IT'S JUST YOUR average day in Discovery Bay ... or is it? A group of well-groomed mothers are sitting around chatting and laughing with an invited expert speaker over a glass of wine. It could be a cosmetics party or a course in effective parenting, except that the speaker has some decidedly unusual props and peculiar-shaped nibbles and the topicunder discussion is sex. The host of this gathering is Elaine, an average Hong Kong mother; managing three school-age children, a part-time job and a husband who works long hours. She's also part of a growing trend among her peers that's taking Hong Kong by storm. Welcome to the pleasure party. The speaker is a qualified sexologist who asks to be referred to only as Heather, and she's there to help the women learn how to enhance and explore their sexual pleasure. Hosts such as Elaine invite friends to their home to listen to sexologists such as Heather and find out all about the latest pleasure gadgets. Think Tupperware party, but instead of containers and mixing bowls there are vibrators of all types and sizes and adult movies. Pleasure parties are well established in Britain and the US, but are just starting in Hong Kong. And not a moment too soon if you believe those Durex surveys that claim Hongkongers have one of the poorest bedroom activity rates in the world, having sex just 78 times a year. That's well below the world average of 103 times a year and that of the Greeks, who claim to manage it 138 times a year. Heather says the parties are structured differently, depending on the consultant's style. 'Some will play games in order to help people relax,' she says. 'Some have a more professional, lecturing approach. But basically all consultants talk about the tools in front of them and pass them around so people can see them, touch them, feel them and get an idea as to what's available. 'Most people who've been to the parties have never seen a sex toy up close. They've never touched one, they don't know what they feel like, and they don't understand why something is designed the way it is. A good consultant will be able to talk about a person's sexual anatomy and explain why a particular toy would answer that anatomical design.' It may sound a little embarrassing, but after some wine lubrication it all goes down easier. Elaine admits she was worried about what others would think, but says she's gained from the experience. 'I wouldn't say the party was embarrassing. It was informative. Heather opened a lot of doors for us. Many women can't talk openly about personal things with their girlfriends, but Heather did talk about sexual issues and discussed her own experiences. It's nice to hear that other people have struggled with the same problem. For our group, it was mostly issues following childbirth and how to feel sexual again.' Heather has been consulting at parties in Hong Kong for almost two years. The groups are usually all woman, but she also consults for groups of couples or mixed friends. There's nothing sleazy about it. It's all perfectly respectable and her reluctance to give her full name stems purely from the strange telephone calls she says she receives otherwise. 'It's for audiences of all ages,' she says. 'A lot of people have never received much sex education. And if they have, it's tended to cover information on reproductive health or reproductive anatomy and the consequences of sexuality, focusing on pregnancy and disease. Very few programmes discuss pleasure. To me, sex is extremely important. I believe satisfaction and self-esteem are the source of life's energy. It's what life is all about.' Heather says the aim of the pleasure party is to demystify sexuality and make it more acceptable. The consultants' role is to fill in gaps in sexual knowledge. 'It's like giving someone an operating manual for the body. When you buy an appliance you get a users' guide that defines the functions and features, but nobody's done that for the body. Each person is an expert on his or her own sexuality. We just teach them a little more.' After a pleasure party, guests should walk away with a sense that their sexual attitudes and behaviour and even fantasies are normal. They should be confident to enjoy and explore their own sexuality. 'Our partners have as little information as we do about sex,' Heather says. 'It's important we learn what we like and communicate that information, and our partner should do the same. We must accept our own desires. Hopefully, the pleasure party will make some headway on that front.' For Elaine, the party was a turning point. 'It was realising I wasn't just a mother,' she says. 'It reminded me that I'm in a relationship, and it's not all about the kids. In fact, my husband came home towards the end of the party and ended up talking to Heather for about an hour.' Every party guest has the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with the consultant to discuss sensitive topics. Whether we like it or not, in today's society there's just no getting away from sex. According to Heather, we're all sexual beings and our sexual esteem affects almost every aspect of our lives. So much of how we view ourselves as people is tied up in our sexuality. We relate sex to power. 'Think about the word impotence, which means powerless,' she says. 'Think about how many medications and supplements and procedures are aimed at producing an erection. This implies that to be sexual is to be a powerful person. Sex in the media sells, otherwise we wouldn't use it in advertising. Being sexy and desirable is the driving force behind every human decision. 'I think people who come to my parties walk away with information about their sexual anatomy, what's available for pleasure enhancement, and how to select tools to enhance their own pleasure,' Heather says. 'From all that, they have the ability to make educated decisions about their body, and ways in which they would want to explore their sexuality. Basically, they learn that their sexual satisfaction is in their own hands - literally.' But is it just a laugh or did it really open doors into the bedroom. Elaine admits that initially she didn't know what to expect and was a little nervous. 'We all had a fair amount of wine and, to be honest, I don't think I could have done without it. Heather arrived at my home with a small suitcase packed full of vibrators, games, candles, DVDs and edible food products,' she says. 'Essentially, it's a sex-toy party, but it was fun. There was a lot of laughter. After a few glasses of wine those rabbit vibrators are funny. By the end of the night it would be safe to say that 90 per cent of people had ordered one of the products.'