Today on the podcast we are joined by Danielle Harel, Ph.D and Celeste Hirschman. They are the cofounders of the Somatica Institute of Sex and Relationship Coaching.
Quick Warning: While this woman's story & subsequent BJ tutorial video is quite distressing, it will teach you how to make your man scream with pleasure and become sexually addicted to you. If you are interested in having your guy completely obsessed with you and only you, then check out her story & (explicit!) blow job tutorial video here.
Danielle Harel received her Ph.D. and Doctorate degree in Human Sexuality from The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. She has a graduate degree in Clinical Social Work and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Educational Counseling. Celeste Hirschman received her Master’s Degree in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
In their teaching, Danielle and Celeste connect with unconditional love, erotic energy, and presence to help their students and clients deepen their insight on self-awareness. They’ve also coauthored the books Making Love Real and Cockfidence, and this episode they share more about the importance of vulnerability and empathy in relationships, and how to be more mindful in your sex life. We also dive into ways to work through shame and fully embrace your sexual desires and fantasies without feeling judged. For an incredibly insightful conversation, be sure to tune in to today’s episode!
- The story of how Danielle and Celeste met, and founded the Somatic Institute.
- Somatica: an experiential approach to sexuality and relationships.
- Importance of vulnerability for having a good sex life.
- Most common reasons why we often struggle to be vulnerable with our partners.
- How mindfulness plays a role in having better sex.
- Advice for couples who want to develop mindfulness.
- Learning to have embodied empathy when it comes to your relationship.
- Understanding how to process shame and embrace your sexuality.
- Key elements of a healthy relationship: attachment and individuation.
“The more that we can be vulnerable about our deepest desires and longings, the more that we can give each other the most hot, fulfilling sex.” — Celeste Hirschman [0:08:32]
Resources, extended show notes and contact details can be accessed by clicking here.
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[0:01:12.5] Sean Jameson: Today, I’m talking to Danielle Harel, Ph.D and Celeste Hirshman and they are the cofounders of the Somatica Institute of Sex and Relationship Coaching and in their teaching, they connect with unconditional love, erotic energy, and presence to help their students and clients deepen their insight on self-awareness. They’ve also coauthored the books Making Love Real and Cockfidence.
Danielle, Celeste, thanks so much for coming on The Bad Girls Bible Podcast.
[0:01:42.4] Celeste Hirschman: Thank you so much for having us.
[0:01:44.2] Danielle Harel: We’re very excited to join you here.
[0:01:46.1] Sean Jameson: So I’d love to start off maybe with your background, how you guys met, and then how you both came to found the Somatica Institute, if that’s okay?
[0:01:57.4] Celeste Hirschman: Absolutely. This is Celeste, I started off very interested in human sexuality from a young age and I kind of knew that it was something that I wanted to do. So I went through my Master’s program and it was very research-oriented and you know, a lot of good information about sort of sexuality, politics, all of those kinds of things. But we didn’t really talk about sex. So I kind of felt there is something missing there and I started to go for more experiential training and ended up in this certification training for sexological bodywork, which was where Danielle was getting her Ph.D and she and I met in that training and we really clicked in terms of our sort of beliefs about how all of these should be taught in an experiential way.
[0:02:39.1] Danielle Harel: Yeah. This is Danielle Harel, and I got excited at some point, I moved to the US, I’m originally Israeli. I moved with my family here and I got – I was always excited about sex when I was a teenager but then it was more intellectual, Masters and Johnson, reading a lot of books and I was like, “Wow, who gets to do this work? That’s probably not something that you can live off,” and then I buried it, I studied psychology, I went and studied clinical social work, moved to the US and told myself like, “Wow,” — I started my own journey, looked, kind of opening my sexuality and finding my own, what turns me on and feeling very connected and alive around my sexuality.
Because I was talking with everyone about sex, a friend told me, “You know, you should be a sex coach,” and I was like what? That never occurred to me and then this dream from early on opened up again and I went back to school and I met Celeste and since there, it’s history.
[0:03:41.9] Sean Jameson: Awesome. Before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about a guy who’s fantasy was to be devoured by a tribe in the Amazon. I know that’s a bit random to start off a podcast, but I’m just wondering if you could maybe retell the story just for our listeners?
