Authentic female sexuality is so absent from sex education, the media, and everyday conversation, many women reach adulthood not even knowing where the clitoris is or how to orgasm. Not everyone understands how far-reaching the implications of this are. But the creators of the documentary The Dilemma of Desire do, which is why they're spreading the world about the clitoris and other important aspects of female pleasure.
The film follows four women trying to spread information and lift taboos on female sexuality: artist Sophia Wallace, biologist Stacey Dutton, psychologist Lisa Diamond, and sex toy designer Ti Chang. It also features interviews with everyday women about the impact that our culture's silence around female sexuality has had on them. Through these interviews, the film explores what we're taught (and aren't taught) about female desire and how this sexual disempowerment robs women of their power in other areas.
The movie's producer and director Maria Finitzo became inspired to make a film on this topic after reading Daniel Bergner's What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire. The book argues that women do not actually have a lower capacity for sexual desire or pleasure than men — rather, our culture has denied women access to their desire and pleasure. However, Finitzo realized that simply telling women about their sexual potential was not going to allow them to enjoy it. She wanted to explore how women could take back their sexuality.
"I was very interested in looking at what the obstacles were facing women claiming agency over their desires," she tells Bustle. "We wanted to include a diverse group of women who were struggling with all the obstacles getting in the way of claiming their desire."
Many women Finitzo interviewed had very limited knowledge of their anatomy, particularly the clitoris. The paucity of information about the clitoris compared to the penis is a major way women are taught they don't matter. "Imagine teaching boys sex ed and never mentioning their genitals," she says. "If you don't talk about something, there's a feeling of shame around it, and that's what happens to women and girls. No one tells them they have a clitoris, and that's where the shame starts."
Finitzo was also surprised to find that, even after the sexual revolution, women are very hesitant to speak up for their desires in bed. "If they wanted to hook up with someone, that was OK, but they didn’t feel entitled to ask for their pleasure in turn," she says. "It seemed like the ground we made during the sexual revolution had been lost. I was surprised by how many women were having bad sex and putting up with it. I’ve had women tell me over and over again that even though they enjoy the hookup culture, they feel like it is too much trouble to ask the person they just had a sexual encounter with for pleasure."
And this inequality has far-reaching implications for women's empowerment and confidence in other areas, like the workplace. "If you don't think you're worth it sexually, you're not going to demand equal pay or feel free to behave the way you want," she says. "And we're not free as long as women's bodies are considered criminal."
"We'll never be equal until were seen as equal beings sexually," she adds. That's what The Dilemma of Desire is working toward. The film is currently raising money on Kickstarter, so donate or spread the news if you'd like to help it finish filming, reach the festival circuit, and help make women equals in the bedroom — and in life.