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Nightcharm publishes fun topics relative to gay guys: Art, sex, humor, fashion, erotica and spirituality. The site was founded in 1998 by David K. Its current editor is Matt Pizzuti.

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Well Hung: Death by Masturbation

by Matt Pizzuti

There is no common manual informing autoerotic axphyxiants what strange, kinky adornments to use during their ritualistic dances with death.

Yet somehow the fantasies of these unrelated men coalesce, as if all involved were possessed by the same external spirit that captures the psyche and compels the act. It is nearly always done in secret, but discovered in an awful, morbid way: a roommate or family member walks in to find a loved one dead, accidentally strangled while jacking off.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is based on the understanding that oxygen deprivation in the brain enhances the orgasm.

For that reason many BDSM players enjoy being choked during sex, but that is hardly similar to the way men commonly asphyxiate themselves alone.

The central feature is a belt or string constricting blood flow through the neck, but other common features seem unrelated. Their cases are known by the way their bodies are found when they accidentally kill themselves in the act: naked or nearly so, bound by the neck with a rope, and often bound at the genitals or hands. Surrounded by pornographic images or texts. Sometimes wearing a piece of womens’ clothing; stockings, or a bra. Often surrounded by mirrors, so that the practitioner can watch himself in his dangerous ecstasy.

The issue that has stumped sociologists and psychologists alike is that it is not a learned activity; somehow a guy figures on his own to combine all these seemingly unrelated sexual behaviors, through solitary experimentation or whim.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is so strange and taboo that few talk about it openly — practitioners are usually studied by the way they die — yet its most common among healthy, successful and well-adjusted young men, and the cause of, on average, one death in the United States per day.

That list of accidental deaths may now include the actor David Carradine, who played the mysterious “Bill” in Kill Bill, found dead in a hotel room closet in Bangkok on June 3 with a shoelace tied around his neck and genitals and his hands bound.

The incident was first broadcast as suicide, but later explained, by a Bangkok police press agent, to be that “we cannot be sure that he committed suicide but he may have died from masturbation.” Carradine was 72.


If David Carradine were his character in the Quentin Tarantino film, the quirky death, most common among teenagers and 20-something men, would have been almost fitting for the peculiar character in Kill Bill. Unfortunately the scene was not fictional, and we pay our respects to him and his family.

Carradine isn’t the only high profile death from sexual self-strangulation. Stephen Milligan, a 45-year-old Conservative Party member of parliament from the United Kingdom, was found dead in 1994, bound and choked, wearing womens’ clothing and with an orange slice in his mouth.

Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the Australian band INXS, is thought to have died in the act as well.

The Freudian-style psychoanalitic underpinnings of the activity are sometimes said to be related to death erections, when men who are executed by hanging experience a postmortem erection. Autoerotic asphyxiation is made more difficult to diagnose because men often expel semen or other ejaculatory fluids when they die due to muscle relaxation.

It probably isn’t safe to attempt autoerotic asphyxiation alone, even if you think you’re clever enough to rig a device to release or give slack if you pass out. Almost everyone found dead had tried to rig an escape feature — that failed — and its one of the diagnostic criteria to distinguish autoerotic asphyxiation accidents from suicides. That said, there may be something about the ritual that makes having a referee present less fun to participants — perhaps part of the allure is an actual risk of dying. That would exclude the fun from all but those with the deepest drive, a deathwish, or both.

©2009 Nightcharm

  • Raz L

    Good god, what a way to start my Sunday.

  • me

    I think that is how one of my friends died 2 years ago. He was a real genius (litterally), I really believe that, and an excellent painter. His older brother is gay, his dad lives in Australia (far away). Havn’t tried it myself, probably won’t try it any time soon. He didn’t leave any notes or any kind of sign and he had a really active social life and he was found in the bathroom, and it was the night his mom grounded him for breaking a window. His mom told everyone that he was bi-polar (even though his life-long best friend Dane didn’t even know), and had stopped taking medication. Who knows, either way it’s still so meaningless, and sad.

  • ada

    I tried it when I was a teenager. It started when I realized I was naturally holding my breath before orgasm. That led to me holding my breath intentionally for increasing amounts of time before cumming. The next logical step was to cut off blood flow with a belt. I tied the belt to my doorknob and got on my knees.

    To save you from the same embarrassment I experienced the next day at school, I recommend not using a braided leather belt…that is unless you want to explain to everyone why you have a checkerboard pattern bruise on your neck. Oops.

  • joe

    I’m too scared to try it!

    What if you just pressed your neck against a pillow, so that when you stop pressing the pressure would release? If you do pass out, the pressure will relieve and you will quickly snap out of it. Even that seems too dangerous for me.

    OR just hold your breath. Nobody ever died of holding their breath… right? Maybe 25 seconds is all it takes…

  • bats :[

    Another to add to your list is artist/illustrator/cartoonist Vaughn Bode, who created “Cheech Wizard” and shuffled off this mortal coil many, may years ago.

  • Anonymous

    There is a long list of people who died of that but few that I’ve heard of. Kevin Gilbert looks like he could have been a cool artist had he stuck around. Albert Dekker was probably famous in his time. A British National Front member died in 2005 of that, which makes me laugh, because they’re anti-black and anti-gay Neo-Nazis and his political opponents must have been amused.

    There are probably more that aren’t listed but known. And probably still more who were thought to be suicides – or publicized as suicides because they were too embarrasing to release!

  • matt

    Auto Erotic Asphyxiation is almost sadder than suicide. When you take your own life, yes that’s tragic, and further tragic because your life was ended in a period of despair or depression. Yet a sucide is like a final testament, and an immortalization, in a moment of ultimate control and self-determination (even if a convoluted self-determination). And perhaps its so commonplace that we are desensitized to the taboo, and have gotten to respect that kind of despair. You might hate me for saying this – but I think it comes across as poetic that Kurt Cobain or Sylvia Plath took their lives. It becomes part of their story. If you are an artist or famous person, your story is a chosen, created thing, and suicide is like a planned finale.

    Autoerotic Asphyxia is like a cruel joke. HA! You died jerking off, probably something you do every day, like being knocked off eating your cereal or taking a piss. It’s anti-poetry. It’s so random – and so accidental. Totally different energy and meaning than suicide, even if the people around you can’t tell the difference.

  • http://Nightcharm Cote

    Hello – Well I have done this many times. It is crazy but the feeling of jerking off and the chance one might not do it again is quite a feeling. I like to go out in the woods at night and use a rope and tie it to a tree on the side of a hill and just dangle there knowing, I think, that I may be able to pull myself up enough to loosen the rope before passing out. So far I have made it and had a great time. One of these days I will wait too long I suppose but can not help it. When I really feel a little depressed is when I am most likely to do this and I think it would be fun to have someone watch. I also, sometimes, like to hold a knife to my dick while doing this and that even makes the orgasm more intense and I usually draw a little blood. Okay I can not make this up and hope I am not too crazy but that is just the way I am.