Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 12:08:26 -0500


Subject: Re: Auto-erotic asphyxiation (new term?)

I did a lengthy feature story on this subject back in the late '70s or early

'80s for the Marion (Ind.) Chronicle-Tribune. The local coroners referred to

the phenomenon simply as "autoerotic death," but, of course, that always

involved asphyxiation. The story evolved from one coroner's concern that

many of the cases -- usually involving teenagers -- were being mislabeled as

suicides, which, interestingly enough, was upsetting some of the parents of

the victims, who apparently felt that suicide was more degrading in their

minds than autoerotic death, which was basically an accidental death.

I was later contacted by a man, a former FBI employee, I believe, who

was writing a book on the subject and wanted to use excerpts from my piece.

At the moment, I can't find his name, and I don't know if the book was ever

finished and published.

Jerry Miller

At 10:49 AM 11/25/97 EST, you wrote:

The most detailed discussion I could find via Nexis was a New York Times story

on March 27, 1984, which addresses the increasing concerns voiced by mental

health professionals about the increasingly popular practice. We learn that

victims are generally young men, but range in age from 9 to 77 and include

some women as well; parents should be wary if their sons appear to have rope

burns around their necks. (Some of you may recall an earlier description of

the practice from William Burroughs's _Naked Lunch_, and it's also depicted in

a couple of movies, as noted in the article.) Oh, and if anyone's interested,

Hustler won that lawsuit on first amendment grounds.

Here's a characteristic passage from the Times piece:

In their recently published book, ''Autoerotic Fatalities'' (Lexington

Books), Mr. Hazelwood and his colleagues also described cases in which other

people had rescued unconscious victims of autoerotic asphyxiation, but the

rescue had occurred too late to prevent permanent brain damage.

''Most people don't realize how easy it is to lose consciousness when

pressing on the neck,'' Dr. Robert Litman, a psychiatrist and suicidologist in

Los Angeles who studied the problem a decade ago, explained in an interview.

''There is an extremely sensitive area of the carotid artery,'' he said,

referring to the main artery in the neck that feeds the brain. ''Just turn the

wrong way and you become unconscious. You may do it right 40 times, but on the

41st, you may make a wrong move and die.''

Let this serve as a warning to all of us. For those seeking more detailed

information, the book mentioned--by Robert Hazelwood (wasn't he the captain

of the ill-fated Exxon Valdez?) and his colleagues Park Elliot Dietz and

Ann Wolbert Burgess (1983) sounds like a good place to start.