When Lisa Taddeo created the Stan series Three Women, she embraced the sex scenes Hollywood usually rejects.

There’s a moment in episode two of the new 10-part television adaptation of Lisa Taddeo’s bestselling book Three Women that literally took my breath away. 

If you’re not across this non-fiction masterpiece, which has been adapted into a new series on Stan, here’s what you need to know.

The book centers on the lives of three women: Lina, a midwestern stay-at-home mum whose husband won’t kiss her on the mouth even though she yearns for intimacy; Sloane, a rich, strikingly beautiful restaurateur whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other men; and Maggie, who after going public about an alleged inappropriate relationship she had with her high school teacher, is processing the ways in which it has shaped her life since. 

(The teacher, Aaron Knodel, was tried in North Dakota on five felony charges in 2015, of which he was acquitted of three, with two other charges dismissed without prejudice).

But back to that gasp-worthy on-screen moment. 

In it, unhappily married Lina embarks on a one-night stand with an old high school flame she has tracked down on Facebook. 

It’s a very explicit sex scene set in a seedy hotel room in which you see a down-the-barrel shot of a fully-erect penis.

“There’s a lot of full frontal male nudity and one of the reasons for this is because we don't have enough of it, we have more female nudity,” said Taddeo simply, speaking to Mamamia from her Connecticut home. 


“The same way that I wanted all female directors and as many females populating the areas that were normally populated by men behind the camera, I also wanted in front of the camera and for it to be populated more by male genitalia than female genitalia," she continued. "I think progress means evening things up.”

Close-up shots of dicks - refreshing as they may be - aren’t what stole the breath from my lungs when it came to this moment in the series, however.

Everything about the scene is hyper-real - from the handling of the resulting period sex (“I’m gonna - do you want me to grab a towel? I’m gonna go get a towel”) to the way Lina’s (played by the inimitable Betty Gilpin) every halting movement is soaked in anticipatory desire so raw it makes you want to turn away from the screen. In a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots, Lina’s stomach shows stretch marks. Her orgasm isn’t polite or pretty or made-for-porn moaning; it’s shocked, elated, primal. 

Even more significantly, the sex is shot and viewed entirely through the female gaze, something still depressingly rare on TV in general, but almost non-existent in the portrayal of sex on-screen. 

“It makes me so happy that that came through,” said Taddeo when I told her all of this in a word-vomit of fangirling. 

“Lina was this quote-unquote ‘good’ Catholic girl from Indiana, and she wouldn't use the F word, she wouldn't take the Lord's name in vain, yet she was sending me these very explicit Facebook messages where she was talking about, you know, 'his penis did this' and 'then my hand did this' and it was all just so granular. 


"I realised how important each detail was to her," she continued. "The same way that when you're writing a diary in high school and you were to have your first kiss or whatever, the details of it all - all the things that happen before, during and after - are so important. The condoms, the period, all of that stuff.

“It was definitely all intentional," Lisa confirmed. "It was one of the things our all-female directing team had decided on from the beginning, was that the devil - or the angel - was in the details.” 

Take a look at the trailer for Three Women on Stan.

What’s clear is that Taddeo knows a thing or two about details. 

She spent eight years documenting the innermost desires of three very different women, in the most intimate way possible, in order to produce Three Women. She moved to their hometowns and immersed herself in their lives, folding herself into the fabric of the women’s inner worlds, adding layer after layer of context. Taddeo wrote her debut book like a master chef creates a reduction; slowly, painstakingly, putting in the work so the resulting flavour is impossibly rich and complex; more than the sum of its ingredients.

I suggest that, perhaps counterintuitively, part of what makes these women’s experiences so universally relatable is the specificity with which Taddeo has relayed them. 


“It’s so weird that’s the case, but so true,” she agrees.

But in spite of the herculean research effort Taddeo put in, she was still in no way prepared for the book’s success; it debuted at number one on The New York Times bestseller list and topped the UK’s The Sunday Times list as well. 

“I did not expect it, and it was a lot,” the author explained. “I really did not know that much of the work that one does after writing the book is the promotion of that book. I’m more of an old-timey writer,” she continued with a laugh, “I was built to write short stories inside a little hobbit hole.”

Be that as it may, the work that emerged from her hobbit hole connected with women around the world in an extreme way. All thanks to the book's raw, unfiltered look at the complex world of female desire and the pain, frustration and fury that so often underpins it."

And then because, in Taddeo’s words, “Hollywood loves a built-in audience”, the film and TV adaptation offers started coming in thick and fast. 

“It was like there was this fast-moving locomotive that I just kind of got on - or like, someone pushed me on it,” she said. “There were a lot of studios and streamers bidding on it, so in a way, because I’m a people pleaser, I kind of felt like I couldn’t say no.”

The adaptation added a layer of concern when it came to telling certain stories, too, Taddeo admitted. 


Betty Gilpin as Lina in Three Women on Stan. 

Having people trust you to tell their stories is one thing, but then trusting an entire team of people - actors, directors, producers - to re-tell that story, can be stressful. 

“With writing a book, it’s very individual,” she said. “I mean there's a very definable process between two people - I write the words, then the editor makes suggestions - but it's really just one person at the end of the day. With TV, it's hundreds of people involved.”


“My stress was for naught though,” Taddeo continued. “I think Betty Gilpin inhaled the character of Lina in the way that created such a remarkable representation, as with all the actors.”

“The only one I was worried about was Maggie (played by Gabrielle Creevy),” Taddeo explained. “I didn’t have fear about the others, but with Maggie, it’s her real name, and her story has arguably the most trauma attached to it. 

"We took Maggie out to Hawaii when we filmed the Hawaii episode and - I don’t want to cry - but it was an incredibly moving experience, and she met Gabby. Then, just a few days ago, Maggie called me to say she not only loved it, but binge-loved it. And she said that the depictions of Aaron Knodel (played by Jason Ralph), being so hot and cold, were so validating for her to be able to see on-screen.”

“To have Maggie love it is my crowning achievement. No criticism could take me down from Maggie feeling great about it.”

Three Women is now streaming, only on Stan.

Feature Image: Stan. 

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