Why is it important to raise a child in a sex positive atmosphere? How will this impact the child’s life?
"Sex-positive" is a new expression, but the sentiment has been around for a long time. I remember my mother telling me that she would never let me grow up thinking that my period was a "curse," for example. She didn't slap me when I started menstruating, as she once was.
Questions for Susie Bright, from Lia Grainger, Metro Toronto, 2011
At the same time, my mom was too embarrassed to talk about "where babies come from." She left a book on my pillow— to do the talking for her. She tried! It made a difference. Education makes ALL the difference.
Obviously, you can raise your family any way you please... but the therapy bills, shocked betrayals, and tears at the other end of the line can be costly. I know very few people my age— I'm 54— who don't feel like they wish they'd had a more honest and objective sex education growing up.
We would've spoken up when we encountered abuse. We would've known not to keep ugly secrets... we would have spared ourselves some of the self-destructive antics that went along with not accepting our sexual maturity.
Can you give some examples of your own sex positive parenting? —For example, how do you respond to questions from your child that another parent might find awkward?
"Sex-positive" could mean kids knowing the names for the parts of their body— elbow, achilles, clitoris, penis. They're all easy to say, and kids appreciate names for themselves early on— it's their first understanding that they are, physically, separate from their parents!
"Sex-positive" could mean demonstrating healthy body image, or acknowledging that young people have sexual curiousity and drive at all ages.
It could mean not expecting our kids to live up to canards of how "boys" and "girls" are supposed to behave— it means having friends and experiences from all walks of life. How many of us felt like we were prematurely "slotted" and it never was a good fit?
For parents, "sex-positive" could mean laughing instead of panicking when we're confronted with sexual surprises. We can relax because we know we can find the answers, and that we have the time to figure it out together.
It's not primarily what we say, either— it's more what we do, an examination of our own sexual philosophy and behavior. Do we model privacy, affection, dignity, humor, and curiosity?
After all, how do adults maintain their sexual lives as parents? One day the kids are going to leave. They aren't our property or our lifeboat.
I get all kinds of questions at my sex-positive-parenting workshops— as a group, I probably learn as much from them as they do from me.
There's always a sigh at the end of our meeting, where everyone looks at each other simultaneously and says, "How come no one talks about this? This was incredible!"
How do parenting and aging change desire and libido for the better?
Who says they do? ;-)
Parenting only reveals one thing: the ecstatic humility of sacrifice, the boundlessness of unconditional love. How that affects your sex life is an open question.
As for ageing— it comes down to wisdom, doesn't it? Taking the knowledge you have and making use of it. That can come in handy in the bedroom, even when your aches and pains are driving you round the bend.
Can you give me some examples of age-appropriate sex conversations to have with your kids?
"Age-appropriate" is a phrase the Shame Brigade came up with, to attach itself to abstinence programs. It's meaningless in child development or sex education.
The right age is the age someone shows an interest, asks a question.
They're not a lecture series, these conversations. It's life; it's the moments when you drive to school, get them dressed, watch them try to scramble an egg. Sex isn't a separate issue that only comes up with the buzzer goes off.
I once threw a birthday party for a handful of ten-year old girls, a sleepover. It was time to quiet them down for bed. I got them in their jammies and I asked them if they know anything about the day they were born. Each girl told her story— they were great.
One told me her mother had a "see-saw." Another said that her little brother had been "a total pain from the very beginning."
But the one that took me aback was the girl who flipped her hair and said, "Look, my mother told me my birth was a NON-event."
"Oh Kay," I said— I just had to take her hand— "let me tell you, it DEFINITELY was an event."
What is the personal value of writing an erotic memoir? What do people get out of it?
It's fun, it's self-revealing, it takes considerable writing chops and close observation. Autobiography will inevitably bring up sex— I just spend a little time thinking creatively about it.
Do people doing these workshops want to publish, or is it for personal use only?
Both. Some of the shyest people are the ones I'd urge to publish tomorrow. Other authors have a great entrepeneurial spirit, but they're thwarted at their writing desk, bad habits getting in the way.
How do you help participants express their sexual history and philosophy?
I've been teaching writing and editing authors for decades now, so my toolbox is pretty fancy. Some people need prompts, some need analysis. Some need English Comp Bootcamp.
I have some good questions to break bread with anyone who's ready to write. Everyone is looking for turning points, epiphanies, a way to connect— having the writing craft to do that is a remarkable accomplishment.
It’s been 20 years since you were last in Toronto. What was the purpose of your visit then?
I was touring my first book, Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World. I had a six-monthpold baby, and I was teaching my "Safe Sex for Sex Maniacs" Workshop.
It was the era right after the HIV explosion when everyone had questions about condoms— including Canadian Customs at the Toronto airport, who didn't understand why I had about a hundred of them in my suitcase.
How has the nature of your work changed in the last 20 years?
I grew up. I published 30 more books! I started the Best American Erotica series, which was influential in reshaping contemporary erotic literature.
I started an audio show about sex before the iPod was invented... that's still going, twelve years later. I'm still the political sex and erotic critic I always was, just with a few more skillz.
How has your audience/readers changed?
I realized things had changed when a mom brought her daughter to meet me for a book signing. But the next person in line was a daughter who wanted to introduce me to her dad. My audience used to be my peers— now it's double the generations!
Can you describe your relationship with Toronto's co-operative sex store, Come As You Are? Have you known the people there for long?
We've been admirers from across the continent— I can't wait to meet them all. I became acquainted with one of their founders, Cory Silverberg, when he wrote a book about sex and disability. They remind me of my early years at the first feminist vibrator store in San Francisco— we knew we were changing the world.
Tell me about your new book, Big Sex, Little Death.
It's my memoir, the story of my young life, my parents, my introduction to radical politics as a teen, the beginnings of the women's erotica renaissance.
Here's what cartoonist Alison Bechdel said: "Guns, drugs, threemsome, socialist factionalism, a stabbing... all before she got her G.E.D.?" That sums it up!