Editor’s Pick
JUNE 12, 2009 10:53AM

David Carradine's Death and Alleged Breath Play

Rate: 32 Flag

I am extremely saddened to learn of David Carridine's death.  First, he was a cool, cool person, interesting actor and what sounds like a very interesting human being.  His loss is tragic.  I feel for his surviving family members and friends.

 But his tragic death, with its alleged element of self-strangulation and again, only alleged auto-erotic play with bondage is another reminder that, by keeping kinky practices in the shadows, we continue to see people meeting with accidents.

As a professional dominatrix, I am often asked to do activities that I find to be unsafe.  A submissive man might call me and say, "I've fantasized about strangling myself at the moment of sexual climax -- will you help me with this fantasy?"  As a professional, I would say, "Strangulation?  No.  Breath play? Yes."  Safe breath play NEVER involves tying anything around the neck.  In fact, it does not ever involve the throat or neck.  It might involve, however, covering up the submissive's mouth and nose for a moment in which they experience the sense of strangulation, or loss of breath.  It might involve covering the mouth and nose with a scarf, looking down at him, and seeing, in his eyes, his excitement at being unable to breathe.  It might, alternatively, include wrapping saran wrap over his face and cutting only a very tiny hole at the nostrils.  Or putting a mask on him, and lacing it up, so he breaths in the leather of the mask, and I zip the mask shut.  There are many ways to do breath play which are exciting and edgy.  But I do only what is safe.  And many people have an interest in breath play that is more dangerous than what I will involved myself with.

 But it's a shame that, in our supposedly open society, one is still met with issues of shame and degradation if a person is seen to have an interest in what is known in the profession as "breath play" or erotic breath play.  It's really not that uncommon.  And it is risky.  The risk is part of the appeal for those who do it.

I am appalled that we still cannot speak openly about these kinks and erotic desires that probably half of the population experiences.

If, as alleged, Mr. Carridine's death turns out to be the result of an erotic experience gone awry, I see no shame in that.  Any man who experiments and enjoys erotic pleasure is a man who has realized, Life is to be enjoyed and experienced, and if your desires are harming no one else, explore them.  The tragedy, however, is that, if this is what occurred, he did not play safely, in the presense of another person who could do breath play with him that did NOT involve any unsafe practices involving the neck and throat.  The tragedy is that, if this is what happened, he got too comfortable with the risk, or ignored it, and played alone, unsafely, without a  non-judgemental partner at his side to keep him safe.

But then again, we tend to punish those who explore their kink by making it appear shameful.  Meanwhile, many lead lives of solitary, kinky desperation with partners unwilling or unable to share or support their interesting erotic desires.  Oh yeah, that's a way to live -- damping down your (legal) desires, avoiding exploration, and dying always wondering how things might have felt.  Sure, that's to be admired.


I admire those who explore. 


Mistress Aubrey 


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I don’t understand these people.
I’m very conservative when the subject comes to spank my monkey. Good old masturbate will do for me
I agree completely Mistress Aubrey, anything dangerous such as that should consist of at least one extra person to be there in case of emergency with safety scissors or whatever is needed in case play needs to be immediately halted for safety or other reasons.
I cannot praise this post enough. There should be no shame in or judgment of our erotic desires or our safe quest for pleasure. Rated.
No shame or judgment regarding Carradine.

But breath play is never safe. There are only degrees of risk and stupidity. There have been studies showing that the brain is damaged each time a person is denied oxygen to the point of coming close to loss of consciousness, and that it happens before the victim even realizes it. And further that repeated breath play episodes result in repeated damage to the brain.

Not. Safe.

If you're talking about holding someone's mouth and nose closed for 15 seconds, or so, okay. But the nature of edge play is that it rapidly loses its edge and must be taken farther and farther in order to get the excitement, with the inevitable result that the line eventually gets crossed if there are willing partners -- or in the case of Carradine, even when there are not.
The first time I ever learned about this practice was when I saw the movie "In the Realm of the Senses" when I was in college 25 years ago. I was young and naive, and couldn't believe that this was something that people could be into. As I recall, that story didn't end too well either.
i can think of no better way to go than "in delecto flagrante" but not as a result of a self-destructive fetish where I am asking for it.
thank you for writing this. i don't really have any desire to explore breath play, but i think it's important to be honest with each other about the boundaries and risks of each of these kinks. right now lots of edgy behaviors are lumped together as "stuff weirdos do". that's not helpful and it does drive behaviors that possibly could be done safely underground.

