Twenty Years Ago Today: Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation

Try not to picture this man in stockings and bondage gear. Twenty years ago today, the secretary of Conservative MP Stephen Milligan popped over to his house to see why he hadn't turned up to his appointments that morning. She found her employer wearing only stockings, suspenders, bondage gear and a black sack tied over his head.

He was, unfortunately, quite dead.

The honourable member for Eastleigh...

(stop what you're thinking right now. I'm not doing a member joke)

The MP for Eastleigh had perished during a bout of auto-erotic asphyxiation, a sexual practice in which oxygen intake is restricted during masturbation in order to heighten the intensity of the orgasm. However, the pleasure tends to be cut short if you manage to suffocate yourself in the process, as he did. It's not advisable. Please don't try it at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Bizarrely, asphyxiation was once prescribed as a cure for erectile dysfunction. The fact that this was done so after observation of the erections seen on the corpses of hanged men may tell you that this is not exactly a modern medical opinion; these days, it's considered a paraphilia and listed in the DSM. The reasons why should be immediately obvious: it's not necessarily wrong in any moral sense, but it can get you killed or injured rather too easily. Milligan wasn't the first, the last, or even the best known victim; Michael Hutchence and David Carradine are believed to have gone the same way.

Here's a good article from The Independent about why it's not a good idea to strangle yourself for fun. Statistics on fatalities are hard to come by and may be overestimated, but a few hundred deaths a year seems likely.

Of course, these were the days when the Conservative Party was trying to portray itself as the party of old-fashioned values and maiden aunts, so you can imagine the response in the press to such obvious hypocrisy. Still, I can't help feeling a teensy bit sorry for the guy; he was just trying to have a bit of fun, and he paid for it with his life.