[0:04:02.3] Celeste Hirschman: Absolutely. My pleasure. One of the things that we really try to do is we have couples that come into our office and they’re in long-term relationships and we want to help them revitalize their sex life. The way that we help them do that is to really understand what turns them on, on a deep level and have them accept and celebrate each other’s fantasies and then seeing how they want to participate.
This couple came in, they were so adorable, sort of like sweet, older couple. You would never guess what’s going on in their mind and he starts talking about this fantasy of like being surrounded by this group of Amazons and he’s like kind of tied to a table and they have knives and forks and they’re ready to eat him alive and I think his wife was a little wide-eyed at first when she heard his fantasy but again, we had created a lot of safety and told her, you know, she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do.
So once we got out more the idea that there’s a lot of different ways to play out a fantasy and it doesn’t have to be reality, obviously, because he can’t literally be devoured by a tribe of Amazons anyways.
[0:05:04.8] Sean Jameson: It would be problematic. It might be a little bit problematic
[0:05:10.0] Celeste Hirschman: Exactly. But, what they could do was you know, she could tie him up to the bed and then as she was like biting him and kissing him and touching him, she could tell him a story about this happening and they had tons of fun with that. They were playing with it, you know, a little bit in our office and we were helping them like figure out how to – what kinds of things to say and what would turn him on the most and then they went home and tried it at home and it definitely spiced up their sex life, in addition to him finding out a lot about what turned her on as well but it wasn’t quite so exotic as that.
[0:05:45.5] Sean Jameson: Awesome. Well, sounds like he was able to explore it at least?
[0:05:49.7] Celeste Hirschman: Yeah, it was really nice that she was open.
[0:05:52.4] Sean Jameson: So I want to talk to you too, about Somatica and how this kind of experimental type of sex coaching can really help and maybe even revolutionize someone’s sex life and their relationship. But maybe first of all, we could step back a little bit and you could just maybe give our listeners, my listeners an overview of what Somatica is.
[0:06:16.2] Danielle Harel: Yeah. So Somatica is an experiential approach to sexuality and relationship and because Celeste and I came both from research and theoretical approach and you know, I came from therapy, Celeste came from research and we also both studied hands-on erotic approaches to sexuality, that’s where we met, we kind off saw what is it out there in the world around what’s available for people, what kind of approach can help them and what we found is that people needed something that combines both the approach that’s more therapeutic and the approach, the more talk approach to sexuality. But they need much more of a hands on experiential approach.
When I mean, they really need to practice. People cannot just like go and do, learn about sex without having any idea of, you know, how they show up to the other person or the feedback that without getting feedback. As we were developing it, we starting to really notice that people respond well to feedback that they get from us. We created the exercise that helped them explore sexuality, while also connecting the emotional pieces in it.
[0:07:35.3] Sean Jameson: Awesome. While I was reading up about Somatica for this podcast and the topic of vulnerability came up a bunch and I’m wondering if one of you could talk a little bit about that, about how important vulnerability is to a good sex life?
[0:07:52.8] Celeste Hirschman: Sure, I would be happy to. I mean, I think it’s essential to a good sex ed and especially to a good emotional connection, which is also obviously often essential to a good sex life and not only do we teach our clients to be vulnerable with each other but we also teach in a really vulnerable way.
One of the biggest problems, I think, with teachers is that they act like they have it all together and then their students feel like someday they’re going to have it all together or their clients feel like that and we don’t believe that’s true. We’re all on a growth journey forever and the more that we can be honest about our challenges in a vulnerable way as opposed to attacking or blaming and shaming each other, the more that we can understand and empathize with one another and the more that we can be vulnerable about our deepest desires and longings, the more that we can give each other the most hot, fulfilling sex.
I think it’s very challenging, you could say to somebody like, “You need to be more romantic,” or you know, “Why don’t you ever give me compliments?” It’s much harder to say like, “You know, would you tell me how you feel about me?” Or you know, “Sometimes I feel a little bit rejected, would you be willing to say what a cute butt I have?” Or you know, whatever it is, it’s easier to kind of like criticize someone else or shame them open yourself vulnerably to telling them like you know, “I like this guy, you know, my fantasies are about being surrounded by these women who want to devour me.”
