ONLINE ADS SAY the tingling, minty, green gel makes lovemaking last longer. "Prolongs Men's Pleasure," the packaging promises, beneath a photo of a handsome man staring seductively at prospective buyers.
But a famous fighter says the Kama Sutra Pleasure Balm Prolonging Gel was far from pleasurable, and instead burned and scarred his genitals so badly last fall that he remains permanently disfigured and dysfunctional.
Michael Waylon Lowe, 32, of Southwest Center City, a mixed-martial-artist who competes internationally, has sued the South Street sex shop where he says he bought the gel, and the product's California-based creator, seeking more than $50,000 in damages, according to a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
"This is a very private, but very significant loss for a man who is very vital in so many other aspects," said Lowe's attorney, Thomas R. Kline. "This is a man who literally makes his living avoiding injury; he knows how to protect himself. Yet he wasn't provided with the most basic, simple instructions to protect himself from this product. If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone."
Lowe, a Tennessee native, is 14-4 in his professional mixed-martial-arts career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Pro Elite and other circuits since 2006. He also earned several national collegiate wrestling titles and trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, according to online biographies.
Marla Lee, president of the Kama Sutra Co. and Kamsut Inc., which make and market the gel, called Lowe's claims "flabbergasting." The gel is one of the 44-year-old company's original and most popular products, with more than 1 million units sold, Lee said.
"This product has been offered for over 40 years without incident of any kind, so it's a bit confusing that he would have this kind of response to it," Lee said. "The active ingredient [benzocaine] is quite common. It's used in children's teething products, so it's probably pretty safe if it's used for children."
Stuart Schlaffman, owner of The Mood shop, on South Street near 6th, where Lowe got the allegedly toxic tube of passion-prolonger, said employees have removed the product from shelves since being served with the lawsuit Monday.
"We really strive to carry good, legitimate products," Schlaffman said. "We don't want to sell something that's damaging to someone. My first concern is for him as a person."
In the complaint, filed May 14, Lowe claims he had used the desensitizing gel previously without problem. And when he applied it last Sept. 1, he and his fiancée began lovemaking without incident. But when their 3-year-old daughter awoke, the fiancée interrupted their intercourse to attend to her, according to the lawsuit.
Before she returned, Lowe "began to experience excruciating pain and pressure in his penis," the lawsuit states. "He removed the condom and his penis swelled significantly. He sought emergency medical treatment and follow-up care thereafter."
The complaint accuses the defendants of negligence and product liability for failing to provide proper instructions, warn users of risks, and design and test the gel to ensure its safety.
It claims that Lowe suffered "catastrophic and permanent damage," including penile scarring, loss of sensation and function; nerve and tissue damage; humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish; lost wages and earning capacity; and loss of life's pleasures.
"He sustained a very significant injury which was life-changing," Kline said.