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Jerk and Release

June 5, 2009

Let’s be clear – I am not trying to speak ill of the dead and I’m certainly not trying to cast aspersions – but the news reports tonight are making it sound like David Carradine either committed suicide or died of auto-erotic asphyxiation.  Either way it is tragic.  He was not the world’s greatest actor, not by a long shot, but for a great number of us in our 40’s and 50’s he was a childhood mentor via his Kung Fu TV series. His death should have been noble, glorious, and heroic; certainly not carrying the sordid implications of a hanging death in the closet of a Bangkok hotel room.

The more naive of us had never heard of erotic asphyxiation until Sean Connery introduced the subject to us in Rising Sun – and then it was sexy and only killed beautiful blonde supermodels who worked for evil white slavers. However, the practice dates back to, at least, the 17th century when it was encouraged as a cure of erectile dysfunction. (Has anyone told Elizabeth Dole this?) “Breath Play” is how the fetish is often referred to by those “in the know”, and there are all kinds of variations that don’t involve a silk tie and the hotel closet. However, they all carry a serious warning label. DO AT YOUR OWN RISK!

In 1791 Frantisek Kotzwara was the first recorded case of death due to erotic asphyxiation. Australian singer Michael Hutchence was rumored to have been a victim after his death in 1997. There have been countless deaths in between and since then, both accurately attributed and ruled as suicides. Since this kind of death is wrapped in so much shame, we will never really know how many senseless deaths have been the result of such a risky sexual pursuit.

The news stories this evening led my husband, Dave, and I down a bizarre line of discussion regarding what kinds of products could be developed to prevent the inadvertent deaths of individuals engaging in this archaic form of sexual self-gratification. While I realize that this is a niche market, it seems incredibly tragic that no one has, as of yet, developed a fool proof way to achieve orgasm and loss of consciousness without the inherent risk of death. My husband suggested a “jerk and release” system that would allow for a release from the strangulation before a complete loss of consciousness when either satisfaction is achieved or the arm is no longer engaged in active repetitive motion. Clearly, there is more discussion to be had and engineers would need to get involved before we could provide an adequate solution to the problem.  We do not have enough closet space to give it a good field study. Of course, traditionalists would say that trying to kill yourself is half the high. I guess I have yet to have an orgasm worth dying in a hotel closet for.

However it went down… David Carradine will be sorely missed. So too will those who inadvertently follow follow the fetish too far.

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