Welcome again to Twentysomething, SFist's nifty interview series. This week we have iconic sex writer/guru Susie Bright answering our twenty questions of insight and probe, with a few personal queries thrown in for good measure. Bright, we should add, recently published an excellent memoir (seriously, it is excellent) called Big Sex Little Death. What's more, she will make a special appearance at the Victoria Theater this week to kick off the Good Vibrations Independent Erotic Film Festival. But more on that later. For now, read all about Bright's favorite San Francisco neighborhood (the answer might surprise you), her Zodiac makeup (wow, that's a lot of fire), her favorite restaurant, her views on "bareback" porn (wherein she invokes the good name of Justin Bieber), and why asking to choose between Berkeley and Oakland ain't right.
1. Introduce yourself in one sentence
Erotic Forensic Expert at your service.
2. Zodiac sign?
Aries sun, Aries rising, Taurus moon, Karl Marx in Venus.
A 1963 VW bug, pistachio-colored.
4. How many years in SF or Bay Area
I lived here as a child in the early 60s, then briefly in the 70s, and then without expulsion since 1980.
5. Favorite SF neighborhood?
Oh, that's tough. I have special spots all over. Lately I've been fooling around a lot near Heron's Head Park in Bayview Hunters Point.
6. Berkeley or Oakland?
That is NOT fair. People who want you to choose are just being shitty.
7. Neighborhood you call home?
Santa Cruz Westside
8. How much do you pay in rent?
9. What was your first job?
Under the table: Babysitting Cum Pot Cleaning. The parents would ask me to clean a lid after I put the baby to bed. 1970s Los Angeles. Wages: McDonald's.
10. Best sandwich
I make the best hot tuna melt you ever had in your life.
10. Great Quake or Loma Prieta
Loma Prieta. I still dream about the Bay Bridge opening up underneath my car wheels.
12. Favorite MUNI line
I frequent the 24, 14, 33, 67, 15, 48, Taravel, the M. I like jumping on a cable car in the middle of the route. These days I do a lot of Cal Trans to get into the city.
13. Favorite politician of past or present (you can only pick one)
Tom Ammiano and I go waaaaaay back, before "politician" but always changing the world. Love him.
14. Best TV show of past or present (you can only pick one)
The world series game where I lost my virginity with my two pals.
15. Favorite bridge
The 1872 covered bridge in the mysterious Masonic Village in Felton.
16. Best restaurant
Are you trying to get me crucified here? How about this: Rose Lacy took me to Shin Toe Bul Yi last month. I was in heaven. (BTW, I used to be a banquet waiter in Local 2. I have opinions on labor contracts as well as food.)
17. SF would be soooo much better if only __________.
I had a secret apartment with wild parrots in North Beach and threw chili parties every weekend.
18. SF has the greatest _______
...writers on earth.
19. Redheads, y/n
I am one. We feel your pain.
20. Question you'd ask if you were doing this interview:
What was your very last erotic experience?
Thanks, Susie! Now here are a few pressing questions we simply must ask. Ahem.
- OK then, would you tell us a bit about your last erotic experience?
I find 9/11 sex to be very therapeutic, even ten years later. It's End of the World Sex, for sure.
- We took your life-changing porn class at UCSC back in the '90s. Do you still teach there? If so, what's the most jarring way the internet has changed porn viewing since 1997?
Is that the royal "we", Brock? ;-) No, I was an occasional adjunct, and as such, had to make a living elsewhere. I'd love to be teaching again, but I don't know if such things (professors with living wages) are possible in state universities any longer.
Brock, I don't remember if you were in the class where a student not only withdrew from my class, but dropped out entirely because he claimed he had an "internet porn addiction." It was the first time I'd ever heard that phrase, and I remember snorting.
I told the provost, "OH REALLY. This student told me he coudlnt' think of a SINGLE IDEA for his final thesis paper."
So, in the instance, I'd say the most "jarring" thing was that every new medium opens up a whole new can of bullshit artists, doesn't it?
- Thoughts on bareback (condom-free) porn?
I think it's a right wing trope, that phrase, "bareback porn." It's used to whip sexual hysterics into a lather who don't know anything about anything.
Okay, I'll break it down.
Let's separate the two: Do lovers have the right to make personal choices about what kind of sex they're going to have, be it anal or vaginal intercourse or anything else? Yes, I wouldn't want it any other way.
Do actors on film sets have the right to a safe and worker-beneficial environment? Yes, but that means a lot of things. If I had my way, it'd all be unionized like SAG or AVRA. Everything from breaks to food to job protection to pensions. Look at a stunt actor's contract and you can see how risk is dealt with in a professional manner. It doesn't eliminate risk, but it puts everyone's cards and investment on the table.
Workers taking physical risks in their work need a self-determined collective bargaining unit, not a bunch of nannies and opportunists.
Finally, what you see on screen is not necessarily what happened on set. Illusions of all kinds are created in movies, and what is marketed as "bareback" or anything else, could all be a load of special effects.
I was on a set where we made "semen" and "sweat" in a jar for a Jeff Stryker marketing extravaganza. Did you know that "sweat" looks better when you use milk, rather than water or glycerin?
I really don't want to listen to anyone talk about this who isn't in the business. There's plenty of controversy among insiders, but it's a different controversy than responding to people who think anal sex is gross, or gay people are villains, or porn is evil and all that crap.
Show business... all of it, not the "adult ghetto"... is filled with outrageous working conditions and lifestyles that would make outsiders blanche. I think the way child actors are treated on primetime sitcoms is far more hair-raising than anything in the porn world. One of these days you'll learn about Justin Bieber's real life and it will make your hair turn white. Don't talk to me about "bareback anything."
- Speaking of Santa Cruz, what is your favorite thing about the town you call home?
It's paradise... but don't tell anyone.
- Since most of your work is personal and revealing, what made you come out with a memoir?
Timing. You find out things at a certain age that you just can't get to any sooner.
- Where will you be reading in the Bay Area?
Be sure to see Susie Bright performing in San Francisco this Saturday, September 17th, at the Victoria Theatre. Bright will present her legendary X-Rated porn retrospective, which boasts "now-unobtainable scenes of straight, queer, romantic and educational porn that challenges and celebrates sex in American cinema." (Which it to say, you'll get to see intercourse, among other vivid and liberating sex acts.) She will breakdown porn history "and illustrate how outspoken women and erotic outliers transformed and revolutionized both Hollywood and porn." But above all else, Bright is highly entertaining and wildly hilarious. We cannot recommend seeing her enough. (Buy tickets here. Now. Do it. You know you want to.)