(Originally published Jan 23, 2008).

Sex is in the air, I thought, staring up at the giant pink penis that hovered near the ceiling, above the table I shared with several other Ottawa writers.

Sexapalooza had arrived in Ottawa.

According to the newspaper, Sexapalooza organizers had hoped to attract 10,000 people to this year’s extravaganza. Based on what I saw Friday evening, they surely must have achieved their objective. Who knew so many horny people could squeeze under one roof — in Ottawa, of all places? I had to fight the excited crowd to circle the building and check out the offerings and exhibits. The air positively hummed with folks of all ages discussing alternative lifestyles — the etiquette of juggling multiple partners, the nuances of bisexuality, the joys of bondage, domination, sado-masochism (BDSM), and the like. Booths overflowed with sex toys, scented oils and candles, fet-wear and boots, leather whips and restraints, lingerie, and, in my case, romance novels.

A Dungeon provided a taste of BDSM for those so inclined (I am not, but was interested to learn more, all in the name of research). In front of a crowd of forty of fifty interested onlookers, the lycra-clad dominatrix lashed a submissive who was stretched out, arms shackled above his head, on a St. Andrew’s cross. This was a real lashing — the whip raised red welts on the poor sucker’s naked back. But not to worry. He was hugely, and I mean hugely, turned on. In another corner, a metal cage confined a masked woman, who was fending off another joker’s pokes and prods with a few well-placed blows from her heavy leather boots.

During the proceedings, I conducted a quick interview with the owner of a local adult emporium about some of the activities. She was kind enough to explain the purpose of the various pieces of bondage equipment and to reassure me that the submissive undergoing the lash was enjoying himself as much as the dominatrix. She explained that if the torment starts gently, the brain releases enough endorphins to protect the body from pain. A skilled dominatrix increases the whipping in tiny increments, and before long, the submissive will hit the pinnacle of ecstasy.

Unfortunately, I missed the topless young lady, who, rumor has it, galloped through the hall, clad in bridle, bit, mask, boots, G-string, and not much else. I did, however, catch the live demo of the bondage bed.

Move over, Mattress Mart, here I come.