the male and the female sexuality, but the statement made by Baggaley almost implies that only men are known to die from auto-erotic asphyxiation – And this is of course not true.There is research investigating the phenomena, but it is done with difficulty as it’s hard to get hold of facts regarding these deaths, whether they are male or female. When family members finds a victim to auto-erotic asphyxiation, then it isn’t uncommon that they try to obscure the facts surrounding the actually cause of death, mostly based on shame.

There are also references available that points to the fact that women have also been known to die from auto-erotic asphyxiation:

  1. Danto, B. (1980). A case of female autoerotic death. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 1, 117–121.
  2. 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.
  3. Martz, D. (2003). Behavioral treatment for a female engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation. Clinical Case Studies, 2, 236–242.
  4. Sass, F. (1975). Sexual asphyxia in the female. Journal of Forensic Science, 2, 181–185.

It is still an established fact that men are in majority when it comes to deaths related to auto-erotic asphyxiation, but what the cultural differences actually consist of is not mentioned in the article and I would say that it would be a quite fuzzy aspect of it all as cultural differences can be really hard to do research on. It even becomes more difficult as auto-erotic asphyxiation is something that is kept within closed communities.

The other thing I would like to contest in Baggaley’s statement is the one where he claims that auto-erotic asphyxiation should be sorted under the umbrella of BDSM and fetish activities. Just because people have been caught dead in fetish gear after an auto-erotic asphyxiation play doesn’t necessarily make it into a fetish activity. Let us take a look at the definition of sexual fetishism:

Sexual fetishism, or erotic fetishism, is the sexual arousal brought on by any object, situation or body part not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature. Sexual fetishism may be regarded, e.g. in psychiatric medicine, as a disorder of sexual preference or as an enhancing element to a relationship causing a better sexual bond between the partners. The sexual acts involving fetishes are characteristically depersonalized and objectified, even when they involve a partner. Body parts may also be the subject of sexual fetishes (also known as partialism) in which the body part preferred by the fetishist takes a sexual precedence over the owner.

This definition makes it very hard for auto-erotic asphyxiation to fit within it. The connection between fetish and auto-erotic asphyxiation is very flimsy and probably not valid at all.

Then we have the final question, does auto-erotic asphyxiation fit with BDSM?

It might do, but I do not agree with the reference to breath play that is mentioned in the article. Breath play holds a lot of nuances and the use of a ball gag is considered by some to be a part of breath play. The reasons for doing breath play might also differ compared to the described reasons for doing auto-erotic asphyxiation. Breath play are mostly done for control reasons or to invoke a primal response based on the fear you might feel when somebody is covering your mouth with a hand. Breath play doesn’t necessarily involve strangulation which actually should belong to the category asphyxiation play instead of being mixed into breath play.

The article is doing a bold claim as well by trying to insinuate that these dangerous activities might be more common in the age of the Internet due to the fact that people are more subjected to porn and pictures which depicts asphyxiation play. Luckily enough Baggaley responds to that through a sane statement – Just because you see something, doesn’t mean you want to try it.

The article finishes by mentioning  a variety of extreme paraphilias in order to create some sort of sensational value and a freak show feeling by pointing out all the strange things people can do in a sexual context – Hooray for the normative collective.

Nevertheless – Apshyxiation play is dangerous due to its unpredictability and it is something we strongly advice people to stay away from.

Breath play on the other hand with ball gags, breathing control etc can be fun, but proper safety measures should always be in place. Even if what you do seem to be harmless and with no risk involved.

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