Gas roots: A beginner’s guide to anaesthesiophilia
“I love the idea of being wheeled in my bed along the hospital corridors before bursting through the swing doors of the Anaesthetic Room. The lady anaethetist then smiles and tells me that she has decided to put me to sleep with the Gas. ‘NO! Not the Gas!’ The lady then insists by saying that it is her treat and that she has been looking forward to this moment! She smiles as she lowers the black rubbery mask and whispers, ‘Now just relax. IT’S TIME! Breathe in the Gas nice and deep. I look forward to seeing you struggle to keep your eyes open; but very soon you will succumb to the lovely Gas and you will have to close your eyes! Sleep well!’ She leans closer to me and laughs as I take deep breaths of the lovely Gas!!” (Participant at Sleep Peeps website).
In a previous blog, I examined medical fetishism that refers to an umbrella group of related sexual fetishes in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from medical and/or clinical practices and procedures (e.g., undergoing a rectal examination or urethral swab, having temperature taken), objects (e.g., stethoscope, hypodermic needle), situations (e.g., waiting to see a nurse), and environments (e.g., being in a hospital waiting room). One form of medical fetishism is anaesthesia fetishism in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from either administering and/or receiving some kind of anaesthetic such as chloroform, ether, butane, etc. As an entry in Wikipedia notes:
“This may include the sexual attraction to the equipment, processes, substances, effects, environments or situations. Sexual arousal from the desire to administer anesthesia, or the sexual desire for oneself to be anaesthetized are two forms in which an individual may exist as an arbiter of the fetish. Older-style anesthesia masks of black rubber, still in occasional use today, are one of the more common elements fetishized, and have earned the nickname Black Beauty by many fetishists…The Internet has enabled people with this relatively rare paraphilia to discuss the subject and exchange anesthesia-related multimedia”.
Back in 1999, I had my first ever article published on sexually paraphilic behaviour in the magazine Bizarre. It was an article on autoerotic 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 1988 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (by Dr. J.J. McLennan and colleagues). The case involved a single 59-year old white US male antiques dealer. The man was found dead in his locked apartment. He was seated in front of a dental anaesthetic machine with the anaesthetic face-mask over his face. He was sucking on a rubber teat similar (but much bigger) than a baby’s feeding bottle. There were other anaesthetic machines around the apartment as well as a lot of sexual literature (magazines, photographs, paintings, manuscripts all concerned with his elaborate fetish some of which included photographs of himself in these situations). He was wearing a rubber type apron, three woolen cardigans, a woman’s blouse and two pairs of women’s trousers and a pair of women’s bloomers. This appeared to be a genuine case of anaesthesiophilia. (A similar case was also reported in 1988 the same journal by Dr. S. Leadbeatter. Here, the method of induction of cerebral hypoxia was inhalation of nitrous oxide [i.e., ‘laughing gas’] from a dental anesthetic machine).
In the same article I featured the case of a single 32-year old white US male computer programmer that was published in a 1983 issue of Medicine, Science and the Law (by Dr. S.M. Cordner). Here, the man was found dead in bed with cassette recorder next to him and covered in dry semen stains. He was wearing headphones which playing “snorting” horse sounds. There was also a can of aerosol propellant. At the end of the bed was a large painting of a male strapped to the hind legs of a horse who was being anally penetrating by the horse. The horse was ridden by a leather-clad woman. He was also wearing some kind if homemade masturbatory device. His death was recorded as cardio-respiratory failure consistent with aerosol propellant abuse (death by misadventure).
Although this case wasn’t technically anaesthesiophilia, it did involve self-administration of a chemical agent to modify the sensations of masturbation. However, in a 2009 book chapter on ‘adult sexual offences’ by Dr. Deborah Rogers (in the book Clinical Forensic Medicine), she seems to suggest that the case I have just described would be classed as anaesthesiophilia as she defines such a paraphilia as it involves the person using a volatile substance (e.g., chloroform, ether, butane) as a source of sexual arousal. She also points out the commonalities between anaesthesiophilia, hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from oxygen deprivation), and electrophilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from electricity and electric stimuli). More specifically she notes:
“Some sexual variations involve inherently life-threatening practices. These include autoerotic asphyxia (using strangulation, hanging, gagging, plastic bag asphyxia, inverted suspension), electrophilia and anaesthesiophilia. When accidental deaths do occur in these circumstances associated paraphernalia may be present at the scene, such as evidence of transvestism, bondage, pornographic material or mirrors. Family members or friends who discover the body in these situations may, in an attempt to preserve the reputation of the deceased, remove certain articles. In doing so they may create a scene erroneously considered a suicide or homicide. When the truth is divulged sympathetic explanations are necessary for reassurance that these deaths are usually accidental”.
