Jessica Habie, the filmmaker who created Mars at Sunrise and several award-winning documentaries about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, graduated from California Institute of Integral Studies, earning her Masters of Fine Arts in the Summer of 2018. Her new television series, Here She Comes, seeks to entertain, educate, provoke dialogue, and, ultimately, make your sex life better. We had a chance to catch up with her this summer in the form of the following interview.
First, I understand there is a community-building aspect to your work. Would you tell me about that?
While we’re waiting out the pandemic to begin production, we’ve launched a community-building and conversation campaign online. We just started a few days ago, imagining what the sexual revolution could look like on TV. We have some great videos on Instagram and have started some Facebook posts to connect thought leaders in the sex-positive, sex coaching, and sex education community, to ask: ‘what would you like to see represented of your work, and how can we support you?’ And through this growing community, I already have gotten to see the TV show taking off; that’s been really fun.
Before we speak about a sexual revolution, let’s define the problem. What is it we are getting wrong?
In this country, we have a fractured relationship to sexuality and intimacy, in the sense that we use sex to sell everything, and yet, it’s hard to have a mature conversation around it. And it is hard for people to find resources when they want to improve their sexual relationships. So, I would say it’s not so much that anyone’s doing anything wrong. It’s that the maturity of our conversations could be significantly advanced. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Not use sex to sell or entertain, but look at the deeper impulses underneath our erotic personalities.
What was the genesis of this desire to educate and open an international dialogue — because, as an international activist, much of your work plays before a global audience?
Well, it started when I decided, just out of curiosity, to train to become a sex coach. I trained with Celeste Hirschman, MA and Danielle Harel, Ph.D., two sexual pioneers and relationship coaches who invented the Somatica Method. As a trainee, I thought that the concepts they were bringing forward were the most powerful and precise explanations of how sexuality affects our day to day lives. I felt like they laid out a system by which we could look at how sexuality relates to all realms of our existence and how you could work with sexual energy to enrich and unblock your life.
The show came from going to the training and saying, ‘“everybody needs to know this.” This isn’t just a training for people who want to be sex coaches or people who are on a personal erotic exploration. There’s nobody in this universe who wouldn’t benefit from knowing that this language exists.
It sounds like inquiry still plays a massive role in your practice, even after graduating from CIIS.
The study of inquiry at CIIS gave me a language for what I was already doing, and it helped me establish myself as a multidisciplinary artist. It’s a way of interacting with all of the elements of creativity, nurturing, and expanding your creative muscle.
It was a good match for my brain to study creativity rather than technique, and nobody gets far without a good dose of curiosity.
What are society’s obstacles to sexual intimacy and openness?
I think it’s a repression that comes from shame. One of the central tenants of the philosophy of the women who invented this technique is that they are shame warriors. They were continually looking for the ways that we shame each other, how society shames people around their identities — their sexualities.
Once I became aware of that, I could see how shame silences people. And now, with that lens, the stories we’re writing try to illuminate a world in which we don’t have to live with that shame or at least we don’t have to carry it alone.
The two protagonists of your series, these sex coaches: Emma and Rene — are they based on these individuals you studied under?
Emma and Renee are fictional. But the characters were inspired by the life and work of Celeste and Danielle, and the original methodology of the Somatica Institute. For my characters, I took elements from each of their lives. So, their work inspired it, yet they’re two entirely fictional women that are a synthesis of those two, myself, and just about every other woman I’ve ever known.
The program sort of imagines these two women who are early in their careers, at the beginning of developing this technique, which would become the Somatica Method.
Celeste and Danielle have been so willing to share with me and work on the scripts making sure the cases that we depict have the weight and depth of real issues — real people’s desires, obstacles, and struggles.
Would you tell me more about the Somatica Method?
Yes. So. It’s unique because it’s experiential. It’s coaching, not therapy. In traditional talk therapy, therapists try to keep their distance from their patients. In Somatica coaching, it’s different. The relationship is the tool. The connection is the experience. So rather than trying to stay distant and safe, you enter into an authentic relationship with your client where you can explore erotic energy to learn about technique, learn confidence-building skills, and all of the tools of emotional and erotic intimacy.
Also, you acknowledge that relationship. There’s always a relationship between human beings; it can’t be escaped. And that’s what I thought was just mind-blowingly unique — what made me feel that this is the future of helping people have more fulfilling lives. Because once you allow the relationship in the room and acknowledge it, I find that transformation and healing can happen a lot quicker. It’s like if you’re going to teach someone how to ride a bike, at some point, they have to get on the bike. And if you’re going to teach someone about erotic technique, at some point, you need to get into that erotic energy, but within established boundaries. Some people come in, and they only talk, they never practice touch-based work. But when they do, the healing can happen a lot faster.
The courses are also for individuals and couples who don’t just want to settle for “good enough” in their sex lives and relationships. It’s for people who want it to be excellent. They want to keep exploring, believing our sexuality is something that we need to invest in and explore continually. The goal is, we are trying to create a world in which going to see a sex coach has no more stigma than seeing a personal trainer. We get support in every other aspect of our lives. Why not around our sexuality?
What would you say to someone who may feel anxious about bringing an outsider into the intimacy of their relationship?
I think it is about expanding and exploring — asking, what are we comfortable with? And what are we willing to risk to have greater levels of pleasure?
You get all different kinds of comfort levels. Even in the show, some people come in as a couple and don’t engage in any kind of touch therapy. It may not be what they’re interested in. However, another woman might come in and say, ‘just take my husband and teach him how to do the thing I want. I’m tired of trying to teach him.’
The very nature of a program that explores sexuality lends itself to comedic situations. Does comedy play a role in Here She Comes?
Nothing that humans do around sex isn’t funny. It’s hilarious. And I think that’s part of it. We are not just trying to show glossy, polished, perfect sexuality, or even taboo, challenging sexuality. It’s about the things that go wrong, and the humor in how seriously we take ourselves as humans. So, yes, the show has a lot of fun.
These days, my mind is begging for anything comedic — anything light. But in the past, your work has centered around the dislocated people of the Palestinian state and Israeli militarism. How does that activist’s spirit carry forward into your new work?
I think they are inseparable. The activist spirit is never far. But, what’s different about Here She Comes is that it’s not experimental, and it’s not overtly political, but it’s bold, and it’s provocative.
In regards to the right to express sexual freedom, and whose sexual expression gets repressed, it is a vital political conversation. Because I do think a lot of our militarism comes from the suppression of sexual energy.
I do think that a show about the next sexual revolution has the potential to be super powerful and provocative, but it’s not about that. This time it’s about excellent storytelling and characters that you want to hang out with and watch them grow and fuck up and try again.
Follow @hereshecomestv all summer to participate in a collaborative campaign, Imagining Sexual Revolution.
For more information on the Somatica Method, visit https://www.somaticainstitute.com/.
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