Power and pleasure dominate two new books about women's desire

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

This review originally appeared on rabble.ca. Click here to read the complete review. 
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
(Simon & Schuster, 2019, 27.00)
Just Pervs by Jess Taylor
(Book*Hug, 2019, 20.00)
Desire can get under our fingernails. It's on our hair and in our eyes, and it sits on our lips with such urgency that at some moments the need to be touched feels like it could break us apart. Yet, in a climate where women prioritizing pleasure is seen as selfish and male fantasies often dictate heterosexual relationships, feeling desire, according to two new books about pleasure and power, breeds shame in many women, leaving it largely unexplored and rarely discussed.
In Three Women, a non-fiction work of reportage by American journalist Lisa Taddeo, and Just Pervs, the bold sophomore collection of short stories by Toronto's Jess Taylor -- pleasure, rather the pursuit of pleasure, is central; however, in so many of the stories told in each remarkable book, power imbalance and the scrutiny of others challenge women's agency over their own sexuality.
The result of eight years of immersive reporting, Three Women is touted as "the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written" and the "riveting true story about the sex lives of three real American women," who shared their stories with Taddeo in person, on the phone, by text message, and email over nearly a decade. There's a familiarity to each woman -- Maggie, Lina, and Sloane; Each is young, white, cisgender, able-bodied and heterosexual. Each has been traumatized, overjoyed, othered and made fragile as a result of her sexual experiences or, in Maggie's case, sexual assault.

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