Susie Bright doesn’t fit in. The award-winning author of six collections of essays, over two dozen anthologies of erotic fiction, a beautiful memoir, the blogger and mother, the film and television consultant and organic farming enthusiast may never find a spot in mainstream media’s singular appetite for one-dimensional sex experts.
Bright would consider this a compliment. And along with her legions of fans, I find it comforting to have someone like her model the ill-fitting sexual thoughts that so many of us have everyday. She wears them well. Susie makes sex complicated and fun, messy and open to everyone. Sex, in Bright’s hands, is something you want to have more of and think more about. It’s revolutionary, and Bright has been leading the charge for more than 20 years.
In the introduction to Best American Erotica 2007 , Bright says:
“I speak from the cusp of Boomer/GenX. I wobble on either side. I look at my daughter; and her beauty and vitality are so vivid I could faint. I want to lock her up. No, I mean, I want to empower her. Actually, no! I want to scare her. Oh, let’s be honest: I’m scared. My generation has melted the polar ice caps, looted the bank, and my inheritance to her is: what exactly?”
No one else so seamlessly draws together sex, politics, parenting, the environment, and an endearing sense of East Coast neurosis that doesn’t quite fit a woman so firmly rooted in the Bay area.
Susie graciously agreed to a protracted email interview sharing with us the origins of Susie Sexpert, why blogging is good for you, and what sexual utopia could be like.
As the editor of Best American Erotica for the past 15 years you’ve probably spent more time than any American reading other people’s working through of sex. It must be a unique glimpse into our sexual psyche. What do you feel you’ve learned from these years of editing sex?
It's a time capsule of American politics. The wars, the Clinton-to-Bush pendulum, AIDS, the environment, the passing of the 60s counterculture, the passing of the punk counterculture, everything. You could read Best American Erotica and nothing else and you'd have a pretty intimate idea of what these humans were up to.
Have you noticed any patterns over 15 years? Have the submissions changed in any radical way?
Well, in the beginning, there were very few. I had to hound people to write erotica. And then it caught fire and now I have more good material than I can publish.
Women used to feel like they had to write for themselves, their lives, make an example. As people got more confidence and a few walls were smashed, we started to see female authors branch WAY out, and not worry about being so PC and first person-autobiographical. Now, you would easily see a woman writing as a man, a fantasy in third person, etc. And men feel the same way. The artists really came out of the box.
One of the features of your writing is the way in which it seamlessly moves from the personal to the political and back again; it’s about you, and about all of us. So how have you changed over the past 15 years, and do you feel like we’ve changed as well?
Uh-oh, that's a book-length question. Your question in some ways is easy to answer: Fifteen years ago, I had just had a baby. It changed everything. And now I have a teenager; kittens do become cats. I quit On Our Backs and started freelancing full time. I got my first major book contract, for the [Best American Erotica] series. I moved to France and lived in a 11th century stone fort with a cellar of coal. Yes, it was cold. I slowly moved in with the lover who is my partner today. I moved to Santa Cruz, my first time in a small town. I guess rural France prepared me. I started teaching the first college classes on the politics of pornography. I got involved in movie-making, particularly its erotic aspects. I learned how to sew, and much to my surprise, it became a real pleasure for me. My parents died, and I am still grieving them.
Sexually, I feel like I'm still the same kid who discovered fantasy and orgasm when I was still in Catholic school. In my mind, I was always curious, daring, easily affected, and romantic. In terms of action, I am probably less impetuous than I used to be, and I have a sense of bereavement that has affected me in many ways. I lost a lot of friends to hard times, AIDS, drugs. It makes me hold on more dearly.