Many of the same points were made by Dr. Stephen Hucker writing in a 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Hucker compared electrophilia and hypoxyphilia and electrophilia with anaesthesiophilia. He also stated that all these behaviours have potential “to result in a well-recognized mode of accidental death” and come “under the general rubric of sexual masochism”.
Using Dr. Rogers’ wider definition of anaesthesiophilia indicates that the practice – while rare – is well known in the forensic literature where a number of autoerotic deaths have been reported as arising from the sexual use of volatile substances. One of the first such deaths reported in the literature dates back to a 1933 German report (by Dr. F. Schwarz). He recounted the case of a man who had used a complex system of valves, tubes, and balloons to get sexually aroused from nitrous oxide (stolen from his dad’s medical practice).
Another lethal German case from 1997 was reported by Dr. M. Rothschild and Dr. V. Schneider. Again, the source of sexual arousal was nitrous oxide (this time dispensed from cream dispenser cartridges via a homemade system of anesthetic tubes, plastic bags, and an anesthetic face mask. A paper by Dr. D. Breitmeier and colleagues in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Legal Medicine reported an autoerotic death of a man due to a bizarre combination of asphyxia by suffocation and intoxication with (the drug) ketamine that was self-administered by an intravenous catheter.
Dr. R.W. Byard and his colleagues also reported an unusual autoerotic death in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine. They reported the case of a 38-year-old man who was “found dead in bed dressed in female clothing with a mouth gag, handcuffs and bindings around the genitals and limbs”. A gas mask respirator was also covering the mouth and nose and death was attributed to a combination of chloroform toxicity and upper-airway obstruction. Another autoerotic death involving chloroform was reported by Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Graham Jones in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
“He was found lying on the floor of his apartment, prone on a piece of foam and a towel. His eyes were bound with a towel, his lower face and nose were almost entirely covered with duct tape surrounding a rubber hose in his mouth. The other end of the hose was loosely sitting inside an open bottle which was in a box beside him. He was bound-up by an intricate system of ropes, handles, and rods, ending with a noose around his neck”
Clearly, much of what we know about anaesthesiophilia appears to be based on case reports where the use of an anaesthetizing agent during the sexual act has gone horribly wrong. Most of the deaths occurred because the person appears to have been on their own and was presumably a masturbatory act. Engaging in the act where more than one person is present significantly reduces the chances of anything unwanted happening for the anaesthesiophile.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Breitmeier D., Passie, T., Mansouri, F., Albrecht, K, Kleemann, W.J. (2002) Autoerotic accident associated with self-applied ketamine. Journal of Legal Medicine, 116, 113-116.
Bungardt, N. & L. Pötsch, (2003). [Report on a methemoglobinemia associated death]. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 212, 176-183.
Byard, R.W., Kostakis, C., Pigou, P.E. & Gilbert, J.D. (2000). Volatile substance use in sexual asphyxia. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 7, 26-28.
Cordner, S.M. (1983). An unusual case of sudden death associated with masturbation. Medicine, Science and Law, 23, 54-56.
Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths Bizarre, 24, 62-65.
Hucker, S. (2011). Hypoxyphilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1323-1326.
Leadbeatter, S., (1988). Dental anesthetic death: An unusual autoerotic episode. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9, 60-63.
McLennan, J.J., Sekula-Perlman, A., Lippstone, M.B. & Callery, R.T. (1998). Propane-associated autoerotic fatalities. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 381-386.
Musshoff, F., Padosch, S.A., Kroener, L.A, et al., (2006). Accidental autoerotic death by volatile substance abuse or nonsexually motivated accidents? American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 27, 188-192.
Rogers, D.J. (2009). Adult sexual offences. In McLay, W.D.S. (Ed.). Clinical Forensic Medicine (3rd Edition, pp. 137-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rothschild, M.A. & Schneider, V. (1997). Uber zwei autoerotische Unf T Lachgasnarkose und Thoraxkompression. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 200, 65-72.
Schwarz, F. (1933). T Lachgasvergiftung bei Selbstnarkose. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 93, 215-217.
Singer, P.P. & Jones, G.R. (2006). An unusual autoerotic fatality associated with chloroform inhalation. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 30, 216-218.
Stemberga, V., Bralić, M., Bosnar, A. & Coklo M. (2007). Propane-associated autoerotic asphyxiation: accident or suicide? Collegium Antropologicum, 31, 625-627.
Thibault R, Spencer JD, Bishop JW, Hibler NS (1984) An unusual autoerotic death: asphyxia with an abdominal ligature. Journal of Forensic Science, 29, 679-684.
Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_fetishism