Susie Bright's Sexwise
by Susie Bright
Cleis Press, $10.95 paper
Everything is person- al to Susie Bright... and political... so when "America's favorite X-rated intellectual" tackles and tickles topics like the GOP, Camille Paglia, the Black Panthers, Dan Quayle, and lesbian moms, it's a bet that the flannel, the latex, and the black leather are sure to fly.
The one-time columnist for The Advocate and On Our Backs is no outlander to confrontation and controversy; this, after all, is the woman who said, "Frankly, I'd rather die sodomizing on my waterbed than live on my knees." And although Bright's latest compendium is a fork in the highway away from her previously charted How-To?-How-Come?-Why-Not? graphic, near-instructional, and always-hilarious sex guides, the topics are not middle-of-the-road.
Her previous essay collections, Susie Bright's Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader, and Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World (and she's probably as well known for her work as editor on the popular Herotica compilation series) are virtual sex bibles. These books are frank treatises making topics like sex parties, fisting, and S/M accessible to the general, book-buying public. Okay, maybe not the general book-buying public but no matter; Bright has been and remains at the forefront of sexual theorists. She's known for her comfortable, offhand manner, a style which has proven effective at breaking so-called taboos. She is not alone in her genre; Bright's slumber-party-like banter is an engaging threshold for readers interested in crossing over into the "harder stuff" like Pat Califia and Dorothy Allison.
In Sexwise, Bright skewers pop icons left and right (mostly right) and invariably reverses the psychology of her previous outings. Whereas her first two books contained essays which explored the politics of the body -- social-sexual and personal-sexual issues, often peppered with her sardonic and biting political philosophies -- this time out, Bright leads the charge into the body politic itself and spices it with sex, sex, and more sex. Her essay "Dan Quayle's Dick" (originally published in the Realist, autumn 1992) somehow manages to humanize the former veep while at the same time parlaying his sexual prowess (as she imagines it in a hysterical fantasy) for her own desire: "[It] looks like a polished marble doorknob -- only, it feels of course, like purple velvet... Danny sweats like a quarterhorse. His hair, the hair we've all thought of as cemented in Aquanet, is actually thick and fine and even gets curly when he's down deep between my..." Even when Bright's point isn't perfectly clear -- and that's rare -- it's at least entertainingly graphic.
In other chapters, she manages to skewer the pork bellies of the right wing (Quayle and the GOP), tip the sacred cows of academic feminism (Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin), and joust with icons of not-so-pop culture (porn director Andrew Blake and Camille Paglia). Bright's most accurate harpooning comes when she's lampooning -- this is Bright at her best. Yet, her cultural commentaries work, as well. Her essays on erotica, on white sex (a laughable distillation of common white stereotypes: e.g., "Yankee Whore," "Scary White Guys," "The Stepford Wife Who Steps Out"), on being a gay mom, all reflect our crazy, contemporary cultural mores through Bright's confident voice.
Sexwise offers some variety from the other Bright titles on many a nightstand. This volume serves as a recruiting guidebook for the army of the pro-sex revolution. Hopefully, the next half of this decade dubbed "the Gay Nineties" holds more for Bright -- perhaps a '96 Presidential bid or, at the very least, a move into multi-media: Susie Bright's Sexwise and Videotape, perhaps? n