Wednesday, February 29, 2012


On Female Desire

Writers/producers Victoria Floethe and Kate Rose recently flipped the switch on the Desire Project, "a website about what women want and how they get it." The site (currently in beta) features dozens of videos of women talking about desire — sexy desire, unsexy desire, one desire, two desire, red desire, blue desire. It's hot and hypnotic (and goofy and honest), which you can get a taste of in the charming teaser above. I also emailed back and forth with Victoria and Kate about the project, and about linen.

What's the first thing you remember desiring? And what's the most recent thing you desired? Did you get it?

Victoria: I must have been three when I saw Muppets Take Manhattan. I wanted Kermit the Frog to get together with the waitress, and was inconsolable for days that he married Miss Piggy instead.

My most recent material desire was for linen sheets, which I did get. But, I suppose, more life-changing than even linen sheets, was the realization of Desire Project. We've been interviewing women for more than a year, and now we have a beautiful website designed by the guys at Madwell. When it went up, it felt more like Christmas than Christmas.

How about you?

Linen sheets! That's crazy. Although I'm now desiring linen sheets, too — is female desire contagious? And if we're sticking with the material desires (ahem!), I currently desire a very expensive kitchen appliance.

Do you have a favorite interview from the interviews page? I like them all, but I especially like Alix. Or is that like asking you to choose among children?

Victoria: Funny, Alix is my favorite for this episode as well — I love her delivery, everything out of her mouth is hilarious to me, and she does a nice shopping and sex tie-in.

I slept in linen sheets for the first time at a friend of mine's Downton Abbey-esque country estate (on a horse-hair mattress). It was a transformative experience. There's something about them — the tooth, the way it regulates your body temp, something — that makes for happy sleeping. I'd strongly recommend, especially in the summer.

I hope female desire is contagious! What kitchen appliance??

Well, the site is great so far. And does your Downton Abbey friend need another friend? Because I am a good, nice friend. (Also, the kitchen appliance is a [redacted], but I'm actually writing about it for this site, so I don't want to give away the "surprise," although I now feel absolutely ridiculous saying that.)

Kate: I used to think Downton Abbey was called Downtown Abby, and that it was about a poor girl named Abby who lived downtown. I was also really annoyed because I thought that everyone talking about it was trying to pronounce the word "Downtown" in an accent to be authentic.

I love that. It also reminds me of my friend's friend who thought it was called "Downtown Arby's." I desire a Downtown Arby's. But: were there challenges getting women to talk about desire, or did you find they were eager to?

Kate: We start talking the second our interview subject walks in the door, and once the camera starts rolling we keep a conversational vibe going, and just tell them to look in the camera. I'm behind the camera crammed in a little corner where my knees are pretty much touching theirs, so it's very intimate. They know we're right there with them and that they have our undivided attention. Contrary to what people may think, women like to talk! And, brace yourself for this one, women like to talk about their feelings! We're deeply interested and ask them questions and we listen.

It's crazy how many people have said, "No one has honestly asked me what I really want or engaged me like this." When she leaves the interview and her friend contacts us the next day and says, "Angela told me she had the greatest experience yesterday, can I come in for an interview too?" you know you have something special happening.

Any tricks to getting people to open up about such an awesome but potentially nerve-wracking subject ?

Kate: Our goal is to make it not feel so scary, and I can share some pretty ridiculous stories about myself that would make anyone feel comfortable. Don't ask Victoria for a follow up on that one, YET. We've laughed and cried and coughed and had technical problems and knocked stuff over during profound moments. I think the key is that we are having this experience with them. We're learning a lot about ourselves as well. Victoria and I are on camera in many of the upcoming episodes, and obviously we're sharing a lot of ourselves in the blog, too. We've had several women tell us it was better than therapy!

Victoria and I never want the ladies to leave at the end, and I know we stall sometimes so they'll hang out with us just a little bit longer. "Are you sure you don't want some more tea? Kate has a trove of strangely hilarious You Tube videos, do you want to watch one?" When they walk out, we close the door and look at each other with puppy-dog eyes. These women are so amazing to talk with, and so engaging on camera. We have some pretty amazing stuff. Just wait!

