Public health researcher and journalist Katherine Rowland spent five years talking with 120 women about sexuality and desire. The result, her book The Pleasure Gap: American Women and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution, is out now, and I interviewed her.
Rowland believes it’s time to take inequality in the bedroom as seriously as we take it in the boardroom. This is the premise of her book, based on extensive interviews with women. Why are we so afraid, as a culture, of talking about women’s sexuality? In her book, Rowland considers how factors like education, bias in scientific research, social messaging, long-term monogamy, and sexual and gendered violence contribute to women’s sexual malaise. She finds no silver bullet to close the pleasure gap, but her wide-ranging foray into women’s sexuality makes it very clear that the epidemic of sexual dissatisfaction is about more than a few missing orgasms. It’s about the complex interaction between culture, biology, capitalism, history, and our shifting ideas about what is right and good and natural. It’s symptomatic of an unfinished revolution—and nobody should settle for it.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Rowland’s work has appeared in Aeon, the Financial Times, the Guardian, Psychology Today, and Nature, among others. She is currently a contributing editor at the Guardian, the host of Seeking Soul, a podcast forthcoming from Sony, and is writing a biography of Anaïs Nin, forthcoming from Crown. She is also formerly the publisher of Guernica Magazine, and her other work can be found at katherinerowland.com.