Until June 3, 2009 I never heard of "erotic asphyxia" and then in a very sad way. Perhaps I should be ashamed I haven't heard of it since I'm an erotic romance writer or perhaps I should be glad I haven't.
My condolences go out to David Carradine's family. Whatever the method and reason for his death, it is sad and regrettable.
According to SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES of ABC news, erotic asphyxia is "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."
She also mentioned that it is approximated that 500-1,000 people die just in the United States from this annually. "Approximated" because it is difficult to tell whether it was intended suicided, homicide, or an accident. The majority are most likely accidental.
In erotic asphyxia the airway is restricted with a noose, plastic bag, or even gas. Euphoria induced by lack of oxygen intensifies orgasm. Often men tie their penises with rope or a cord to prolong erection. There are mechanisms in place (such as a fail safe slip knot) to release the practitioner, but sometimes, they malfunction. When being practiced alone, this can be fatal.
Other names for this are "breath play" and the "choking game". Many practitioners start in childhood. It's a sexual taboo usually left unspoken.
It's extremely dangerous even when a partner is present. Partners and even the person may be unaware of other medical problems that increase the danger.
Writers have responsibilities to our readers and one is safety. When our characters engage in sex, we are often reminded by our diligent editors to make the characters use condoms. Unprotected sex is not something our industry promotes. Just the opposite.
I've just added erotic asphyxia and auto erotic asphyxiation (AEA) to my list of what not to write about. Should I choose to write about it, I shall do so with great care. I hope never to hear of another person dying from this or unsafe sex of any kind.
I didn't know when I became a writer of romance and particularly of erotic romance that I would also become a teacher. However, it is my duty to educate about associated dangers should I choose to write about inherently dangerous practices. Although we presume our readers are mature adults who will conduct further research before practicing BDSM or erotic asphyxiation, we cannot be 100% certain. Authorities fear the news of David Carradine's death will increase, not decrease, the occurence of death by erotic asphyxia.You'll also want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook, Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch, Molly Daniels, Sandra Cox, Regina Carlysle, and Cindy Spencer Pape are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)