A couple of weeks ago I bought a secondhand copy of The Fortean Times Book of Weird Sex by Steve Moore (mainly because it cost me only one pence at an online book store). One of the stories (on pp.96-97) concerned a bizarre story of an autoerotic death involving an adolescent boy. I checked out the reference list at the back off the book to see where the story had originated and the source was listed as an Associated Press story from Knoxville (Maryland, USA). It didn’t take me too long to track down the press release on the internet. The report said:
“A 16-year old boy in Knoxville was found dead in his bedroom in what police describe as a gruesome, horrifying death. Firefighters were called to the scene Monday morning by a neighbor who smelled something burning. When the firemen found the remains of the teenager they called the police in to investigate. At first investigators believed that they were dealing with a ritualistic murder. Posters of heavy metal rock and roll groups covered his bedroom walls, groups which are often connected with satanic worship and rituals. According to a firefighter who was on the scene, the boy was found nude, with the remains of a cow’s heart attached to his genitals. Wires had been attached to the heart and plugged into a wall socket. The boy died from electrocution, then the electricity literally cooked his remains. Investigating Officer Hardaway dismissed the ritual murder theory when detectives found several underground pornographic magazines under the boy’s mattress. One of the magazines, called ‘Ovid Now’, describes a sexual ‘toy’ that can be made from the fresh heart of a cow, a simple electrical circuit, and some batteries. This deviancy is apparently gaining limited popularity in the rural South. Practitioners get the dead heart to beat, and then use the beating organ for sexual perversions. ‘This is one of the most gruesome things I have ever seen. I can’t believe that there are people who actually enjoy this sort of thing’ Hardaway commented. The boy’s parents are currently on vacation in Florida, where they were contacted and informed about the tragedy. They were unavailable for comment”.
As I have already written a previous blog on electrophilia and published an article on the ten strangest autoerotic deaths (in the magazine Bizarre) I thought it would make the basis for a good blog. However, after a bit more investigation I discovered the story to be a fake. The Snopes.com website (also know as the Urban Legends Reference Pages) investigated the story and showed it to be completely false. The author of the article (Barbara Mikkelson) wrote:
“The [cow heart masturbation story] isn’t a bona fide Associated Press article. No such death has been recorded, let alone been reported on by the Associated Press. What we have here is a work of fiction, an inventive leg-pull. Pranksters are everywhere, both on-line and off-line. In this case, someone took his best shot at presenting a gruesomely salacious story as a news item by dressing it up to mimic the style he assumed wire service copy adhered to, resulting in a laughable Associated Press pastiche”.
The same article also reported another fictitious tale of masturbatory death by animal (in this case a lobster). Here, the story was that a women had masturbated using a live lobster and that the lobster had defecated into her vagina, implanting brine shrimp eggs that then hatched inside her. Additionally, there are a few fictional cases in literature, the most infamous being the use of an animal liver as a masturbatory aid in Philip Roth’s 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint. The novel is basically the monologue of (as Wikipedia describes) “a lust-ridden, mother-addicted young Jewish bachelor who confesses to his psychoanalyst in intimate, shameful detail, and coarse, abusive language”. In my previous blog on sitophilia (sexual arousal from food), I did note that processed animal tissue has been used as a masturbatory aid (the most notable being botulinonia that involves the sexual use of sausages).
However, there is one case report in the scientific literature that is definitely true. It was published in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology by Dr. Barry Randall, Dr. Richard Vance, and Dr. Timothy McAlmont and was simply titled ‘Xenolingual eroticism’. The paper described the case of a 29-year old female that presented at an abortion clinic saying that she had missed her periods and that she had a possible pregnancy that required termination. She was given a D&C (dilatation and curettage) and a muscular “pale grey tissue mass” measuring seven centimetres in length and 3 centimetres in diameter was found inside her vaginal passage. The object removed from her vagina turned out to be a deer tongue that the woman has been using as a masturbatory aid. At the time their case study was published, Dr. Randall and colleagues reviewed all the relevant literature on masturbatory practices in the Index Medicus database and found 42 papers (of which 27 detailed autoerotic deaths and 14 describing the psychology of autoeroticism). They then noted that:
“Only one reference reviewed various nonlethal autoerotic practices. Over a 42-year period, Aliabadi et al. recorded 18 patients, only three of whom were women, who presented with foreign body insertion for erotic purposes. All three women had inserted foreign bodies into the urinary tract. Acts of autoeroticism involving vaginal masturbation with foreign objects are perhaps more common. None to our knowledge have been reported because these do not result in death or injury, and typically would not come to medical attention. The literature discloses examples of foreign bodies extracted from the male and female lower urinary tract because objects of small diameter may be retracted by natural muscular impulses into the proximal urethra and/or bladder. Indeed, according to Kinsey and others >90% of foreign bodies found in the female bladder or urethra are there as a result of masturbation. Also, large objects retrieved from the vagina are found mostly in married women aged 17-30 [years]. However, these objects, most commonly bananas, cucumbers, and other large vegetables, rarely come to surgical attention. The medical literature reveals only seven references to bestiality. None of them deals with the issue of using nonviable animal tissue for autoerotic purposes. This report is presented so that xenoerotic objects may be placed on the list of possible masturbatory tools that may come to the attention of medical personnel”.
