A while ago in Greece I was watching Larry Clark’s movie Ken Park on DVD. Early in the film a boy asks his much older girlfriend ‘can I eat you out?’ This got into the Greek subtitles as ‘πάμε να φάμε;’ ‘shall we go for something to eat?’ The innocent subtitler imagined no doubt that the young man is gallantly offering to stand his lady friend a Big Mac. This not only highlights foreign learners’ perennial problem with English phrasal verbs, but also lends weight to a rumour I had heard that Greek subtitlers work under considerable pressure of time. Certainly anyone with the leisure to preview the film before adding subtitles would soon realise that nipping out to Macdonald’s is very far from anybody’s mind. Ken Park is, as the stuffy say, ‘controversial’, ‘leaves nothing to the imagination’ and strays into the realms of the totally uncalled-for. The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification said the film dealt with sexual matters "in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults". There, now. If you are a ‘reasonable adult’ you had better leave this page at once.
Didn’t think you would.
There is a scene in K.P. in which a boy called Tate ties a scarf round his neck and jacks off whilst almost strangling himself. (There’s a tennis match on the telly at the time, I just mention that, don’t know if it's relevant or not.) That I was puzzled, to put it mildly, at this particular refinement of self-pleasuring betrays my relative innocence. I’ve only just found out that this was a case of auto-erotic asphyxiation, a paraphilia whose aficionados are known as ‘gaspers’. This might be old hat to you, but it was certainly news to me.
I found out more about this lunatic practice from a friend, James, who’s a pathologist. I had remarked to him in an e-mail how pleasing I find the bulges in men’s jockey shorts, and what a testiculophile I am generally, quoting Terry Sanderson in The Gay Karma Sutra: ‘A handsome pair of balls, contained within their scrotal sac, can make an appealing sight’. I said how right Sanderson was to include that subordinate clause, because I was pretty sure balls wouldn’t look quite so appealing out of their scrotal sac. James would know, as his day job involves examining bits of wizened and whiffy bodies to discover how their former owners slipped off the perch. I excerpt part of our correspondence:
‘A medical student said to me only today “what’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever found in a body?” The answer – a 90 cm plastic coated dowel with a red ball on the end, that entered through the arsehole and ended up with the red ball through the middle lobe of the right lung. Not that the guy cared, as the electric flex round his neck and through the loft hatch had put him beyond caring. Strangely enough, there were no wank-mags, strange clothes or bondage paraphernalia in this case. Still, his trousers were round his ankles and he had a rod up his jacksie – hard to escape auto-erotic asphyxia. It certainly would have been a very funny “accident”. Hardly blog material.’’
Well, I thought it was perfect blog material, hence this post. (Maybe 'gaspers' should be known as 'croakers'?) I had never heard the term ‘auto-erotic asphyxia’, and asked if it was common.
‘Auto-erotic asphyxia is not rare. A department like mine probably sees a case every one to two years and every practicing morbid anatomist will have seen a few cases. That means there are probably a few cases per week across the whole country. Of course we only get the saps that get it wrong. People devise ingenious devices to reverse their plight but they can go wrong. I remember the guy (not my case) who leaned against a springy broom handle while applying pressure to his neck with a ligature. On passing out, the stick sprung him back, released the pressure and hey presto he woke up – until the day the bloody well-abused stick broke.’
Bloody amazing! I marvel at the ingenuity some people will exercise in getting their rocks off, and feel a very dull dog in comparison.
Finally, James relates the sad case of a boy of nineteen or so who was found stone cold dead, whang in hand, amid a profusion of sex mags. Apart from being dead, he looked quite healthy, so his heart was sent to an expert who reported that it was inflamed due to a virus. Even a cold or flu can do this. The lad’s heart had been unequal to the demands of his dick, and it packed up in mid-wank. Setting aside the victim’s youth, I can think of worse ways to go.
James’s job is one he’s welcome to, as far as I am concerned. When people send you parts of dead body for your professional opinion on what went wrong with them, it’s hard to imagine you’d look forward to the post. I couldn’t eat for a whole evening on seeing a recent episode of ‘Stephen Fry in America’. Fry visited a body farm, and I will not easily forget him recoiling in gobsmacked horror on opening a wheely-bin containing a murder victim's suppurating, maggot-blown remains.
Not something EFL teachers need to do a lot of, thank God.