Review by Bonnie Cehovet

Healing Sex: The Complete Guide To Sexual Wholeness
by Bonnie Cehovet

author: Staci Haines
directed by: Shar Rednour
co-produced by S.I.R. Productions, 2004

When I was asked if I would review this DVD, I was not sure that I had the knowledge, or the background, to do it justice. However, I do focus on personal empowerment with my clients, through my work as a Reiki healer and a Tarot counselor. Any healing modality, if effective, deals with the emotions left over from issues both recent and past, that are stored in the body. As healers/counselors, we need to know how to help our clients. The focus of Healing Sex is the mind/body connection, and practices that we can place into our lives to help us center ourselves and be the best people that we can be, including in our sexual lives. It is done as a documentary style drama, through the storyline of several different people.

The fact that I was not sure if the people were actors, or were telling their own stories, shows you how well done this video is! (They are indeed actors, and the stories were scripted to present certain scenarios of abuse. The scenes themselves were only loosely scripted. The result is a story that flows, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and lets you know that you are not alone. I say this from the perspective of one who has not experienced sexual abuse per se, but who has seen friends and loved ones struggle with their sexuality ... and been there a bit myself.)

Staci Haines is herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She has been in the field of somatics and mind/body healing since 1987, is the author of The Survivors Guide To Sex (Cleis 1999), acts as a trainer in the field of Somatics (specializing in trauma), has a private practice which involves working somatically with social leaders, and has lectured at numerous institutions, including Oberlin College, Smith College, UC Berkeley and Stanford University on issues of child sexual abuse and social change, the impact of healing and trauma, somatics and trauma recovery, and issues of sexual health. She is founder and Executive Director of "Generation Five", a non-profit organization whose mission is to end childhood abuse within five generations.

The numbers on childhood sexual abuse are staggering: one out of every three girls, and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused in their childhood. It impacts their whole lives - the memory of that abuse stays with them, haunts them, and colors their every thought and action. Staci's message is loud and clear: you are more powerful than what happened to you! You can live in the present, you can be connected to your own emotions, and to the people around you. You can have a connection to life and to spirituality (and sexuality).

Healing Sex is the first (and so far only) video dealing with men and women, from diverse backgrounds, healing from many different types of sexual abuse. This is not an explicit video - it is not offensive in any manner. Staci deals in a very direct manner with the results of the abuse, and helps people release the energy that their bodies are holding and allow themselves to heal. Our bodies remember more than we are ever aware of, and, when triggered, these memories come back to haunt us. The event that harmed us never leaves us until we deal with it directly.

Through the story-lines of the couples (and singles) in the video (you would never know they were actors!), we are gifted with exercises that will center us, allow us to tune in to ourselves, and heal. Each person takes a very active part in their healing through the exercises offered here. Staci presents a six-stage healing process that allows the person to stay in the present, experience their emotions, and then reconnect with the idea of sensual pleasure (and reconnect with their partners).

These six stages are:

1. Safety - protecting yourself, setting boundaries

2. Embodiment - accepting that your body is a safe place to be, and learning how to "feel"

3. Healing through the body - this is the step of working through the past trauma, facing the emotions and getting past them through the use of touching and breathing exercises.

4. Healing through the body - this is the step of working through the past trauma, facing the emotions and getting past them through the use of touching and breathing exercises.

5. Connections - staying in touch with your partner, communicating your needs, and seeing your partner as "safe", as opposed to seeing them as a perpetrator.

6. Sexual Wholeness - defining where you learned about sex, what you learned about it, and what your biases may be. This is also where each person takes an active part in educating themselves on positive sexuality - whatever that may be for them.

7. Practicing Wellness - emphasis here is placed on the thought that this is a process, and that part of the process is keeping in touch with the three elements of a healthy sexuality: self-pleasuring, self-discovery, and dedicating time to yourself and your partner.

Healing Sex is more than just another DVD. Because of the manner in which it is set up, it actually taught me to use my DVD player with a little more finesse than I usually do. And ... I found out that in some DVD packaging the DVD will not lift out of the box until you press the button in the center! (I consider myself quite lucky not to have broken the DVD in attempting to remove it from its packaging!)

The main menu has more options that just a "go" button. There are five divisions that each offer wonderful material:

1. How To Watch This Movie - Staci gives a nice introduction here to the somatic method, and asks viewers to be active participants by doing the following: approaching the movie with an attitude of curiosity; allowing yourself to really feel your emotional reactions throughout the film; being responsive to your own needs (if a portion of the film is too much to handle, turn it off, walk away, and come back to it another time; or fast forward through portions that are upsetting - the choice is yours!); treat the material presented here as a practice, something to be put to use in your life, rather than as sterile information to stuff into your mind and then ignore.

2. Play Movie - (self explanatory!)

3. Scene Selection (literally selecting individual scenes to view)

4. Special Features - The following special features are offered:

a. Interview with Allison Anders (independent film-maker)
b. Conversation With Susie Bright (voice of sexual politics in America)
c. Bonus Mind/Body Exercise (body scanning)
d. Extended Scenes
e. Behind The Scenes
f. Resources
g. Trailer
h. Cast/Crew Bios

5. Subtitles - Subtitles are available in either English or Spanish

I see this video as a wonderful tool of healing and empowerment. It is a resource readily available for group or individual work, is non-threatening, and presents a definite game plan for individual or partner growth. Emphasis is placed on setting and honoring boundaries, mutual consent, staying in the present and connecting, and redefining your relationships for what they offer in the present, not in terms of what has happened in the past, or the hurts of the past. There is 112 minutes of video, with an additional two hours of extra exercises, footage and interviews with Susie Bright (a well known sexual activist) and Allison Anders. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, or are working in this area, this video is a "must have"!

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