I've been a Susie Bright fan for years due to her sharply on-target essays about the culture and politics of sex. Nobody can capture how Americans feel about sex (and whether those views are justified or pretty stupid) like Susie Bright can. Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World was compiled from essays written for the lesbian erotic magazine On Our Backs. In her book, she covers everything from gay pride to sex toy vandalism to the mysterious allure of straight women.
Lesbian Sex World has none of the gawkyness of a typical early effort. This can be attributed to the shortness of each essay (1-2 pages) creating a strong focus. However, Bright also has a talent for detail that any writer would envy. Remembering a past lover, she writes, "Monique was the first real sensualist I was ever intimate with. She brought a bowl of roses to her bed and told me to inhale the fragrance before I ate the [peyote] buttons. She had the Stones' 'Sticky Fingers' on her tape player, and outside there was a terrific windstorm shaking the eucalyptus grove that surrounded the shed she lived in."
Speaking of sensualists, Lesbian Sex World may appeal best to them (no surprise, considering where those essays were originally written). Still, those who consider Bright to be a writer on culture and politics may be blown away by the utter sexuality of these writings. That may be the book's best feature -- how many of Bright's current fans know that writing about sex itself is what she does best? For example, "Gay Day Mama," a tale about riding in the San Francisco Gay Day march, is a revelation about why sexual freedom is worth fighting for, namely the job of being your wild self without reservation or apology.
Bright repeatedly addresses complex, touchy subjects while avoiding the traps of titillation or academic dryness. In "How to Stuff a Wild Lesbian Bikini: A Survey of Contemporary Lesbian Fiction," she writes, "Erotica is not meant to reassure you that you are normal, or that homosexuality is a marvelous, natural thing.... Erotica is not about feeling smug; it is about feeling aroused." I'm glad that Bright is one of the best sexual politics writers today, but I wish she would start writing essays like what's found in Lesbian Sex World again. While good political/cultural writers are rare, good "sex itself" writers are almost non-existent. Lesbian Sex World is a blast to read, in both the fun and mind-opening sense.