A Quebec woman is believed to have died when she was engaged in sadomasochistic sex.
The 39-year-old woman died Saturday night in a home in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville on Montreal's South Shore.
She went into cardiac arrest while engaging in "out of the ordinary" sexual practices using "very particular" accessories.
Police found numerous objects that appear to be intended for torture and are used in uncommon sex practices, but public affairs officer Constable Martin Simard declined to provide specific information.
When police arrived at the residence on Sommet-Trinité Street, the man was trying to resuscitate the woman, but she died, Simard said.
The man was arrested and questioned, but released without charge.
Investigators are waiting for the autopsy report to determine if he'll be charged with criminal negligence causing death.
They tie each other up, dabble in role-playing and experiment with whips, handcuffs and nipple clamps to experience the kind of turn-on most people achieve through kissing and racy lingerie.
Sadomasochists use a variety of activities, props and even torture-like devices to inflict consensual physical or psychological pain on each other to experience pleasure that is usually sexual in nature.
Although S&M has long been considered a deviant or underground form of sexual behaviour, statistics have shown that up to 10 per cent of the North American population has experimented with some form of it.
In recent years, sex clubs, for-hire dominatrixes and fetish shops that cater to the kinky pain-and-pleasure set have popped up across Canada.
But the Quebec death has shaken the sadomasochist community and raised questions over when bondage, discipline, dominance and submission cross the line to become criminal behaviour.
"If the thrill is the risk, if that's part of what's exciting to you, then you're taking a risk. Whenever you take a risk, it doesn't always work out," said Sandra Byers, a sex therapist and chairwoman of the department of psychology at the University of New Brunswick.
Earlier this month, a retired college professor who lives in Montreal became the focus of U.S. media attention when he fell into a three-day coma after being left alone with a dog collar around his neck and a leather hood over his face in a New York sex club. Media reports said the man kept his S&M lifestyle secret from his family in Montreal and escaped to New York to indulge his penchant for bondage and domination.
Many sadomasochists say their sexual behaviour has nothing to do with violence, anger or the will to cause harm to others. Rather, it's a way for people who experience pleasure through pain to "stimulate" each other in a safe environment that is governed by strict codes and rules.
"What you might interpret as pain, another person in the right context interprets that as heightened pleasure," said Susan Wright, spokeswoman for the U.S.-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, who also engages in S&M. "It's different from violence or abuse in that those are cycles of control in terms of non-consensual control."
Ms. Wright said sadomasochists often set specific ground rules before a session to establish limits and code words that tell their partner to stop. Even those who haven't done extensive research on the subject should know their partner's limits, she said.
"It's common sense. It's not like we're doing brain surgery here. We're tying people up and having sex."
But some sexual psychology experts say that there is more to S&M than pain and pleasure, and that the innate emotions that push some people to seek pain as a way to achieve sexual gratification could cause them to take the behaviour too far, reports Globe and Mail.
Judy Kuriansky, a sex therapist and faculty member at the Columbia University Teachers College, said some people may have deep feelings of anger that cause them to accidentally go too far during a session. Even those who are considered professionals in the S&M community can unintentionally cause serious harm or death, Dr. Kuriansky said.
"They know what they're doing, but they can still make a mistake."
Dr. Byers said that while death is uncommon among people who engage in S&M, risk is inherent in the activity and there is potential for someone to get hurt. Although most couples are extremely careful and follow set rules to ensure their partner remains safe, they also accept a certain level of danger simply by engaging in the behaviour, she said.
"If you're taking physical risks then there are the chances of something going wrong. Those are the tragic cases."
The death of the Quebec woman during a reported S&M session isn't the first time someone has died after engaging in sex play:
December, 2007: British media reported that former BBC radio host Kevin Greening died after being hung upside down in a studded bondage harness.
April, 2006: Adrian Exley, who travelled from London for a bondage session, suffocated to death in the closet of a Boston man he met online. He was wrapped in heavy plastic and bound with duct tape while wearing a leather hood.
October, 2002: John Robinson was convicted in the United States of murdering several women after luring them to his home with the promise of sadomasochistic sex. Police discovered he was a serial killer after two women accused him of taking their S&M experience too far.