inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #26 of 80: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Sat 4 Jun 11 23:48
Oops the title is: Crack in the World.  Here's the trailer:
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #27 of 80: Craig Louis (craig1st) Sun 5 Jun 11 02:28

really, a prescient film.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #28 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 06:13
Okay, I'm going to shuffle back a dozen posts to say hi to (Lendie)
who was one of the early people I remember here at the Well, when I
first joined in... 90? I should look up my profile. 

I have a special interest in mentioning that period because I think I
had such a unique introduction to the world of Internet communication.
I had no idea it was "male-dominated," truly, because the Well was
filled with outspoken women — I thought it was like that everyplace and
I had no comparison. 

The women at "On Our Backs" in the 1980s who were into computers were
all.. and I'm not kidding... radical lesbian seperatist fan-fic writers
(among the first ones?) —or strippers. 

The DAY that "PageMaker 1" came out, OOB decided to forgo anymore
traditional typesetting (very expensive) and publish our magazine that

We didn't know that no one was actually doing "desktop" publishing for
real, to produced and distribute a national magazine to sell at cigar
stands, gay bookstores, bus stations, the then-new Borders chain.

Anyway, Lendie asked about aging, which is funny, because after all,
we were in our 20s when we first met here. She asks about how older
women are "portrayed," and it reminds me that I never liked how I was
"portrayed"— who does?— by the mainstream. 

As a young woman I felt condescended to, that it was just one long
line of "what's a nice girl like you?..." —My freckles and fair skin.
The assumption I needed to be lectured, punished, saved. 

One of the best parts of On Our Backs was the chance to make one's own
sexual theater, every day, whether I was writing or setting up
pictorials or videos.

So I don't expect much from mainstream portrayal; it's been sexist and
every other kind of "ist" the whole time. 

How I feel, myself, about getting older in my sex life is another
question. It is true I look at the mirror and am surprised. If eager
young lovers approach me looking for a hot mommy fantasy come-true, I
am shocked— and then bewildered, because I never saw myself as the hot
mommy, let alone granny. 

I still see myself erotically, in my mind's eye, as 17— I'm still
attracted to those older than me. If only I could reverse my Oedipal
orientation to fit my circumstances! 

I remember Betty Dodson telling me the beauty of being old is that you
can fully live out the "dirty old lady" persona. She said she loved
"older woman invisibility" because now she could stand in the street
and gawk at people as much as she wanted and hardly anyone noticed.

I am not there yet, but I am always inspired by Betty. When I consider
my libido isn't what it used to be— that I am not as sexually
impulsive and "propelled" as I was when the eggs were still poppin'
fresh— I wonder how much I like sexual attention because it's
ego-gratifying and how much I actually want to get my rocks off and
might seize the opportunity. I didn't used to have the "pause in my
brain" tht would even separate those two.

A friend of mine who's in her 50s asked me if I thought it was strange
that she has "suddenly" taken a ferocious interest in S/M sex after a
lifetime of vanilla." I said, "no, it's not that your personality
changed, you just need more stimulation to get off, more intensity.
Your hormones aren't doing all the heavy lifting anymore."

And everyone eventually gets to that place, age-wise. Maybe you don't
want to be spanked or pinched, but in order to feel the kind of
resounding orgasm or arousal you felt as a young person, you need a
little something extra. The fantasy has to be a little out there, you
need a surprise, novelty, sheer, sheer excitement. 

Someone asked me on the road what turns me on lately, and I said,
"Unpredictability." When we see the classic
"old-person-making-a-fool-of-themselves" sex story, I have a lot of
compassion. I hope I have those foolish thrills in store for myself as

inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #29 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 06:26
I want to respond to David's mention about "how much sex" is in my
memoir, particularly in receipt of its title. 

I'm tellin ya, this memoir's reception has been like a Rorschach Test
in this regard. It's far more about the the reader than me. Some
reviewers have "warned" people off from my book, saying it's not for
"prudes" or the "faint-hearted," that it's "graphic," and "X-rated."
Others have said, "tame." So which is it? Lesbians have complained
there's not enough dyke sex, and straight reviewers have described it
as entirely gay gay gay.

