Susie Bright's Sexwise
127 pages, Cleis Press, $10.95
Review score: **** out of *****
First of all, Danny says the only important detail about finding me is that he can smell my pussy, "like Girl Scout cookies are supposed to smell," all the way across the park ravine.
You see, Marilyn does not let Danny go down on her. Like maybe she allowed him three times when they were first together, and then it came to a complete halt. Of course, he is just cunt-mad. He buries his head in my fur and simply will not come out -- my orgasm is just one curve in the coaster to him. He sucks the cum out of me, licking me like a bowl of chocolate, holding my clit hostage. The only way I can bring him up to eye level is to beg him to fuck me.
The Danny referred to in the above paragraph is Dan Quayle. Unfortunately for Dan, this is just a fantasy send-up in Susie Bright's wonderful collection of essays, Susie Bright's Sexwise. If the public personas of Dan and Marilyn Quayle are any indication, this is just about as close to great sex as Dan will ever get.
Susie Bright is a self-described "pornographer and lesbian". She is also a first-class essayist. This collection of essays ranges from "how to pick up girls" to Republican family values (to which this particular book review is dedicated), to the above-mentioned Dan Quayle, and on to Catharine MacKinnon. Susie Bright's writing bursts with life and vitality. She just seems to love life, sex, a good spanking, conversation, and honest thinking. She doesn't mention it explicitly, but I have to imagine that Susie Bright also loves good food and perhaps good wine. Susie Bright wants everyone to have orgasms, however they manage to have them, whether by consentual S/M, anal sex, or just Lady's Home Journal heterosexual missionary sex. But what she does not want is repression, either from the Republican right or the totalitarian left, embodied in people like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who would repeal the first amendment and ban "pornographers" like Ms. Bright.
Susie Bright writes that she got her start in the "sex business" during the "Just Say No" Reagan years. She was one of three women who worked at San Francisco's Good Vibrations. Apparently the advice that she gave at the store lead to her writing essays. Although her main themes revolve around sex, Susie Bright has sharp digs for repressive factions, what ever their political stripe. But one of the things that I find refreshing about reading Susie Bright's essays is that at her core she seems optimistic. Despite the Pat Buchanans and Andrea Dworkins of the world, she believes that freedom will triumph:
Right now, fundamentalists of all persuasions have only been titillated with a glimpse of the largely middle-class erotic renaissance. Yes, I know they're appalled, but they ain't seen nothin' yet. Frankly, I'm sure my sex life could be better -- so much better than I could possibly imagine -- if their hands had never been around my throat.
I can't imagine that any of those who want to silence people like Susie Bright have as much fun as she does. Can anyone really imagine any major figure on the right wing (or the totalitarian left) having wild sweaty sex? If Jesse Helms was having a better time in his own bed, perhaps he would not be so hot and bothered that Robert Mapplethorp photographed himself with a bullwhip handle up his butt. If Catharine MacKinnon could have sex without worrying about the deeper political meaning of every act, she might worry less about what other people are reading. What ever Bill Clinton's failings may be, and God knows they are many, he certainly looks like he knows how to have a good time, even if his political aspirations get in the way.
In an era of books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Susie Bright is like a cold drink of water after a long trek in the desert. Susie Bright proclaims loudly that some women like sex and that they like their sex hard and sweaty. Nor does Susie Bright buy into the myth that "women want love and men want sex". In her essay She Knows What She Likes: Dr. Ruth's Illustrated History of Eroticism in Classical Art she writes:
Such a cruel cliche, that women are not orgasm-oriented and that men don't have a moment to spare for anything else!
Susie Bright is a wonderful example of why people should quit writing articles about what women and men really want. People are all different and there are more differences within a given sex than there are between the sexes.
One day I was writting an email at work and wanted to look up the URL for this web page. To my surprise I found that my employer had banned my access to this page. All I saw was a reminder about the appropriate use of computers and a link to 8e6 Technologies inviting me to contest the block if something that had been unfairly listed. Naturally as the author, I found the characterization of my work as pornography incorrect.
As it turns out 8e6 sells "enterprise filters" which apparently filter out offensive material like this web page (OK, if you're Dan Quayle it's probably offensive to be reminded that you're married to Marilyn). They also presumably report on those who repeatedly attempt to access naughty material.
I wrote to 8e6 Technologies to complain about blocking this web page. In response I received the following:
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 From: email@example.com
The site is currently categorized in our Pornography library and does meet our criteria. If you are accessing the Internet via your employer or filtered ISP, the system administrator has elected to enable a filter on this category. I suggest that you contact them regarding the modification of your account.
Gotta love that user ID: mudcrawler. This is presumably the account assigned to the person who reviews contested web pages like mine. I wonder if you have to be a member of the Christian Right to develop the proper level of outrage at web pages like this ("When 'W' is elected we won't have to put up with the likes of you! This time we'll win the vote!")
My reply was:
I'm hardly going to tell my employer that I want to read pornography at work, especially since this is not the case. I am objecting to the fact that you have catagorized my writing as pornography.
As the supreme court has noted, pornography seems to be in the eye of the eye of the beholder. While I would not claim that my review of Susie Bright's book is appropriate for a third grade class, I would not characterize my work on mathematics as appropriate for a third grade class either. They would not understand either topic. Does this mean that my mathematics and computer science work should be unviewable as well? Now I know why librarians have opposed the use of filters like yours.
The page you have blocked is a book review, not pornography. Political attack on a more or less forgotten Republican, perhaps. But pornography is written to excite. This is neither the intent of the book review, nor is it Susie Bright's intent in her book. The point of the book and the essay is to discuss the anti-feminist and anti-women factions of the Christian Right, life as a single mother and many other topics. The book Sexwise is a book of essays, not pornography.
The response from 8e6 Techologies was:
This site does meet our criteria for the Pornography library based on the fact that the site does quote specific portions of the book which does include explicit pornographic situations.
I guess that I should be glad that they did not ban all of www.bearcave.com. After all, I've published a considerable body of what I jokingly refer to as signal porn (a note to 8e6 Technologies: take a look at the link before you ban it). From looking at my web logs these pictures account for much of the 3Gb of bandwidth bearcave.com consumes every month.
Ian Kaplan - 4/96
Revised: December, 2003
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