and counter to what dana suggests, as a baby, i freaked out my parents by hyperventilating until i passed out. they were convinced i was having seizures or something, and the doctor told them i was just having fun and to let me be. it does seem like the worst thing to do is to try these kinds of things by yourself with some kind of rig that ends up killing you.

this is also why i love reading erowid. curiosity can be dangerous when you try this stuff without a sitter or a teacher. and we've only begun to share notes with each other. be safe!
I guess I am surprised about this. I believed the news that this was suicide. If it was auto-erotic play with unintended consequences I am not sure how to take it. Maybe it was auto-erotic play with "intended" consequences. I guess we will never know for sure. I believe everyone should do whatever turns them on in the privacy of their own lives, however we should talk about life-threatening sexual practice as something that goes beyond sexuality into something else, perhaps. You made it clear that breath play can be fun for some (not me) but when can this cross the line and become something that eludes the control of those who participate?
Interesting stuff. Way too much of our sexuality is hidden and thus perceived as shameful. It ain't healthy.

I attended a conference in the late 1980s for student gay rights organizations, and one of the presentations was something called "Safe and Sane Sado-Masochism," which made me shake my head and roll my eyes. "Oh boy, we have some nutcakes here." It seemed to me at the time that activists ought to be avoiding the appearance of deviancy. While I still believe at the time that it presented an inflammatory picture to the public.

Although I don't have any experience with this stuff, I have a much better impression of it now, and I'm grateful for your level-headed approach to the subject. To each his or her own, yes?

I share Dana's concern about brain damage and appreciate the info she posted about this. Safety should be paramount.

Thanks for posting.
"this is also why i love reading erowid. curiosity can be dangerous when you try this stuff without a sitter or a teacher. and we've only begun to share notes with each other. be safe!"

I have learned much from sites such as Erowid and have probably kept myself a little safer through their use.

I have been fascinated by breath play and many other "kinky" types of sex, but insecurity, poor body image, and fear of rejection or ridicule from a partner have kept me away from some (but not all!) of the things I'd love to try.
Breath "play?"

Sorry but I don't see anything playful about depriving your brain of oxygen. Sounds more like flirting with death and there is nothing playful about that.
I had a girlfriend who lived with me. She wanted me to grab her by the throat and choke her out as she hit her climax. I wouldn't, and now we aren't.

Sorry, I like fun and games but this seemed a little to risky for me. I'm 6'5" and have large hands. I could have easily damaged the structures of her throat without meaning to do it.
How far am I willing to "come out?" I am kinky, a player, and primarily a top. In defense of breath play, my attraction to it on the rare occasions that I bottom is related to having had asthma as a child - for me, it has both cathartic and spiritual qualities, similar to the type of experiences that Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy describe in their book, "Radical Ecstasy: S/M Journeys to Transcendence."

There are ways to engage in this type of play safely, as Mistress Aubrey describes in her post.

@Dana, as someone "in the scene", I have to respectfully disagree with you that engaging in certain types of edge play will always take you further. I think that what you're describing is akin to the anti-drug message that marijuana always leads to harder drugs. There are many, many reasons that people engage in particular types of "edge play." For some, it can become an addiction that requires ever higher risk, but that is not true for many of us.
While the facts are not "in" as yet, you make interesting points. I guess you would have to be their. As for me, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out, etc, etc, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
I find it interesting that there are a lot more deaths due to AEA than are thought or recorded as such, and really interesting that this is because the authorities often urge the family to let the official cause of death be stated as suicide rather than AEA. IOW, suicide is considered less of a stigma! (when it used to be considered one of the worst, and hushed up) Not sure what that means, but it seems significant....

And whenever AEA comes up in the news of someone's death, I can't help but think of that old X-Files episode with Peter Boyle as the psychic guy who knows how everyone he meets is going to die later on and who says to Mulder, "Don't you think auto erotic asphyxiation is a terrible way to die?" And Mulder asks, "Why are you asking me?" and Boyle answers, "Oh, no reason."
@Silkstone, interesting statistics/fact. As Mistress Aubrey points out, there are many types of breath play, only one of which is auto erotic asphyxiation. However, for people who are not educated, it may be the only type with which they are familiar. One has to wonder - if there were less stigma attached to alternative modes of sexual expression and desire, and more people felt comfortable educating themselves, would we have fewer deaths from such a dangerous practice?
I've had my own experiences in "the scene". The breath play isn't my cup of tea, I have no issues with those for whom it is. There should be no shame in (safely) exploring one's sexual fantasies. It sounds as though you know your stuff. I respect that. Rated.
His name is spelled Carradine, not Carridine. I would expect the editors at least to know that.
Being condescending to people who don't share these desires you speak of doesn't do a whole lot to further understanding either. Something to consider.
Peace Mistress Aubrey,

Much love for your post.

