David Carradine and Michael Hutchence 0 Shares Email The mysterious death of actor David Carradine -- perhaps by auto-erotic asphyxia -- focused renewed attention on a practice that is one of the greatest and most dangerous sexual taboos. The year-old actor was found dead in a Thai hotel room closet in an intricate web of ropes -- one around his neck, another around his genitals and the two tied together, according to Thai authorities.
Sex experts say that Carradine's advanced age suggests that he may have been a lifelong practitioner of the secretive and dangerous practice, one that can go fatally awry. Los Angeles Superior Court documents of Carradine's divorce put online by The Smoking Gun show that his most recent ex-wife, Marina Anderson, accused the actor of "deviant sexual behavior which was potentially deadly. Also known as hypoxyphilia, the practice is a sub-category of sexual masochism that involves reducing the oxygen supply to the brain while masturbating to achieve a heightened orgasm.
Many more may be falsely ruled as homicides or suicides. Auto-erotic asphyxia often starts in adolescence, which is why many of the deaths associated with the practice are among young adults.
But, the practice is not unknown among girls, according to Coleman. Because it is practiced alone, AEA is particularly dangerous. It is a compulsive activity that can also escalate, as may have been the case with Carradine , said Coleman. The singer was found naked, hanging from his leather belt in a Sydney hotel room with pornographic literature at his feet and no suicide note. Hutchence's wife spoke publicly of their kinky sex life and his desire to try AEA, and a British documentary eventually concluded that was the case.
According to research by Stephen Hucker, forensic psychiatrist from the University of Toronto who is one of the foremost experts in the field, the practice is not entirely modern. The Marquis de Sade, whose name was given to the practice of sado-masochism, described it in his novel, "Justine. Self-hanging is the most common method observed among fatal cases, according to Hucker's Web site, Forensic Psychiatry "Fatalities resulting from AEA practices occur with a frequency of about one per million of the population per year in North America though it is important to note that this figure is based on studies of cases that have been recognized as AEA or Hypoxyphilia," said Hucker.
Usually a rope or ligature is the method used to strangulate the oxygen supply, but others may be present as part of the person's own sexual ritual. Plastic bags and more complicated apparatuses may also be used. Sex therapists regard this as a paraphilias -- or a socially unacceptable sexual practice.
It is often associated with forms of anxiety and depression, though not suicidal thoughts. Auto Erotic Asphyxia Evokes Shame Few who seek help because of the shame, which fuels a cycle of guilt, anxiety and then release.
Its sensations are similar to the "choking game" played by young children, who get a thrill from the dizziness created by holding their breath. Divers have also reported a "high" from oxygen deprivation, according to Coleman.
We have no idea how they would discover this," said Coleman. It was a puzzlement and we concluded they were learning it on their own. But often their activities escalate in risk for the thrill, resulting in accidents. But in the case of teens, accidental death often happens because they are inexperienced in the practice. ABC senior researcher Sheelagh A.
McNeill contributed to this report.