Autoerotic Fatalities – Asphyxia

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Autoerotic ropeAutoerotic deaths are accidental deaths that occur during solitary sexual activity in which some type of apparatus that was used to enhance the sexual stimulation of the deceased caused the unintentional death.

The prevalence of auto-erotic fatalities is difficult to calculate, since a coroner often records a verdict of accident or misadventure. It is under these labels that many auto-erotic deaths lie hidden. Sometimes, however, where uncertainty exists over whether the person intended suicide, the verdict is left open. Bereaved families usually prefer this. ‘They often find an open verdict a little easier to accept, certainly easier than misadventure which might imply unsuspected goings-on15 scene features can be encountered, in different combinations, at the scenes of autoerotic deaths.  However, it is our duty as investigators to come to ruling in every case we can.  Much is riding on your answer, so a thorough investigation is required.

15 features commonly found at scenes of autoerotic deaths.  Any combination of these may be observed.

  1. Nudity
  2. Exposed Genitals
  3. Cross-Dressing
  4. Evidence of Masturbation Activity
  5. Foreign Body Insertion in the Anus
  6. Lubricants
  7. Pornography
  8. Mirror
  9. Video Recording
  10. Covering of face ( mask, duct tape, panty hose, etc)
  11. Bondage of Genitals
  12. Other Bondage ( arms, legs, and body bound)
  13. Other Masochistic Behavior
  14. Protective Padding in Hanging
  15. Evidence of Repetitive Behavior

Commonly, the victim is found nude or with exposed genitals. This is an important clue to the possibility of autoerotic death. However, not all dead bodies found nude or with exposed genitals are victims of autoerotic death.  However,  not all victims of autoerotic deaths are found nude or with exposed genitals.

Victimology

Typical victim of an autoerotic  accident is a white male average age 33.               

96% are Male     96% White

Females are rare,  as are blacks, Asian, and Native Americans .

Youngest reported case age 9   Oldest   89 

15 to 19 years old represent only 5%  to 16%  of victims

Masturabation Mandate 

It has been wrongly believed by many investigators that evidence of masturbation  (exposed genitals or presents of semen)  had to be present for the autoerotic ruling . This is NOT true.  Sexual pleasure is sometimes gained simply by the actions of the victim – and sometimes as a precursor – or sexual stimulate – prior to masturbation.

As For Semen

In hanging deaths semen can be frequently found due to  spontaneous ejaculation  caused by a nerve response. Further, it was commonly observed in the day of public hanging that the condemned would get an erection after dropping from the gallows floor.  This is believed to be a symptom of a severed spinal cord.  (this led people to believe that hanging caused sexual pleasure)

Asphyxiation most common form.

The most common form of dangerous autoerotic activity involves the use of some technique for reducing the oxygen to the brain to achieve an altered state of consciousness.It is important to note the distinction between autoerotic or sexual asphyxia on the one hand, and asphyxia as a cause of death on the other –

Autoerotic asphyxia refers to the use of asphyxia to heighten sexual arousal, more often than not with nonfatal outcome.

The practitioner  who dies, most often dies from an overdose of asphyxiation.The autoerotic practitioner who dies while engaged in such acts, most often dies from an overdose of asphyxiation when, for one reason or another,  becomes unable to terminate his means of enjoyment.

Positional such as fall, slips, etc. or if victim becomes unconscious.Sometimes however, someone engaged in autoerotic asphyxia may die a non-asphyxial death – such as heart attack, stroke, or exposure. This will change the manor of death to natural.  NOT autoerotic asphyxia.

Asphyxial Death Process

Amount of pressure to occlude the neck structures

Jugular Veins         4.5 lbs

Carotid Arteries     11 lbs

Trachea                    33 lbs

Vertebral Arteries  66 lbs

(On average the human head weighs 10 pounds)

Agonal Sequence in Hanging

Loss of Consciousness        10 +- 3s

Convulsions                         14 +- 3s

Decerebrate Rigidity           19 +- 5s     (extended)

Start of deep rhythmic abdominal respiratory movements          19 +- 5s

Decorticate Rigidity         38 +- 15s     (flexion)

Loss of muscle tone          1 min 17s  +- 25s

End of deep respiratory movements    1 min 51s  +- 30s

Last muscle movement           4 min 12s  +-  2 min 29s

Listen  to the audio version for a more complete conversation on the topic. 

About the Author
Darren is a 30 year veteran of law enforcement and criminal investigations. He currently serves as an investigator for the Crawford County Missouri coroner’s office. He holds credentials as an instructor for the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy, has served as president of the Missouri Medical Examiners and Coroners Association, and is certified and credentialed in numerous fields of investigation. He holds the position of lead instructor and facilitator for the Coroner Talk™ community as he speaks and writes in the area of death investigation and scene management.

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