Shar Rednour, who really does know more about maintaining an awesome sex life no matter how many screaming kids are occupying your living room.
Shar Rednour, who really does know more about maintaining an awesome sex life no matter how many screaming kids are occupying your living room.
Interview by Katherine Holland, Vitamin Daily
I like "bits." I wish Americans knew that one— it's egalitarian.
Your family will have humorous and pet names for "penis" and "clitoris"— that's the nature of language and the most familiar parts of our lives. Your kids will also bring home schoolyard inventions you couldn't dream of. Enjoy the learning curve.
It's all good, as long as they feel free to ask "What does ______ mean?" and know that you'll have a curious and forth-coming attitude, a context to put it in.
Why are couples' libidos so affected after having children? Is it hormonal? Sheer exhaustion, shifted priorities, or something else? What can help to snap out of it?
The answer is a), b), c), and all of the above.
There is no snapping out or into it!
It's more like careful stitching. Turn to your adult wisdom— put the knowledge you have into practice.
Set up regular babysitter dates, ahead of time.
Money isn't the issue, planning is. Set up multi-family childcare nights where one set of parents hosts the all the kids for pizza and movie while the other parents get to do WHATEVER THEY WANT.
Shar Rednour is hands-down the most brilliant writer on this subject: How Great Sex Made me A Good Mom.
Read her entire blog on the subject and weep with gratitude.
Your children catch you in the act— now what?
It's not: Now what?
It's: So what?
Good-humored non-chalance is the desirable reaction. It's a moment to reinforce a privacy lesson, not a sex lesson.
"Are you ok?" you might say. "Good. Close the door and always knock before you barge in."
Answer questions later, when you're spending time with them, not during private time in your bedroom. The same goes for whether you're jilling off, reading a book, daydreaming, or writing in your journal. Privacy is so important for them, for you. Be a consistent role model on both sides of the door.
At what age do you do what? I would be hard pressed to say at what age kids are starting to have sex.
When do you need to have a proper heart-to-heart with them to discuss the responsibilities?
Are you encouraging them or pressuring them if you introduce this topic too early? Or, is it worse to approach it too late?
There's no numerical answer to this— we all develop differently. We're born with sexual curiousity and sensation— there isn't one talk or one moment that defines us.
Sex is about a lot more than pregnancy and disease-prevention. My favorite book in that regard— the only sex book for young people about the other parts of sexuality— is A Kid's First Book About Sex by Joani Blank.
If your family is committed to fact-based education, you're already miles ahead of the superstition that plagues most sex education.
If you talk about current events and pop culture in your family, what's going on in the natural world around you; if you have intimate and wide-ranging conversations at the dinner table, in the car, fooling around— these conversations will come easily. Sex is an integrated part of life— it's not the bogeyman.
When parents finally get a night to themselves without the babes, I feel like dinner is the easy choice. "Let's go for dinner, honey!"
Screw dinner. What's the sexiest thing parents can do on date night, and how often should it be scheduled?
Go straight to your bliss, whatever that may be.
What makes you feel sexy again is having fun. Fun leads to enjoyable sex; hormones and exhaustion be damned. I don't know what your idea of fun is, but you need to make the empty space where it can happen.
Variety is everything. You may plan your escapes on the calendar, but what happens each time is part of the fun. Whether it's careful maps, spontaneous inspirations, or surprises— you've set aside the time to find out.
"Date night" for the two parents enjoying each other's company isn't the only date you need.
You want "alone time," dates with dear friends, as well as escapes with your lover.
All pistons firing is what makes life sexy. Maybe you crave a nap; maybe you want to make out in the back of the car— you'll find out soon enough if you make the time. You'll be such a better, more patient, nurturer for your efforts!
Illustration: from my favorite 20th century sex manual, "Is Sex Necessary?" by James Thurber and E.B. White.
In 1966, when I was eight years old, my mother gave me a little pink book, A Baby is Born. In great detail, and with lots of close-ups and diagrams, it described exactly what a sperm and egg looked like and how they joined together, with subsequent portraits of the developing fetus.
How did the sperm meet the egg to begin with?
