In celebration of Susie Bright’s birthday March 25, we’re republishing Marcy Sheiner’s November, 1994 interview with her below.
The first time I met Susie Bright she was wearing a red rubber dress and spike heels that elevated her to at least six feet tall. We were in Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco for a reading. When this towering goddess engulfed me in an effusive embrace—I had contributed a piece to her first Herotica book, an anthology of women’s erotica—I initially dismissed it as the automatic California greeting. Shortly afterwards, though, it dawned on me that this display of affection had been genuine: Not only is Susie naturally warmhearted, but she throws her impressive support behind anyone who is brave enough to speak honestly about sex.
In addition to the Herotica series, Susie Bright is author of Susie Sexpert’s Lesbian Sex World and Susie Bright’s Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader. She’s edited the lesbian sex magazine, On Our Backs, and was the first woman to infiltrate the X-rated Critics Association. She cowrote a script with Lizzie Borden for the film Erotique, and wrote and directed Lesbian Welders. She is a true sexual pioneer.
HIGH TIMES: What kind of parallels do you see between sex and drugs?
SUSIE BRIGHT: Drugs can be anything, just like sex. But when it comes to drugs it’s “Say No to Drugs,” whereas most people don’t “Say No to Sex.” There’s more Puritanism about drugs nowadays than there is about sex.
HT: Why do you think that is?
SB: Probably because the one thing you can’t take away from sex is that it’s how you make babies. There is an all-important, life-producing element—the regeneration of the race. But drugs don’t have any Calvinist redeeming value.
Drug use is segregated between appropriate status-quo use and illegal use. It’s even worse than the division between pornography and erotica.
HT: What kind of drug education do you advocate?
SB: I want to emphasize how you can get your rocks off without putting yourself at risk—how you can enjoy a drug experience without putting yourself in a situation that’s way past your limits. It should be the same as how you’d educate about anything. It’s exciting to drive really fast, but here’s how to drive a car or a motorcycle without killing yourself. The kind of drug education I got as a teenager was you take a hit of pot and the next thing you know you’re doing heroin, and then you’re taking acid and jumping out a window like Diane Linkletter.
HT: What were your first drug experiences like?
SB: Me and my best girlfriend were a team. I was in charge of securing the premises, and she was in charge of getting the drugs—pot, acid, peyote, a little bit of pills like Quaaludes, downers. I used to have this whole program when I took acid. I know people will laugh at the thought of Susie Bright being conservative, but in a certain way I was. I had to wear these overalls with lots of pockets, because I wanted to have my ID and phone numbers and cash and everything I needed on me so I wouldn’t lose anything. Somebody always knew where I was, and when I started to come down I wanted to be comfortable—in a home, not in a strange place. There are a lot of different aspects of self-control in relation to drugs, but drug czars and drug educators don’t acknowledge this.
HT: Do you still do drugs?
SB: The thing that has pulled me away from any kind of drug use is being very ambitious about my work. And now, having a child, I deal with so much fatigue during the day that if I wanted to get high, not only would I need an evening to have a party, but I’d need to be able to sleep late the next day and have a recovery period. I need forty-eight hours where I can go out and do it and come back refreshed.
HT: Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley said that the people in power don’t want us to know about drugs and altered consciousness. Do you think there’s something in our society hiding this knowledge from us?
SB: It could be an unorganized conspiracy of ideological hegemony. But it’s not like there are five men sitting in a room saying, “We’ll never let them get ahold of higher consciousness.”
HT: Then why do you think these two areas, drugs and sex, which both have the potential for ecstasy or destruction, have been dealt with in such a puritanical way?
SB: Drug experiences and sexual experiences are avenues to becoming self-reflective in a way that we often don’t provide time for. It is true that a lot of people spend time mastering tantric yoga techniques and meditating and praying. Some people jog until their endorphins kick in and alter their consciousness. Sex and drugs do it in a particularly dramatic way. They make you look at your interior. They can provide this big, red-velvet door you can walk through and find all this stuff inside. The self-reflective experience, the altered-consciousness experience, is not materialistically oriented. It shifts you away from material success and power into enlightenment, sensuality, letting go. And the prospect of everybody letting go and rolling around on the carpet is just too much for our society to bear.