Susie Bright: Between the Ears

The first loud clapping and hooting of the night happens as Susie takes the stage. She starts with her interest in connecting with the audience. What are their psychological histories and sexual fantasies? What brought them here tonight? Can she know them? Her performance begins as a conversation with the audience, and launches into a tale about her daughter who graduated from first grade tonight. Susie relates the profundity of love letters from a child who has just learned to write. One of her own childhood wishes, Susie has told her daughter she can write and draw in her room. Anything she wants, anything at all. But the result has been some expression she didn’t necessarily hope for. Like “mommy is a pig” scrawled across a recent set of proud drawings after some difficult parental moment. Susie laughs her infectious, delighted laugh and continues.

The audience is hushed and focussed intently on her anecdotes, delivered so personally and openly. Nothing about sex has been uttered, but the intimacy in the room is tangible. The audience would be satisfied with an evening of Susie Bright just like this.

She then talks about beginning a column again, which starts tomorrow for Salon. Her last columnist days were as a porn reviewer for Penthouse “the job that liberated me from doing buttplug inventory at Good Vibrations,” she says. She then proceeds to give the audience a preview of her first Salon column: a crisp, well-written, humorous piece that was spurred by a call from the Tom Snyder show shopping her for an appearance. Susie analogizes the process of getting auditioned by the show to familiar sexual and dating dynamics. Has she revealed too much information in her pre-interview? Her erotic philanthropy left her feeling used by the screeners of Tom’ s show. Rejection is rejection.

Next is a piece that stems from a guest spot she did on the radio show hosted by her favourite sex advice columnist, Dan Savage (otherwise known as Hey Faggot). One fan dials up to speak for stunned political lesbians who want to call her on her shit: “how dare you call yourself a lesbian sex expert when you’ve really been a bisexual breeder for years.” Susie pops off a glib, sexually detailed on-air response that ends the call.

But the caller’s challenge haunted her for several weeks. Then it hits her, she realizes her attraction to the caller. “I don’t wanna argue with the bi-bashers…” her voice drops to a secuctive drawl: “I want my mouth all over their blasphemy.” This is but the first of the revelations in this essay. Part theory, part observation, part personal reckoning, Susie just dives in to the morass of feelings, theories and hang-ups around bisexuality and sexuality in general.

I won’t go into all of the details of her insights and feelings, but I will just say this. Intense. Mind-opening. One of the most important thinkers in the queer community and the most honest sexual commentator in America. Check out the audio file. This is stuff worth hearing. I found myself testifying out loud behind my laptop in the balcony. “Damn girl you are on it.”

The final piece goes more emotionally into her bisexuality and the hurt, anguish, lust and joy of past loves and beddings with women and men, and thoughtful commentary on all of these, including that timeless question: are bisexuals traitors to the gay community? In the final Susie Bright analysis, bisexuality confonts all prejudices. ” Don’t talk to me about pride. Love has no pride and that’s the real banner the world marches under.”

Her prose and her delivery feel genuine, and she’s holding the audience in her hand now. Susie Bright has the rare ability to make people’s heads, hearts and genetalia connect. You gotta give it up for the girl. She dives into the shit. I think of Catherine MacKinnon who’s been privately criticized by her own feminist academic followers for years for the discomforting gap between her theories and her marriage to womanizer Jeffrey Masson. Susie Bright doesn’t start from theory though. She shows us that her, and our sexual choices are “personal. Not necessarily made by principle.” She starts from herself and doesn’t pose. That’s the intimacy. That’s the real erotica.

I live in San Francisco, where sex talk and personal therapy parading as performance art are as ubiquitous as facial piercing. What is harder to find is honest personal experience woven with insightful observation. Smartness is the biggest turn on of all.