Mardi Gras Film Festival 2021 Review: The Dilemma of Desire ★★★1/2

Well, that was an eye-opener! As a ‘gold star’ gay man I’m not the most ‘cliterate’ person out there and the documentary The Dilemma of Desire (getting its Australian premiere at the Mardi Gras Film Festival) presented a lot of new information in an entertaining way.

Artist Sophia Wallace’s work around ‘Cliteracy’ is woven through this exploration of female sexual desire that covers a lot of ground. Director Maria Finitzo speaks to a broad range of women, from biologists to burlesque dancers, and businesswomen making vibrators to educators navigating a political maze. If there is any criticism to be made, it’s perhaps that the film tries to cover too much ground.

The Dilemma of Desire. Kartemquin Films.

The film opens with a biologist looking through medical textbooks searching for research on the clitoris. There are pages of notes and diagrams dedicated to the male sexual organs, but barely a mention of the female. Next, a group of women confess they don’t even know what the clitoris looks like.

There are some refreshingly new stories being told here. Hearing San Francisco industrial designer Ti Chang discuss the challenges bringing a new vibrator to market and the double-standard around what can and cannot be advertised online is fascinating, especially here in Australia after Facebook summarily removed all news from the local platform. It serves as a concrete example of the inequalities at play here.

The Dilemma of Desire. Kartemquin Films.

New York artist Sophia Wallace’s Clitoris Project also brings new angles to the topic mixed with a lot of humour. Educating people with a smile, and some catchy phrases adds levity, making the toxic backlash to her work even more shocking. It is a stark reminder of how threatening some people find the thought of female sexual desire.

The Dilemma of Desire. Kartemquin Films.

Gender studies professor Dr. Lisa Diamond’s open discussions around sexuality and desire bring the necessary academic rigour to proceedings while other interviews tread more familiar territory; repressive religious families, empowered strippers, and a female comic whose routine centres around female sex. While not all of these add much to the mix (I felt a few actively detract from the message), The Dilemma of Desire is a fascinating and entertaining primer on female sexual desire that feels like it’s just getting the conversation started.

The Dilemma of Desire screening in cinema on Saturday 27th Feb, and is available on demand. For details and to buy tickets head to the Mardi Gras Film Festival website and for more on the film visit the official website.

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