"Egg Sex" from Susie Bright's Sexual Reality
The book said simply, "Mommy and Daddy love each other very much. They lie close together and, after performing intercourse, the sperm is on its way to fertilize the egg."
There was no accompanying diagram, so I made what was probably my first earnest attempt to read between the lines of any piece of literature. I gleaned nothing.
Twenty-five years later, I was pregnant, and this time I went out and bought my own collection of pink and blue books bulging with instruction for prospective parents. Of course, there was a great deal to learn about fetal development and breast-feeding techniques, but I couldn't help but check each index under "Sexuality— during and after pregnancy."
All the manuals, from Dr. Spock to the latest yuppie know-it-all, followed an almost identical script: "Mommy and Daddy love each other very much..." Following this vein, the paragraphs on sexuality gave advice that was unexplicit, vague, and almost threatening in their avoidance of the nitty-gritty.
Steeped in a romance-novel notion of marriage, sexual advice to pregnant moms— whether revealed in print or in the strange silences at the doctor's office— gives short shrift to the dramatic changes in women's sexual physiology and desires. Great emphasis is placed on how to cope with the ambivalent husband's feelings towards his wife's body and the burden pregnancy puts on their normal sexual routine.
None of these books was written in the sixties. All of them glow with feminist and holistic approaches to mothering, supporting working moms, refuting the sexist prejudices against breast-feeding, and offering all manner of enlightened positive self-esteem for the mother-to-be.
I began to wonder if anyone knew what went on in women's sexual lives during pregnancy. The most definitive statement the books managed was: Sometimes she's hot, sometimes she's not. This wouldn't be the first time that conventional medicine had nothing to contribute to an understanding of female sexuality.
Meanwhile, my clit started to grow...
Continued in Sexual Reality, "Egg Sex"
Photo: Michael Rosen, 1989
Susie, I want to interview you about your bisexuality.
In your memoir, you mention a little girl in day care whom you had a crush on when you were two. Your romantic fantasy was that she was Rose Red and you were Snow White. You were already queering fairy tales, in daycare. What do you make of that?
Interview by Sheela Lambert
Snow White and Rose Red seem like an iconic coupling: twins, lovers, best friends, opposites. Jungian soul mates. I also always got the feeling Snow was the virgin and Rose was the wise whore.
Your girl-crushes obviously started early. When was the first time you had a crush on a boy?
Hmm… good question. I became aware that it was “cool” to have crushes on boys by sixth grade— as opposed to hating their guts, the previous playground protocol.
The boys I truly adored were The Beatles. I broke with the Church over them. I wouldn't burn my albums.
Kids were so segregated by gender in my day. I never went to birthday parties or events that weren’t “girls only.”
In 6th grade, Tony Bauer (how on earth do I remember these names?) asked me to dance at a school event. The song was "Venus" by the Shocking Blue. He told me I “danced good”— which thrilled me to death.
I didn’t have much feeling for him, but the compliment made me woozy.
Junior high school upped the ante on flirting. The boys would chase the girls on the ice, the frozen lakes— and I loved “the chase.” But again, I didn’t fix my hormones on them. I had fantasies about both men and women, older men and women, not kids my own age. I was like the girl in the "Sound of Music," Looking for Someone Older and Wiser.
Your question makes me realize I was a late bloomer. I didn't appreciate pure masculinity, sexually, in men or women, until after I'd had more sophisticated lesbian life in my 20s.
When did you realize that not everyone has such wide-ranging attractions and that bisexuality was frowned on by many? What was your reaction to that?
I came of age in a political, “start the revolution”-type atmosphere. I thought that if everyone would just relax and liberate their minds, they would realize they were truly bisexual and non-monogamous... LOL.
I’m poking fun at myself saying this. But I also viewed society with critical eyes, as any puberty-struck individual does. I knew most people weren’t anywhere close to living their sexual potential, and that’s still the truth!
My family and best friends at school-- we were on the same page. My parents knew a lot more gay and bi people than I did; they’d been in gay intellectual milieus (Berkeley, Venice, Hollywood etc) since the 1940s. No one I loved was going to condemn me for bisexuality, far from it.
My bisexual higher education came from becoming familiar with the Kinsey scale. I realized that liberated or not, people would always have their druthers. Sexual life is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface.
