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>Theories - The Eskimo Myth


Many texts state that breath control play in other cultures are a common part of the sexual repertoire. The evidence for this is rather scanty, but authors copy freely from one another and add their own emendations as they go:

"It is alleged that it is frequent practice among some Orientals for the sexual partners to mutually grasp each others throat in a strangling gesture and it is said that fatalities not infrequently result from this practice." (Hen71, no sources given)

"Anthropologists have reported that Eskimo children hang themselves in some game, probably sexual, and that the Yahgans in South America tied the neck to induce partial strangulation and exhilaration, at which time they saw beautiful colors (Stearns, A. Cases of Probable Suicide in Young Persons Without Obvious Motivation. J. Maine Med. Assoc., 44: 16, 1953). De Sade also traces erotized hanging behavior back to the Celts (De Sade, The Marquis. The Complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings. New York, 1965). Shoshone-Bannock Indian children have among their games several involving risk-taking and suffocation experiences. These are called 'smoke-out,' 'red-out,' and 'hang-up." (Larry H. Dizmang, M.D. personal communication)" (Res72)

This "personal communication" obviously comes from somebody who read the whole thing in Melville's "Billy Budd".

"The activity of producing a temporary state of asphyxia by constriction of the carotid vessels in the neck for sexual gratification has been defined by anthropologists for centuries. The Eskimos, for example, are known to choke each other as part of their sexual activity and it is common for their children to suspend themselves by the neck in playing. (Freuchen, Book of the Eskimos, Cleveland 1961)" (WS+77)

"Anthropologists have observed similar asphyxial practices among Eskimo children (Res72), the Yaghans of South America (Stearns, A.W.(1953), Cases of probable suicide in young persons withouth obvious motivation. Maine Med. Assn. J., 44: 16-23), the Celts (Sade, Marquis de (1791), The Complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, New York 1965), and the Shoshone-Bannock Indians (Melville, H., Billy Budd, Foretopman. In: The Shorter Novels of Herman Melville, Greenwich 1928). It is said (Hen71) to be a frequent practice among some Orientals for the sexual partners to grasp each other's throat in a strangling gesture, which sometimes results in fatalities. Resnik (Res72) personally noted several games in which excited children choke each other by compressing the neck or chest." (RF79)

"In addition, anthropologists have pointed out that certain ethnic and cultural groups (e.g., Eskimos) are known to choke each other as part of their sexual activity. In such cultures it is common for the children to suspend themselves by the neck during play." (LW82 quotes WS+77)

"The late professor Leopold Breitenecker, former Professor and Director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Vienna, Austria, described pressure on the neck during sexual activity as an activity common in Eskimo and Southeast Asian people. This practice was brought to Europe and Africa by French Foreign Legionnaires and presented occasional problems in forensic pathology for Professor Breitenecker and his colleagues. He maintained an acute interest in geographic forensic pathology ..." (Editor's note in Ems83)

I haven't been able to find any material on this by the much-quoted professor Breitenecker. The only thing I found is off-topic: in 1967 he gave this expert opinion in a lawsuit against medical doctors who had supervised Nazi gas chambers: "It is certainly one of the most humane methods of killing." Well, I guess that's some kind of geographic forensic pathology, too ...

"A stone sculpture in the Museo de Antropológia in Mexico City depicts a naked man with a rope looped around his neck. Scars are visible on his cheeks and forehead, and his penis, once erect, has been fractured from the sculpture. The museum sign beneath the statue states that it is a Mayan relic from the late classic or early postclassic period depicting an adolescent from a phallic cult. The scars on his face are said to be facial decorations. The sculpture was apparently done c. 1000 A.D., the approximate date of the transition between the late classic and early postclassic periods. (...)
Whether the ancient Maya had discovered autoerotic asphyxia, as the sculpture so strongly suggests, will perhaps never be known with certainty. It is known, however, that the Maya believed that the souls of individuals who hang themselves go directly to paradise, where they are received by Ixtab, goddess of the hanged (Alexander 1964). The representation of Ixtab in a Mayan manuscript drawing shows her in a kneeling posture, her one visible nipple erect, suspended by a noose around her neck; her ankles appear to be bound together (see the Dresden Codex on p. 316 of Anders 1963).
Frazer (1959) described ritual and religious hangings among the Greeks and other ancient cultures." (HDB83)

"This was attributed to the experiences of French Foreign Legionnaires who had been stationed in French Indochina (Vietnam) before its independence from France. This was also a topic discussed by Prof. Leopold Breitenecker, late professor of legal medicine of the University of Vienna, Austria, in his lectures. Pressure on the neck during intercourse was practiced and occasionally resulted in deaths of one of the partners due to the effect on the carotid sinus." (Min85)

For this alleged "effect on the carotid sinus", see also Carotid sinus reflex death - a theory and its history.