It's not a kiss, fuck, and tell, certainly. Sex is part of the
narrative's turning points. I would say it has as much sex as you'd see
in any random Updike novel, to choose a well-known example. When men
write sex in literary fiction, it's just called novel, a memoir,
perhaps it's "frank" or "disturbing" or "realism." Most likely,
"BRILLIANT!" With women, one's sexual story is diminutized or tarted
I swear, I wish I'd written something under a male pseud so I could
prove my point. To be a woman writer, who writes about sex, you're
stuck in a Naipul-negativity-loop, to reference a recent great example.
That's why I quoted Mailer on "women's writing" in my intro, I KNEW
what was coming: 

"At the risk of making a dozen devoted enemies for life, I can only
say the the whiffs I get from the ink of [women writers] are fey,
old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled,
creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maquillé in mannequin's
whimsy, or else bright and stillborn."
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #30 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 06:36
Amy said, " much of what passes for sexual freedom
these days is just performance, a commodification of naughtiness for
mass consumption."

'Twas ever thus! It is ONLY counter-culture that puts out *any other
message.* Sexual liberation, like rock 'n' roll, like anything avant
garde, was quickly put in a bottle, diluted into elevator music,
toxified with a price point.

 And Amy goes on to say, "Can we still find a way to see *this* as a
sex-positive development, or have we landed in some kind of awful
misunderstanding of what it means for women to have sex for sex's

I put asterisks around *this,*, because if you are indeed referring
back to sexual freedom, to women's liberation from the Double Standard,
from being seen as chattel or ornaments, as property, as virgins or
whores—  HEY! It NEVER stops being revolutionary. It has never been
fully realized, by any stretch of the imagination. When Patti Smith
wrote her poetry book, "Babel," that was counter-culture, that was a
woman's frank narrative, sex, warts, and all.

"Girls Gone Wild" is nothing more than a chipmunk calendar, it's not
created by women, it's not anyone's authentic anything. Take its
cynical producer out of the picture, Joe Francis, and there's nothing
there, not one tattered g-string. 

When women have actually made their own tell-it-like-it-is erotic
films, in complete control of the content and the money, it's been a
very VERY different story— one that you don't see on the front page
very often.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #31 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 06:45
By the way, since David was talking about what other bios he's been
looking at lately, I should mention what I've been reading, too, since
it becomes esp. vital as I live my life in airports and rail stations
the past few months. 

I have been on a Charles Portis BINGE. I want to write a Portis-addled
road trip novel with the protagonist as a cranky butch dyke, which is
how I truly see Portis' inner ego. 

This all started because I saw the Coen Brothers' "True Grit" and was
gobsmacked. Then I listed to Donna Tartt read the book at Audible and
just cried, shivered, and laughed even harder. Finally I read the book
and then his other five (?) masterpieces. Hilariously, I was reading
his book "Gringos" just as the May 2011 "Rapture" was about to take
place, which is PART of his plot, which he wrote in the 60s!

"Gringos," among other things, is about a bunch of people in the
Yucatan, some of whom are a crazed, con-artist led cult, looking for
the End Days Orgasm. The narrator, however, is a complete skeptic and
crank, who seems to lead a rather lonely existence. One of his friends,
commeting on his non-existent dating life, says, "You don't get on
with smart women, do you?" 

And our hero says, something like: "Oh no— they're like baby racoons.
Amusing at first, but then they turn vicious and figure out how to open
the refrigerator."
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #32 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 06:47
Thank you for all the disaster recommendations, btw, I will check out
ALL. I have been fleeing tornado warnings throughout my book tour, and
they've really been on my mind. From there, it's one hop, skip, and a
jump to liquid hot magma.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #33 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 07:02
okay, finally, david asked about why I'm full of beans, despite some
of my scary and repressed circumstances.

i hope this comes across, but my mom, and my dad, also really had
their exhuberant, "LETS HAVE FUN" side. They sang and danced and made
mischief, we had adventures. It was a mixed bag, my mom's sexual
consciousness. After all, it was HER copy of "The Female Eunuch" I
found on the ironing board. She always had banned books on her shelf.
She renounced her religion. She wasn't unaware of her intellectual
radicalization, but like most of us, the things that troubled her were
on a deeper level.