I’ve always respected and admired David Carradine, and still do. His untimely death doesn’t diminish “Grasshopper” in my eyes one bit. His charm, philosophizing, and free spirit still inspire me. Shit, he’s even more real to me now because he was a cool muthafucka not afraid to experiment.

One of the major sticking points in America is our failure to address our stickiness: cunnilingus (Hooray for honey!), fellatio, diverse sexual orientations, challenges to gender roles, and resistance to race rules.

I grew up in a house where folks fucked fiercely, made passionate and reciprocal love, imbibed porn while smoking weed, and then denied it all by Sunday morning. The end result was a lot of damn guilt on my part, BUT with some really cool ass fetishes and fantasies to get me through high school.

I don’t judge David or anyone who experiments. I can only offer what has worked for me: safe words (Like Dick Cheney or Bob Dole: old wrinkled tyrants = cold shower.) with a trusting partner and overall ground rules when engaging in acts with self and others.

Even when dickin’ around alone, there’s certain shit that I’d be mindful of, like being drunk or high while pouring with candle wax on my testicles. Those of us in the ballbusting fraternity know how a toy/hollow plastic hammer (lightly tapped) beats a steel one, and “castration” with dirty words, denial, and teasing beats a 3am trip to the bloody emergency room.

The healthcare system is screwed up enough without tops and bottoms flooding the gates!

It’s the “make believe” that drive me nuts ;)

Bites N Kisses,
Red Mojo
As an ER nurse, I've seen a fair share of sex games that ended in surgery or worse. I'll spare details, but suffice it to say that common sense tells you when you pour hot wax on yourself, its gonna leave a mark. And when you cut off someone's air supply...pretty nonsensical.
YES. This. There needs to be more openness and communication about these things so that they can be done safely. Thank you so much for writing this.
This while people think I'm insane because I have spent thousands of hours spying on babes with binoculars, hours walking around trying to look down tops and up skirts, and have traveled to go to nude beaches because I want to see as many attractive babes fully or partially naked as I possibly can.

But not one of my antics causes anyone to potentially lose their lives or incur any physical harm.

I think someone who does the sort of things described in this post is the real total creep - not me.

There should be absolutely no harm because of a babe being naked!!
Ignorance is deadly. Damn shame if this turns out to be the case with Carradine. Didn't this happen to that singer from INXS?
Thanks for the post. This is why I'm examining fetishes and the shame associated with them. I see fetishes (with a definition broader than the scientific term) like most things--in a continuum. When you can be open with your partner or, if you're alone with it, don't feel any shame (and can discuss it), that seems safe and responsible. If the fetish came from shame to begin with, I think you need to examine whether it should continue to be part of your practice. And if you have shame surrounding your fetish, it'll become dangerous. I believe this. fetishame.blogspot.com/
"Grasshopper, man who pass through airport turnstile sideways is going to Bangkok!"

Was Carradine a victim of fowl play because he was chokin' the chicken?
As a dominatrix, do you feel like whipping the living shit out of those who disagree with you?
Two things:

1st, it's David CarrAdine, let's honor the dead properly, even if they died with a rope around their neck and genitals, and
2nd, erotic (auto)asphyxiation is way too problematic a concept (the movie "Donkey Punch", where a woman is killed as her male active partner ejaculates while trying to induce vaginal contractions by doing something akin to strangulating her, comes to mind) and it's not so much kinky as outright sick.
Thanks for everyone's interesting comments! I've been looking for instructions about how to Reply to Comments to my blog posting, but I'm coming up short. "Help" does not address the subject. Anyhow, if anyone knows, please email Me.... if you have a moment. Someone posted that breath play is never safe, but in all honesty, once you've done it a while, and your submissive is a person in good health, it's probably no more risky, when done safely, than, say, going for a long jog on a hot day. Things can happen any time one is testing one's limits.