"The practice of sexual asphyxia has been described in anthropological studies of various populations in Europe and the Orient and also among peoples such as the Inuit and Yaghan Indians (RF79)." (BB88)

"Anthropological data show that asphyxiation in order to enhance sexual stimulation occurs in several cultures. Among the Eskimos, asphyxiation is often part of adult sexuality and asphyxiation is also common in children's games (Freuchen D (Ed.): Peter Freuchen's book of the Eskimos. Cleveland 1961). Children of Shoshone-Bannock Indians play games where suffocation is a part of the game (Res72). Further, the old Celts were known to asphyxiate themselves." (IE89)

"Walsh, Stahl, Unger, Lilienstern, and Stephens (WS+77) report that producing a temporary state of asphyxia by constriction of the carotid vessels in the neck for sexual gratification has been known to anthropologists 'for centuries'. 'The Eskimos,' they write, 'are known to choke each other as part of their sexual activity and it is common for their children to suspend themselves by the neck in [sex] play' (p. 158)." (Sau89)

The sexual part in the children's play is Saunders' allegation - WS+77 don't mention it.

"Eskimo children have been reported to seek unconsciousness as a delightful game. (Freuchen D (Ed.): Peter Freuchen's book of the Eskimos. Cleveland 1961)" (DIE90)

"De Sade described the practice in his erotic novel Justine (1791) (see Seaves & Wainhouse 1965) and in a footnote the editors attribute it to pre-Christian Celts in Britain. Hazelwood et al. (HDB83, p. 14) suggest that it was known to the Mayas of ancient Mexico who recognised a goddess, Ixtab, of the hanged." (Huc90)

Hucker seems to be the only one to actually have looked up the passage in De Sade (I admit I didn't :-) - or why didn't his predecessors notice that it wasn't De Sade who'd attributed the practice to the Celts but his 20th century editors?

"Manual or ligature compression of the carotid arteries in the neck, which causes hypoxia that is intended to prolong orgasm during anterior or posterior intercourse, was originally reported by Prof. Leopold Breitenecker (personal communication), Director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Vienna, who claimed that the technique had been practiced by Eskimos and by Asians before it was introduced to Europe by French Foreign Legionnaires returning from war in Indo-China, where the technique was performed by prostitutes to increase the client's sensation of ejaculation." (EKD91)

"Statuary from Mexico from the end of the first millennium suggests that the Mayans were cognizant of the association between asphyxia and erotica: one of a man with an erection and a noose around his neck still survives. And we do know that they believed the souls of those who hanged themselves went directly to paradise, where they were received by Ixtab, the Goodess of the Hanged. Statues of her depict a young woman on her knees with a rope around her neck, with pronouncedly erect nipples." (BP93)

"Inuit Indians, which is to say, Eskimos, are also known to have practised this, and numerous European historians have chronicled its use in what was then called Cochin China, and later, French Indo-China. French Legionnaires are said to have brought it from there to France." (BP93 quoting EKD91)

"Although the first description of autoerotic asphyxial deaths appeared in the American literature in the 1950s, the use of asphyxia as a means of enhancing sexual gratification was apparently previously well-known. As examples, neck compression with heterosexual activity was known to generations of Eskimos, and the Marquis de Sade described the induction of erotic sensations by self-suspension in his book 'Justine', published in 1791." (CCM94, source probably Res72)

"Anthropologists have long been aware of asphyxial practices among various cultures, including the Inuit of the Arctic and the Yaghans of South America (Hirschfield, N. (sic): Sexual anomalies: the origins, nature and treatment of sexual disorders. New York 1948: 374-377)." (TBS94)

Magnus Hirschfeld's book does contain a few pages on strangulation, but the facts quoted here are not mentioned there; at least not in the German translation which seems to be unabridged. If anyone who has the English version could look it up and tell me if it's missing there, too, I'd be grateful.

"Anthropologists have described asphyxial practices in both adults and children. A frequent practice among Orientals is to strangle the throat to heighten sexual pleasure (Hen71). Likewise, the Yahgans in South America tied the neck to induce partial strangulation which produced exhilaration and at which time, they saw beautiful colors (Stearns, A. Cases of Probable suicide in young persons without obvious motivation. J Maine Med Assoc 1953; 44:16). The Celts also utilized erotic hanging for pleasure (DeSade, the Marquis. The Complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and other Writings. New York 1965). Children, similarly partake in this practice. For example, the Eskimo children hang themselves in a sexual game (Res72). Moreover, the Shoshone-Bannock Indian children play 'smoke-out,' 'red-out,' and 'hang-up,', which are suffocating games (Melville, H. Billy Budd, Foretopman in the Shorter Novels of Herman Melville. Greenwich 1928).

"The Marquis de Sade traced the origin of the practice to the Celts (the alleged source is BP93, where nothing of the sort is mentioned), but early accounts have also been found in the Eskimo and American Indian cultures, the Mayan Indians having a goddess of the hanged, Ixtab, usually depicted on her knees with a rope around her neck and with erect nipples." (JH97)

 

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