Pick of the Day: “The Dilemma of Desire”

Described by director Maria Finitzo as “a film about power, and how power is easily taken when the truth is replaced with a lie,” “The Dilemma of Desire” puts the clitoris under a microscope and into the spotlight. Early on in the doc, Dr. Stacey Dutton, a neuroscientist, shares a formative experience. While teaching a class called Biology and Womanhood, she realized that she still had plenty to learn about the subject. “One of the chapters in the book that I was using as a text was entitled ‘The Clitoris’ and it hit me — I don’t even know what this looks like,” Dr. Dutton reveals. She asks, “As a woman biologist, how is it possible that I do not know what my own biology looks like?”

“Dilemma of Desire” explores how and why the clitoris has been, and continues to be, shrouded in mystery — why so few studies have been done to understand the clitoris, why so many people with clits have no sense of their size or scope, and why heterosexual sex so often leaves clitorises out of the equation, a contributing factor to the orgasm gap.

“This is not just a film about the clitoris, or even sex,” Finitzo told us. “Instead, it is a film that connects the knowledge of clitoral facts — the truth of female empowerment way beyond sexual satisfaction.” She emphasized, “I want people to think about how and why we have a system in place that thinks it is okay to teach boys the truth about their sexual anatomy and sexual desire, and denies girls the right to the same knowledge. Sex education teaches us all about male anatomy and male pleasure,” she explained, “and nothing about female pleasure and female anatomy unless it has to do with reproduction. The clitoris, the organ of female sexual pleasure, is omitted entirely, and so a girl begins her sexual life with the lie of omission so powerful that it will resonate deeply throughout her entire life — cutting her off from information about her body and a vital source of her power.”

“The Dilemma of Desire” sees artist Sophia Wallace recalling how her grandmother, a mother of five, once confessed that she didn’t think that she’d ever had an orgasm. After becoming “obsessed” with this fact, Wallace began working on a project to spread the good word about clits, their power, potential, and suppression. Her Cliteracy work puts clits front and center.

Wallace and Dr. Dutton are joined in the doc by Dr. Lisa Diamond, a researcher who studies women’s arousal, Ti Chang, an industrial designer working at a company that sells vibrators, and Umnia, Becca, Jasmine, Sunny, and Coriama, five young women who are discovering their sexuality and learning new ways to share and connect with younger and older generations.

A powerful rebuke of the medical and school systems which so often omit, minimize, or misrepresent anything having to do with women’s pleasure, “The Dilemma of Desire” is also a powerful celebration of the clit and the women working to destigmatize it. As Finitzo explains, “The film takes much of its inspiration from the ground-breaking essay ‘Uses of the Erotic’ by feminist Audre Lorde. In her essay, Lorde tells us that the erotic is a force within all of us, including men. Women are warned against it all their lives by the male world, and so as a result, for women this means a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information in our lives.” “The Dilemma of Desire,” like the women it features, aims to share that power and information widely.

“The Dilemma of Desire” is now available on VOD. 

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