January 23, 2013

‘Sexpert’ Delivers Sexual State of the Union at Cornell

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Two days after President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, Susie Bright, a blogger, speaker and ‘sexpert’ — a sex expert — delivered what she called a “sexual State of the Union” at Cornell.

Embracing sexual expression, Bright said that she faced backlash when she published and founded “On Our Backs,” the first magazine to feature lesbian erotica, in the 1980s.“[Other feminists] thought that we were crudely and violently exploiting female imagery to the detriment of all womankind,” she said. “We were saying that we were taking control of our sexual image and [that] this is a fundamental of women’s sexual liberation movement.”

Later, Bright said she realized that her opponents “had all the same sexual idiosyncrasies, fantasies, wishes, dreams as anyone else.”“Now, when I look back on it, it was a much more tragic turf war. The women’s movement had been marginalized,” she said. “As I grew older, I would find myself in the living rooms and bedrooms of people who had once been my enemies on the subject, and I would say, ‘What do you know? Old so-and-so has a vibrator!’”

Over time, Bright said, she realized that people who censor sexual expression indulge in sexual acts and fantasies similar to everyone else.“Everyone is sexual. This is why [the censors] bother me so much,” she said. “They want to be able to see everything. They want permission to indulge in all of it. But just them. Not for you.”

The opposition to sexual expression has not changed throughout the years, according to Bright.“If someone were to ask me what hasn’t changed in the sexual State of the Union, I would say that would be the top of my list,” she said.

Reflecting on Obama’s second inauguration, Bright said that she was politically motivated to attend the event. She said she wanted to be present at the inauguration that had more to it “than who won or lost [the presidential election].”

“I was part of a group of artists who came up with the idea that making art in public was one of the best examples of participatory democracy that one can demonstrate,” she said. Bright added that she wished to “be a part of something that was bigger … something that witnessed a peaceful transition of power.”

In addition to reflecting on the presidential inauguration, Bright also criticized the lack of discussion on sex trafficking around the world.“It’s an issue that there’s no country that doesn’t have its own version of [sex trafficking victims],” Bright said. “Unfortunately, on the world stage, a subject like [sex trafficking] is spoken of, as if it weren’t another form of forced labor. Why do we talk about ‘sex slaves’ differently, as opposed to somebody who is forced to work in any other occupation without pay, under threat of violence?”

Bright concluded that the degree of sexual expression there is in a society is related to what that society’s political climate is like.

“If you can’t say something about the body, about sexuality, there’s your standard. And everything flows from that,” she said. “In places and in cultures where sexual speech is heavily regulated, you see it reflected in every aspect in a lack of democracy. Sexual speech, democracy … the freer one is … the more participatory you see the other.”

Original Author: Noah Rankin