The Desire Project will update with new interviews and episodes every month. You can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

71 Comments / Post A Comment


"Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." - William Blake

Oh, and also: "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling. And being restrain'd it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire." - my homeboy Blake again.


@Edith Zimmerman I suppose the first one is a little bit "side-eye", because I think if my desire involved seriously hurting somebody (or actually murdering a baby) I would hope I would be strong enough to nurse it unacted. But the second one? The second one kind of haunts me.


@Decca - Blake was also an answer (question) on Jeopardy last night! It was a really easy one ("What immortal hand or eye / can bake me luscious pecan pie?") but still! Blake!


@leon.saintjean In my experience, Blake is the least-studied of the Big Six Romantics, but the more I read of him the more I love him.


@Decca I love Blake toooo! He was so weird and saw angels and stuff! Plus his poetry is amazing even if its like being hit round the head with a big allegorical shovel.



I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine—

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.


And he was also the artist for the Wedgwood catalog!


@Decca I think the nurse there is in the sense of nursing a grudge. Like, do it or don't. But sitting there pondering and stewing and mulling it over if you've decided not to (or can't) act on it is a recipe for disaster.


@wharrgarbl Yeah, you're completely right actually. Nursing, to me, has connotations of self-pity attached to it as well.


@Decca - Yeah it's a shame he's not more well-read - although to be fair, I thought this was just because nobody real reads poetry. But maybe part of that is because, as someone who went to an art-school and hung out w/ people who liked to get wacky, Blake is pretty much THE (non-beat) poet of choice.


I'm surprised Blake doesn't get more play from the comics community.


@leon.saintjean Blaaaaake. He was so trippy! Best freshman year of college lit discovery. My first English prof was obsessed with him and with Wordsworth. He actually was a prominent Wordsworth scholar -- well, is, he's not dead but is retired -- and brought in actual Wordsworth manuscripts to class. Like, he was friends with Wordsworth's descendants/relations and went digging around in their attics and shit, no big. It was always all whaaaaaat, professor, what is this and why are you letting us touch this even under plastic and with gloves, we are eighteen years old and all complete idiots.


@laurel Someone needs to get Kate Beaton on this immediately.


@Decca Nothing can express this more succinctly than the tattoo of Hedonism-Bot I have planned.



I don't think you speak for everyone real or know what they do.

Ham Snadwich

@Decca - There should be a Ask An 18th Century Romantic Poet column.


@Ham Snadwich I absolutely 100% would like to hear what Lord Byron thinks I should do about my love life.


@Decca - When it comes to the idea of giving advice and Byron, I think this is most appropriate:

Away! we know that tears are vain,
That death nor heeds nor hears distress:
Will this unteach us to complain?
Or make one mourner weep the less?
And thou - who tell'st me to forget,
Thy looks are wan, thine eyes are wet.

(I had to scan through a few of my favorites - sadly, I may be a Starter on Team 1.5, but I cannot force myself into being a person who has a bunch of poems memorized, even though it's one of my life goals.)

Ham Snadwich

@Decca - Blake is pretty much going to tell you to bang whoever you want, whenever, and that you totaly suck if you don't.


@Carrie Hill Wilner Carrie! What Old Book Do I Read If I Miss Your Column?

Hot Doom

@Decca Ah! SO glad you brought Blake into this! I really only know Songs of Innocence and Experience (which can be heart-wrenching), his art is soooo trippy! The guy was so ahead of his time with his artworks, like really Art Deco-looking sometimes. COOL.


blake. he had visions you know. scary angel visions. the coleridge hooked me when i was about 13. i had to know these romantics. loved them all through college. my daughter now 10, wanted to read some poetry so i got her out the blake anthology. i figure, songs of innocence, what could go wrong. i forgot about The Little Black Boy- about how his soul was white. obviously a vast oversimplification of the poem, but still- not something you want your kid to bring up in class.

also- laudanum! was there nothing it couldn't cure?


@laurel - i will now reveal my geekishness. blake was constantly referenced in a mid-80s comic called Moonshadow. it was beautifully illustrated with watercolors, charcoals and pencils. i retreat.

sceps yarx

@brad no, no don't retreat! I've been fishing for unconventional comic book references. Moonshadow sounds amaaaaazing! What else do you read?


