"Raise your hand if you've squirted before."
Approximately fifty women are spread across the floor, sitting on the towels we were instructed to bring. Eight raise their hand. Our instructor Christine surveys us, nodding sagely.
We are in a hot, stuffy room in a community hall, at a workshop on the art of "Sacred Squirting." There is an ancient relationship between women and water, according to the Taste of Love festival website, which promises a "ceremonial session" with the space to "explore our female nature, and release the emotions stored in the vagina."
The festival is held in Byron Bay, the Australian epicentre of all things New Age and accepting of credit cards. Christine is a Danish dancer, singer, songwriter, "spiritual midwife" and "light warrior" who lives in a yurt on the island of Mon in Denmark, so if anyone can teach curious women how to squirt, and how to do it spiritually, it is probably her.
Once we have settled in, Christine starts to talk in a soft voice about female ejaculation. We lean forward, straining to hear her squirting secrets. "Your g-spot is the gateway to your soul," she says.
A woman raises her hand: "Is it water or urine that comes out?"
"It's water from the large tissue surrounding the G-spot," Christine replies. "Squirting is all about our interconnectedness and our sacred waters."
Squirting, or female ejaculation, has been a point of intense curiosity throughout history. The topic was first broached in the West around 300 BC by Hippocrates and Aristotle, and features in fourth-century Taoist texts that outline the liquid's mystical and healthful properties.
Enter the 19th century, however, and things get far less celebratory. "Richard von Krafft-Ebing—the first modern 'sex doctor'—described female ejaculation as related almost exclusively to homosexuality in women," Alex Dymock, a lecturer at Lancashire's Edge Hill University, told VICE. "It was linked to fears of the degenerate, whose 'weakness' was owed to their sexual aberrance."
Feel the rough parts. Feel the ripples in your vagina.
No longer: The word "squirt" is now the third most-searched porn term in Australia, and today's workshop is part of a wider global movement helping women to explore their sexuality and spirituality. Ascribing spirituality to sexual experiences has become its own movement, or industry, with festivals and classes the world over offering everything from "Dancing Eros" and "Yoni Yoga" to "The Art of Zen Spanking."
Meantime, here in "Sacred Squirting," we are attempting to mimic Christine, who is gyrating her hips and instructing us to feel our precious female energy. Moments later, she is on the floor, entirely naked save for her long flowing skirt, which is hoisted around her thighs. She slides two fingers in and out of her vagina, explaining how to find the right spot to stimulate.
"It's different for every women," she explains. "Have a try!"
In less than a minute, most of the women have eagerly undressed, baring their tattoos and bare bodies. Christine continues her thrusting, describing what she's doing. After some time she begins to do something that can only be described as a squeal; then she tilts her pelvis and, with a big smile on her face, releases a water fountain from her vagina, which—no joke—shoots out onto the women in the front row.
The women shriek and laugh. The fluid keeps coming. A woman in the front row has sacred water on the angel wings tattooed on her back.
"It's a release!" Christine says.
Next, a two-minute talk on technique, and suddenly it's our turn. Fifty women start masturbating the area around their G-spot; some are lying down while others squat on their knees. "Woo!" a woman cries out and raises her hand into the air, as the beads of her necklace jiggle around her neck. "Top of the class!" someone yells in reply.
By this time I have taken off my clothes. With the room heating up, it's a relief. Although my vital stats make my G-spot hard to reach: I am a little over six foot and have a lengthy lower torso.
"Feel the rough parts—go in further," Christine urges encouragingly. "Feel the ripples in your vagina." She calls women to the front and leads them through the process, chanting and making burrring sounds like a mother bird. Then she tosses a box of rubber gloves and coconut oil into the centre of the room, instructing us casually to "Find a partner and do it to each other."
The noise in the room gets louder. Some women moan and some giggle. "Keep your voices soft," Christine reminds them, adding that women's mouths correlate to their vaginas. "If your mouth is soft, your vagina will release."
Read More: Learning How to Orgasm Without Any Touching
Some more women appear to orgasm, their unselfconscious groans piercing the stifling heat. Others keep on trying to make it happen, like they are in some kind of race. Next to me, two women are taking turns on each other: One lays down and the other goes in with two fingers encased in a white rubber glove. The former announces that she felt herself orgasm, but sadly there was no fluid.
Whether or not female ejaculation actually "exists," for want of a better word, has been a subject debate among experts for decades, with only a few scientific studies looking into the mechanics. In 2015, a paper was published in The Journal Of Sexual Medicine looking into the secretions of seven women who reported emitting about a cup each of fluid during sex. After analyzing this fluid, researchers discovered that the liquid from all seven women consisted primarily of urine—although in five samples there was also a bit of the antigen (PSA) enzyme, located in the prostate in men and the Skean glands in women.
So as to whether female ejaculate is just pee, the answer is yes. And no. But mostly yes.
Of course, no one is thinking about this as the second hour comes to a close, and Christine picks up her guitar to sing a folk song in her native tongue. As she cruises dreamily around the room and strums, the woman finish their squirting attempts. A couple to my right simultaneously kiss, cry, and laugh.
By the time Christine finishes the song and the curtains are opened, everyone sits upright and gets dressed, ready to leave. "That was fucking awesome," a participant says, grabbing her hand in gratitude. "You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing what you know."