In your book, you don’t describe any coming out process and it appears that you always accepted yourself. Was it because of the era of free love and the sexual revolution?
Or are you just braver or more matter-of-fact than most people?
The feminist and gay liberation movement made me even braver and blunter, but those are probably typical characteristics of mine.
Bisexual people are often assumed to be gay or straight, depending on the gender of our partner. Have you experienced this? How has it affected you?
Oh sure. A little less than most people, because my reputation precedes me.
Now that I’m in my fifties, sexual invisibility is the greater issue, rather than everyone imagining what a hot chick I am in either direction.
Fretting over people getting my label right seems dewy and fresh-faced to me from my older vantage point.
As one ages and fucks around, you and your peers realize that anything, at any time, could be possible with the right social lubricant. You have been around the block... no other label needed.
The peculiar thing I see as a public figure— and many activists know it well— is that when you take an aggressive stand for gay rights, if you champion dyke culture and politics, journalists and scholars will call you “that lesbian So-n-So” for years to come.
One is happy to be associated with dyke-identity. I don’t want to "correct" them if they think I am “shying away” from lesbianism… quite the opposite!
The journalists and scholars who make this error tend to be conservative in their thinking. I’d secretly pleaesd they assume everyone different from them is homosexual and let them stay awake at night, trembling with latent sweat.
But then, LATER, a critic who’s touchy about the INTEGRITY of my bisexuality will come up to me and say, “Who are you to be calling yourself Miss Lesbian in this article?”
They think I am trying to “wear the crown” without earning it.
Well, lesbian activists all over can tell you the “crown” is no ring of gold. We get used for target practice, mostly. I’m happy to be thought of as “dyke” for any and all waving banners and political agendas. I am one. In my personal life, though, like everyone else’s, things are more unexpected and un-label-able.
Having a child was a turning point in your life. You say it forced you to take better care of yourself, because of your motivation to protect your child. What things in your life did you change as a result?
Number One: I stopped parenting "surrogate adult-children." Who has the time when you have a real baby?
Suddenly Real Grown-Ups seemed SO sexually attractive to me-- a first. This was a bigger deal than being bi-sexual. I got out of the Peter Pan playground.
I was shocked to read that, when you made the decision to leave On Our Backs, which you co-founded; you were sued by your partners, who were also your close friends.
Yes, I was shocked too. I hope I conveyed that disbelief in Big Sex Little Death. It was shattering.
Obviously, they thought you were irreplaceable and were afraid the magazine would go under without you.
No… that’s not true. That wasn’t the language or the feeling of it.
My business partner had been my best friend. I was the "little sister" to her. She didn’t think I was especially irreplaceable... it was more like, “What is Susie trying to pull?”
She didn’t believe my reasons for wanting to transition… my infant, the financial strain, my feeling that something “had to give.”
Debi Sundahl hired a new editor for OOB, sold it, it went on for years without me. A different creature, to be sure— but still meaningful to readers and contributors.
It was terrible that seemingly overnight, we felt estranged, as if we'd never known each other well. It made me doubt myself more than her!
That’s the kind of blindness I was eager to recover from. It was the beginning of real therapy for me. I never want to have a friendship again where the important things remain unsaid, forever. I didn't want to be afraid of my loved ones.
I was mystified by their demand you couldn’t write or be published anywhere else, when you had been freelancing the whole time you worked there.
You’re trying to be logical. None of it was rational. The lawsuit failed; it was a nuisance suit. Famously, anyone in America can sue anyone for anything.
After you had your daughter and left On Our Backs, you wound up partnering with a man. Reading the book, it seems as though you were lesbian-identified at the time….Did you surprise yourself? Was there any backlash from the lesbian community about that?
It’s funny you said “partnering…” like it was premeditated and constructive.
I was lovers with several people, as usual. I had friends and sweethearts, and I didn’t think of any of them as my “partner.” Oh no. Some were good friends, which seemed to be as much as one could ask for.
I still feel that way. I don't feel like I've "wound up" anywhere except what's happening today. The story ain't over yet!
