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"There can be no equality without equality of pleasure." — Carina Kolodny, Writer and Media Activist

From the production company that brought you HOOP DREAMS and MINDING THE GAP, THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE explores the clash between the power of gender politics and the equally powerful imperatives of female sexual desire. A feature length documentary by two-time Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Maria Finitzo, produced in partnership with four-time Oscar-nominated production studio Kartemquin Films, the film follows two scientists, an industrial designer and a conceptual artist who are using their work to shatter the myths and outright lies women have been taught about their sexual desire and their bodies.

These four provocative women are committed to the truth. Call it “cliteracy” – the acknowledgement and understanding that the clitoris is fundamental to the female orgasm.Through her art, Sophia Wallace is changing the way we talk about female pleasure. Dr. Stacey Dutton is dedicated to studying the biology of the clitoris. Dr. Lisa Diamond is dismantling outdated notions about women’s arousal and desire with 20 years of ground-breaking research and Ti Chang who founded CRAVE, a company dedicated to designing and manufacturing elegant and beautiful vibrators for women.

Woven throughout this narrative are intimate portraits of five diverse, compelling young women who have agreed to share with us their personal stories of what it means to be sexual in today’s world and what they confront on a daily basis in claiming this basic right.

Sophia Wallace

THE STORY

THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE begins with a paradox. The female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality. It saturates advertising, art and mainstream erotic imaginary. Yet female sexual desire — what women actually want — is mostly left out of the conversation or seen as a dangerous threat to the social order. Men’s sexual desire, on the other hand, is celebrated in music, literature, art and pop culture.

Furthermore, sex education teaches us all about male anatomy and male pleasure. Female sexual pleasure is never a part of the conversation and the clitoris, an organ found on the body of every mammal born female whose sole function in a human being is sexual pleasure, is omitted. It is time to talk about desire — female sexual desire. Driving our narrative is this question: What does it take for women to express their sexual desire in the face of cultural, religious and political forces that punish them for wanting sex? Then imagine how different the world just might look if women’s libidos were taken as seriously as men’s. Change begins in a moment of truth telling.

"Women have been told that the vagina is the seat of pleasure and that’s completely a lie. It’s completely a lie." — Dr. Stacey Dutton

Dr. Stacey Dutton, a neuroscientist and professor of biology at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, was preparing to teach a class on the biology of womanhood when she realized she had no idea what a clitoris looked like. So she googled “clitoris.” What happened next changed everything. Up popped the work of conceptual artist and activist Sophia Wallace. In 2014, Wallace created a multimedia project that challenged the misconceptions about the female body. She called it CLITERACY, 100 Natural Laws.

Using a wall of text as form, CLITERACY expanded upon the recent scientific breakthroughs that verified the clitoris as a core component of female pleasure and confronted the fact that even in a culture that sexually objectifies women, discussion of female sexuality remains taboo. Wallace’s art was impressive, but what really got Dutton’s attention was when she realized that this was the first time she had actually seen a drawing of the clitoris.

Dr. Stacey Dutton
"I’ve been studying science, anatomy and physiology for 15 years and I’ve never seen the clitoris. How is this possible?" — Dr. Stacey Dutton

She was angry that as a woman biologist, she didn’t even know her own anatomy. She decided to take on the scientific and medical establishment which for decades has denied and ignored the legitimacy of the clitoris, an organ found on the body of every female-born mammal, by changing the course of her research, from the study of epilepsy to studying the biology of the clitoris. Shortly after setting up her lab, Dutton invited Sophia Wallace to come to Agnes Scott and bring her work including CLITERACY: The 100 Natural Laws. A week-long event called Clitical Thinking followed by a month long exhibit of Wallace’s art, gave students and faculty the opportunity to explore the vast territory the 100 Natural Laws draw from, including psychoanalysis, female genital mutilation, religion, the myth of virginity and a critique of porn culture. For the students at Agnes Scott, the effect of coming into contact with Sophia’s work was empowerment.

