Lisa Taddeo's brutally honest look at our complicated relationship with sex - Dating News

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Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Lisa Taddeo's brutally honest look at our complicated relationship with sex

When you talk about sex, you never really just talk about sex - you're actually talking about the sum of every romantic encounter, your childhood trauma, your relationship with your physical body, your deepest insecurities. It is as comprehensive as few other topics. That's why Lisa Taddeo wrote and reported on sex before she worked on Three Women. "People always asked me," Why are you so interested? "I was interested in sex and death because they are the things that make us tick," said Taddeo. "I always found this question strange." But how do you write a book about something so big and untidy? It can be done, but it can take eight years.

After driving six times across the country, interviewing hundreds of people, and writing 800,000 words, Taddeo carved her material to highlight the moving stories of - you guessed it - three women. The result is a remarkable non-fiction book that takes you on a journey that is so personal and intimate that it sometimes irritates to remember that it writes from the perspective of actual, vividly breathing women and non-fictional characters, as extensions from it exist own consciousness.

There's Maggie, a teenager involved in an illegal relationship with the All-Star teacher in her high school. Then we get introduced to Lina, a traditional Midwestern Catholic woman whose husband refuses to kiss her mouth - the only kind of affection she craves more than anything else - just as she was reunited with her high school sweetheart, who she enjoys. Finally, we meet Sloane, who owns a restaurant in a tiny rumor mill with her husband and chooses other men and women to have sex with. Through Taddeo's conversation with them, she is able to paint a hyperrealistic, often heartbreaking portrait of the constant pushing and pulling of our relationship to our own sexuality.
At the end of May, Taddeo and I talked to Empanada at breakfast about what she wanted to achieve with Three Women and how she could manage it.
Taddeo: My editor had seen an article I wrote for New York magazine about the Halfway Hooker Economy, about bottle girls in New York, Vegas and LA. At the time I was mainly writing fiction, so he sent me some nonfiction. One of the books he sent me was Gay Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife, which deals with sex in the 70s and 80s. I was really interested in that, but I was also impressed with how narrow the perspective was. He had delved into the material by having sex with women outside of his marriage. He moved into a swinger community - I actually lived there for one of the people I explored, an interesting confluence. What I admired most about the book was how insistent it was, and I knew I wanted to do that.
I drove across the country six times, putting signs in the bathrooms and talking to people. The signs were very cheap. As if I had made her in a Staples in Santa Barbara. Of the people I've talked to about signs, maybe five were in the first draft of the book, but none of them were the last three. After traveling across the country, I realized that although New York is compelling, it's the opposite of what I was looking for. I was too immersed in my own life to immerse myself in something else. So I moved to Indiana to be near the Kinsey Institute, but also because that doctor I started with did hormone treatments for women who lost weight and felt new [sexy]. That's how I got to know Lina - by moving to Indiana, setting up a discussion group and finding her.
flies on it. I fell asleep on the beach and two things happened. I woke up with this tremendously terrible sunburn, like second-degree burns, because it was baby oil in the hot Puerto Rican sun. And the second was that I woke up because that older man was licking my shoulder. Back and forth. And it was shocking. And I say, nothing happened. I returned to my parents and did not tell them for two reasons. First of all, I did not want them to ever forget me, which was a total possibility. And two, [I was worried] they would think I was a slut. I also had this terrible sunburn with water bubbles all over my body. And I slammed her because I wanted her to go away with a safety pin I put under my parents cigarette lighter. I think back now and I do not know if it was self-harm. I do not know what it was. I did not do that again, but I felt like I was drawn, you know? After that, I had many such experiences in which I allowed things to happen to me for a million different reasons. And every single person I was deeply involved with had that kind of thing. Men and women.

