Is Susie Bright your real name?
Yes, it really is. I was born in 1958, when "Susie" was very popular. The Bright part is my paternal family name.
How many books have you written?
I've written eight books, and edited twenty-four anthologies/novels as of this writing. You can see my resumé here.
Do you make a living as a writer?
Incredibly, yes. Since 1986.
However, I don't necessarily recommend writing as a livlihood; I even wrote an essay called: "A Devil's Argument Against Publishing" in my book, How to Write a Dirty Story.
I would write all the time whether it was my profession or not; I can't help myself.
On a more cheerful note, I love my blog members; we have a great time and I give them every freebie and wild inspiration before anyone else. My blog is where I write with the most independence and imagination.
What do your parents think of what you do?
I'm an only child. My father, Bill Bright, was my biggest fan and best editor. He edited every book of mine for the first twenty years of my career.
My mother, Elizabeth Halloran Bright, was also proud of me. Both my parents were linguists and book scholars; always interested in art, language music, literature, history, and politics.
My Aunt Molly always said, "So you're a writer- Any Irishman can write. What else do you do?"
Who do you live with, now?
I live with my longtime lover, Jon Bailiff. He has secret powers behind all my work.
I have one daughter, Aretha Bright, born in 1990, who would rather speak for herself!
I wrote a story once about how Aretha asked me about my "job," when she was eight. You
can read here. It's part of my book, Mommy's Little Girl: Susie Bright on Sex, Mother-
hood, Pornography, and Cherry Pie.
To my own family, I'm not especially sexy or shocking. My mom would have called
me a bookworm, or shy. My daughter thinks I'm strict, and that I worry too much.
They're both right!
Were you raised with a religious faith?
Lapsed Irish Catholic. I went to parochial school for 4th and 5th grade, and stopped
believing in "God" around 1968- a very big year for that sort of thing. You can read about my psychedelic First Communion here.
Do you like writing or editing better?
I love them both. I originally wrote poetry and short fiction before I became a journal-
ist or an editorial writer.
How did you begin writing?
My first publication was home-made. When I was eight, I was very upset about Ronald Rea-
gan running for governor in California, and I wrote a pamphlet denouncing him in my orange-red crayolas and stuck copies of it all around the neighborhood. I signed them,
"Concerned Citizens of California."
I always loved to wrote stories and poetry, it was my favorite part of school. I as a
dedicated diarist and letter writer.
In high school, I became a radical and an activist, and I wrote for our campus under-
ground newspaper, called The Red Tide. I wrote about everything from narcs on cam-
pus to how to get free birth control. The principal regularly seized our newspaper, and
in 1974, we sued the LA school board for the right to distribute our student paper
without prior censorship or approval. We won in State Supreme Court, in 1977.
When did you first write about sex?
My first sex writing was in San Francisco in the early 80s, when I wrote a play called
"Girls Gone Bad," and got involved in a group of queer artists called "Mainstream Ex-
I began to write and read erotic poetry that was popular as well.
A woman approached after one poetry reading and asked me if I'd like to contribute to
a new magazine called On Our Backs- Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian. I
ended up becoming the editor of this new magazine, and our efforts became notori-
In 1986, I was asked by Penthouse Forum if I would like to write a monthly erotic film
review column. I quit my day job and devoted myself to subsidizing On Our Backs,
which was influential but an financial hole.
I've been writing professionally as a freelancer ever since. My first collection of stories
was Herotica, and my first book of my own stories was Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex
Are you a lesbian or not? Don't you have a kid and a man in your life?
I'm bisexual, I always have been. My first sexual experience of any kind was with both
a man and woman. I always thought that was an omen! However, I have long term rela-
tionships with one lover at a time, sometimes a woman, sometimes a man. I've been
with my current partner, Jon, for almost twenty years, and raised a daughter together.
Are you polyamorous, in an open marriage, or what?
I'm faithful to my mate, but it doesn't have anything to do with traditional physical fi-
delity. He's my family, my trusted companion and dearest lover; my daughter's father.
I'm glad we both feel the same way! Here's a story I wrote about being in an open relationship: The Best She Ever Had.
Do you teach pornography, erotica, or writing classes?
I teach a class called "The Politics of Sexual Representation," which I nicknamed "Porn 101." It was the first scholarly class ever taught about pornography.
I also teach writing, editing, and publishing courses and workshops. I post the schedule in my blog.
Have you always been so open about sex?
Since I was in high school, when I got introduced to radical politics about most every-
thing, I have been quite frank about sexuality. I was appalled when I found out that
masturbation was not some secret hold that the Devil had over me. I couldn't believe all the lying about sin and sexuality that I had been taught as a child. Once I wised up, I became quite intolerant of sexual hypocrisy.
From there, I became interested in the way the erotic mind works, and how sexuality,
politics, and culture feed off each other.
How do you handle sex questions with your daughter?
I don't lie, and I don't do the lies of omission that were so popular in my growing up.
Sometimes I don't know the answer, but I usually have an idea about how to find out, and I'm very willing to help her. I try to DO the right thing instead of just SAYING it, which is a lot harder, of course.