Dr. Stacey Dutton and student
"IF WE AS WOMEN FIND OUT ABOUT OUR SEXUAL NEEDS, DOESN'T THAT MAKE US EQUAL TO MEN? I THINK THAT'S WHAT MEN FEAR THE MOST. BECAUSE IF WE BECOME EQUAL THEN WE DESERVE RIGHTS." — Student at Clitical Thinking Discussion
Sophia Wallace
"I think it just overwhelmed me that the representations of sex and sexuality almost universally excluded the clitoris as being necessary, and that's just absurd. It's akin to these ideas we used to have in medieval times that the universe revolved around the earth. It's a similar idea of what sex is, that it revolves around the male erection and that's just not true. I was thinking about, how is it possible that no one is calling bullshit on this?" — Sophia Wallace

It is no surprise that Wallace’s work is viewed as dangerous and has been flagged as “pornographic”, taken off the Internet and even elicited death threats. As an artist, she confronts the problem of the false global narrative of the female body, both cis and trans female, constructed by men with false information, with the goal to control within a culture that defines femaleness as inferior and female sexual organs as taboo. She is literally changing the way we talk about female pleasure.

Dr. Lisa Diamond
"We are living in arguably the best time and place to be a woman in the history of the world. And yet even that’s not enough to protect women from being labeled sluts if they want to express their sexuality. It’s a little bit heartbreaking to see how little has changed from what my mother describes to me about her own growing up and the strictures placed on women who wanted to express themselves erotically and intimately." — Dr. Lisa Diamond

How do we fall in love? Where does desire come from? Why this person and not another? Dr. Lisa Diamond is an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah who has spent her career studying the brain science behind lust, love and infatuation, hoping to answer these very questions.

Traditionally, female sexual desire had always been presumed to work in the same way and by the same rules as male desire. As a graduate student, Diamond decided to investigate whether or not this was true. By tracking subjects over the span of 20 years, her study followed the relationships of nearly 100 women who at one point or another had experienced ‘same-sex attractions.’ The women moved from men to women and back again (or vice-versa), their sexual identity as changeable as their desires. This does not mean that all women are bisexual, rather, as Diamond explains it can be thought of as an additional component of a woman’s sexuality that operates in concert with sexual orientation to influence how her attractions, fantasies, behaviors, and affections are experienced and expressed over the life course. Perhaps flexibility is embedded in the nature of female desire. Her work resulted in her 2008 groundbreaking study on female sexuality that articulated and explored the phenomenon of sexual fluidity, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.

Ti Chang
"It just seemed to make sense to me that we should talk about sex. We should talk about pleasure. It’s part of who we are. When I realized that this was an area that modern design, wasn’t really addressing I was kind of enraged. There’s no reason why a product for female pleasure deserves any less design than any other thing you would use in your life. So, it came from a place of trying to right a wrong." - Ti Chang

When Ti Chang decided to become an industrial designer, she assumed that because the world was made up of both men and women and because both sexes needed products well designed and useful in their lives, that the field of Industrial Design would have both men and women as designers. However, even before she graduated from the Royal College of Design in London, she knew that was not the case. Like many professional fields, the female perspective was almost completely absent from the world of industrial design. Every job she got after graduating, she was always the sole woman on the design team. One company did not even have a bathroom for women. It didn’t take her long to decide that she wanted to start her own company, designing products made for women by women designers. A few years later CRAVE was born. Ti’s goal is to create products that would elevate the notion of women’s pleasure, giving women permission to feel good about taking care of their own needs. She is also interested in elevating the conversation about women’s pleasure and therefore she created a vibrator that can also be worn by women as a necklace! At CRAVE, there is no place for shame and embarrassment.

Working in concert with the portraits of our four compelling women are the stories of five diverse women, who on a daily basis confront in their lives all of the social constructs that not only deny women the right to be sexual, but punish them when they are. Through their voices, THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE enters a deeply personal space.

Umnia, a Pakistani Muslim woman did everything her family, culture and religion required. An arranged marriage ended in a painful divorce and now at 38, she is alone, longing for connection in a dating landscape that offers none.

Recovering from a painful breakup, Becca uses poetry and art to heal herself and empower other women going through similar pain.

Sunny balances the expectations of her Chinese parents who want her to enter a PhD Program in Economics (a male dominated field) with her own need to express herself as a stand up comic satirizing the culture of the dating landscape.

Jasmine, raised in a conservative Baptist family, rejected all she was taught about sex and sexuality, choosing instead to find her authentic self by working in the sex industry as a stripper. She is an outspoken advocate for the rights of sex workers.

Coriama, a queer woman of color, calls herself an erotic artist. She sees pleasure as a form of resistance to racism and misogyny. Through her work on the series Queer the Air, she creates a conversation about pleasure and sexuality within communities of color.