As time went by in the early 90s, my friend Jon and I spent more and more time together… it happened slowly, without precision. I wish I could remember what day we first kissed, or went to bed, or decided to mostly live together, and then to “really” live together. It all happened in such an unfixed fashion, I don’t know any of those dates! We are sadly without an anniversary date.
I was not surprised to love or be in love with a man; I had been in love with men before.
I WAS surprised to get along with anyone in a house together, day after day, that’s what I was surprised at. To have love's endurance instead of love's drama.
I wrote a lot about the the backlash you speak of in astory called “BlindSexual.” That IS my Bisexual RANT TO END ALL RANTS.
I quote Roland Barthes:
"I am reduced to endurance.... I suffer without adjustment, I persist without intensity, always bewildered, never discouraged. I am a Daruma doll, a legless toy endlessly poked and pushed, but finally regaining its balance, assured by an inner balancing pin."
According to your book, there was a time that all your relationships were open. Now that you’re living with a long-term partner has that changed?
Nope. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I know bi-sexuals are under some conformist pressure to proclaim that they can be "monogamous" lke anyone else... but that isn't me, nor does it speak to most sex lives looked at over the long haul.
My first sexual experiences were in groups, with more than "2" -- that's what felt normal to me. It still does. And it feels natural to be attracted to more than one person at a time, and to act upon that feeling.
It doesn't change my loyalty to my friends and family. I am bewildered how the two get confused.
Did you ever tell your father about your mother’s suicide attempts and abuse?
Later, to a certain extent. Once I moved in with him at 14, he realized I was afraid of her. It made him feel so bad to know the details, it was like torture to put him through it. We both were happier to focus on "making it better now." And for the most part, that was the right choice.
How did you recover from that emotionally?
a) I didn’t
b) Writing and the life of the mind
d) Raising kids and breaking the cycle
I noticed that in your section about your time with On Our Backs, you mostly used the word “lesbian” instead of “lesbian and bisexual.” Did you identify as lesbian at that point? I’m wondering, as a bi woman writer, why you didn’t try to integrate that more in your wording?
I know this isn’t going to answer your question, but I still feel like a dyke. Hasbian Pride.
Most of the lovers in my life are gay or bisexual, regardless of their gender. There really isn't a button big enough to explain the whole thing.
When I was editing OOB, it was no secret I was bi, or femme, or had varied sex with all kinds of people--- but what was the point of mentioning it like a social security number on every page?
I was publishing a bohemian lesbian magazine. That’s what was the center of my life. We didn’t have conventional sex lives. Most of the lesbians I worked with were whores and strippers and butches. It was beyond lesbian, bi, or any acronym you can think of.
There were squares, the “civilians,” and there was us.
OOB ran thoughtful stories about transsexuality, bisexuality, married lesbians, sex worker dykes, all sorts of things, and in those situations, we were detailed in our descriptions. But I wasn’t going to print "LGBTFXXXXX" every time I touched the keyboard. We were artists, not sloganeers.
It was a given, if you embraced our philosophy, that we were the worn-out sluts, the unapologetic freaks, the whore diaspora. For awhile, that’s why saying “queer” was a real relief. Then even that became politically correct.
What is your advice to bi writers who want to write bi-themed works and get published?
I think the best bisexual stories I read now are just honest deliverance, no agendas. They may not even use that word; they just tell the tale. Don't try to win the community's approval; it's impossible.
There's so many moments of bisexual life that no one talks about. It doesn't have to be Some Great Rant, although that's tempting. Take a day in the life and tell it well.
Your subject is not a liability, at all.
Read American's greatest authors. A majority of them, I'm sure you notice, were and are bisexual.
Photo: Jill Posener
Hard to believe, but I've dismounted from my Big Sex Little Death book tour. I am now having a quiet, discreet little nervous breakdown but it's really not that bad— I still have a smile on my face.
It all began in Detroit on March 16th and culiminated with my Grand Marshall cape flying, at the SF Pride Parade on June 26th.
Here's the reviews my memoir has garnered, if you'd like some critical snap!
Like any author who undertakes a massive book tour, I relied on the kindess and euphoria of strangers who hosted, promoted, fed, bathed, and delighted me all over the country. And, to all of you who subscribe to my blog— without you, this financially would have been impossible. Thank you so much.
