It’s never easy to describe and recount desire, especially if it is female desire. For centuries it has been relegated – in the Western world, but even elsewhere – to a swamp of taboos and secrets, often because of religious influences, but mainly because of widespread ignorance and fear.
However, Boston-based author and journalist Lisa Taddeo did not settle for a reductive and simplistic analysis and preferred to zero-in on stories of love and passion. In order to do so, she drove across the U.S. six times, posting flyers to find people interested in telling her about their desires. That’s how Lisa met up with hundreds of people of different races, sexual orientations and social classes. Following the research – during which many didn’t really succeed in truly describing themselves – the writer selected her three stories: those of Lina, Maggie and Sloane. They are the main characters of Three Women, available on Amazon too.
The author followed them for eight years trying to narrate the expectations, contradictions and tensions of the female universe from the standpoint of desire, but not just out of voyeurism; rather, to shed light, through three examples, on the possible paths that desire follows. Sex, whilst playing a foremost role in the narrated stories, is not the only element: it goes with the unspoken, gossip, allusions, expectations, obsessions. And, above all, fear, as Sara Mostaccio points out in her article on Elle magazine: “What Lisa Taddeo noticed throughout her research is that judging other people (especially women judging women) is something that always stems from fear. The fear of being judged in the same way, the fear of admitting you have the same desire. […]
Feeling grasped by the menace of shame is pretty common: whether it’s because of an abuse or a choice that was condemned by the general public, too many women must endure the disapproval of a family or a community. How can we even begin to imagine that we can entirely fulfil a desire (not only sexual) if shame is so deep-rooted in us? Women have always been educated so as to be desirable, hence becoming the object and captive of men’s desires, seldom actually being the desired subject. Craving something, choosing to crave that something without feeling ashamed is still a revolutionary act that women themselves tend to condemn, in order to avoid undergoing someone else’s judgement”.
The book that resulted from this lengthy research is worth reading, but, when interviewed by Wired, Lisa Taddeo summed it up as follows: “From what I have gathered, women’s paramount desire is to be seen and loved for what they are. There are surely several nuances, but that’s a constant element of the picture”.