People who make gestures or genuine attempts to kill themselves, who
go into deep despairs, who hurt their children— they're not like that
all the time. I mean, that's part of the confusion of it; you never
know who you're waking up with, or what triggers it. I knew my mom had
been affected by extreme poverty, family violence, early loss and
betrayals that were never spelled out— but I could also see how much
she loved life, how her intellectual curiousity and humor never quit.  
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #34 of 80: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 5 Jun 11 07:04
#29 sounds very much like the sort of thing Erica Jong writes. Do you
guys know each other? What do you think of her work over the years?

As far as disaster movies, the two creepiest and saddest ones are
Weeds and Miracle Mile. The Day After is up there. We're fond of
Dante's Peak here because it was filmed in Idaho.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #35 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 07:51
Yes, Erica J and I bonded in our mutual exasperation over this many
years ago. She was proclaimed, "a massive pudenda" by a nauseated
reviewer at the New Statesman, when "Fear of Flying" was published...
That just wears better as every year goes by.

She just published a women's sexual anthology, "Sugar in my Bowl,"
that has an earlier draft of one of my memoir chapters, the one where I
get bludgeoned by a goon in the Trucker yard and then spectacularly
saved by one of my more seductive comrades.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #36 of 80: . (wickett) Sun 5 Jun 11 09:33

How do you think Peggy Ornstein's, _Cinderella Ate My Daughter_ ties into 
the cultural muting of adult female sexual vitality?

inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #37 of 80: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Sun 5 Jun 11 11:52
>Didn't we send out copies of the book to a few WELL neighbors?  Let's
hear from those readers!

WELL neighbor with actual copy of book shows up... Hi David, hi
<sueb>, everyone...

Today's *my* first day to relax in the midst of a relentless few
months, and I plan to spend a lot of it curled up with yr book.  So far
I've read the beginning and end, plus a sex scene midway to which the
book happened to fall open!

Right away I discover we're contemporaries within a few months. It's a
unique treat to be able to map my so different experiences onto the
same times, life stages, situations and even actual locations.

The first thing that strikes me and I want to comment on is you point
out that your *parents* were far more radical than you. "They strayed
so much further than I did from their immediate ancestors."  And it's
not revolutionary things you're talking about, except perhaps divorce -
it's things like being the first generation to go to college, not
dying in childbirth...  

I never thought about that before. My parents were the first
generation of their families to go to college. I'm the child of a
second marriage after a divorce where fault had to be assigned. It's
the standard cultural narrative that the adults of the 50s and 60s were
conventional and stifling, but maybe no. It's probably as true to see
them as exhausted and befuddled revolutionaries, also at sea, far from
where they began, both on the run and shoved, flung.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #38 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 15:44
Hi Wickett! I regularly read Orenstein's work in the NYTimes— she
often covers the beat of pop culture, a feminist reading. I'm not
surprised she puked from Disney-über-alles; what parent doesn't reach
the end of their rope with that gooey pink stuff in the key of G?  

The fetishization of the trophy wife persona is a commercial bonanza
worth tearing to shreds. 

However, if I approached this as a parenting counselor, as if Peggy
were saying to me, "Susie, should I be worried about my daughter?" I
would take a different tack.

I would say, "Do you model this stuff to your child? Are you obsessed
with your appearance in front of her, demonstrate that life isn't worth
living without male apppoval, etc.?" 

If not, if you wear brown and blue and overalls as well as anything
else you damn please, including heels and LBD's, if you live a
"woman-in-full" life, your daughter will ultimately cue off that more
than the TV set. 

More than that, I'd ask, what community do you live in? Is there
diversity and tolerance in your circle of friends, school, work, etc? 

When you don't grow up in a homogenous environment, if everyone isn't
in a uniform, if you see kids (both boys and girls) in pink tutus
playing baseball, you're probably in a pretty cool place for your kid
to find their own style. Esp. when they're very young, when it makes
the biggest impression. 

Unlike Orenstein, I don't think things were necessarily better for
girls in my geneneration. There was no Title IX, girls simply didn't
play sports, not even in the most casual way. We were just told to
"forget it" as far as math and science were concerned. 