I am so grateful to all of you— please consider yourself welcome at my house anytime. The chili is ON.
Aside from the sheer "animal husbandry" of keeping a touring author alive, the conversations, books, and political insights I shared with all of you are a valuable book in themselves.
*Thank you, ALL OF YOU, so much.
So What's Next?
I'm writing an illustrated guide to the erotic, political, pharmaceutical, and culinary highlights of my tour— details to come. I hope to publish that by August.
I'm doing a couple college lecture and book club dates in October this year— I have a two dates left on the calendar if you're interested. I'll post the plans by Labor Day.
There's so many places I didn't get to; like Canada, for instance.
Or Miami, Austin, New Orleans, Portland-Maine, Denver-Boulder, San Diego, Kansas City— I've received all your letters and I am pining as much as you!
My plan is: Let's plan a spring tour, next April-May. This is the time to start scheming, because it takes money, brilliant scheduleing, and willpower to pull it all off.
The E-Book, The Audiobook, The Theme Park
Do I have an e-book of Big Sex Little Death?
What about my sex-postive parenting workshops? Well, for those of you who were there, I think we all left in a little bit of a daze— it was unforgettable. You could have heard a pin drop the hours we spent together. I definitely want to write about this: how raising kids changes your sex life and foretells/impacts how their sex lives will develop.
If you were there, I need your help! If you attended one of my workshops, can you remember what you said in our discussion? Send it to me!
Do you remember some of the other stories you heard? Email me what stuck in your head!
I tried in vain to remember everyone's history, but as we weren't recording or taking notes (which I'm glad of) my recollections are incomplete.
The most unexpected inspiration I had on the trail was my night-time comfort. Every evening in a strange bed, to get to sleep, I'd read, or play an audiobook, by Charles Portis.
Portis wrote True Grit, which was remade into a movie by the Coen Brothers last year— a revelation to me!
I listened to Donna Tartt read aloud that glorious prose more times than I can count. I also dived into his other classics like Norwood, Dog of the South, Gringos, and Masters of Atlantis. I can't stop re-reading and re-listening.
I began to daydream my own version of a Portis novel, an homage to his great narrators.
In my pass, the first-person is going to be a cranky bulldagger of the first water— on a great improbable journey, of course.
If you know Portis' work, I can imagine you're cackling with glee at the prospect; if you don't know what I'm talking about, just pick up a copy of anything he's written and hang on to your hat.
I realize I've been living among Portis-heads all my life and didn't know it. I once cared for a quixotic cat named "Norwood" without knowing his credentials. Hunter Thompson used to quote entire Portis passages to me, laughing up his nose, and I didn't realize he wasn't quoting himself! Okay, the jig is up, you sneaks; I'm in all the way now.
* My Special Thank You's
Detroit: Mary Lee Hannington, Leopold’s Books, Jane Slaughter, Mimi Gonzales-Barillas
Ann Arbor: David Halperin, Terri Torrko, Rohstem Mesli, Common Language Bookstore
New York: Devera and Michael Witkin, Beth Anderson, *Everyone* at Audible, Veronica Vera and Candida Royalle, Bluestockings, Kate Black, Erica Jong, Doug Henwood, Michael Letwin, Strand Books, Wil Snape and Jennifer Bassuk, Barbara Winslow
Marin: Book Passage, Jonathan Freiman, Christina Amini
Oakland: Diesel Bookstore, Ari Levenfeld and Leonora Willis
Santa Cruz: My dear neighbors, hometown friends, and Bookshop Santa Cruz
Los Angeles: Richard Olsen, Book Soup
Atlanta: Phillip Rashoon, Outwrite Books, Maital and Anne
Minneapolis: The Smitten Kitten, Steve Harsin
Pride Parade, San Francisco: SFPride.org, Marsha Levine, Veronica Garcia, Jay Remick, Honey Lee Cottrell, Closet Capers, and everyone who voted for me for Grand Marshall, what a great people's parade it was! PHotos here.
PHOTOS: Honey Lee Cottrell, SF Pride Parade, 2011. The last photo is me in front of the staff door in City Hall that Dan White used to sneak in and kill George Moscone and Harvey Milk.
