Tantric sex comes to Dublin (clothes are optional) . . .
The first time many of us heard of Tantric sex was back in 1990 when rock star Sting boasted of seven-hour lovemaking marathons with his wife, Trudie Styler.
While the ex-Police front man did eventually confess that his use of yoga to achieve prolonged states of ecstasy may have been a little exaggerated, the story stuck and has now become part of the legend.
The reality about all things Tantric is somewhat different, and for those keen to expand their knowledge of sexual health and pleasure, Ireland's first sex festival this weekend at Dublin's Morrison Hotel may go a long way to providing some enlightenment.
If you feel so inclined, it will even be possible to enjoy the creature comforts of this famous hotel in the buff -- if you're brave enough to let it all hang out at certain workshops, that is.
The two-day Bliss Festival aims to blow away some of our lingering cobwebs around the topic of sexuality. Some of us, it seems, still need a push to chat about that old 'nudge nudge, wink wink' business beneath the duvet.
"The festival is about creating an exploration of adult sexuality in a supportive and open-minded atmosphere," says organiser Beth Wallace, a counsellor in sexual health and reproductive rights.
The advertising tagline for Bliss is "sexual pleasure, freedom and health, in mind, body and spirit", and includes a number of 'playshops' like the Sex & Magick workshop led by expert in this field Rodney Orpheus covering the history of sexual magic, its influences from Eastern Tantric teachings, and its modern day practice.
Lynn Patterson describes her Tantra Massage as "a three-hour playshop where you can dip your toes into the art and practice of tantra massage with your partner. Nudity and intimate touch are involved, though nudity is not necessary."
Designed for men only, the Ultimate Lover Bootcamp by certified Tantric counsellor Lorae Lauritch "is designed to help men get more mileage out of their sexual engagement and become a more skilful lover by turning sex into lovemaking."
For anybody who has never attended an event like this, Wallace believes the programme offers visitors a variety of topics catering to all from the mildly interested to the avidly engaged. "It runs from a massage workshop to relationships counselling, to a talk on contraception by the Irish Family Planning Clinic."
Whether you want to simply look and listen, or enthusiastically take part in the various workshops, the atmosphere appears to be designed as an easygoing experience.
If the general topic of sex has become much more accessible in the mainstream media of 2012, the lingering after-effects of generations of negative body image and shame at any open discussion of personal sexuality continues to persist, Beth believes.
"The holistic approach to sexuality, involving the mind, body and spirit is an area often overlooked, and one of the main reasons behind this festival," she says.
And while that old chestnut of Sting and Trudie's Tantric sex shenanigans continues to haunt them 20 years later, Beth is wary of high-profile celebrities presenting such practices in the wrong context.
"You don't need to be a wealthy rock star to partake of an art as old as time; the pleasures of Tantric are available to anyone regardless of their age or social standing," she says.
Tantra, for the uninitiated, comes from a grouping of 5th-Century Hindu and Buddhist texts referring to all aspects of life around meditation, food, cleansing the body, yoga, sex and breathing.
As to what kind of people are expected this weekend, at an earlier half-day tester Bliss event held last February, the audience consisted of "parents, students, barristers, chefs, psychologists, unemployed, business owners and IT workers", says Beth.
"It was evenly divided between the genders and ran from early-20s up to late-60s. They were single, married, separated, divorced and monogamous," she added. "I would expect a similar cross section this weekend."
Despite the liberated world of 2012, potentially delicate topics like nudity at the event are entirely optional. "Some workshops may be clothing optional, but this will be clearly stated on their information."
While a gathering like this might well have prompted a chorus of protest 20 years ago, Beth expects no such drama this weekend.
"I'm sure there are people who might not agree with this kind of event, but I'd have no worries about any protest. Essentially, we are simply trying to promote an open minded, open-hearted, non-judgmental experience designed to help people enhance their lives."
Admission: €60 Saturday, €80 Sunday, or €110 for the weekend. See www.blissfestival.org