Inmate’s release may hinge on interest in S&M

Ξ October 6th, 2007 | → | ∇ baywindows |

Issue Date: 12/19/2002, Posted On: 12/19/2002

Inmate’s release may hinge on interest in S&M

Laura Kiritsy – Bay Windows

A 53 year-old gay man will appear in a Middlesex County court Jan. 9 to fight indefinite confinement in a state correctional facility because authorities say his taste for consensual sadomasochistic (S&M) sex play in part qualifies him as a “sexually dangerous person.”

Alden Baker, Jr. is currently being held at the Nemansket Correctional Center in Bridgewater, after completing a 10-year sentence for a rape conviction. He also completed a concurrent 43-month federal sentence for sexual exploitation of children, stemming from his operation of an electronic bulletin board on which child pornography was posted. When Baker was arrested for these offenses in 1991, police discovered a room in the basement of his Medford home equipped for S&M sex play. Officers also confiscated videotapes of Baker engaging in consensual S&M activity with other men.

Shortly before he was to be released in 2001, the state moved to classify him as a sexually dangerous person, defined by Massachusetts law as a person convicted of a sexual offense “who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in sexual offenses if not confined to a secure facility.”

After reviewing Baker’s court and prison records — Baker declined to participate in the state’s pyschological evaluation — Dr. Ira Silverman, the state’s forensic psychologist and sexually dangerous person specialist, determined Baker’s mental abnormality to be sexual sadism. Sexual sadism is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the main diagnostic reference for mental health professionals in the U.S., as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person” over a period of at least six months.

Silverman, however, omitted the phrase “real, not simulated” from the DSM-IV’s definition of sexual sadism in his written report on Baker, a copy of which was obtained by Bay Windows.

That phrase, say Baker’s defenders, is crucial to his case. They contend practicing consensual S&M sex play is far different from deriving sexual pleasure from torturing an unwilling victim — and wholly legal. At Baker’s rape trial, partners who appeared in Baker’s confiscated S&M videotapes testified their encounters with him were voluntary and consensual.

Dr. Daniel Kriegman, a psychologist and former clinician at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous in Bridgewater, evaluated Baker last February. His report noted Silverman’s edited definition of sexual sadism and concluded, “There is no evidence in this case of real, not simulated sexual sadism over a period of 6 months or more,” and thus no grounds for such a diagnosis.

“The Commonwealth’s effort to classify consensual S&M play as sexually dangerous is quackery,” said Baker’s attorney John G. Swomley, in a Dec. 9 statement. “Persecuting Mr. Baker for his sexual interests is just a variation on the 1950’s practice of institutionalizing gays for their alleged `deviancy.’”

Swomley will call a handful of sexologists and mental health professionals who will testify that the state’s contention that Baker’s S&M proclivities are a mental abnormality are clinically and medically unsound. Among them are Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who researches sexual disorders at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Charles Moser, a specialist in S&M who has published at least a dozen scientific articles on the subject.

Under the state’s 1999 sexually dangerous person statute, if Baker is determined by the court to be sexually dangerous, he will be civilly committed to a Department of Correction treatment facility for a sentence of one day to life. His release would be contingent upon completing sex offender treatment and a clinical determination that he no longer poses a threat to society.

Laura Kiritsy is a staff writer at Bay Windows. Her e-mail address is


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