 My kid went to California public schools, as I did, and she grew up
throwing and kicking a ball around like it was no big deal. Sometimes
in pink! She has no math phobia, she dreads no scientific pursuit, she
enjoys it. Being "girly" these days is a lot more open-ended. I can't
get over how different that is from my experience in the 60s.

Madison Avenue didn't change... they were horrible then, horrible now.
What changed was a counter-culture that made a significant dent, and
I'd like to keep kicking those tires without respite!
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #39 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Sun 5 Jun 11 15:45
Keta, thanks for giving me your first impressions. That cracks me up,
that you skipped to the end and found a sex part. I spend such a long
time thinking about the very first and the very last sentence, because
it does seem they loom large. I change mine multiple times before I
finally settle in.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #40 of 80: E (wickett) Sun 5 Jun 11 20:47
    <scribbled by wickett Wed 8 Jun 11 14:45>
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #41 of 80: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 6 Jun 11 10:10
Thought you guys might be amused by How to Suppress Women Writers
Bingo, created by writer Lori Selke (whom I expect you know):
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #42 of 80: David Gans (tnf) Mon 6 Jun 11 10:21

One of my favorite passages int he book is about your time in Louisville,
working in a department store.  THe formality of the social structure there,
and the racism - but let's go back a bit before then.  please tell us more
about your early days in the socialist worker movement.  You started out on
the staff of the Red Tide, a gig that got you in trouble with the authorities
while you were still in high school.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #43 of 80: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Mon 6 Jun 11 11:24
Yes, I would love to hear about that.

I'd also love to hear about parenting your daughter when you have such
a notorious reputation! Did you find yourself battling perceptions
when you met other parents? I live in a pretty hip area (bernal
heights, SF) so my sex-writing past would be more of an asset than
anything else if it did come up - but that's the changing times for
you. I love the way you deconstruct the automatic nostalgia -- you're
so right, and I have the urge to cut and paste your paragraph (or
paraphrase it, anyway) when I hear the omnipresent "kids today" moaning
and groaning. 
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #44 of 80: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 6 Jun 11 12:03
Good to see you still fighting the good fight, Susie. Hard for me to
not get nostalgic about the early '70s, when i first arrived here in
Berkeley. Seems like people were so easy-going and aware. Nowadays it
feels so repressive around here, sexually. Go to a Berkeley cafe and
look at anyone for more than a couple of seconds (in my case, look at a
woman) and you'll be lucky to avoid a nasty stare back, if not a
confrontation. People from Europe have remarked to me on how uptight
everyone seems. Back in the '70s, i was too shy to fully participate.
Then i was in a long-term relationship into the early '90s. When it
ended, i emerged and found attitudes had totally changed. And now i'm
dealing with attitudes which are still hard and the fact that i'm an
aging radical Deadhead (and look like one:-)), not prime material in a
town full of young students and career-obsessed yuppies.
Question: do you think this is a permanent rollback of the gains we
made 40 years ago, or are there more possible breakthroughs ahead? 
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #45 of 80: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Mon 6 Jun 11 15:50
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #46 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Tue 7 Jun 11 14:45
I was familiar with labor sympathies from my mother's family, who had
had union-jobs in wartime industries... and how the CIO developed, etc.
I knew my "Joe Hill." But the first labor effort I was involved in, in
high school, was the United Farmworker Boycott, which many of you
probably remember as a grape, lettuce, and Gallo wine boycott, focussed
in the cities, at consumers, to support a union migrant worker
movement. Our Red Tide group, being teenagers who had a lot of time on
our hands, endlessly picketed the liquor stores and "Safeway's" of West
LA, eventually driving Gallo wine completely out of the area, which
floors me to this day. the UFW was interesting because it was part Raza
movement, part socialist, part deeply Catholic, part Dorothy Day-style
Catholic-- and of course, eventually tied to Democratic party.

During that time, some of the growers hired Teamster goons in
"sweetheart contracts" where they would pay off the IBT to "say" they
had union representation, but it was all a sham. And meanwhile,
Teamster thugs would go beat up boycott kids like myself, or activist

The IBT was probably the most conservative union at that time, Hoffa
disappeared, completely under thumb of Nixon and crimeworlders. yet, of
course, there were progressive truck drivers and loaders who were
horrified by their union's corruption and union-busting antics toward
the UFW. I got involved in this group called "The Fifth Wheel," which
was a newspaper/group of rank and filers who wanted to reform the
Teamsters union. And THAT, multiplied by many similar little groups all
over the country, was the impetus for "Teamsters for A Decent Union."