That’s a very vulnerable thing to say because somebody could be very judgmental in the face of that if they don’t have the right atmosphere in which to have those kinds of conversations. Those are the conversations that really intensify sex because it’s like, the thing you’re touching on, the actual cord of the fantasy as opposed to just shooting in the dark, you know?
[0:09:35.4] Sean Jameson: What are the reasons for people struggling with being vulnerable to their partner?
[0:09:43.4] Celeste Hirschman: I do feel like it’s a big piece of – it could be self-shame like you feel embarrassed about what your desires or your fantasies are, or what your challenges are. Or you could be afraid that the other person is going to shame you and maybe they have in some way, you know, saying, “Oh, you just want sex,” or, “What’s wrong with you? That’s a dirty, disgusting fantasy,” and I think, if there’s any of those kinds of attitudes of criticism or shaming in the atmosphere, it’s really hard to say your most vulnerable desires, right?
Because when you start talking about your sexual fantasies, that’s stuff that we don’t usually share with anyone. You know, because it’s very personal and it sort of tells a lot about who you are and what you want for yourself and kind of what your wounds are and all those kinds of things. So it’s very exposing and there needs to be a really safe place for that to happen.
[0:10:30.5] Sean Jameson: Absolutely. I guess you touched on making sure that there’s a safe space for that to happen, but do you have any other advice then for people that want to overcome it, what should they do?
[0:10:45.3] Danielle Harel: Yeah, overcome the shame, you’re talking about?
[0:10:48.5] Sean Jameson: Yeah, they want to be vulnerable, they understand its importance, but they just feel — Like you said, they feel like shame or they feel like something’s blocking them that they’re scared.
[0:10:58.5] Danielle Harel: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense because we do have a lot of shaming in our culture around like what turns people on and you know, people feel like it’s perverted or not okay and go into hiding and feel like very challenging to share and what we do a lot in Somatica is deshamify everything that people bring. Because people’s desires are wonderful and we start to separate between the desire and the acting on the desire, we create the space between those two things because the desires are beautiful.
Then, for partners to start this conversation, it’s good to start to separate between, “Wow, what turns you on is wonderful, it doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily want to participate in all of it, but I just want to start by hearing everything that you have and really starting to celebrate what people want as opposed to be worrying, if the partner is worrying, now I need to do all of this. Shame is just around the corner or shaming or judgment is just around the corner. If they said “Wow, this is my partner and I get to see what turns them on. This is fascinating, this is amazing,” and really being in that space instead of like, “I need to participate?” that’s the most – the best attitude to bring into those conversations.
[0:12:18.6] Sean Jameson: Awesome. Moving in a different direction, what about mindfulness? You know, how can mindfulness play a role in having better sex?
[0:12:29.3] Celeste Hirschman: Yeah, I think mindfulness and maybe what we would call sort of presence or embodiment all are really helpful in having better sex. Because the more that you’re in your experience and able to engross those physiological and the psychological pleasure of it, the more the deeper the arousal and the more in our bodies we are as opposed to just in our heads, worrying about what’s going to happen next or how we feel, and how our partner feels about each other about us, the more that we’re just like fully engaged in the sensations throughout our body and especially kind of reclaiming connection and presence with our pelvic floors and our whole genitals and all that to have the full experience.
Sometimes people have sort of distanced themselves from their body because off for so many different reasons, body shame or pain or, you know, just because they get rewarded so much for being in our head. So a lot of what Somatica does is help us get more in our bodies in a sexy way and learn how to be fully present in pleasure.
We also have sort of anti-pleasure, right? We have this work ethic that makes us feel like pleasure is trivial. Where pleasure is indeed essential to our wellbeing like I feel like there would be way less depression and way less heart disease and all those kinds of things if we had a pleasure ethic instead of a work ethic because we would learn, we would relax and our bodies would rejuvenate and renew when they needed to.
[0:13:55.3] Sean Jameson: I might be a little bit cheaper than spending all this money on statins.
[0:14:00.6] Celeste Hirschman: Yes.
