WEST HOLLYWOOD—It was standing room only when author/editor/blogger/sex-positive activist Susie Bright took the podium at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard last week to promote her latest book, Big Sex Little Death. Besides familiar adult industry faces Nina Hartley, Ernest Greene and Christian Mann, at least two dozen others (including True Porn Clerk Stories author Ali Davis) crowded into the tiny aisles to hear Bright read selections from the autobiographical work and expound on the sexual state of the world.
"I know a lot of you know I've been writing autobiographically for a long time," she said by way of introduction, "probably since Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World, which came out when I was just a little thing, the early '80s. And I had never written very much about my family of origin or my adolescence, and a lot of people wondered, 'How did she end up being involved in this unusual sexual revolution? You know, was she raised in a nunnery or a hedonistic tangled wine orgy?'"
Bright also spoke of some of the experiences she'd already had while on her book tour—like her attendance at a sex bloggers' convention in Baltimore.
"How awesome is that?" she asked. "I was wondering, how many sex bloggers are out there? Turns out, there's hundreds of them along with the educators and the social workers and the militant Planned Parenthood people and people we don't even have a name for yet.
"We live in a country that's so interesting; we inspire people all over the world to feel like they have the right to get loud and to speak truth to power," She later added. "They're all young, and they're all like they're not going to let the old people screw it up, and they're having a sexual revolution right now, and they're staying up all night and having sex and they're talking about anything they want and they're mixing in every way and they're not letting any of the class or ethnic or gender things stop them.
"I started following this gay blogger in Egypt, who I think is one of my new favorite people now," she continued. "And he said, 'Isn't it interesting that just two weeks ago if you said that you were down in Tahrir Square, it meant you were cruising. Two years ago, it meant, "Oh, another sodomy charge; boy, are you in trouble!" Now it's a badge of honor.' So when things like that happen, or I see what was happening in Madison—Of course, I was just in the Midwest, and I'm going back tomorrow. People there do not have any problem with me talking about sex and labor issues in the same breath; not at all. Why say 'no' when you're stuck in a building all night together? You talk about sex and you have sex and the barriers break down and so that feeling of freedom, the freedom to create something new, the imagination, you know, that we don't have to do this the way it's always been done before, it's very exotic and erotic."
Bright's book, as AVN earlier noted, deals with her early life and the experiences that helped form her present personality. At this book signing, she read a chapter dealing with her participation in publishing a "socialist" newspaper, The Red Tide, when she attended University High in West Los Angeles—and how that paper once came to the attention of conservative radio/TV commentator George Putnam, who singled out one illustration as "the most obscene thing he'd ever seen": A drawing, Gray's Anatomy style, of the female uterus.
"The man did not have one funny bone in his body," she assessed.
However, Putnam's on-air rebuke led Bright to one of the first conversations about sex that she'd ever had with a teacher; in this case, her gym teacher who was a closet lesbian, and the two discussed several aspects of what would eventually become known as "sexual politics."
The reading also sparked another remembrance, after an audience member asked her what she thought of the fact the left-liberal MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow can't bring herself to say the word "vibrator" on TV.
"You can't say 'uterus' in the Florida legislature, apparently; what's up with that?" she asked. "Some legislator was so offended that they passed a rule that you can't say 'uterus' on the floor. There's always somebody telling you to shut up! I guess my reaction is that it's a litmus test for democracy, a litmus test for free speech... Free speech isn't about, 'Hi, I just made apple sauce'; it's about being able to say, 'I fucked apple sauce last night.' And when we use strong language and strong pictures and strong satire to make fun of people or to point out their foibles, sexuality is often involved, but it's always the first thing to go. It's the very first thing. You know, it's interesting at some point saying, 'I'm out against the war' or 'I'm a socialist'—those are important things too, but it's always sex first."
Bright spoke for about 45 minutes, quoting from the book and answering audience questions, including one from Hartley, whom many may not know, besides being a world-famous porn star, is also a registered nurse.
"[Nurses] are constantly having to deal with the reality of people's bodies, not the romance," Bright noted. "We've had to treat both death and sex like one of those discreet Kotex ads; you can never say what's really going on, and realism and authenticity is what's really needed, and also a sense of humor. We all go through this. We all want to cum. We all feel desire. We all have crazy thoughts. We all die, and when you're dying, all kinds of crazy things go through your mind, and you need to be able to express them and have a place that's safe."
At the end of her talk, she spent about an hour signing autographs and chatting with attendees.
To see if Bright will be speaking in your area, check out her book tour schedule here.