The Desire Project and What Women Really Want

What do you desire? Can you put it into words?

Despite feminism’s advances, to express desire as a woman is still an obscurely shameful act. To chase a man is desperate; to crave a pair of shoes is shallow. Even ambition in pursuit of an athletic achievement or a career goal is suspect most of the time. No one ever accuses male marathoners of neglecting their children, like some did to Paula Radcliffe. Did your latest promotion come at your husband’s expense? Or your dog’s?

That’s why it’s strangely cathartic to watch woman after woman name their desires, honestly and without judgment, take for example fresh-faced New York gallery owner Alix. “I get overwhelmed by the desire to have a dress, or a bag, or you know, even, like, a salad bowl,” says Alix, smiling sheepishly at the camera. “The dumbest stuff.”

Alix’s interview is one of a collection in Victoria Floethe’s The Desire Project. Floethe, a New York writer, started the series two years ago in an attempt to catalog all the ways that women want what they want. As we all know, desire can take many forms – from sexual desire, as described by consultant and public speaker Cindy Gallop, to novelist Sam Taylor’s desire for one particular vintage coat.

Personal trainer, stuntwoman and athlete Kym Perfetto articulates the need for something like The Desire Project perfectly in her interview: To express desire, even the simple desire to succeed, is seen as unfeminine. “From a female perspective,” Perfetto said, in reference to athletic competition, “you need the positive reinforcement to get yourself there. It seems very cocky and unladylike. It’s something you have to come to terms with, first, before you can say it out loud.”

The same applies to a lot of different aspects of a woman’s life. The field of female desire is strangely unexplored, even scientifically; most sexual scientific research has been done by men, on men. Floethe was partially inspired by an article by Daniel Bergner in the New York Times, which described the ways that female arousal differs fundamentally from male arousal. Even the most basic desire – what do we find sexy – is different for a woman than for a man.

“The idea was to create an environment, a place where people can be really expressive,” said Floethe. “I really liked the direct-to-video feeling of YouTube, but a lot of it is moronic. I wanted smart, funny women talking directly to the camera about desire. What else is there? Desire is life itself.”

Most of the women are filmed in front of a blank wall in Floethe’s apartment, their stories illustrated by nothing more than their vivid, and occasionally hilarious, descriptions. The format is conversational, not confrontational, but they relate some uncomfortable stories – not always sexual ones, but ones dealing with jealousy and competitiveness.

“At the beginning it started with friends,” said Floethe. “Then they recommended other women, and then scouting all the time. Whenever I went to a party and I met someone interesting, I asked them. There’s a really strong international feel to it…. it’s one of the most fun parts, imagining all the fantastic people you could call up and ask.”

Floethe airs one episode a month. For more information, check out her to submit your own desires, contact her through The Desire Project.