As far as I am aware, the case study by Dr. Randall and colleagues is the only academic paper on the use of animal tissue as a masturbatory aid. I did actually cite this study in a previous blog in relation to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2011 typology of zoophiles in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. The case cited by Randall and colleagues could be classed as a fetishistic zoophile. According to Dr. Aggrawal, these individuals keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Obviously the use of a deer tongue is rare but appears to fit the definition of a fetishistic zoophile.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Aliabadi, H., Cass, A.S., Gleich, P., & Johnson, C.F. (1985). Self-Inflicted foreign bodies involving lower urinary tract and male genitals. Urology, 26, 12-16.
Brown, S. (1995). The Fortean Times Book of Weird Sex. London: John Brown Publishing.
Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths. Bizarre, 24, 62-65.
Mikkelson, B. (2006). Cowboy heart. Snopes.com, May 13. Located at: http://www.snopes.com/risque/kinky/cowheart.asp
Randall, M. B., Vance, R. P., & McCalmont, T. H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 11, 89-92.
Snopes (2000). Lobster love. Snopes.com, January 26. Located at: http://www.snopes.com/risque/juvenile/lobster.asp
Snopes (2006). Deerly beloved. Snopes.com, February 26. Located at: http://www.snopes.com/risque/animals/deertongue.asp
Back in 1999, I had my first ever article published on sexually paraphilic behaviour in the magazine Bizarre. It was an article on auroerotic deaths and it featured the cases of ten people who had died in strange sexual circumstances. One of the cases I featured was originally published in a 1981 issue of Medicine, Science and the Law (by Dr. S. Sivaloganathan).
The case involved a 36-year old gay male who was an ex-television engineer. The man in question was found dead with a wire cradle applied to his scrotum with another loop of wire (with the end folded over) inserted into his anus. [Some researchers writing on this topic have noted that rectal application of electricity is a common practice for obtaining semen from bulls and may be the basis behind this uncommon method of masturbation]. The wires were connected to the two terminals that supplied the loudspeaker within the television set. When switched on, these wires carried a current of 0.6 amps at 2.2 volts (a quarter of the current needed to light a small torch). The dead man was found with two significant injuries. The first was on the right side of his face (entrance mark of the current), and the second was over the left side of his scrotum (where the loop of the wire had been). While masturbating, one of the wires had broken off resulting in a cessation of the stimulating activity. The man looked inside the back of the open television set and his face came into contact with an exposed metal cap that zapped 2500 volts through him (The metal cap was the only live part of the television set and it was this that killed him). A similar case was reported in a 1998 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. The authors (led by Dr. M. Klintschar) noted that:
“A plausible reconstruction of the accident involves attachment of one electrode to the anus and accidental touching of the other electrode with hand and chest when attempting to attach it to the penis. Death was caused by myocardial fibrillation. Both cable and pornographic literature were obviously hidden by the parents of the deceased to conceal the actual cause of death”
Another case in a 2003 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (by Dr. J.C. Schott and colleagues) reported an accidental electrocution during autoeroticism. This case involved an 18-year-old male who was found dead by his brother in his bedroom wearing two brassieres. The authors reported that:
“Two wet green terry cloths were under the brassiere cups, connected to the house current via two metal washers and a bifid electrical cord. Literature depicting nude women was found near the victim. Autopsy revealed second-degree and third-degree burns of the mammary regions. Death was attributed to accidental self-electrocution”.
I mention these three cases by way of introduction to electrophilia. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) and Dr. Brenda Love (in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) define electrophilia as sexual pleasure and arousal from electricity (or electric stimulus). Dr. Brenda Love’s encyclopedia entry also noted that electrophilia may play a part in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. More specifically:
“Electric shock is used as a form of titillation or light torture depending on the amount of voltage chosen by the recipient Shock as a form of sex play is a modified and safe version of the types of electrical shock government officials used in different countries to interrogate political prisoners and by American prison guards to control their prisoners. Most devices used in sex play are inconsequential by comparison”.
Dr. Love spent most of her entry talking about the sadomasochistic use of electricity but did mention that:
“The Japanese use a special battery operated device to induce orgasm in men. This box has two wires with electrodes, one is attached to the end of the penis and the other is inserted to the rectum. The man then regulates the current with a rheostat until orgasm. This devise is used by physicians to eject sperm from impotent men to use for artificial insemination and similarly by veterinarians for breeding livestock”.