[0:14:04.2] Sean Jameson: So what advice would you have then to a couple who wants to develop mindfulness, where should they start?
[0:14:11.1] Danielle Harel: I think a lot of it is starting in paying attention, we use breath in our practice and breathing and paying attention and also like really going inside and starting to notice, you know, what turns you on is, being mindful to what turns you on is a practice of mindfulness. Being aware and nonjudgmental to the thoughts and the turns on that you have are practices of mindfulness. Really combining what mindfulness has to offer out there with somatic can be a wonderful win/win combo.
[0:14:46.9] Sean Jameson: Do you think, I mean, it’s pretty obvious this next question; do you think people should develop compassion? Of course they should. But, you know, how would you advise a couple to be compassionate when it comes to their sex life when it comes to their relationship?
[0:15:04.5] Celeste Hirschman: Yeah, I think the word that we use more is empathetic. I mean, compassion is wonderful but it has a little bit of a distanced feel to it. Like, you know, you can kind of be compassionate about everybody in the world but empathy is where you actually feel in an embodied way, your partner’s both pleasurable and painful emotions.
To learn how to have embodied empathy means to connect your body, your nervous system, your emotional self with your partner’s emotional self and that embodied empathy creates a circuit of pleasure and you know, potentially positive and emotional repair. Like if there is negative challenges in their relationship to learn how to really empathize with the other person’s hurts and needs is really essential to deepening of intimacy and then to empathize with your partner’s pleasure where you actually feel their pleasure in your body, deepens fulfillment. So yeah, we talk a lot about empathy and the couple’s relationship.
[0:16:02.4] Sean Jameson: Would you have any examples or maybe exercises, a couple listening could do to help improve their empathy?
[0:16:10.5] Celeste Hirschman: Yeah, we have a really nice circuit exercise where you sit in front of each other and you start to – you start out inside of yourself and then close your eyes and you do maybe like three minutes of breathing first down into your chest, then into your belly, then all the way down into your pelvic floor and you might even do some PC squeezes or Kegels to kind of ramp up the erotic energy in your body a little bit and then you look at your partner and you start to breathe them into your body and you kind of feel this circuit created and then once you feel some desire going in between your eyes and you can kind of feel the sensations moving through your body, then you bring in some very light kind of feathery, sexy touch while you’re looking at each other and breathing.
Then you can kind of feel like as you touch the other person’s skin, you might feel goosebumps come up and you might feel the energy of their arousal resonating through your body as well. So it creates this really nice circuit that can be a great place to start with sex. You know, you might not sit down formally, but you might be lying next to each other and looking in each other’s eyes and breathing and then slowly start touching and engaging with your own pelvic floor and then touching their body and maybe you do some grabbing or squeezing after the feather touch and that can kind of get things going. Of course, you can also bring in any of the fantasies, sharing fantasies verbally with each other or knowing what your partner wants and then moving into more of the kinds of sexy life to have. That initial part can really increase embodied empathy.
[0:17:49.6] Sean Jameson: That was great.
[0:17:50.7] Danielle Harel: Also another thing, in our book, Making Love Real, we have great exercises. It’s not just a theoretical book that explains the journey that couples can take together to embody connection and build more empathy. We have more exercise that help couples create to that in addition to what Celeste shared right now.
[0:18:14.5] Sean Jameson: Awesome, I will make sure to include a link to the book in the show notes.
So why do people become disconnected from their own bodies and then get stuck in their head, connect life and do you have any advice then how they can reconnect with their bodies?
[0:18:35.9] Danielle Harel: Yeah, so I think we are a culture that really invites people to think a lot and ideas are very celebrated but not so much play or embodiment or touch or things like that. That is considered luxury and in places that – so there is a lot of constriction that happens to the body and if you add to this so much criticism about how our bodies look like, instead of celebrating the variety of bodies that being like, “Oh you need to look like that,” or a lot of body shaming in terms of looks.
It creates disconnect from who we are in our bodies and we start to say, “Oh, I need to generate ideas here and be creative in that way.” But the disconnect from the body also cuts us out of our creativity because the body is not only a clothes hanger. It actually has a lot of aliveness in it and it gives us a lot of information. It can give us a lot of information, a lot of feelings about sensations, about what we like and what we don’t like and starting to look at the body as a guide can be such a wonderful way to develop more creativity intuition, aliveness and of course, shamelessness, which we are really looking for.
