Love Hurts: Sadomasochism's Dangers

A Canadian college professor spent three days in a coma over the weekend after losing consciousness in a New York sex club where he was left alone with a dog collar around his neck and a leather hood over his face, according to a report in the New York Post.

The man, identified by the Post as Robert Benjamin, 67, was found passed out last Friday by a dominatrix in a sadomasochism club called the Nutcracker Suite. The dominatrix noticed that his foot had turned blue after the high-heeled shoe he was wearing fell off, according to the exclusive report in the Post.

Law enforcement sources told the Post that Benjamin, whose fetish was to be bound in S&M gear and then left alone, lost consciousness when the oxygen flow to his brain was cut off while he was hanging from his arms.

Benjamin was rushed to Manhattan's St. Vincent's Hospital early that morning and regained consciousness Monday, promising to come clean to his wife and never engage in dangerous sex again, the Post reported.

St. Vincent's confirmed on Wednesday that Benjamin was still in the hospital, but the Montreal native did not return calls from placed to his hospital room.

Compared to a series of recent incidents in which practitioners of dangerous sex died to satisfy their kink, Benjamin, who was reportedly a regular at the club, was lucky.

Mixing Pleasure and Pain

Sadomasochism encompasses a broad swath of sexual interests, but always involves a certain degree of giving or receiving pain in the interest in sexual gratification. In some cases, it can be deadly.

Last October, a medical examiner determined that the Rev. Gary Aldridge, a 51-year-old Baptist minister from Alabama, died from accidental asphyxiation while pleasuring himself. He was found wearing two wet suits, a face mask, diving gloves, slippers, rubberized underwear, two ties, five belts and eleven straps, according to the medical examiner's report.

In April 2006, British national Adrian Exley suffocated to death in the closet of a Rhode Island man whom he had met online. Exley was wrapped tightly in heavy plastic and bound with duct tape, and a leather hood was over his head. Gary LeBlanc, the man who tied Exley up, in a sex act both men had consented to, later committed suicide, according to The Associated Press.

The "Janus Report on Sexual Behavior," one of the premiere academic surveys of sex practices, found in 1993 that 14 percent of men and 11 percent of women have had some sexual experience with sadomasochism.

But sadomasochism is difficult to define. Some practitioners engaging in highly dramatized "play" that has more to do with theater than pain, while others look to be severely tortured, said Martin Weinberg, a sociologist at Indiana University who has studied sadomasochism clubs.

"There are two forms of SM. One is a sociological phenomenon and is more about socializing with other people. People go to a club for recreational, theatrical fun. The other is a psychological phenomenon. Something in someone's biography leads them to seek out SM," he said.

"Psychological cases get into heavy pain. They pay for dominatrices and ask for extreme pain like having pins stuck in their scrotum. People paying for dominatrices are not socializing with other people, they are in it purely for the pain," he said.

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