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‘I Love Dick’: Kathryn Hahn and Jill Soloway on Empowering Sex Scenes That Aren’t All About Ejaculation

Kathryn Hahn, Jill Soloway, and Sarah Gubbins break down how the bold sex scenes can help women find their own voices — in the bedroom and beyond.

I Love Dick Kevin Bacon Season 1

Jessica Brooks/Amazon

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I Love Dick” is a daring series unafraid to embrace passion in art, love, lust, and life. It’s about following desire as far as you can, even if there’s no clear explanation for it. Desire leads to passion, passion leads to sex, and the sex scenes in Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbin’s Amazon series are like none we’ve ever seen before.

Take, for instance, Devon (Roberta Colindrez) and Toby’s (India Menuez) first hook-up. In Devon’s trailer, the two women start making out and Toby slides her mouth down Devon’s body until she reaches her crotch. The motions mimic those oft-seen in heterosexual sex scenes, complete with head-bobbing and hair pulling, but this is not heterosexual sex.

“The inscrutable Devon and Toby blow job,” Soloway said, during an interview with IndieWire alongside Gubbins. “Nobody knows what’s going on there, including us — including Devon and Toby! But to be a heterosexual college chick and watch that and be like, ‘Oh, there are options. There are a lot of things I can do.’ I do want it to offer women possibility for protagonism: to be the star of their own story; to be the subject instead of the object.”

READ MORE: ‘I Love Dick’ Review: Jill Soloway Messes with Texas in the Most Confident Television Experiment of the Year

All of the sex scenes — including those between the series’ straight leads, Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) and Chris (Kathryn Hahn) — propagate this kind of open-minded experimentalism; an encouragement of exploration that’s honored by Soloway’s camera and Gubbins’ scene construction.

“We weren’t driving toward climax,” Gubbins said. “That’s not the point of those scenes. We’re not trying to construct a scene so it ends after he comes. It’s about what is going on in the pool that is stirring up that desire; the give and take; the volleying back and forth that the partners have that increases it. [It’s about] what is going to get us off in these particular moments, rather than this is a scene where we have to get to an ejaculation.”

“That, in some ways, is a tragedy for women,” Soloway said. “That they understand their sexuality in relation to how men see them. Our whole lives [we’re told] you get to have sex if you’re hot enough, and when you do have sex, act this way. And you know how to act because you’ve seen sex scenes on TV.”

I Love Dick Season 1 Episode 5 India Menuez Roberta Colindrez

Soloway’s goal when directing these scenes was to reverse this line of thinking and tell the scene from Chris’ perspective — a simple idea considering she’s the main character, but a bold statement considering filmmaking’s historically predominant male gaze.

“In many ways, just the bringing of the camera into a sex scene is inherently male because we’re so conditioned to do that slow pan — start at the feet and [Soloway moves her hands as if tracking up a woman’s body]. What I tell other directors I’m working with is that I don’t want to see with the camera. Put the camera in the place of the character’s need. Move the camera down into the gut, or in this case, a circular churning to pussy to mind and back again.”

This shooting style, this conscious shift in perspective, gives the scenes a distinctly independent authenticity. They’re not sneaking in glimpses of taboo body parts or painting a romanticized portrait of sex. Chris and Sylvere’s coupling — with very special guest, Dick (Kevin Bacon) — reveals information about our protagonist while freeing up the audience to imagine what desire can encompass.

“Sex is in the mind,” she said. “Being turned on is in the mind. It’s this kind of loop that goes from your body to your brain and back again. So we’re trying to put the camera in there, on that roller coaster track. The camera is going into the female body.”

“She’s no joke, Jill Soloway,” Kathryn Hahn said, during a separate interview. “I’d follow her anywhere.”

And the actress did. After earning rave reviews for her role in Soloway’s breakout series, “Transparent,” Hahn joined the quadruple threat’s next project, “I Love Dick,” and threw herself into all aspects of the role.

READ MORE: ‘I Love Dick’: Jill Soloway Loves The Theatrical Experience, But Thinks Binge Viewing Is the New Film Premiere

“I feel like there is so much unmet desire in so many women — so many people who identify as ‘other’ — but in this particular case, so many women,” Hahn said. “I hope women can speak to owning their own desire and speak to asking for what they want and to stop apologizing for being loud or who they are; to be able to own their voices. Stop worrying about being the good girl.”

I Love Dick Kathryn Hahn Season 1

Hahn, Soloway, and Gubbins all hope “I Love Dick” can open the minds of women everywhere. Given its wide reach on Amazon, the allure of its stars, and its small town setting, the series is meant to further the reach of the book that inspired it; a book embraced by the art world but initially rejected by literary critics.

Gubbins found Chris Kraus’ novel first and was so aghast it wasn’t widely known she immediately passed it on to Soloway, who also hadn’t read it.

“She never made it in the literary world,” Soloway said. “Thank God now she has and people understand her as a voice, but when the book first came out people talked about it as an art piece that was too transgressive, overly showy, overly needy, and attention-getting. ‘It feels journalistic.’ ‘It’s her name’ — all the ways people criticize women — ‘it’s too personal,’ ‘it’s unedited,’ or however they would degrade her voice.”

“I just don’t think it fit into the way the world of literature wanted female writers to behave,” Soloway said.

The two writers saw parallels to how “good” writing is dictated even to this day.

“We’re fucking journaling from the moment we can hold a pen, girls and women, and we’re writing I, I, I — first person — and somehow that also gets degraded. We’re told that men are great writers and this object-izing of life is what writing is — laminating on this gaze. But the ‘I’ of writing, ‘I felt this,’ ‘I did this,’ is the same thing as putting the camera in the body,” Soloway said.

Kathryn Hahn "I Love Dick"

“For Chris to say that my character’s name is Chris, but this isn’t me, this isn’t my journal, this is a work of literary merit. Her name is Chris, I’m using the word ‘I,’ but this is literature. That, to me, is so important and so revolutionary,” she said. “Just because the writer of the book is Chris does not mean this is Chris. It’s journaling. It’s a confessional style of writing. But it’s still art.”

In line with these beliefs, Hahn didn’t meet with the author of her character until after the pilot was shot.

“It wasn’t on purpose, but I think I needed to find this Chris myself without thinking I was doing any kind of biopic. Because it’s not. It’s its own creation,” Hahn said.

When they did meet, Hahn noted a few similarities, including a “very, very fast internal motor.”

“Her brain moves 1000 times faster than mine, though,” she said. “I felt like I was always trying to keep up, in talking to her. She has such a goddamn brilliant mind.”

With the show and book both out there, being watched, read, re-watched, and re-read, “I Love Dick” is proving to be an influential work in all forms.

“I think it will change the way people think about themselves,” Soloway said.

Love, lust, life — it’s all churning together, from pussy to mind and back again.

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