[0:19:52.9] Sean Jameson: So, you mentioned people experiencing shame. Do you have any advice then for how people can comfortably embrace their sexuality and sort of process their shame, deal with it and then overcome it?
[0:20:08.0] Celeste Hirschman: Yeah, I think there is multiple ways. I mean, one of them is people come into our office all the time and they tell us what they think of as deepest darkest fantasies and we are just constantly, “Oh my god that is so hot. That is so sexy.” Because people have fantasies about – because power is such a big part of some people’s fantasies and power dynamics can seem very taboo like a big age difference or even rape fantasies. Some people have rape fantasies, a lot of women actually or sort of like non-consent. All of those things are things that can be really arousing to people in their fantasy life and they often have a lot of guilt and shame and sharing it.
But if we can say, “Of course that turns you on because you are turned on by power, that is the feeling that you want to play with either powerfulness or powerlessness and so you are playing that in your mind and just because you play them in your mind doesn’t mean that you want anybody to be harmed out in the world.” So we can say like, “That is so hot, it is arousing to think of the intensity of those power differences being played out,” and then how can you play with power in your sex life with someone who’s consenting and interested in doing those things with you in a way that feels really fulfilling?
So I think talking to somebody and even reading books about that kind of normalized all of the different kinds of desires that people have can help you with their shame and talking to other people who also feel like those fantasies are wonderful really, really helps a lot. You know, there are support groups or online forums or something like that, just anywhere where you are not going to be shamed for having those thoughts and ideas can be really helpful to be accepted and celebrated.
[0:21:48.3] Sean Jameson: Thank you for that. So what does the term “hottest sexual movie” mean and why do you think it’s an important concept?
[0:21:58.7] Danielle Harel: Yes, so we all we have a reason. I always ask people, “Why bother having sex, you know? Like what’s the big deal? It’s easy, you can let go, open your porn, read your book, like get off just do something by yourself, why is it such a big deal about connecting and having sex with each other?” And the reason that people actually bother to have sex with each other and excited and looking for the opportunities and hopefully they do, is because they want to feel something.
They really want to have some good, some specific feeling. It is not always a good feeling but they’re looking to have some sort of feeling that really touches them. So when we are looking and we all have those unique feelings that we want to feel and then the hottest sexual movies, the way to help us create the scene or create a situation or create a movie, I don’t mean like really needing to go to the movie. Like all the little experiences that we have that help us get to this feeling.
For example, some people really want to feel seen, okay? For them feeling seen is going to be a good feeling that they want to feel. So having someone, the movie is going to be a lot about someone checking them out and taking the time to really like see them undress or see their sexual expression and celebrating their sexual expression or every part of their body, okay? Another feeling can be that someone might feel that they want to be humiliated.
Some people do that as well. That is what turns them on around sex and the movie is going to be the whole scene like someone’s like humiliating them during sex or telling them like shaming them that’s by the way a good way to work with shame is to play some scenes like that during sex. So to plan when we shame because when we do stuff with agency we’ve called we would do stuff in a way that’s creative sort of an empowerment because we choose to do it, that can be very empowering and definitely a big turn on for many, many people.
[0:24:07.3] Sean Jameson: Absolutely and just to be clear, when you are saying say maybe being humiliated during sex, you are talking about doing it in a totally consensual, agreed upon way.
[0:24:18.9] Danielle Harel: Of course, everything that we say is — No one want’s to be humiliated for real. Those experiences, sex is there to repair the old experiences that people have when they were really humiliated or hurt in that way and now they’re getting sex to have a positive experience that repairs the old experience.
[0:24:38.3] Celeste Hirschman: Where they are in charge and everything is consensual.
[0:24:41.2] Sean Jameson: Absolutely. So then, is great sex all that’s required to have a happy healthy relationship, or is there more to it?