June 2nd, 7-9pm"An Evening with Susie Bright and Her Memoir"Big Sex Little Death
Free, Open to Everyone
"How Raising Kids Changes Your Sex Life and Foretells Theirs"3010 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis
Tickets are $25/person. Please RSVP ahead.
Why was now the right time for you to write your memoir, Big Sex Little Death?
I always had an autobiography on my mind. If you’ve read my books over the years, you could say it’s been one long saga in progress!
Once I committed with Seal Press to do BSLD, the reason to nail it, to sprint to the finish line, was because, today, the rewriting of the feminist and queer sexual revolution by conservatives, centrists, and shame-gloaters is REVOLTING.
It’s Revisionism Uber Alles.
Someone has to set the record right... More than one someone, actually.
I want every woman who’s had an abortion without falling to pieces, who has no regrets in her sexual imagination, who’s raised strong capable children without superstition, who’s shared comradeship with lovers and relished the poetry of erotic illumination— I want all these women to start typing… NOW.
You dropped out of high school to live on your own and be an organizer—working, having sexual relationships, and getting involved in activism that at times was extremely dangerous.
Did that feel natural to you to be taking a route that was very much off the beaten path?
The crucible of Vietnam and civil rights movements— on every front— made my path more than natural, it was fundamental.
Besides, 17-year-olds are capable of anything; they can stay up all night…I am perplexed by the infantilization of young adults by the leisure class.
I thought some of the most interesting parts were about the death threats and hate mail you got while at On Our Backs. They reminded me of the Dorothy Allison poem “The Women Who Hate Me.”
Ha! That’s funny, I had Allison’s poem on my night table for many years, as did many dyke-outliers.
When I started my memoir I wrote Dorothy and told her I was thinking of quoting her poem. But it was really her title that most unsettled and captivated me. I ended up just letting it work on my dream life, and it did its best work there.
The vitriol you faced seemed, at first, more unexpected than some of the opposition you got as a socialist organizer. Was it more painful to face that kind of hostility from women you’d expected to be on your side?
I never had a reasonable expectation that the Democratic-Party-leader, courtside feminist establishment would be on my side. Since when, historically, has there ever been any illusions about peace, love, and harmony in feminist movement? As a group, we’ve been fighting about “free love” since DAY ONE.
But, yes, it was still shocking to be the target of their infantry’s violence. The sex war scene was all very “Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” where the charismatic professor gins her “special girls” up into a frenzy to go off and join Mussolini.
I wouldn’t compare it as being worse or less than what I faced in the labor movement, or as a Red. There were too many guns, knives, heavy objects and flushed-face freakouts all the way around.
I remember well the psycho in Kentucky who pulled up in his car as I handed out a flyer about “maternity leave contract issues”-- so wholesome!-- in front of an auto plant employee parking lot. He pulled up close, lowered the window, and I drew near, because he had a big grin in his face. "Finally," I thought, "someone nice enough to talk to." When I was right up next to him, he drew a pistol, stuck it in my stomach, and said, “Get your nigger-loving communist ass off this lot.”
—Different style than the bomb-making, knife-wielding womens’ studies students. Everybody’s got their personal nut on.
By the way, Rachel, since we both have worked for Penthouse magazines, I have to tell you, I wrote that Kentucky story for my 1980's Penthouse Forum column and my editor changed the phrase to “liberal-leaning communist ass” because he said we couldn't’ say “nigger-loving communist ass”!
A them I noticed was this "casting out"— whether by your mother, the I.S., or the women with whom you started On Our Backs. You were accused of being the betrayer. Do you see a connection between those actions?
“Everybody’s out to get me!” God, I hope it isn't that bad.
My mom, who died in 2004, isn’t the same as Gloria Steinem or Andrea Dworkin— she loved me unconditionally. The dangers she placed me in were only the same as she put herself.
Even though Gloria and I share the same birthdate, I don’t think she loves me ! ;-)
Politics is a different matter. The struggle to name a solution, to lead, is fierce. Plus, every group who’s been marginalized by oppression has a nasty cannibalistic streak. We scrounge over crumbs. We always tell ourselves, “stay tight, don’t let The Man divide us,” but the internalized madness is quite daunting.