@Decca Have you ever seen Dead Man? William Blake always makes me think of Dead Man.


great work, thank you. @k

Porn Peddler

Argh I want all of these to be three times as long! Cindy, tell me more about porn and male forearms, this is very, very relevant to my interests. On a related note, I hope the Sex Diaries post happens soon- I was morbidly fascinated with my own diary and so, so curious to see what the summary post entails.


@Third Wave Housewife Me too! I want to know!!

Porn Peddler

@tortietabbie 99% of the time, I think Radical Honesty is completely fucked and justified by asshole men who want everyone to put up with their abuse, BUT, the sort of radical honesty employed in writing a sex diary was so, so refreshing and did prompt me to talk to Mister about all the dark sticky shit that surfaced when all the walls came down. And from that, I think, came greater intimacy and better communication. ARIANNE COHEN ARE YOU OUT THERE? I MUST READ THIS POST.

Ham Snadwich

@Third Wave Housewife - I don't know, I've only ever heard women talk about Radical Honesty. The men usually call it "telling it how it is" or somesuch, but you're correct that these people are usually assholes.


@Third Wave Housewife It didn't really prompt me to talk to my partner, but I did get deeply introspective about things that were happening in my life and how I was reacting to them and why. Also I just really like to talk/write about my sex life.

Porn Peddler

@tortietabbie I miss my diary. Every some some sexual thought crosses my mind I want to text it in to my diary and then I'm like oh wait


@Third Wave Housewife Me too! I've thought about keeping my own diary just for myself, but it seems not as fun somehow.


@Third Wave Housewife It made me realise and bring up with my boy a couple of things about my relationship, and I think if ever things get difficult I will diary again to keep track of how I feel about things - it's so easy to mentally brush shit under the carpet once it's over and everyone's happy again.


I am. . .kind of in love with this.

:Cinnamon Girl:

Me toooooo. I want more episodessssssss. And I kind of want to be interviewed for it! Not because I have anything worth saying, but because I want to think about the answers to these questions before hearing someone else's answers.


I immediately started to think about things that I desire and now I'm going to spend the rest of the day on Pinterest. Desiring things.


yooo I am so happy that they used Battles in this trailer


@lauraruth What's the name of the track? I really like it.


@Decca I believe it is the first track, "Sz2" off of their first EP called "EP C/B EP (Disc 1)" lollllll Battles


@lauraruth Yes, that's it! Thanks.


I really really really want to know what Edith's mysterious kitchen appliance is now.

Edith Zimmerman

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher STAY TUNED! Every day, forever!


@Edith Zimmerman You're using this as one of those habit-creating rewards, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?


@Edith Zimmerman

But it's leap day!


Hahahaah "Boring sex is like a ride you can't get off."
Too. true.


@Megan Patterson@facebook you can get off of it, just not from it.

Tuna Surprise

RIP Arby's on 6th Ave and West 3rd Street. Never forget.

@Tuna Surprise "Johnny! You know I love my big beef and cheddar!"

Reginal T. Squirge

"Desire is always a kind of invention. By which I mean that the two of us are re-invented by this powerful emotion. Well, sometimes it is the two of us, sometimes it might just be me, and then I am your stalker, your psychopath, the one whose fantasy is out of control." - Jeanette Winterson


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I've posted this Winterson quotation before, but it's relevant:

"Travellers at least have a choice. Those who set sail know that things will not be the same as at home. Explorers are prepared. But for us, who travel along the blood vessels, who come to the cities of the interior by chance, there is no preparation. We who were fluent find life is a foreign language. Somewhere between the swamp and the mountains. Somewhere between fear and sex. Somewhere between God and the Devil passion is, and the way there is sudden, and the way back is worse."


