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Susie Bright Tells All : Preaching a Doctrine of Adventure, Fantasy and Safety, the Feminist Bad Girl Brings Her Pro-Sex Message to the Masses

July 24, 1994|Mark Ehrman | Mark Ehrman, a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles, writes frequently for the magazine's Palm Latitudes section

SUSIE BRIGHT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT SEX. AND somebody, it seems, is always trying to shut her up. Back in 1990, for instance, at one of her erotica lectures, a women's studies class passed out flyers that read: "First, slavery in the Roman Empire . . . then the Holocaust . . . Now, Susie Bright comes to the University of Minnesota." In Northampton, Mass., a hotbed of radical feminist activity, police advised her not to eat out because they feared she'd be attacked by anti-porn fanatics.

Then there was the Wellesley College incident.

In March, Bright was invited to speak at this elite, all-female institution outside of Boston. About 1,000 people showed up, and not just students and faculty. Throngs of the off-campus curious--gay and straight, young and old, male and female--poured into Alumnae Hall to hear Bright's "Sexual State of the Union Address," an oh-so-frank look at the current state of sexuality and sexual politics in America. In her honor, the Colonial-style auditorium was converted into a kind of carnal carnival, with condoms, safe-sex pamphlets, chocolate nipples and other sex-celebratory items on display.

As it happened, President Clinton was in town, too, to give his take on the state of the Union--jobs and health care. The President's speeches went off without a hitch. But at Wellesley, 15 minutes before show time, campus police received an anonymous phone call. "There's a bomb in Alumnae Hall," the voice said and hung up.

The threat--eventually proven to be a hoax--didn't cancel Bright's lecture. After an hour of frantic phone calls, campus officials found an alternate location. The slightly diminished crowd trudged across the rain-soaked campus to hear Bright preach her corporeal gospel in Houghton Memorial Chapel, Wellesley's house of worship. Not that Bright had a problem with that. Her rule of thumb: "the more religious, puritanical or fundamentalist the territory, the kinkier it gets."

"I'm so glad God is on my side," Bright quipped when, at last, her tall, black-velvet clad figure emerged behind the pulpit to thunderous applause. "I knew She'd want me to be here."

IT WAS JUST ANOTHER EXCITING chapter in the adventures of Susie Bright--a.k.a. Susie Sexpert--author, adviser, educator, pornography aficionado and all-around sex guru. Her credo is simple: Sex is fun. Prudery kills. Fantasies are healthy and important. And given empathy, latex and some basic instruction, anything that occurs between two consenting adults is A-OK.

With a sense of humor, unflinching candor and a sincere, nonjudgmental desire to help people improve their sex lives, this 36-year-old single mother has powered her way from an obscure performance artist on San Francisco's gay coffeehouse fringe to a sort of Ann Landers of all things erotic. Her mission: sexual empowerment, especially for women.

"In many years of teaching and talking sex," she says, "I've never had a man say, 'I don't know where my penis is and I've never had an orgasm.' And that will never happen. It's feminists who put the clitoris on the map. Now we're concentrating above the neck."

Such frankness is the hallmark of a new pro-sex politics that is emerging among women, especially young women. It is the reason Bright has suddenly gotten, in a word, hot. She packs college auditoriums and movie theaters across the country. Her writing--including two books, "Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World" and "Susie Bright's Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader" and countless reviews, essays and articles--has leaped out of the small-press league and into the major publishing houses. Her collections of women-authored erotica, "Herotica", and the co-ed "Best American Erotica," are selling well, and her presentation, "Susie Bright's Sexual State of the Union" is being expanded into a book to be published next year by Simon & Schuster.

"I had been following her for a long time and I was aware that she was starting to get a national audience," says Mark Gompertz, publisher of Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks, for whom Bright edited "Best American Erotica 1993," which sold 60,000 copies in its first eight months. "The time is right. There's a lot of interest in sexual politics and sexual thought."

No wonder. Between AIDS, Christian chastity clubs, anti-porn campaigns and date rape controversies, the national libido seems to be in full retreat. The time was ripe for someone with a librarian's knowledge, a mother's concern and a hooker's candor to put the F-word, \o7 fun\f7 , back into sex.

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