For a year we have had intimate access to these women, filming them at work, at school, hanging out with friends and family and in their dating lives, intimately exploring what it means for them to find their voice and the courage needed to own their sexuality. We have witnessed them struggle on a daily basis as they confront the political, cultural, social, educational and religious forces that punish them and all women for just wanting sex. And as our filming has continued, we have captured how each one of them finds their own path of resistance.

WHY THIS FILM NOW

THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE is deeply connected to the social issues that are at the core of gender equality. Regulation of female reproductive rights, restricted access to legal and safe abortions and rape culture are just a few of the techniques used to control women’s bodies by predominantly men in power. Every day another story about sexual harassment and assault is reported in the media. Despite the outrage of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, the assaults continue, the stories never end. Sexual freedom is central to the promise of human dignity, self-determination, and equality. The way women are viewed sexually in the world cannot be separated from the way they are treated. THERE CAN BE NO EQUALITY WITHOUT EQUALITY OF PLEASURE. This is at the heart of THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE.

DIRECTOR’S VISION

Is there a “female gaze”? That question is at the heart of my artistic approach to this film and I am working to find a style, a visual aesthetic that defines all points of identification (with character, image, camera) as female, feminine, or feminist. I want to achieve a cinematic representation of women that does not reinforce the notion of women as objects. Because of the content of this film (female sexual desire) it is not only important to consider what is shown, but how it is shown. I am interested in capturing feeling, gesture, the way of looking that is distinctly female. My films are novelistic in their structure, providing multiple points of connection for an audience with the narrative arc of my character’s story evolving over time, ultimately creating a complex, nuanced story.

Many of my films, both documentary and fiction, (5 GIRLS, IN THE GAME, THE PASSION OF GRACE) have explored the lives of women and girls revealing the barriers they face in the quest for personal autonomy. I am interested in telling stories that have at their core a driving desire for liberation — sexual, economic and psychological — from the cultural domination of men. THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE is a natural evolution of my work. As a woman filmmaker, I create an atmosphere of trust with my subjects, which encourages them to answer with candor and honesty. As a woman who grew up in the 60’s, I bring an understanding of what it meant to negotiate the sexual landscape as a single young woman during the political upheaval of the sexual revolution. As a mother of a son and daughter, I watched my children grow up navigating the ups and downs of the sexual landscape. Despite all the gains of the 60’s, old rules remained in place. Gender politics was even more pervasive and most importantly, I was struck by how much more dangerous the world was for both of my children, and in particular for my daughter. For example, while there were many things I needed to be careful about as a young sexually active woman, having someone put a drug in my drink at a bar was not one of them. I am deeply committed to making this film — for my daughter, for my son, for all of our children.

FILMING THUS FAR

THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE has been in production since late 2016 when we first filmed with Sophia Wallace in Brooklyn. We continued to follow her story when she traveled to the Women’s March in 2017 and later to Mexico for the installation of her latest work. We filmed with Stacey Dutton in Georgia, Ti Chang in San Francisco and Lisa Diamond in Salt Lake City. Principal photography is 98% finished and editorial is 75% complete. Our current sample is a 64 minute rough of the first two acts of the film. With additional funding, editing will continue throughout the summer. All post-production – music, sound design and mix, color correction and motion graphics will be completed by fall of 2019.

OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT

Our goal is to get society talking about the hidden truths around female sexual desire. We recently added Impact Producer Shelby Knox (AUDRIE & DAISY) to help us develop a grassroots impact campaign around women and gender equality with the goal of correcting how sex education is taught in schools across North America and potentially the rest of the world. (Shelby was also the subject of the 2005 documentary film THE EDUCATION OF SHELBY KNOX which chronicled her efforts as a student while at her Texas high school to get comprehensive sex education taught in Lubbock's public schools). Getting this film to young women coming of age is important in helping them navigate the sexually charged landscape we are all living in. A core rallying cry of this campaign is #TellHerTheTruth. Using the tools of social media, in partnership with our stakeholders, we will create carefully curated information about the truth of women’s sexual anatomy that includes the accurate depiction of the clitoris and information about its function. Having a way to access information on a trusted platform will be critical to #TellHerTheTruth. In North America, we will measure success as the day when every young woman entering her first year in high school knows the truth of her anatomy.

Outreach planning has already begun. Working closely with Cynthia Lopez (Former Commissioner at New York City Mayor's Officer of Media and Entertainment), we are building an advisory committee. Other formative partners include the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the Center for the Study of Sexuality and Gender at the University of Chicago, the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, the International Council on Human Rights, Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, NOW, and the YMCA/YWCA to name only a few. These partners will help us host influencer screenings nationwide, host meaningful conversations with key audience segments, build screening and social media tool kits, create educational and discussion guides, and help with impact measurement. In addition, we will host screenings at universities with gender studies programs and conferences targeted to women.

