Fatal and near-fatal autoerotic asphyxial episodes in women. Characteristic features based on a review of nine cases

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1993 Mar;14(1):70-3. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199303000-00017.


As asphyxial episodes during autoerotic activity are rarely reported in women, a review of eight fatal cases and one near-fatal case was conducted to delineate more clearly the characteristics of this syndrome in women. Six cases involved characteristic fatal autoerotic asphyxial activity. The remaining two fatal cases were atypical in that the apparatus that was used for sexual purposes was not intended to cause asphyxia in one case and did not directly cause asphyxial death in the second case. The final case was not fatal. Significantly, the majority of women did not use unusual clothing, props, or devices to augment their activity, for example, five were completely naked and only one was found with elaborate clothing and extra ligatures. Six of the fatal cases had objective evidence of sexual activity, three had used neck padding to prevent chafing, and eight had failed self-rescue mechanisms. Of note, the initial impression in four cases (44%) was homicide (two), attempted suicide (one), and accidental death during sexual activity with a partner (one). These results support the assertion that the manifestations of female autoerotic asphyxial activity reported to date may be initially misleading to investigators. Our purpose in presenting these findings, therefore, is to increase awareness of the more subtle features of this syndrome in women in an attempt to reduce the potential for underdiagnosis or confusion with nonaccidental death in future cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asphyxia / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraphilic Disorders / complications*