There is surely no better icon of sex-positive feminism than Susie Bright, though it would be a disservice to leave her with that single attribute. She has been a prolific writer (a dozen books so far) and editor (the acclaimed “On Our Backs”), performer, radical activist, teacher, speaker and more. For more on Susie, visit www.SusieBright.com.
LFL Much of our audience is in the over-50 category. How do you feel about sexuality and sex after 50? Or do you consider it a silly question, a non sequitor, hardly worthy of a mention?
SUSIE I’m 53, so your question makes me laugh… of course it’s meaningful to me. What does “age” ever have to do with sexual desire and feeling? I remember how when we were youngsters, prudish know-nothings would say the same thing: “She’s only 14, how can she think about sex! They’re only 16, they don’t know what “love” means!” Etc.
Whether you’re physically active or not, whether you have a partner or not, whether you are having orgasms or not, your mind is sexually vital from cradle to grave. We never stop taking it into account.
I also have to take note of what you said about being silly. It reminds of the adage, ‘there’s no fool like an old fool.” Well, you know, the “old fool” may be having a hell of a time in bed. You just can’t stay serious forever.
LFL In the time you’ve been a champion of sexuality, have you noticed important changes in public attitude and culture, or are we stuck?
SUSIE It’s more of push-pull… right now we’re in a more conservative time in many respects, in America in particular, because so much of public policy has been directed by sexual bigotry or aversion.
On the other hand, the cultural differences from my mother’s generation to my daughter’s have been extraordinary. My mom was told by nuns to put talcum powder in the bath water so she wouldn’t see the “sin of her body.” My daughter grew up atheist and has never even considered what it would be like to “burn in hell,” as I did when I was a child.
LFL We would like to know your opinion of Albert Ellis. He was writing radically about sex in the ‘50’s during the McCarthy era and was a friend and early mentor of our Dr. Joel Block. In many views, he was THE sex guru of the 20th century, breaking all convention. What do you think?
SUSIE Oh, of course, it’s a shame that Ellis’s name is not as famous as it once was. But I think what you could say about the 20th century is that it was a heyday of sexually liberated and innovative thinking. We actually had more than a handful of great minds on the subject! They weren’t considered silly little sexperts, they were revolutionary thought leaders in sexuality, psychology, economics, politics. I want a revival!
LFL We’re curious what Susie thinks about during sex, sex of any kind. Is she in the “now,” is she drifting, is she thinking of someone else, perhaps all of the above? In other words, what is her view of the internal while the external is happening?
SUSIE Both. My unconscious and my fantasy life just blend with whatever and whomever is in my arms at the moment. It’s not like I’m checked out, nor am I conducting a realism drill.
LFL This question touches on keeping passion in a long term relationship. Boredom is the enemy, and in our view, radical honesty is the solution. Sexual acrobatics sells books but is a cheap solution. Stepping out is exciting but most people have an active jealousy gene that wreaks havoc. What does Susie have to say about keeping passion alive?
SUSIE Variety is something human beings crave, but we simultaneously want familiarity. We are brats; we want it all. I don’t think “variety” just means positions or gizmos. It means having fun and taking fresh interest in each other, whatever that might be. And you can’t “mandate” it. I don’t believe in compulsory date nights or intercourse appointments. What you can do is arrange to not work so hard (the number one enemy of sexual passion) and have time to do things you both get a kick out of. That’s what makes the erotic attraction that keeps bringing you back…
I’m going to take this into another dimension, if you don’t’ mind. Long-time couples who have long-time sex are the kind of people who like to have sex with their “best friend.” That has to be attractive to you for it to be compelling.
But not everyone is alike. Some people find their sexual desire is vacated by domesticity. For them, sex is always about “the stranger.” Close intimacy may bring love, but it empties their erotic anticipation.
Finding that out can be a heartbreak. But I don’t think there is anything abnormal about either position. To know oneself, honestly, is the crucial element. And this is an area where age really can bring wisdom.
LFL What is your take on our cultural disposition toward making women who run for office either into whores, or masculine women … what is the answer?
SUSIE It’s tiresome, isn’t it. And it’s an insult to dykes and prostitutes, on top of it all! It just seems when we want to put someone down, we characterize them as a failed female. That goes for men, too, calling them “pussies” and pejoratively gay-baiting.
If women were powerful in public life, in public policy, those epithets would be antiques.
LFL Do you find that women are less afraid to be dominant sexually? Do you find that women over 50 are discovering that they have a sexual power that they were never raised to believe they have? Not talking about being on top physically, but a psychological power that can help train a man to be more curious about, and less fearful of, the wild instincts in women (such as can be expressed by humiliation, bitchiness, tease, seduction, denial of orgasm)?
SUSIE My snappy answer is that women over 50 are less afraid of anything and everything. You may have noticed in the recent Indiana University survey that they’re the most orgasmic of all women’s age groups… you just don’t give a darn what other people think as you get older. Whether you feel like playing a top or domme role, I think that’s just a matter of individual pref… but older women feel more free to explore… whatever.
Susie Bright’s first memoir, BIG SEX LITTLE DEATH, is coming out in March 2011.