Savage Love: Seeking sex online can be hazardous to your health

I hope you address the recent rough-play-gone-bad death of New York City radio newsman George Weber. According to reports, it appears Weber met a guy on Craigslist for "violent sex," and the guy stabbed Weber to death. It's a reminder that if you have these kinds of fantasies — Weber wanted to be bound and abused — you're better off doing it with someone you trust and not with some random trick off the Internet. No one should wind up dead trying to fulfill a sexual desire.

Safety Conscious

First, I want to extend my sincerest condolences to George Weber's family and friends.

Second, reading about Weber's death reminded me of a joke — this has to be the worst start to a second paragraph ever — that Jon Stewart told on The Daily Show during the darkest days (er, years) of the insurgency in Iraq. Conservatives were complaining that a biased media wasn't reporting any of the good news in Iraq, nothing about all those freshly painted schoolrooms or, um, all those other freshly painted schoolrooms; the news out of Iraq then was all bloodletting, beheadings, and car bombs, all the time.

"Yeah," Stewart deadpanned. "We never hear about the cars that don't explode."

What happened to Weber was horrifying. And, yes, there are lessons in this horrific crime for anyone seeking sex and/or love online. But looking for sex online is not, as some have insisted in the wake of Weber's murder, so inherently risky a pursuit that only a lunatic would contemplate it. Remember: We never hear about the people hooking up online who don't get brutally murdered — and unlike cars in Iraq that haven't exploded (yet), it's actually relevant that most people hooking up online aren't brutally murdered.

Every day, tens of thousands of people — hundreds of thousands — find partners online. While lots of folks online are seeking relationships at sites like or, there are more people online at any given moment seeking NSA sex at sites like or If random Internet hookups were even half as dangerous as crimes like this make them seem — if they were even one-one-hundredth as dangerous — there would be a dozen online-hookup murders in New York City every day, and scores more in Toronto and San Francisco and Miami and Vancouver and Chicago.

No one should be cavalier about safety when it comes to Internet hookups, of course; people seeking NSA or fantasy-fulfillment sex online need to use common sense and take all reasonable precautions. Insist on a verifiable exchange of real names and real phone numbers before meeting; meet in person first, in a public place, preferably at a time when you can't mess around immediately after your first meeting. And people seeking the services of a pro should go to one of the dozen or more established Web sites out there that host ads from pros along with client reviews.

And it's always a bad idea to post an offer for $60 in exchange for sex to the crowd of fakes and freaks who have overrun Craigslist, as Weber is reported to have done. Meeting cheap whores via Craigslist ups your odds of hooking up with, say, a mentally unstable teenage "satanist" with a coke problem and a MySpace page packed with pictures of him wielding knives and swords.

Now perhaps Weber, working as a freelancer, couldn't afford the services of $200-an-hour professional dominant; maybe he had lowballed it on Craigslist a dozen times before and always had good experiences. Most people who ignore my advice about safety, or hook up with cheap CL hookers, do live to tell the tale. But when it comes to realizing a fantasy that involves violence or helplessness, someone safe, sane, and expensive is more than worth the investment.

Finally, people take calculated risks all the time for pleasures less essential than sex. You're assuming a certain degree of risk — of injury, of death — every time you get in a car, go skiing, or order the chicken. We do what we can to minimize those risks (buckle the fuck up, wear a helmet, don't order your chicken rare), but we don't hold up deaths on highways, slopes, or at the dinner table as evidence that people who even think of driving, skiing, or chickening have to be out of their minds.

The sad fact is that some of us will die at the hands of our intimate partners. Do what you can to minimize your risk of being murdered by a sex partner, because some people are dangerous lunatics — and not just Internet hookups. Yes, George Weber took the wrong guy home, no question. So did Laci Peterson.

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