2020 Reading List: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

It shouldn’t surprise you, but this book is about three women. More specifically, three women and how they experience their own sexuality. One woman, Maggie, had a secret affair with her teacher when she was 17 years old. One woman, Lina, has a sex-less, presumably love-less marriage so she has an affair with a married man. The third woman, Sloane, has sex with other men and women while her husband watches or participates and she mostly enjoys it.

This book, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, is real, raw account of these women’s lives. I loved the way it was written; it felt unbiased and yet it was emotional and relatable. Relatable in the feelings and desires of these women, not necessarily lifestyle. It didn’t glorify or condone any lifestyle or decision but it also didn’t cast judgment or blame on anyone. It was an exploration of the real needs and wants of women that are so often ignored.

Instead of giving you a synopsis of this book, I actually found the discussion questions at the end of the book to be some great thought-provoking prompts.

Why do we have such a hard time talking about women’s desire? In my opinion, much of what we learn about sex comes from the media. Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine, sitcoms and movies, social media and blogs and YouTube. And in my opinion, a lot of what we see and hear about sex from the media is the same. It portrays the same style and outcome, so to speak. Media doesn’t explore alternative desires, like Sloane’s. Media portrays women who cheat on their spouses as whores, like they’re wrong. Media portrays girls who have affairs with their teachers as sluts, asking for it, like they’re wrong. Nowhere in media do you see these lifestyles or decisions being celebrated, or at the very least being shown for what they are. Nowhere in media is the woman’s choice considered the right choice. If we don’t see it, of course we’re not going to talk about it. If we also feel the way these women did, we’re going to hide it, pretend it doesn’t exist.

How did it make you feel that these women had to change parts of themselves to gain love and acceptance? I feel that women are always changing themselves for any group and it’s always part of some kind of power dynamic. Women change themselves in the workplace, they change themselves when they go out to a bar, when they walk alone at night, when they go to a parent-teacher conference. There are so many facets to being a woman and we’re taught what kind of woman to be in different situations, by watching others and through what we see in the media. It’s infuriating to me that these women felt that they had to be someone else in order to get love. That Lina longed for this man who was not her husband, so badly, that dropped everything in her life to get to him and follow his whims the instant he texted her. It’s infuriating that Maggie felt she couldn’t find love an acceptance from someone her own age. But it’s not surprising. There are few if any examples of a man changing himself in order to get what he wants or to gain love. Men don’t put on different personas the way women do. When women change themselves for love, it feels like desperation. Men aren’t desperate, says the media, says our society. Men get what they want. Women give it to them. Of course that gives men the power.

Did you view Maggie’s story differently? What struck you about her experience? I related most closely to Maggie’s story. Not the part where she has sexual relations with her high school teacher, but the part where she feels like she needs someone to see and love her. I think we’ve all felt what she did in some way or another, but it doesn’t play out exactly the same. We all want to be seen. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to a relationship like this one, if not with a teacher then with a boy who isn’t good for them. We want affection, we feel happy and noticed and lovable when someone gives us attention, even if it’s on their terms and not ours. Teenagers also thrive on the thrill, the secrets, and the rule breaking. Teenagers feel invincible. Combine attention, love, and drama and this scenario has happened to everyone.

I always hate reading about or watching courtrooms. It’s all he-said she-said. Obviously someone is lying. What is the point of saying that you’re under oath to tell the truth? Why don’t we believe women who accuse men of assault or rape? If she says a man did something, why don’t we believe her? Even good people can make bad choices, but it’s like the jury and the community didn’t consider that such a fine man could have messed up and made a mistake. Being an overall good person doesn’t excuse someone from a bad decision. But that bad decision doesn’t or shouldn’t ruin the rest of your good deeds. I often find that justice doesn’t occur in the courtroom.

 

I know I probably haven’t given you much in the way of a book review. In fact, if you haven’t read the book, I probably either gave something away, or you’re so completely confused that you haven’t even gotten this far. But if you have gotten this far, I would encourage you to read this book. I loved it and I think it’s important. It is truth, in as far as there is a truth, and it should encourage all women to stand in their own truths, no matter what we see in the media, what we’re told, or what we’ve been previously led to believe.

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