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“Three Women” Author Lisa Taddeo Reveals What Women Really Want In Their Sex Lives

Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to immerse herself in the lives of three ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds to research “Three Women,” a revealing portrait of women and desire. The book is a groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America and exposes the fragility, complexity, and inequality of female desire with unprecedented depth and emotional power.

Q.  What is it about the three women in the book–”Lina,” “Sloane,” and Maggie–that made them good subjects for your study on female sexuality, and why do you think they were willing to share their stories

TADDEO: Sloane, Maggie, and Lina comprised the largest and rawest and most revealing segments of the book. Plenty of other subjects spanned the wide range of sexual proclivities, genders, races. But ultimately, the three were the most comfortable with my presence in their lives at length and across poignant moments. And, as a triad woven together, told the most arresting, individual, and yet cohesive, narrative. Finally, the way that their communities psychologically conspired against them was emblematic for me of much of America’s projection of their sexual fears onto others.

Lina wanted to talk because she had nobody else to talk to. She came from a very traditional, Catholic background and divorce was not ok. After a trial and a community banded against her, Maggie wanted her story heard so that it might help others. Sloane, too, I think, was imagining how her lifestyle and the power she felt within it might free other people like her to feel confident in their choices.


Q.  Can you tell us about your immersion process and how you were able to delve into their lives without being too intrusive?

TADDEO: Most often I wanted to observe from afar. But many times I would go to lunch or drinks or the gym with them. I would go see feminist talks and we would look over someone’s social media. I was always recording or note-taking, but I was also very much embedding. I would ask if they wanted me around, or I’d begin a week with saying, what are you doing this week, and when might you be ok with me coming along? But it happened very organically. I believe there was a mutual enjoyment.


Q.  Based on three completely different women and lifestyles, what insights did you gain about female desire and sexuality?

TADDEO: That we are all united in how we pine and how we pain. And yet, still, we judge each other more than we don’t, especially in the realm of desire. The three women in the book—indeed all people in the world—are either the heroes or the victims of their own narratives, often times depending on the hour. We want to be seen and loved for who we truly are. We are, too, finally and vitally talking about what we don’t want, but we are not yet talking about what we do want. We WANT, and yet wanting for a woman is still not a concept that we, as a country, are yet and entirely comfortable with.

Q.  Why is this an important story to tell?

TADDEO: Because we’re talking so much about what we don’t want but still afraid to talk about what we DO want. We worry other women will mock us for it. That’s what I found across the hundreds of people with whom I spoke. A rather lofty hope for the book is that others might feel comfortable exploring their own stories, and telling them, after reading these.

“Three Women” is written by Lisa Taddeo. Click here to purchase a copy.

This Q & A was featured in the July 21st edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.



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