The first time Sloane and her husband have a threesome, she has this out-of-body experience while watching her husband having sex with the other woman. She says she felt her soul melt out of her body. Her worst fears have been confirmed, but she does not ask to stop - she agrees anyway. Later, she does not seem to regret it either.
Exactly. This complexity was what caught her eye. I talked to a lot of people who had a threesome, because that fascinated me, from people who could. Many people I've talked to said, "We're just sexually positive." "I really trust them." "We're pushing our limits." And I think, okay, but come on. Maybe these people are telling the truth, but I wanted to find someone who responds the way I would imagine. I love Esther Perel and I extrapolate here, but she says that when women are in a very secure relationship, they actually yearn to be sexually unsafe. Even though we all strive for safety, at some point it is boring to have all this security. She said many of the women she spoke of have to imagine her lover having sex with someone else. I think that's so interesting and I think Sloane got it and was aware of her own sexuality enough to say, "Okay, yeah, I felt bad, but I think I like that too." And she thought about it later, before they did it again, to orgasm. The complexity, the pain and the fact that she absorbed it in this way, which was ultimately helpful, were very interesting to me.
I remember being in Puerto Rico at the age of 11, just before puberty, and I was there with my parents, and they were super overprotective, and I wanted to go for a walk on the beach alone. They said no, no, no. And I think I just go there and come back. So I went down the beach with a bottle of baby oil and Stephen King's The Stand and lay down on the beach. I wore this black bikini, it was like a kids tank bikini with neon butterflies on it. I fell asleep on the beach and two things happened. I woke up with this tremendously terrible sunburn, like second-degree burns, because it was baby oil in the hot Puerto Rican sun. And the second was that I woke up because that older man was licking my shoulder. Back and forth. And it was shocking. And I say, nothing happened. I returned to my parents and did not tell them for two reasons. First of all, I did not want them to ever forget me, which was a total possibility. And two, [I was worried] they would think I was a slut. I also had this terrible sunburn with water bubbles all over my body. And I slammed her because I wanted her to go away with a safety pin I put under my parents cigarette lighter. I think back now and I do not know if it was self-harm. I do not know what it was. I did not do that again, but I felt like I was drawn, you know? After that, I had many such experiences in which I allowed things to happen to me for a million different reasons. And every single person I was deeply involved with had that kind of thing. Men and women.

The first time Sloane and her husband have a threesome, she has this out-of-body experience while watching her husband having sex with the other woman. She says she felt her soul melt out of her body. Her worst fears have been confirmed, but she does not ask to stop - she agrees anyway. Later, she does not seem to regret it either.
Exactly. This complexity was what caught her eye. I talked to a lot of people who had a threesome, because that fascinated me, from people who could. Many people I've talked to said, "We're just sexually positive." "I really trust them." "We're pushing our limits." And I think, okay, but come on. Maybe these people are telling the truth, but I wanted to find someone who responds the way I would imagine. I love Esther Perel and I extrapolate here, but she says that when women are in a very secure relationship, they actually yearn to be sexually unsafe. Even though we all strive for safety, at some point it is boring to have all this security. She said many of the women she spoke of have to imagine her lover having sex with someone else. I think that's so interesting and I think Sloane got it and was aware of her own sexuality enough to say, "Okay, yeah, I felt bad, but I think I like that too." And she thought about it later, before they did it again, to orgasm. The complexity, the pain and the fact that she absorbed it in this way, which was ultimately helpful, were very interesting to me.
Yes, we tend to classify all the pain and discomfort in our relationships as clearly negative, but you would not necessarily say that about a career. Everyone says that he should do what he is afraid of and that he has to assert himself to grow.
I see that all the time. You can work all over the country, and everyone does you good. They went to Colorado, whatever it is. But if you move to a partner across the country, especially one who is not fully settled, you are only insulted or pitied. And it's like the person would leave you, but the job could fire you.
They have been doing this for a decade. How do you feel, as if you have learned about desire, about men and women, about marriage?
I think the biggest realization I've ever had is that all of us are united by desire or fear of losing desire or losing one person. And Lina said it to all the women in the discussion group, she said, "Do not judge me if you did not walk in my shoes." Which has obviously been said for centuries, but she said it in terms of her desire. And that was remarkable for me. We only judge each other. Men and women do it. Over all sexual preferences. Especially in these small communities there is so much judgment. In times when we call other people pitiful, we only project our past and our fears onto them. But nobody is pathetic.

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