[0:24:52.1] Celeste Hirschman: Absolutely not. It is really helpful but I think a healthy relationship has a couple of key aspects. One of them is a deep sense of attachment and trust that your partner is there, accepts you for who you are, isn’t going anywhere and really cares about you and loves you and wants to be with you. So that’s the attachment aspect and then the relationship also needs individuation where each person is also being true themselves and following their own dreams and desires and it is accepted for the ways in which they are different from each other in the relationship and sex actually can be an aspect of both of those, right?
Sex can really bond and glue people together just because you’re sharing all of these hormonal releases and all of these pleasurable sensations with each other and it can also be a place where your individuality is celebrated and so it can be a place where your partner really accepts your desires no matter what they are and is willing to give to you what it is that you want within their boundaries and comfort and vice versa. So it is a place to deepen both your sense that this person really loves me and wants to do with me and that they fully accept who I am.
[0:26:01.1] Sean Jameson: So you mentioned attachment and individuation there. So sort of being securely attached but also then having your own independent life. So do you have any advice for couples that want to work on balancing their individuality and independence versus giving themselves to their partner and to their relationship?
[0:26:25.7] Celeste Hirschman: I think that is the hardest dance of a relationship, right? It is the one that we are always navigating all the time. Like “Okay I really want this thing but if I am afraid to tell my partner because of how they will feel about it?” Or, “Oh my partner is really bugging me that they do this, why can’t they stop doing it? It makes me so uncomfortable,” right? Or, “I want them to be more connected and loving with me.”
So it is something that we are negotiating all the time and I think what’s really helpful is that we have an open and honest conversation about it and just to say, “Hey it’s hard to navigate the tension between wanting to be fully connected with someone and wanting to be truly who you are.” That’s always going to cause some conflict and challenge in relationships. Instead of thinking that there will be a time in your relationship when all of the conflict and challenge goes away, which is a pipe dream, you know I actually saying, “Hey, we are navigating the tensions of being true to ourselves and being connected. Can we talk openly about the challenges of that navigation and really understand that when we have triggers and those kinds of things in the midst of them it’s not because our relationship is messed up or either one of us is messed up,” is because that’s a hard thing to do.
[0:27:34.2] Sean Jameson: Absolutely. So guys, Celeste, Danielle, this has been a really good conversation and I’m just wondering, it has been really good overview of I think what Somatica is. But I am wondering if people would like to find out more about Somatica, more about you, where is the best place for them to do that?
[0:27:53.6] Danielle Harel: So there are a few ways; first we have our website, which is Somaticainstitute.com and so is celesteanddanielle.com but I think because our – and you can find a lot of information there and we also have the book that you mentioned, Making Love Real and Cockfidence. But I think what is very unique about Somatica is the experiential part and sometimes you don’t get those things with all of the most amazing information out there that’s in writing or videos.
You don’t get the experience until you get to yourself like really experiencing yourself with other people and being mirrored by other people about who you are and how they see, how they experience you and you get to see other people in their behavior, which is honestly the most powerful way to alleviate shame and learn new things is engaging with other people. So our trainings would be a wonderful place to go and learn and experience those things.
We have a core training come up on April but we have a free intro to it in March 9th and you can see other days on the website, on Somaticainstitute.com. We are also going to offer the first time ever training in the UK in June for couples that are — and for professionals who want to work with couples. We are also going to offer a training in Israel for people in October who want to learn the foundations of the method and hopefully in Australia as well and all of this information is on Somaticainstitute.com.
[0:29:26.5] Celeste Hirschman: And also, some people want to come in and just have better sex lives or learn more about dating or how to be a great lover or overcoming sexual dysfunction, come in for a coaching session, do some individual or couples work and it’s very transformative and it’s very efficient because of the experiential aspects of it.
[0:29:44.4] Danielle Harel: And we have coaches all over the US who can work with people. Coaches who are wonderful and trained in the method and you can find them again in Somatica Institute, find a coach in my area, yes.
[0:29:57.4] Sean Jameson: Awesome. I will make sure to include the website, your email address in the show notes. Celeste, Danielle, thanks so much for coming on The Bad Girls Bible Podcast.
[0:30:07.8] Celeste Hirschman: Thank you so much for having us.
[0:30:09.5] Danielle Harel: Thank you.