Susie Bright delivers her Sexual State of the Union

Susie Bright
Susie Bright speaks on campus Jan. 23.

By breaking social boundaries and talking openly about sexuality, Susie Bright, a sex-positive feminist, has inspired many people to push the limits of their personal barriers and encouraged them to be themselves.

Editor of "The Best American Erotica," host of "In Bed with Susie Bright," podcaster and best-selling author, Bright spoke on campus Jan. 23 about the "Sexual State of the Union." Her talk commemorated the 25th anniversary of Cornell University Library's Human Sexuality Collection, to which Bright is donating archival materials.

Nick Salvato, director of LGBT Studies at Cornell, introduced the "delicious" Bright, who began her talk with a description of her travels from the West Coast to the east to see the presidential inauguration Jan. 21.

She traveled to the capital with a group of artists who share the idea that "making art in public [is] one of the best examples of participatory democracy that one can demonstrate."

"This is our party; this is our country" was the feeling of unity Bright felt during the inauguration.

Throughout her career, Bright has made an impact on the way women and sexuality are viewed. In 1984, the first issue of On Our Backs appeared, a lesbian erotica publication created by women for women. The then president of the National Women's Studies Association questioned the legitimacy of such a magazine.

For a period of time, Bright worked with her daughter, Aretha, responding to questions about relationships and sex on, a general interest women's website. Bright found that at the core of many of the submissions -- "Will I ever find happiness?," "Will I ever find love?" -- were more profound questions. She also shared with the audience several amusing questions she received; her responses were usually brutally humorous.

"How do I talk to my kids about sex?" asked an audience member. The answer, Bright said, needs to start with eliminating the idea of the "talk" and demonstrating a welcome and accepting environment for the child to grow up in, and allowing the child her privacy.

Bright's contributions to the Human Sexuality Collection include not only many written works but also still and moving images that make it one of the largest collections of porn in the world, competing mainly with the Vatican, Bright joked.

The event was sponsored by Cornell University Library with the Dean of Students Office; Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Haven; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Program; Rose Goldsen Lecture Series; and the Society for the Humanities.

Julian Montijo '15 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle. 

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