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Photo: John Collins/Bountiful Films

Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.
– Helen Gurley Brown

That’s perhaps Helen Gurley Brown’s most famous quote. Gurley Brown, author of the 1960s bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, went on to edit Cosmopolitan magazine and deliver shocking sexual performance advice (Oral Sex to Blow His Mind!) when such things simply weren’t talked about. When she died in 2012, the New Yorker magazine said, “She set an example worth emulating, she triumphantly owned her desire.” 

Sex positive women’s group, Toronto. Photo:John Collins/Bountiful Films

Yet half a century after Ms. Gurley Brown urged women to pursue their desires, there’s still much debate over how women choose to do so. Women today have unprecedented financial freedom. Thanks to the birth control pill, biology is no longer destiny. With women now dominating most professional schools, we proudly own our ambition. But do we triumphantly own our desire?

The Truth About Female Desire is a documentary exploration of that question and of the journey women have taken since Gurley Brown took female desire out of the closet. Provocative new science about female sexuality coupled with advances in digital technology (Tinder!) make it possible for women to pursue their desires like never before.

See the results from the 2015 Canadian Living Sex Survey

This provocative, honest, and entertaining look at female desire smashes centuries-old constructs designed to control female sexuality and reveals women brave enough to appear as sexual beings on national TV, slut shamers be damned. From 18 to 80, Canadian women reject outdated, sexist and simply wrong-headed ideas about female desire.

Ideas like:

  • Women aren’t highly sexual. A generation ago, women who liked sex went to great lengths to hide it. Not so anymore, says, Dr. Jocelyn Wentland, a sex researcher at the University of Ottawa. In a study of 1000 women, 50 percent admitted they liked sex. A lot. “Women are embracing their sexuality in ways that haven’t been acceptable in the public eye in a long time, if ever. And they are embracing it, and they are owning it, and they are not afraid of it, they are not ashamed - and that is really cool.”
  • Women avoid casual sex. According to Wentland’s study, many women revealed that they don’t have a problem engaging in sex outside of a relationship. 56 percent of respondents to Canadian Living’s Annual Sex Survey also admit to having had a one-night stand. And digital technology has made it so much easier. Thanks to Tinder, the hottest dating app on the planet, made for smart phones, women like Khadeja, Christina and Mary literally have hundreds of potential hookups at their fingertips. 
  • Women don’t want to experiment. Canadian women are going to extraordinary lengths to rekindle dormant desire boosting sex toy sales coast to coast. We now openly admit our fondness for sex play, no doubt partly inspired by the monumental success of the 50 Shades of Grey books. According to Canadian Living’s 2014 annual sex survey, 58 percent of respondents have tried anal sex, 33 percent tried bondage
  • Long-married women give up on sex. Not anymore. Vancouver sex therapist, Dr. Lori Brotto: “I’m certainly hearing a real mourning about the lack of desire that women once felt at earlier stages of their relationship.” Women now initiate two thirds of all divorces – and while the divorce rate has plateaued for most age groups, for people over 50 it is increasing.
  • Women over 50 are done with sex. Not so says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, the sex and relationship expert for the American Association of Retired Persons. Today’s women over 50 may well be the most sexually active in history - including women well over 50, like Debra, a 67-year-old Vancouver-area woman who found a lover on craigslist. Today’s “older woman” is doing what it takes to regain sexual confidence, even attending oral sex workshops.
"More and more women are saying, 'we enjoy and want sex just like men' and are not afraid to say so."

Listen to an interview with director Maureen Palmer.

All these women triumphantly own their desire because they are sick of media stereotypes that reinforce the notion that only skinny, big-breasted, young women have the right to be sexual. And they are done with being defined as “bad girls” because they like sex. The Truth About Female Desire confronts the last barrier that holds women back from truly pursuing their desire: old-fashioned slut-shaming with a modern twist – social media.

The secret to desire in a long-term relationship.

Watch a Ted Talk by Ester Perel

These confident, sexually adventurous women insist the right to say yes must be respected as much as the right to say no.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz: “Why can’t I? As a single woman why can’t I craft my sex life the way I want it? And put it together in any way and still be proud of myself. And still have a sense of personal integrity?” Whether it’s older women looking for lovers on craigslist or young women hooking up on Tinder, Canadian women refuse to be ridiculed or judged, simply because they act on their sexuality.

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