I watched these with my boyfriend in the room, and when I got to Cindy's, where she tells the story of her friend getting turned on by the dude's forearm, he got really confused. He had never heard of the male forearm as a sexy body part before, or what made a forearm sexy. I had to do an image search to show him, explain why that was a big part of why dudes in bands tend to get ladies even if they're ugly (he has been in bands for almost 15 years!), because playing guitars and drums get dudes' forearms ripped.
He knew that women like guys' bodies, but had never really thought deeply about individual male physical attributes that had merit or were valued in any specific way, other than general "that dude's really muscular, most girls want that", and that on the whole men's bodies were goofy and relatively inconsequential, and I get the sense that a lot of guys feel that way, too.

On the whole this idea makes me very sad because not only does it do a great disservice to the intricacies of male-directed desire, but also to the way many men view their own bodies as being sexually neutral except for their dicks. I know I'm not completely happy with my body, but there are parts that I love that make me feel sensual and sexy, like the smallness of my waist, the fullness of my hips and ass, the delicate lines of my collarbone. Having these areas shown off and touched by someone I want to do the sex with help make me more confident in myself and make me a better partner. I think if a lot of dudes who feel down on or apathetic towards their bodies knew about the female gaze and how certain parts of them made women feel would be more confident in those qualities and be better at sex than having it all wrapped up in dick size, which, personally, I'm not that worried about.


@ilikemints Oh man, so many pics of famous dudes on Tumblr get tagged as "forearm porn." Um, particularly of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That I've noticed. It's a thing. /digression


@ilikemints : Yes to ALL of this, especially the bit about the forearms, because those are a turn on like WHOA.

Barry Grant

@ilikemints Your man is a lucky guy.


@ilikemints Yup, sexy trombone playing forearms is what got me with the ex. But I also like manbutt and backs.


@Megan Patterson@facebook Yeah, I'm really not a forearm girl (though I definitely get the appeal). I'm definitely a back and shoulder girl myself.


@ilikemints FOREARMSSS! The first few times I told my man that I love his arms he was mystified. I did have to explain it but I think he still thinks it's weird. I think you have a good point there, that I may discuss with others. Thanks for the thought-food!


@ilikemints This makes me sad, too. My husband thinks that men's bodies - including his own - are "disgusting." Which is just depressing. I mean, I have more body and self-esteem issues than I can count, but I don't think that I am disgusting. It makes me sad for him.

Also, forearms are nice, but you guys - HANDS.


@Bebe I dont think its a self esteem issue as much as its a form vs. function thing. Womens bodies are Ducatis and mens are Hondas. I love my Honda and wouldnt trade it for anything but as a guy its hard to imagine it inspiring the same sensory lust as a Ducati does.


@Bebe Not to be a "self-satisfied gay" or whatever, but it's nice to realize that in the same ways I find men attractive, they might find me attractive. Perhaps a little queer eye could go a long way to help men find their sexy self-image.


@sp8ce Really, Hondas? I've definitely seen some Aston Martins, and I... er, appreciate them fully. Male bodies are definitely capable of beauty and explicit sexuality and inspiring major sensory lust.


@sp8ce Well, gaze and desire go both ways. You might not be interested in male bodies yourself, but remember that you might be someone's Ducati.


@ilikemints I love your response to our interview with Cindy's. I'm going to post this on our site. Please follow our stuff out and let us know your thoughts. This is exactly why we are doing this. Your insight make it worth it. X


Linen sheets are life changing. Strong endorse.


There's definitely the waves of desire that make me make a small noise involuntarily just from the sight of someone's arms and hands grasping the subway pole, that is a thing that has happened. When I do literally feel like I might have to sit down before my knees buckle, or I lose my balance. But it only lasts a second, it doesn't abide, it's just a chemical wash that makes me really loopy for that one moment and leaves a little warmth behind.

I also think about sweet desire, desire you prolong by choice because you know it's nicer that way, so that you look forward to the fulfillment even more, so the pleasure is even sharper. Desire whose outcome isn't uncertain, so you (and by you I mean I) have to put the excitement in it yourself by withholding it, at least a little--otherwise it's just indulgence, immediate gratification. I like to feel I've had to work for something, I guess, in order to value it, and I like deprivation in small amounts because it focuses the mind on the thing that is lacking. Thinking about having becomes a pleasure almost as great as having...and it lasts longer and is renewed all the time!

My thoughts, by Me.


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