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Three Women: the new TV series opening up a powerful conversation about female desire

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Christobel Hastings
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Lisa Taddeo Three Women

Lisa Taddeo’s groundbreaking book Three Women won critical acclaim for its compelling exploration of the defining sexual relationships of three real American women. Now, the most talked-about debut of the year will be adapted in a new TV series from Showtime. 

Earlier in the year, a non-fiction book became the most talked-about debut of the year for its detailed stories of three real American women. “I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly”, declared Elizabeth Gilbert, while Gwyneth Paltrow wrote in an Instagram post that said she “literally could not put it down.” Meanwhile Esther Perel implored: “Read this book. You will forever rethink the erotics of women”.

The book was, of course, Three Women, the debut non-fiction title from author and journalist Lisa Taddeo. A compelling exploration of real American women’s defining sexual relationships, the book lays bare the brutally honest and entirely believable narratives of three women, Lina, Maggie and Sloane, as they struggle with their hopes, disappointments, and unmet needs.  

After an intense bidding war, it’s just been announced that Three Women will be adapted for a new Showtime series based on Taddeo’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling nonfiction book

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According to Deadline, Taddeo will write and executive produce the series adaptation, which will revolve around three women in their 20s, 30s and 40s for a multigenerational approach.

In Three Women, we meet Lina, a midwestern mother of two who rekindles a relationship with a high school sweetheart after her husband refuses physical affection. There is Maggie, a 23-year-old woman who reports her former teacher for pursuing a sexual relationship with her when she was 17. And then there is Sloane, a happily married restaurant owner whose husband and business partner likes to choose extramarital sexual partners for her. 

“Throughout history, men have broken women’s hearts in a particular way,” Taddeo writes in her prologue. “They love and then grow weary and spend weeks and months extricating themselves soundlessly, pulling their tails back into the doorways, drying themselves off, and never calling again.”

It took Tadeo eight years and thousands of hours to research, report and write Three Women. So committed was she to achieving complete authenticity, in fact, that she often moved across America to the towns of her subjects. 

In an interview with Stylist, Taddeo explained that after identifying connections in the way women experience sex and love during her research, she felt there was a vital need to unravel the complications of female desire.

“In the movie Manhatten, Woody Allen says there is no such thing as a bad orgasm. And I don’t think that’s true for women,” she explained. “When Maggie had her first orgasm with a sexual partner she felt dead. The French call it la petite mort: the little death. It was an impalement, a feeling of nothingness for her. But for men it’s the opposite. They have an orgasm and fall asleep happy, but the woman is like, what now? There’s just a lot more going on. And that’s what I found across hundreds of people.”

Even as she described women’s sex lives in painstakingly intimate detail, Taddeo also underlined the importance of refraining from judgment, and putting “unfair structures onto what other people do”. So too, does she hope that “men remember not to be indifferent to women’s desire.” Something tells us that with the forthcoming TV treatment, the conversation around female desire is going to get the spotlight it’s long been waiting for.

Image: Bloomsbury