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No Fear No Favour

Death by sex: How lovemaking may prove fatal.

These days, the benefits of sex are so well accepted that even the UK’s National Health Service touts it as a positive activity. From reducing stress and strengthening your immune system to aiding in female bladder control or prostate health, sex has become a silver bullet in our culture. But for all the ways sex can positively impact our lives, it’s not entirely uncommon for people to die when bumping uglies.

Studies have tied the exertion of a good fuck to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke—especially among men. The risk increases for men with erectile dysfunction issues, and perhaps even more so when infidelity is afoot. Take William Martinez, a 31-year-old cop in Lawrenceville, Georgia, who died in 2009 due to heart issues while having an extramarital threesome with a man and a woman at a motel.

Other times people die due to sex-linked overdoses or other drug-related complications. In some cases, it’s legal drugs, as in the case of Sergey Tuganov, who died in 2009 at the age of 28 after he pounded some Viagra and had a 12-hour sex marathon with two women. Illegal drugs can be just as lethal, as when the 43-year-old Australian doctor Suresh Nair proffered two sex workers in 2009 with so much cocaine that they died during their tryst. Others die of honest accidents. Some of them are absurd, like the assistant manager at a San Francisco club who activated a lift under a piano he was having sex on and was crushed to death between the instrument and the ceiling in 1983. Meanwhile some accidental deaths are linked to rough sex or outright BDSM practice, like that of 59-year-old Gordon Semple, a British policeman, who died during a Grindr session in which 50-year-old Stefano Brizzi sat on his face and tightened a leash on the bound and masked officer at his request until he died in 2016.

According to several studies conducted by leading doctors, medical and health experts, deaths during consensual sex account for approximately 0.6% of all sudden deaths. This can occur during consensual sex for various reasons, generally because of the physical strain of the sexual activity, or because of unusual circumstances surrounding the carnal act.

A study conducted by a leading American medical journal has revealed that each additional hour of sexual activity per week resulted in an increased risk of 2-3 myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and one sudden cardiac death per 10,000 person-years. Experts say that indulging in sexual intercourse can trigger a subarachnoid haemorrhage i.e. is bleeding into the subarachnoid space—the area between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater surrounding the brain via the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one’s mouth, pinching one’s nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon.

Interestingly, the study also found that the “deceased is usually married; he is not with a spouse and in unfamiliar surroundings,” and death usually occurs after “a big meal with alcohol.” So, men who were unfaithful were significantly more likely than those who were faithful to experience severe or fatal cardiac events during sex. A related study conducted later seemed to support the death during extramarital sex theory. Fourteen of the 20 cases of “la mort d’amour,” or coital death, happened during an affair. “Dying in the saddle” is another popular euphemism for death during sex.

German researchers reviewed 16,437 autopsies over a 25-year period (1993-2017), and found that 74—about one-half of 1 percent (0.005) including 43 men and 31 women—had died while in the throes. Given the overwhelming similarities of sexual practices in Europe and the U.S., there’s every reason to believe this study’s findings also apply to Americans who die during sex.

By line: Divya Thearia

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