Mistress Aubrey
I am pretty conservative and vanilla in my actual practice but can let my imagination ponder different things.

But I have always recoiled thinking about the infliction of pain or suffering as part of sex. I had a lot of mixed feelings reading the Story of O for that reason.

I have been pregnant three times in the last four years. The experiences of morning sickness, the unusual sensations of another human kicking around inside me (and in my son's case, kicking the crap out of my bladder) and the pain of labor and child birth and post-partum healing-- all of this got me thinking back to things like sexual masochism.

Sex does wind up hurting, sometimes, in the most vanilla, socially approved ways (i.e., procreation). Childbirth can also kill. So can STDs, for that matter.

Having spent so much time being pregnant the last few years, it does make me think about life and death when I am having sex. Sex creates and destroys, feels good and hurts.

So I think that biological reality -- the threat of procreation and death inherent in sex-- is somehow related to the fetishes and kinks of sadomasochistic play and autoerotic asphyxiation.

I just don't quite get why some people find it necessary and compelling to make the leap from imagination to actual risky behavior. Like that one guy from England who died in a stranger's closet a few years ago-- the guy who had agreed to wrap him up in latex and leave him struggling to breath in a closet for a few days ultimately killed himself as a result of the guilt of what had happened. Or Michael Hutchence's untimely death.

Just leaves me feeling kind of sick and sad inside.
Breath play is never safe. Ever. For further information, google "Jay Wiseman Breath Play".

Btw, Mistress Aubrey... In one paragraph, you write that you only do what is safe. In the next paragraph you write that breath play is risky.
While I am on board with exploring, pushing limits, heavy play, and the like, Breath Play is never safe, dear. It is irresponsible of you to bring this to salon and put it in front of so many people who are not in our scene and don't know what to to with it.
Having someone to watch over you during breath play is not a way to make it safe. It only ensures that you will have someone to call an ambulance if you vagel out. Your observer is probably not going to be prepared to deal with the heart attack this can cause.
If you really are a pro-domme, aubrey, you should know better than to bring this here. Stick to fetlife, sweetheart. There is a difference between having something to say and having to say something. I hope you learn it before someone gets hurt.
I.C., in my personal opinion, your acts are creepier than Mr. Carradine's. Don't dare to assume you haven't hurt someone when you've repeatedly invaded their privacy. It's controlling and manipulative, highly passive aggressive...and creepy. You look down my shirt, you better be prepared to look down my fist as well.

As for Mr. Carradine, I much appreciate this. I don't like the shame people are cloaking this in. We all have our dark sides sexually - or "other" side sexually. I think you or a commenter made the point that people get complacent and forget the risk. I think that was the case here.
Could we please get his name spelled correctly in your headline and on the home page? Carradine, not Carridine.
I think there is a point of orgasm where everyone stops breathing for a second or two, just an involuntary reflex. It is a natural thing to explore from that perspective.

SAfety is always the problem for humans in every situation. Else stop driving and stuff because almost anything you do can kill you if you alter it just right.
I read your post about breath play with interest, and I have to say mff hmff hmfff.
I have just corrected the spelling of Mr. Carradine's last name. Thank you to the poster who noticed that. Out of respect, his name should have been correct. Since looking into Manage Comments, Manage Blog and Help do not explain how to respond to the individual comments, I'll again just note here that I thank those who are not judgemental and can see what I am trying to say. There is a comment from someone who clearly sees him or herself as part of the S&M world or "scene", as scenesters like to call it, and doesn't agree with my bringing this issue to what this person sees as the outside world. One element of being a pro domme that is always present is that those who do domination/submission in a lifestyle or amateur or non-paid way often have a kind of defensiveness about those of us who get paid to dominate. Not unusual. However, breath play, if done right, is safe. This poster feels I am wrong in stating this. This poster is welcome to his or her opinion. But yes, as someone who has done this professionally and speaks from experience, breath play is practiced every day by untold numbers of people. But as to the poster's fear and worry, any activity in life, including waking up and walking to the kitchen, or walking downstairs to answer the doorbell ... yes, anything in life can result in accidental harm or calamity. How true.

Mistress Aubrey
C.mon... Breath play? Isn't it more accurate to call it arterial blood flow play? This isn't about having to play in the closet. It's about needing to go to extremes to feel anything...

If he wanted breath play he should have looked into Tantra...
Good. I see his name's now being spelled correctly in the headline. Now please change the incorrect spelling of his name within your post. : )