Autoerotic asphyxiation is the induction of cerebral anoxia--a deficiency of oxygen in the brain--through self-applied suffocation methods while masturbating. Autoerotic asphyxiation interferes with the blood supply to the brain. The lack of blood, and therefore oxygen, can produce giddiness, exhilaration or a self-induced high that is intensified by an orgasm or vice versa.
Many believe that the self-endangerment inherent in the technique enhances the person's sexual gratification. Autoerotic asphyxiation participants, most often men, use a belt, rope, or another device to cause their asphyxiation while simultaneously biting on a lemon slice to prevent death. After orgasm one bites on the lemon and the bitterness has a "sobering" effect. If the lemon is not arousing this practice will result in death.
This behavior is not considered a suicide attempt or suicidal gesture, although it is seriously dangerous.
The solitary thrills of asphyxiating oneself are short lived and self-endangering. Autoerotic asphyxiation also weakens one's self-control and judgment. This is what results in accidental death.
It is estimated that between 800 and 1500 deaths occur annually in the United States from this dangerous type of masturbation. Most commonly performed by young adult males, it almost always remains a secret until they die accidentally. This sexual practice is still an enigma for most of society.