My socialist group id'ed a handful of industries we wanted to be
involved in: Teamsters, Auto, Coal, Telephone, Steel.  I had massive
training in all those businesses, it's funny, because all these decades
alter, I can still read about the Massey coal disaster, or what
happened to outsourced steel manufacture, or whatever, and it's like I
know all the players and history. It's like a soap opera where nothing
that much changes, it's easy to keep up if you know your history!
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #47 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Tue 7 Jun 11 14:55
About other parents... most of the time, people accept you as you
come, and it's not an issue. When I was singled-out for insult or
exclusion, I was always really shocked-- like, how low can these people

Probably the most poignant moment was in high school, there was a
smarty-pants math study group that met at our house every week; they
had a grand old time. I don't know how much algebra got done, but they
were all bright kids and would have fun doing their homework together.

The moms of the other kids would pick their children up at the end of
the afternoon, and one time, a mom came to me with tears in her eyes
and said that she was so grateful her son felt comfortable at our
house, because he really was not digging school and never felt like he
fit in. He was just your average goth/punk/math whiz kind of kid, he
seemed perfectly witty and well-adjusted to me. But I could imagine him
bored and loathing high school, who doesn't. (my Red Tide manners

So, I replied with something like, "Oh, well, we love having him here,
so glad to get to know you,"... and she interrupted me with a

It turned out she was longtime friends with a famous "antiporn"
feminsit advocate, sort of a Andrea Dworkin Junior. And she said that
if this woman knew that she, the mom, was becoming friendly with me,
accepting me into her social world, she would CUT HER OFF DEAD. And
there was this threat to it, like it meant more than just being shut
out of a Xmas party or two.

I comforted her and said something nonchalant like, "well, dont worry
about me, I'm not going to expose you, I'm glad you see I don't have
horns," -- but inside, it really appalled me, still does.

When I was in Atlanta recently, I went to the Margaret Mitchell
museum, a most interesting place. It turns out it's her rebellious
personality that "Scarlett" is based on. When she was 19, she danced
the Tango in public with a "swarthy" man, and she was "thrown out of
polite society," and ejected from the "Junior League." 

of course, years later, the JL begged her to come make a famous author
appearance, and she told them to fuck off. Good for her. I have the
same sentiments... the "junior league" types are exactly the antiporn
snots, total hypocrites and elitists who really prize their ability to
keep the riffraff in their place.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #48 of 80: Susie Bright (sueb) Tue 7 Jun 11 14:58
Regarding backlash/rollback: I believe it's economically driven by the
American class war we see unfolding, the Great Disappearance of the
Middle Class, the end of thriving free press, the fetishization and
narrowing of democracy at ever turn. Women's roles are constricted,
it's back to double standard nightmares, the invisibility of
nonconformists, the disenfranchisement of many to bolster the fortunes
and voices of a very few. That's why this Trophy Wife shit is so out of
control. BE a trophy wife or a porn star.

I am not a happy camper about it. Egalitarianism is on the defensive
right now.
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #49 of 80: David Gans (tnf) Tue 7 Jun 11 15:33

How has the book tour been going?  What are you seeing out there?
inkwell.vue.409 : Susie Bright, "Big Sex, Little Death"
permalink #50 of 80: Jenny Finch (jfinch) Tue 7 Jun 11 16:14
Your story is so much about activism whether about socialism or
feminism or sexuality.  I really enjoyed your book. The title made me
think of sex, and overall your memoir to me was much more about
activism and giving voice to different points of view (like women's

Most people I know just don't care about women's issues these days. 
30 years ago my grandmother was working her way up to the glass ceiling
and today we don't seem to acknowledge it.  How do you see the current
state of women's activism?

You have also been a sexual educator really I suppose since The Red
Tide.  I know that you talked about being one of the first users of
desktop publishing.  How has technology changed what you put out and
how you work?   Have you seen a change in readers?


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