You know, everyone’s history has bitter stings, everyone gets thrown out of paradise. They are formative experiences, and certainly part of any narrative. But they aren’t the only climaxes. The embraces, the deep loves and kinships are just as powerful. I hope that comes across in my story!
You started a print magazine in 1983, just as personal computers were becoming popular— and before internet publishing.
There’s a moment where OOB co-founder and publisher Debi Sundahl tells you that Steve Jobs is frightening the horses by putting the means of production into individuals’ hands. But you faced many financial hurdles simply because you were publishing a sex magazine.
I understand the moral opposition, but on the business side, money is money. Why were business so threatened by the magazine?
You have to mention the part in the story where Debi talked about Steve so much, that I was under the impression he was one of her clients at the O’Farrell theater! That was a lovely naive fantasy. She was the original Apple early adopter when it came to publishing.
Back to your question:
Extreme male chauvinism in publishing and magazine distribution was one heavy issue. They could only see us “girls” as something to exploit, or to punish/save. It was their knee-jerk Madonna/Whore reaction THEN, and in many ways, it still IS. Look at the position of women in journalism. NAU-ZEE-ATE-ING.
Secondly, corruption was rife in magazine printing and distribution. We could’ve laundered our way in and out of many difficult situations, but we didn’t always have the cash. People have no idea how sleazy this business is. --Or maybe they do, and I was just the last to know?
I’m curious about your book tour audiences. Is there a typical Susie Bright fan? Do you feel this book is more geared toward those who lived through the seventies and eighties along with you?
An enthusiastic reader just wrote on my Facebook Wall, “Keep stickin’ it to the squares, Susie!” -- that cracked me up.
It’s amazing how untypical my readers are; I never know who’s walking through the door. It’s anyone who’s ever had a searing moment of self-contemplation, who’s ever laughed in bed, who’s ever sat down in street and said “ENOUGH!”
A lot of people who come to my memoir events want to talk to me about their place in my memoir— it's like everyone is a chapter I need to read. I just met a woman in DC who was raised by evangelical Christian missionaries, traveling the globe, and as a teenager, she kept my copies of my books locked in a file drawer that her parents had no idea about. —All these years later we're having kim chee and Korean BBQ together.
As for generations, of course if you were “there,” it’s one thing, but young people are always looking at the primary sources of history, particularly those revolutionary times which are freighted with mythology, like the cultural revolution of my generation. I always have looked into the past for answers, myself.
What advice do you have for those who want to go into the field of sexuality?
Is there a certain personality type that’s best suited to facing the kinds of sex-negative slings and arrows that come with it?
Well, I'm so ridiculously over-sensitive that I’d say the door is wide open for all kinds. Big crybabies and people who pee in their pants laughing are welcome. Empathy is all you need.
Has American culture become more knowledgeable and open-minded about sex? In some ways we have, but in other respects we're regressing. Are you optimistic?
Better? Yes. Worse? Yes. To quote my favorite Roland Barthes exclamation:
"I am reduced to endurance.... I suffer without adjustment, I persist without intensity, always bewildered, never discouraged. I am a Daruma doll, a legless toy endlessly poked and pushed, but finally regaining its balance, assured by an inner balancing pin.
"But WHAT is my balancing pin? The force of love?
"...Such is life, falling over seven times and getting up eight."
Obviously, “optimism” isn’t what’s required. Activism is.
What’s next for you?
I'm working on a book with you!
I get to be the "guest judge" on your edition of Best Sex Writing 2012. I can't wait to see the finalists you're culling right now.
(Deadline for submissions— non-fiction personal essays and reportage on the current sexual zeitgeist— is May 1, and you can read all the little details here._
For myself, I have a new Sex Journal out, a "guided," not-so-blank book for people who have always thought it would be interesting to write down their sex history.
I'm beginning a book which only has a nickname so far: Mom’s Sex Diary. It’s about how parents evolve sexually from their own pregnancies to witnessing their childrens’ puberty. Raising kids changes your sex life... and foretells their future love lives. Lots of ground to cover! I'm doing workshops on that very subject right now, just to hear what's on people's minds... here's the schedule so far.
