CBR12 Bingo: No Money!
I discovered Three Women by Lisa Taddeo like many of my books–on NPR’s Best Books of 2019. I decided to use it to fill my No Money! bingo square. This was by far the easiest square for me to get. I get almost all of the books I read from the library, so most of the books I’ve read this year would work.
Three Women is an apt description for this non-fiction account of the sex lives of three women. Their stories vary dramatically, but there are some common themes between them. These include mistreatment by men and the judgment and shame that they face for their actions. I found this book very readable, impactful, and surprisingly relatable.
Maggie is seventeen and in high school when her teacher has an inappropriate, illegal, sexual relationship with her. After Maggie’s teacher’s wife discovers the text messages between them, he abruptly calls everything off. Maggie is heartbroken and distraught. She eventually tells her parents everything, and there is a very public trial where Maggie’s teacher is found innocent. The amount of hatred and shame directed at Maggie is disheartening, if not surprising. Obviously, the book is from Maggie’s perspective, but there were call records and notes in a copy of Twilight that were pretty damning. I believed her.
Lina fondly remembers her boyfriend from high school, Aidan. He was the first boy she had ever kissed, and their relationship had all the promise of new beginnings. But it ended one night when she was roofied and gangraped by three boys. The rumor around the school was that she was a slut, and she never went out with Aidan again. Now, many years later, Lina has never addressed the gang rape. Her husband has never kissed her and barely has sex with her. She begins to sleep with Aidan, but the relationship is very unbalanced. Lina is desperate for his affection, and goes out of her way to make things work while Aidan treats her as an occasional distraction.
Sloane’s story was probably the hardest for me to understand. Sloane is beautiful and rich, with a loving husband who encourages her to have sex with other men. Sloane complies because she likes pleasing her husband. Sloane and her husband begin sleeping with another man who works at their restaurant. When the man’s wife finds out, she blames Sloane and Sloane is left to shoulder that blame by herself.
The women in this book were fascinating subjects by themselves. But all three had relationships where they had less control of their intimate lives than the men they were with. And if things went badly, they bore the brunt of the scorn and shame that followed, whether it was your English teacher going down on you in his house, being gang raped in high school, or having an affair with a coworker.
I needed to digest what I read after reading this book, so I did some googling and found Stephanie Danler’s reaction to the book: https://thesewaneereview.com/articles/her-kind-reaction-lisa-taddeos-three-women. One of her quotes hit me surprisingly hard: “As I read, I realized that I don’t know a single woman who’d made it through high school unscathed by some sort of verbal or physical assault that calcified within her as shame.”
I haven’t had any experiences specifically close to Maggie, Lina, or Sloane. However, as I read, memories I had not thought about for years came to the surface. Some were from unbalanced relationships I’ve been in. These were very reminiscent of Maggie and Lina’s experiences as they were desperate for attention from men who didn’t really care about them. It was sometimes hard to read because it put my own experiences in a different light.
I found this book thought-provoking and powerful. The women’s stories are well-written and compelling.
“One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.” (2)
“There is no humanity in humans.” (65)
“Women shouldn’t judge one another’s lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.” (102)
“How could he have done the things he did to her, put his mouth on her and say he loved her over and over, and then act as though she is nothing?” (165)
“In the middle of this tenderness she shivers because she knows the truth even as she tries to shut it out: he is terrible to her.” (268)
“It felt as though, with desire, nobody wanted anyone else, particularly a woman, to feel it.” (304)
“One man did say to me that, before reading the book, he’d had no idea how much the indifference of men could be wounding.” (306)
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.