Death by Sex: How Common Is It?
Death by sex is a fascinating way to go and even results in a few headlines every now and then. It's also been a subject of internet culture: Some people might recall the popular "Death by snu-snu" meme based on the animated show "Futurama." One episode featured a tribe of warrior women who killed men with sex, or "snu-snu," as the women referred to it.
As funny as that show was, keeling over while having sex actually happens in real life, and it's almost never pretty. Thankfully, the chances of dying while indulging in sensual pleasures are very slim. A study including more than 16,000 people in Germany reported the odds of dying during sex were only about 0.45 percent, and victims often already have underlying health conditions or are heavily intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.
The majority of fatalities associated with sex that make headlines feature the man as the main victim. However, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, death by sex can happen to both men and women.
Rare as it may be, this happens worldwide
In Malawi Africa, a 35-year-old man named Charles Majawa reportedly died in the arms of a sex worker in 2020. After investigations, authorities did not press charges against the woman, and the postmortem officially stated the cause of death was "excessive orgasm." The local papers reported Majawa died of "too much sexual excitement and sweetness."
"Excessive orgasm" may sound vague, but heart attacks, strokes and ruptured aneurysms made up 31 percent of the sex-related deaths in the aforementioned German study.
Another popular story in 2021 came from India, where another man died as a result of an accident during BDSM activities with a married woman. The story involved a rope around the neck and strangulation. The man's limbs were tied to a chair, which accidentally fell over, tightening the rope around his neck and strangling him while his partner was in the bathroom.
This occurrence may seem strange unless you're aware of autoerotic asphyxiation (AEA). Known as breath play, AEA accounted for 30 percent of the deaths in the German study. This type of play is said to enhance orgasms by limiting blood to the brain by mild strangulation. Unlike the case in India, most deaths by AEA happen during masturbation, as the victim passes out before they can react and rescue themselves. Most AEA victims had no intention of accidentally committing suicide, but may have been too intoxicated with drugs or alcohol to react before passing out.
Another potential cause of death during sex is mixing sexual enhancement drugs such as Viagra with drugs containing nitrates, such as nitroglycerin or amyl nitrate, which can lead to fatally low blood pressure if combined.
Nevertheless, it's very rare
Most people who die from consensual sex typically have underlying health conditions, such as obesity or heart disease, or were intoxicated at the time.
If you want to avoid killing the mood with an untimely death, the best thing to do is stay healthy and limit your intake of drugs and alcohol. But if you plan to engage in acts like AEA or other kinks, don't do so alone; always ensure there's a partner around to rescue you in case an accident occurs.
"As unsexy as some people may think it is, a huge component of safer sex while exploring kinks involves learning," said Kate Delgado, the resident sex educator at Lioness, a manufacturer of smart vibrators and other sexual technology based in Oakland, California. "You absolutely need to research and learn the right ways to play and the ways in which someone may get hurt if safer sex isn't practiced.
"Whether you're going to incorporate choking, a ball gag, sensory deprivation or something else, understand that there is a right way and a wrong way and do not proceed until all consenting parties are aware of how to stay safe," Delgado added.
Staying informed and educated when incorporating kink and BDSM in the bedroom is essential.
"For example, you should never apply pressure to someone's windpipe during choking, you always need a safe word or gesture before you're in the moment, and you should be aware of your partner's pain preferences before inflicting any pain on their body," she said.
Finally, listen to your intuition and talk with your doctor if you feel like something is off. They know what's best for you. You don't need to be a victim of death by sex.