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.