Then, of course there’s a second memoir, more dirt. I’ll call it, Sticking it to the Squares, Part Deux!
Rachel Kramer Bussel is the Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations, sex columnist for SexIs Magazine, and has edited 38 anthologies, including Gotta Have It, Surrender, Best Bondage Erotica 2011, Orgasmic, Fast Girls, Spanked, Bottoms Up and Best Sex Writing 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Parts of this interview, and Rachel's review of Big Sex Little Death, were first printed in SexIsPhoto Credit: Stacie Joy. Rachel and Susie from RKB's legendary "In The Flesh" series in 2009, at the Happy Ending Lounge, in NYC.
I have a huge surprise: I've been nominated to be one of a handful of Parade Grand Marshalls in the San Francisco Pride March this year.
YOW! I wanna win so bad. I promise, if I'm a parade marshall I will be so outrageous, and we will have so much fun, that we won't stop talking about it for the rest of lives. Deal!
Would you vote for me?
You can go online and press a button. Or, you can vote in person and make a big papery show of it! (See below for in-person voting details).
Let me give you a little background:
I've been involved in the SF Parade since... 1979. Before that, I was part of the gay parades in Hollywood, and Long Beach.
I have done every station of the cross at Pride celebrations except Grand Marshall.
I have protested the stage, taken over the stage, performed on stage, marched in the goofball contingent, the fuck-anita-bryant contingent, the anarchists, the strippers and whores, the angelic choirs, the diseased-pariah-news fellow travelers, as a parent with my kid in a little red wagon, as a spectator on poles, window ledges, running out in traffic, getting my car stolen, getting high, getting On Our Backs first issue out, getting mugged, Dykes on Bikes, in latex, in leather, in my pajamas, post-break-up, post-knife-fight, post poptarts, with straight relatives, with closeted gay relatives, with my eyes closed... every incarnation you can think of. Let me reach my zenith!
I have never been in a "little red convertible," waving and singing with the crowd. I have not "led" a float covered with flowers and disco balls. THIS IS MY DESTINY.
Now, who are the other contenders?
I hate to tell you this, but they're all worthy, wonderful people who are probably as hysterical to lead a parade as I am. I'm in the "community activist" category, so everyone on the ballot is more than deserving.
Just focus on your selfish pleasure to see me win, win, win.
Vote Now! You can only vote once, darn it.
Polling has started already, and it ends 11:59 PM on Sunday, April 10th.
2011 Detailled Grand Marshal Voting Guide
There are three (3) methods you can utilize to cast your vote:
1.) Visit a public polling place, get a paper ballot, and cast it in person. Times and locations are:
Friday, April 1 – Bench & Bar (510 17th Street, Oakland)
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 2 – Mr. S Leather Co. (8th and Harrison Streets, SF)
11:30 am – 3:30 pm
Saturday, April 9 – Project Open Hand (730 Polk Street, SF)
11:00 am – 3:00 pm
2.) Stop in at the SFLGBTPCC office between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and pick up a paper ballot — then either fill it out on the spot, mail it in, or FAX it in to the office. Multiple ballots can not be turned in or FAXed by one person, a maximum of TWO (2) ballots can be sent into the office via regular mail (1841 Market Street, Fourth Floor, San Francisco CA 94103.
3.) Vote online at sfpride.org!
Irish are Spaniards who got lost in the mist...
The first person in my mother's family who came to California was my great-aunt Tess O’Halloran, who went to make her living as a governess in a Hollywood home.
She came home to Minnesota one Christmas, a Success, loaded down with navel oranges and wearing a two piece suit the color of a peach. No one in my family had ever worn any other color than blue or black or brown. The children didn't know that a peach-colored fabric existed, and when they touched Tess’s outfit, they worried that it would melt away like ice cream.
In St. Paul at the time, there were signs on respectable establishments that said, “No Dogs, No Indians, No Irish.” There was no work in the ghetto, and Tess’s good fortune out West was intoxicating. Soon one Halloran after another was either joining the service or moving out to San Francisco to work in the Hunter’s Point shipyards...
—from the chapter, "The Irish Side," Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir
Susie's Primary Sources on Vintage Erotica Before the Internet