"Three Women" author Lisa Taddeo on female desire: "We're all united in our passion"

"Three Women" author on female desire

Lisa Taddeo's "Three Women" is one of the most anticipated new books of the summer. It draws on eight years of reporting, during which Taddeo traveled the country to interview hundreds of women about their lives, loves, and sexual desires.

The book focuses on the stories of three: "Lina," who said she had an affair to escape a loveless marriage; "Sloane," who said she has an open marriage in which her husband watches her sleep with other men; and "Maggie," a woman who said she had a relationship with her married English teacher while she was underage.  

"I learned that we're all united in our passion and in how much we hide it, and how much we don't want to talk about it," Taddeo said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "Desire is something we think about so often, and it's also the thing we hold most closely to our chests."

She emphasized that there's a difference between desire and sex. "Sex is an act, and people are often very comfortable describing the act — it's easy to talk about it, in a sense, because it's mechanical a lot of the time," she said. "But when it comes to desire, it's a matter of talking about the very difficult and interesting emotions that are behind sex."    

When she began her research, Taddeo spoke to both men and women — but she said she quickly found herself more drawn to the "complexity" of female desire, which she said has "a lot more prismatic and complex feelings attached to it."

Those complex feelings, she said, are due in part to the fact that women are often pressured to subvert their desires. "It's easier for men. For centuries, the state of male desire [has been] accepted," Taddeo said, "whereas the state of female desire is largely told by what the men want."

"Obviously, this is changing in remarkable ways, and with the #MeToo movement, we're finally saying what we don't want," Taddeo added. "But I do think, as women, we're not really expressing what we do want, because there is a very quiet judgment underlying everything."    

While the women Taddeo writes about all came from different backgrounds, they had at least one thing in common: they were judged for their desire. "They weren't really doing anything completely outside of the norm, but because they were slightly aberrant, it was easy for people to judge them," she said.

Taddeo said she found that judgment "shocking on a number of different levels" — especially when it came to "Sloane," a woman who willingly had sex with other men at her husband's request, and often photographed and videotaped her interactions.

Although their situation is unconventional, Taddeo said, "it was one of the happiest marriages that I observed."