The case studies I mentioned above are by no means isolated. A 2006 literature review by Dr. A. Sauvageau and Dr. S. Racette published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences examined all cases of autoerotic deaths in the literature between 1954 to 2004. They located 408 cases of autoerotic death in 57 published papers, most of who were white males. Almost 90% of the deaths were cases of sexual asphyxia (hanging, plastic bags, ligature, and/or chemical substances such as amyl nitrate). Sexual death by electrocution accounted for 3.7% of all autoerotic deaths – the others being overdressing/body wrapping (1.5%), foreign body insertion (1.2%), atypical asphyxia method (2.9%), and miscellaneous (1.0%).
Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology refers to ‘electrocutophilia’, which by the definition provided appears to be ‘electrophilia’ but with a slightly different name. He says that:
“Electrocutophilia [is a] paraphilia of the sacrificial and expiatory stratagem in which sexuoerotic arousal and orgasm is dependent upon the use of electrical stimulation of the body to possibly include the nipples, urethra, penis/scrotum, vulva/clitoris/vagina and anal/rectal tissues. This paraphilia has been seen to occur more frequently among women than in men and has also resulted in accidental death. The activities of electrocutophilia may be exploratory or varietal sex play and not a paraphilia. It also may be part of a sadomasochistic repertory. Devices for ‘safe’ sexuoerotic electrostimulation are now commercially available”.
One of the most interesting things about this snippet is Dr. Pranzarone’s assertion that the paraphilia is more common among women. I don’t know of any academic or clinical literature supporting such a claim and most sexual paraphilias are predominantly male-based (although some like hybristophilia – sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery – are known to be more common among females). Having said that, electrophilia among women is not unknown. Last year, an online article by Sam Greenspan briefly looked at the death (in 2008) of Kirsten Taylor who died as a result of electrophilic sex play (death by electric nipple clamps). As Greenspan reported:
“When 29-year-old Kirsten Taylor of Craley, Pennsylvania, died from electrocution, her husband Toby initially told the cops she’d been shocked by her hair dryer. This was not true. He’d later admit that they were into weird sexual behaviors’. The night she died, they’d put electric clamps on her nipples and Toby was administering shocks to her by turning on and off a power strip…Something went wrong and one of the shocks killed her. Which was a surprise since he said they’d ‘been engaging in electric shock sex’ for about two years”.
The husband, Toby Taylor, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Finally, writing in a 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Dr. Stephen Hucker compared electrophilia with both hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from oxygen deprivation) and anaesthesiophilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from volatile substances such as chloroform, ether, butane, etc.). All these behaviours have potential “to result in a well-recognized mode of accidental death” and come “under the general rubric of sexual masochism”. Most of what is known about electrophilia is based on published case studies in the forensic pathology literature, and is typically based on those that have died from the practice. Little is known about the prevalence of the behaviour either as a standalone masturbatory aid or as part of sadomasochistic sexual play.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Cairns, F.J. & Rainer, S.P. (1981). Death from electrocution during auto-erotic procedures. New Zealand Medical Journal, 94, 259-260.
Greenspan, S. (2011). 11 Unbelievably Insane Deaths During Sex. 11 Points, November 8. Located at: http://www.11points.com/Dating-Sex/11_Unbelievably_Insane_Deaths_During_Sex
Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths Bizarre, 24, 62-65.
Hazelwood, R.R. (1983). Autoerotic Fatalities. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Hucker, S. (2011). Hypoxyphilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1323-1326.
Klintschar, M. & Grabuschnigg, P. & Beham, A. (1998). Death from electrocution during autoerotic practice: case report and review of the literature. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 190-193.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at: http://ebookee.org/Dictionary-of-Sexology-EN_997360.html
Rogers, D.J. (2004). Adult sexual offences. In McLay, W.D.S. (Ed.). Clinical Forensic Medicine (pp. 137-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sauvageau, A. & Racette, S. (2006). Autoerotic deaths in the literature from 1954 to 2004: A review. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51, 140-146.
Schott, J.C., Davis, G.J. & Hunsaker, J.C. (2003). Accidental electrocution during autoeroticism: a shocking case. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 24, 92-95.
Seidl, S. (2004). Accidental autoerotic death: A review on the lethal para- philiac syndrome. In M. Tsokos (Ed.), Forensic Pathology Reviews (Vol. 1, pp. 235–262). Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.
Sivaloganathan, S. (1981). Curiosum eroticum – A case of fatal electrocution during auto-erotic practice. Medicine, Science and Law, 21, 47-50.
Smoking Gun (2008). Kinky sex, shocking death, January 25. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/kinky-sex-shocking-death
Tan, C.T.T. & Chao, T.C. (1983). A case of fatal electrocution during an unusual autoerotic practice. Medicine, Science and Law, 23, 92-95.