Susie Bright: Big Sex Little Death (A Memoir)
Reading Big Sex Little Death was a big surprise for me. I’ve known Susie Bright for a long time and have worked with her at various times over the years. I’ve long admired her work as a sex-positive revolutionist and a terrifically intrepid personality. I guess I was expecting a sexual travelogue as memoir and a pop culture tone of voice, and maybe some dishing on what it’s like to be a famous sexpert.
In fact Big Sex Little Death is mostly a really well written story that focuses more on Susie’s early years with her very difficult though intelligent mother (and later years when she was able to live with her anthropologist/linguist father), and her very active life as a political radical. In Southern California in the 70′s, Susie worked on a high school magazine called Red Tide, and later was an activist in the socialist movement of that period. Where, yes, there was a lot of sex (and sexism). Her radical political history was all new to me, and is very interesting to read about.
That was all before she became part of the pro-sex feminist movement in the 80′s, worked at the now famous Good Vibrations feminist sex shop, and helped found the now-famous lesbian sex magazine, On Our Backs, which for its seven year lifespan was hugely important in helping women define and own their sexuality. And in many ways that is what is most important about this memoir, that it connects politics and sexuality and helps us remember where so much of the culture we take for granted today came from.
Writing mostly about her earlier years, Susie leaves room, I suppose, for a sequel where she can talk about her later work as a nationally known sex expert, talented writer, and important editor of innumerable anthologies of writing about sex and sexuality.
As one might expect, we had a great time talking about her book and some of her many exploits as a public sex figure in a bizarrely prudish society. Ultimately this book should be read by anyone interested in late 20th century American culture, regardless of one’s gender, sexuality, interest in sex, out there or puritanical, it’s well worth your time. And I am a big fan of Susie’s blog too – and I recommend her latest on “sex positive parenting” to anyone who has ever thought about what they are teaching (or not) their children about their own values.