‘Free From Desire’ Podcast To Premiere At Tribeca Film Festival

Aline Laurent-Mayard is a journalist, author and podcaster whose podcast Free From Desire will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this June and launch on June 7. In the show, Laurent-Mayard weaves a touching story that begins with their adolescence in Paris, the City of Love, in the 90s. They also consider the pop culture that informed their initial thoughts on romance and sexuality. Laurent-Mayard talks to experts, sociologists and friends to dissect how society has dictated traditional gender roles and ideas about coupling. They take the listener through their own experience of feeling alienated from other teenagers due to their lack of interest in sex. Eventually they realized their own asexuality and later decided to become single parents.

Forbes spoke to Laurent-Mayard via email about what it means to have Free From Desire premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. We also talked about how growing up in Paris has affected their views on love and how they hope to parent a child when it comes to conversations about relationships and sexuality.


Risa Sarachan: What inspired you to create Free From Desire?

Aline Laurent-Mayard: A few years ago, as I finally came to terms with being asexual, I felt the need to work on this topic. Coverage of asexuality has been scarce and often inaccurate—part of the reason it took me so long to accept my asexuality. I wanted to make basic, accurate information about asexuality available to more people, but also to go further in covering asexuality: to fact-check some urban myths, to dig deeper into the topics it brings to the surface, and to show how the discussion of asexuality could would improve everyone’s sex life.

I submitted articles about the sexual violence people face, how they negotiate intercourse, and how they imagine the future of romantic relationships, and I got rejections from the French media. I had a hunch that an audio series that mixed storytelling and investigation would allow me to reach more people and go deeper. And I was right. Free From Desire it was covered in almost all the French media, made the cover of a national magazine and really started a discourse.


Sarachan: How does it feel to have your podcast debut at The Tribeca Film Festival?

Laurent-Mayard: When my producer called me with the good news, I couldn’t believe it. We had no idea how audiences in the United States would react to a podcast made by a Frenchman on this topic, so being selected for the Tribeca Film Festival felt especially good. I am so happy that people notice the hard work and love me and the team at Paradiso Media, both in France and in the United States.

Sarachan: You talk about growing up in Paris, the city of love. How did that culture influence your thoughts on romantic love and desire growing up?

Laurent-Mayard: The French see themselves as great romantics, but I disagree. I think what distinguishes French culture is the culture of sex and rape. Women are taught that sex makes them cool and glamorous. That men know better than them what is good for them and that they should always accept sex, which I did when I was younger. Although we are going through our own MeToo moment in France, things are changing very slowly. The Festival de Cannes celebrating Johnny Depp this year, after everything we’ve learned about him, is a sad example of how stuck in their ways the media industry is.

But my perception of love and sex was not only influenced by French culture. Like all French kids, I grew up watching American movies and shows, e.g American Pie and Super bad, and most of them related to the loss of virginity. It’s interesting to see that the idea that people should have sex to have a fulfilling life is everywhere in Western countries, even if it doesn’t manifest in the same way.


Sarachan: I know you’re a parent now. Listening to your podcast brought me back to my own teenage experiences with romance and sexuality. Have you thought about the conversations you want to have with your child about some topics Free From Desire touching?

Laurent-Mayard: Yes, absolutely! Making this podcast made me think about the importance of listening to your body and your desires. I want my child to feel confident enough to say, “I want this. I don’t want that.” That they know and express their limits, which I personally did not manage for so long. I work a lot on this, ask my child how they feel and respect when they say no. I feel like I’m spending my time asking them, “Do you want to do this? It’s okay if you don’t.” I also try to teach them to respect other people’s wishes and to pay attention to whether a child wants their hug or not, for example.

Additionally, I want to make sure my child knows that all sexual and romantic orientations and situations are okay. On the street, I never assume that a man and a woman are a romantic couple. I absolutely never assume that Jo will be in a romantic relationship in the future – especially a straight relationship. I changed the stories in their book a bit to make sure my child sees the diversity that exists in real life, I make some characters into single parents and gay couples. I emphasize strong friendships between boys and girls. I want my child to know that a direct romantic relationship is not their goal in life and that they can live their lives as they wish.


Sarachan: You talked to friends and experts about this topic for the show. What do you think you learned after making it?

Laurent-Mayard: I learned that we follow guidelines invented to maintain the patriarchy instead of listening to ourselves, and it costs us. We tend to confuse love and intimacy with sex, and we put so much pressure on ourselves to have a great sex life, but we don’t even know what that means for us. We only know what the media tells us. How many people can say what turns them on? Who are they really attracted to? There is so much pressure to be in a straight relationship that we struggle to understand that we could do otherwise. So that we could do something else. We bury ourselves deep inside. And even when we know it, we dare not say it. How many couples have discussed what they want sexually? Have you discovered what works for both? Very little. How many couples have deliberately given up sex if that’s what they want or need? Even less. For me, the next stage of the sexual liberation of the MeToo movement is the recognition that sex is optional and should be discussed.

Sarachan: What do you hope for Free From Desire brings to your listeners?

Laurent-Mayard: I hope so Free From Desire will make people think about what intimacy means to them and what they really want from a relationship. I hope that people will start talking about sex before they have sex, that they will talk about sex with their partner over and over again, without taboo or shame. We must go beyond consent and seek enthusiasm. To think about new models of relationships that will allow each party to be happy.


Sarachan: How is your life now?

Laurent-Mayard: In many ways, it looks just like what I dreamed of as a teenager before I started wanting to fit in. I am free. I have a great happy baby. We travel, see friends, spend time with family. It’s just great. And I reached a peace I didn’t know was possible for me. I’m just comfortable and happy with who I am. I guess I just don’t care that much about fitting in and what other people might think, and this is liberating.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Free From Desire will premiere at The Tribeca Film Festival this June.


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