We want the film to be a catalyst for a thoughtful conversation about female sexual desire that is informed by the current political and sexual landscape. We want our audience to leave our screenings empowered by our message that agency over one’s sexual desire is a basic human right. The 58th Natural Law of CLITERACY states: Democracy without Cliteracy? Phallusy. Cliteracy=Equality=Freedom.

THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE TEAM

DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody Award-winning social issue documentary filmmaker whose 26 years as a documentary filmmaker has resulted in a body of work that has won every major broadcast award including most recently the Alfred I. duPont Award and has been screened in festivals and theaters around the world. Finitzo’s films have tackled a variety of subjects from the controversial science of stem cell research and the complex questions surrounding the command and control of nuclear weapons to the psychology of adolescent girls, each film demonstrating a depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise. She is a long time associate of the award-winning documentary company, Kartemquin Films, one of the oldest and most respected social issue documentary film companies in the country.

PRODUCER: Diane Quon lived in Los Angeles for over 17 years before moving back to her hometown of Chicago. While in LA, Quon worked at NBC and at Paramount Pictures where she was last the Vice President of Marketing. Quon is producing multiple documentaries with Kartemquin Films including the 2018 Oscar-nominated and Sundance award-winning film, MINDING THE GAP, directed by Bing Liu; LEFT-HANDED PIANIST along with Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich, and co-directed by Leslie Simmer and Kartemquin founder Gordon Quinn; THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE with Peabody Award-winning director Maria Finitzo; and FINDING YINGYING by first time director, Jiayan “Jenny” Shi. Quon is a 2017 and 2018 Film Independent Fellow and is currently developing a fiction film based on a New York Times best-selling book.

PRODUCER: Cynthia Kane created DOCday on Sundance Channel, shepherded over 150 international and U.S. co-productions for public media at ITVS, and at Al Jazeera America was Senior Producer in the Documentary Unit overseeing Kartemquin’s series HARD EARNED (2016 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award), Albert Maysles’ final work, IN TRANSIT, Leon Gast’s SPORTING DREAMS, Barbara Kopple’s SHELTER, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s DAISY AND MAX, Michelle Shephard and Patrick Reed’s GUANTANAMO’S CHILD, Marc Levin’s FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM among others. With gbgg productions and Les Film de l’Après Midi, Kane executive produced, NEW EYES, director: Hiwot Admasu Getaneh, (Venice, TIFF, Rotterdam.) Kane joined forces with former NYC Film Commissioner Cynthia Lopez as creative consultants for Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl's LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD about the extraordinary life and times of Gertrude Bell.

EDITOR: Liz Kaar is an independent filmmaker and editor based in Chicago. She has worked closely with Chicago's documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films for the last decade, and most recently co-directed and edited HARD EARNED, the company's six-part series about people living on low wages across the US, airing on Al Jazeera America. The series won a prestigious Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Journalism Award in 2016 and was nominated for an IDA award. She is currently directing, producing, shooting and editing STRANDED BY THE STATE, a web series and TV miniseries, about the human cost of the almost two-year Illinois budget impasse, the longest a state has gone without a budget since the Great Depression. In the past, she edited and associate-produced the music documentary ANDREW BIRD: FEVER YEAR, festival-favorite ON BEAUTY, and was lead editor for the web series VETERANS COMING HOME. She also edited Kartemquin's TYPEFACE and IN THE GAME. Kaar was Director of Post-Production at Kartemquin Films from 2008-2012 and has also produced and directed non-profit videos for such organizations as the CDC, Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Newberry Library. Fluent in Spanish, her next project will be completing her film THREADS about women engaged in a fair trade business together, connecting the mountainside communities of Guatemala to downtown Chicago.