I wrote a story about Parenting for my book Full Exposure, you might be intersted in. The most enlightening thing I ever read about teaching kids about sex is a book called The First Book for Kids about Sex. It is the only book for kids about sexuality that isn't about reproduction and disease- it's about the "everything else" of sexuality. I would recommend it to any adult.
I've seen you in person and you looked so ordinary... I was expecting a leather Catwoman suit and a bullwhip. Are you in disguise or what?
I love costumes, but I don't live in one. I'm one of those people who "cleans up real nice," but otherwise, you'd never notice me in a crowd. I enjoy the idea of being a full-time glamor girl, but in real life I have no patience for it.
Besides, I'm not Catwoman all the time, sometimes I'm just a pussycat.
I do love to sew, so if you see me in anything really weird, I probably made it. I'm the sewing columnist for CRAFT magazine, if you want to learn more about that side of me!
Is your sex life as wild and crazy as it seems from reading your books?
I haven't lied about any of my adventures that you read about in my stories.
But I'm sorry to say, like most people, I work too hard and don't play enough.
I've also lived for almost half a century... so I've had some time to see what's what.
I haven't set any records; that's not my style. I'm a romantic, and I get lost in daydreams like any child. I think everyone's imagination is "wild and crazy," and mine is one modest entry in a crowded field.
Are you a feminist?
Yes. Feminism at its root is pro-sexual, pro-body, pro-intellectual, and absolutely brazen.
I've never heard of feminists who like sex... are you the only one?
You must not get out much... ;-)
I never would have dreamed that feminism would one day become associated with dour political correctness or protectionism. What a racket.
What's the difference between porn and erotica?
I've written a lot about this question, especially in my books Sexwise, The Sexual State
of the Union, and Full Exposure. You can check them all out here.
Here's a personal story about this question, called "My First Dirty Picture."
Did you start the magazine On Our Backs? Do you still work there?
I co-founded On Our Backs with Nan Kinney, Debi Sundahl, Myrna Elana, and Honey Lee Cottrell. I left the magazine in 1990, and can't answer any questions about it since then. It completely went out of business around 2006.
On Our Backs was the first magazine by women about sex. It was the first openly lesbian magazine about anything, and it featured the first erotic women's photography ever published in a magazine. We were the first people to publish a national magazine using entirely desktop publishing!- on the very first Macs, and with the first version of Adobe Pagemaker.
If you can find a back issue from one of the years I was there 1984-1989, you've got yourself a treasure.
I heard that you used to be a socialist and a union organizer... What's up with that?
Yes, the underground newspaper I was part of as a teenager, The Red Tide, was a combination of socialists, anarchists and yippies. Eventually I dropped out of high school and joined a group called the International Socialists, who were dedicated to rank and file organizing in several major labor unions.
I worked as an organizer in Teamsters, and was one of the founding members Teamsters for a Democratic Union. I was first arrested, actually, on a UPS picket line, for telling a supervisor that he was a little prick. I was charged with disorderly conduct and condemned by a Michigan judge who called me a "menace to society." I hope I've done him proud.
Did you go to college?
Yes, after my political group broke up. I had sworn on a stack of Communist Manifestos I would never go to college, so in the beginning, I was quite chagrined. As it turned out, I had wonderful teachers and experiences in school; I'm really glad I attended. Not to mention life-long friends!
When I was 19, I started at Cal State Long Beach, in Women's Studies and Theater, and then I transfered to U.C. Santa Cruz, where I got my degree in Community Studies. I got my MFA in Creative Inquiry at New College.
What was it like working at Good Vibrations?
It was the first wage job I ever enjoyed. I worked there from 1982-1986.
When I first worked there, it was little bigger than a closet, and I had only a few customers all day. There was lots of time to talk to people about their sexual concerns and ideas, and I read every single book in our library. My boss, Joani Blank, is a brilliant sex educator, and I learned a lot from her.
The other side of retail is, it is no more fulfilling to count buttplugs in an inventory review than it is to count pencils. Customers can be rude anywhere; the pay isn't very good. I'm fortunate to be able to work full time as a writer nowadays.
When did you start writing about porn? Are you the first woman to do that?
I was the first journalist to write about the porn business, and porn movies, for the
When I joined the "X Rated Critics Organization" in the mid-80s, it was all men. The only magazines that ran stories about porn movies were "dirty" magazines. It was such a different climate than today.
I was the first critic to look at porn as if there was something to learn from it besides how to give a blow job. In a way, I was just doing what Andrea Dworkin was doing- taking porn seriously- except I came to different conclusions.
Do you ever get sick of talking and writing about sex?
No. Sex is like language or science, it's an infinite topic of possibilities and interpretations. I love to think and talk about humanity, and sex is always going to be in the center of that.
Does sex work ruin your own personal sex life?
I haven't found that to be the case. I wrote about this quite a bit in my book, Full Expo-
I don't think it's the "sex" in sex work that is the bummer, I think it's the stigma, the often criminalized nature of it, that gets people burnt-out.
Sex workers often live with prejudice, secrecy, and disrespect. Because I came at it from the feminist counterculture, I luckily avoided that.
Causes Susie Bright Supports