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David Carradine: A Study in Risky Sexual Behavior

Auto-erotic asphyxiation: deadly sex for actor David Carradine...

While the FBI investigates whether David Carradine's death was the result of foul play, it appears more likely that it was a case of auto-erotic asphyxiation (AEA). The question remains whether he acted alone or with a companion.

Carradine, best known for his role as a martial arts master raised by Shaolin monks in the mid-‘70s TV series "Kung Fu," and his more recent role in the "Kill Bill" movies, was found hanging naked in the closet of his Bangkok hotel room with ropes tied around his neck, genitals, and wrists. The circumstances suggest that the 72-year-old actor may have been involved in auto-erotic asphyxiation-a very dangerous form of sex play that temporarily cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain, which leads to euphoria and a heightened sexual climax.

It is similar to the "choking game" played by adolescents (according to 2006 statistics, 90% were male), either in groups or alone. According to estimates by the DB Foundation (Dangerous Adolescent Behavior Education), up to 75 percent of children between the ages of 9 to 16 years old either know how to play the game, or have actually played the game themselves, yet only 25% of parents, including parents of the victims, know about it.

Over 400 deaths were reported in the U.S. over the last five years-the direct result of the "choking game." However, hundreds of incidences go unreported because the death is often misclassified as a suicide. It is said that 30% of male teen suicides (between the ages of 13-20) are not suicide at all, and that roughly 500-1000 people die each year from auto-erotic asphyxiation, an extremely dangerous masturbation practice. Self-hanging, the way Carradine was found, is the most common method used in AEA, especially in fatal cases.

What's the attraction of the "choking game" or auto-erotic asphyxiation? When the brain cells receive less oxygen, a "high" sensation is felt; when the pressure is released, there's a secondary "high" of oxygen/blood rushing to the brain. Along with the brief sense of euphoria are enhanced erotic feelings.

Carradine has a tangled history that seems to indicate both a thrill-seeking persona and deviant sexual behavior. Marina Anderson, Carradine's most recent ex-wife, once accused him of "deviant sexual behavior which was potentially deadly." She also alleged in a sworn declaration filed six years ago in Los Angeles Superior Court that Carradine engaged in an "incestuous relationship with a very close family member." She said that Carradine and the relative (who remains unnamed) admitted the relationship. Another ex-wife, Gail Jensen, said Carradine enjoyed tying himself up to turn himself on.

There is also a correlation between auto-erotic asphyxiation and suicidal tendencies. Stephen Hucker, a forensic psychiatrist and professor of Law & Mental Health Program at the University of Toronto, has said that the "hypoxyphilic" patients he has interviewed have suffered from mood and anxiety disorders, and around 60 percent of them had attempted suicide in the past. In an interview from 2004, Carradine said he had considered shooting himself. "Look, there was a period in my life when I had a single action Colt 45, loaded, in my desk drawer. And every night I'd take it out and think about blowing my head off." He also once contemplated jumping from a room at the Plaza Hotel.

Fittingly, David Carradine took that final leap into the unknown in Bangkok, a city long known for the availability of every sexual deviance known to man. I am sorry that his present wife and children have to go through this devastating experience in such a public manner, but the hope is that his example will serve as a warning to others engaged in this dangerous, and potentially deadly, sexual practice.

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