CONSULTING EDITOR: Sabine Krayenbühl is an award winning editor with over 20 theatrical documentaries and narrative features to her credit, many of which have premiered at prestigious festivals around the world. Her editing work includes Oscar and Independent Spirit Award nominated MY ARCHITECT for which she received an ACE Eddie Award nomination, MAD HOT BALLROOM, ‪THE BRIDGE, PICASSO AND BRAQUE GO TO THE MOVIES produced by Martin Scorsese and SALINGER on which she consulted. Her directorial debut LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD voiced and exec-produced by award winning actress Tilda Swinton was released in the US and UK and will be broadcast on PBS in December 2018. She recently edited THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING which debuted at Sundance and is currently shown on HBO. She is an alumni of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a long-term member of New York Women in Film and Television.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Barbara Kopple is a two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker. A director and producer of narrative films and documentaries, her most recent project was the documentary MISS SHARON JONES! which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015. The opening night film of DOC NYC, the film tracks the talented and gregarious soul singer of the Grammy-nominated R&B band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, during the most challenging year of her life. Barbara produced and directed HARLAN COUNTY USA and AMERICAN DREAM, both winners of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 1991, HARLAN COUNTY USA was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and designated an American Film Classic.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Hugh Schulze is a filmmaker living and working in Chicago. In addition to a documentary on Wendell Berry and two films he has helped produce by Ira Sachs (LOVE IS STRANGE and LITTLE MEN), he has written and directed the award-winning feature film, CASS. He is currently in preproduction for his second feature, DREAMING GRAND AVENUE.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Gordon Quinn is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Kartemquin Films, where over the past 50+ years he has helped hundreds of documentary filmmakers advance their projects forward and been a leading champion of the rights of all documentary filmmakers. He is the 2015 recipient of the International Documentary Association Career Achievement Award and was a key leader in creating the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. His credits as director and producer include films as diverse and essential as '63 BOYCOTT (2017), INQUIRING NUNS (1966), GOLUB (1988), and A GOOD MAN (2011), and as executive producer include Academy-Award nominated films MINDING THE GAP (2018), ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL (2016), HOOP DREAMS (1994), and the Emmy Award-winning THE INTERRUPTERS (2011), THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (2013), THE HOMESTRETCH (2014), and LIFE ITSELF (2014), and the acclaimed limited series THE NEW AMERICANS (2003) and HARD EARNED (2015).

The DILEMMA OF DESIRE team

KARTEMQUIN FILMS: Kartemquin is a collaborative community empowering documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society. Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by innovative community engagement.

The organization's films have received three Academy Award® nominations and won several major prizes, including five Emmys, two Peabody Awards, multiple Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards. Kartemquin is recognized as a leading advocate for independent documentary media, and has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs that help further grow the field, such as KTQ Labs, Diverse Voices in Docs, and the acclaimed KTQ Internship. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com

PROJECT ADVISORS

  • Aymar Jean "AJ" Christian Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and a Fellow at the Peabody Media Center; Author, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
  • Eve Ensler American playwright (THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES); Performer, feminist, and activist
  • Jessica Fields Professor of Sociology at the Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State; Author of Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality
  • Carol Gilligan NYU Professor, American feminist, ethicist and psychologist; author of “In a Different Voice” credited with inspiring the passage of the 1994 Gender Equity in Education Act.
  • Frances Kissling Scholar and activist in the fields of religion, reproduction and women's rights; President of the Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy and previous President of Catholics for Choice
  • Shelby Knox Feminist organizer; Outreach Director for AUDRIE AND DAISY; Subject of 2005 film, THE EDUCATION OF SHELBY KNOX
  • Cynthia Lopez Executive Director, New York Women in Film and Television; Creative Strategic Consultant; Former Commissioner at New York City Mayor's Officer of Media and Entertainment
  • Nicole Page Partner (Entertainment and Employment Law) at Reavis Page Jump LLC; President of the Board of Women Make Movies
  • Katha Politt American poet, essayist and critic; Author of four essay collections (Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism) and two books of poetry; columnist for The Nation magazine
  • Dr. Nabeela Rasheed Senior leader at Abbvie, Inc.; activist and advocate for the PRIDE group, Asian Leadership Network and Legal Council for Health Justice
  • Deborah L. Tolman, Ed.D. Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College; Professor of Psychology, The Graduate Center at the City University of New York; Co-Editor-in-Chief (with L. Diamond), APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology; Co-Founder, SPARK

CONTACT US

Director/Producer: Maria Finitzo / Cell: 312.933.8528 / Email: mfinitzo@gmail.com

Producer: Diane Quon / Cell: 847.727.8814 / Email: dianemquon@gmail.com

Producer: Cynthia Kane / Cell: 917.679.8297 / Email: misscpern@gmail.com

Sales Agent: Anne Roney, Ro*Co Films / Email: annie@rocofilms.com

FOLLOW US

Artwork courtesy of Sophia Wallace © 2002-2018 SOPHIA WALLACE — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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