SAN FRANCISCO—We've got to agree with Tom Perrotta: "Susie [Bright] is a one-woman counterculture." After all, she's been writing (The Sexual State of the Union; Mommy's Little Girl) and editing (Best American Erotica; various volumes of the Herotica series) books about sexuality—women's and men's—for more than 20 years ... and now she's published her most personal memoir yet, Big Sex Little Death.
Born in 1958, Susie's seen her share of "society in flux," from the end of the Vietnam war to the beginnings (and ends) of the sexual revolution and beyond, and from the excerpts we've seen of the new book, it's a journey of both self-discovery and discovery of her roots, as well as a commentary on how cultural/political events shaped her personal growth—and almost all of it at least sexually tinged.
"I came of age and became a sexual adult at the moment that women—in jeans and no bras, of course—were taking to the streets," she writes in the book's introduction. "Sexual liberation and feminism were inseparable topics to my best friends in high school. As I entered my twenties and feminists began to disown one another over sexual expression, it reminded me all too well of what I went though in the labor movement, civil rights, the Left—‘let the weak fight among themselves.’ Radical feminists didn't need FBI infiltration—the mechanism for sisterly cannibalization was already well under way."
That last is no doubt a reference to the anti-porn movements begun by the late Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon and others of their ilk, sexual puritans for whom any graphic depiction of women's public sexuality (unless completely femme) was cause for alarm and censorship.
Susie, of course, went in the other direction: Celebrating consensual sexuality in all its myriad forms, even to the point of reviewing adult movies herself and becoming the first female critic in the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO), not to mention becoming a co-founder and first editor-in-chief of the magazine On Our Backs, which Susie dubbed "Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian."
But it wasn't an easy ride. In her chapter "The Bunny Trip," Susie describes the changes she went through in "University High" in Los Angeles before dropping out to pursue a GED, in part because she "felt bad about how scared everyone was: scared of having sex, scared to leave their gilded cage, scared to dream for anything that hadnʼt been premeditated by their parents."
But despite the fact that she'd been "signed up" by her guidance counselor to be the "scoregirl" for the school's swim and basketball teams, Susie still managed to get radicalized before she left, working for a semi-underground newspaper called The Red Tide, picketing liquor stores for selling non-union Gallo wine, marching to impeach then-President Nixon—and getting laid. It made quite a contrast to the fact that, as a scoregirl, she'd been asked to attend the swim team's annual banquet at the L.A. Playboy Club, which thrilled her because "Iʼve never seen a Bunny; I really want to."
It's probably not giving away too much to say that she did, and even got to touch a Bunny tail—but it's the breathless way she relates how she got to that point that makes the chapter (and likely the whole book) well worth reading.
Susie's book tour will take her across the country, from San Francisco to Chicago to New York City to Atlanta to several other major cities and back again. The complete tour schedule can be found here.