March 15th, 2007
It's everybody's favorite topic: Drugs, sex and chicks. As promised a few weeks ago, we now present part two of our interview with "sexpert" Susie Bright.
Read Part 1
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.
RU SIRIUS: Tell us a bit about your psychedelic sex workshop.
SUSIE BRIGHT: OK. About a year ago. I got invited to this conference in San Jose called "Sacred Elixirs."
I wouldn't have paid any attention to that name because I'm an atheist. When people say sacred, I'm always snoozing... I don't pay attention. But then, I found out that it was a reunion of the heaviest, coolest, smartest people in psychedelics. Oh! That sacred? I'm there! Oh my god, it was so fabulous. There were so many fantastic people there. And Sasha Shulgin delivered a chemistry lesson that made me realize that if I'd had him as a science teacher, everything could have turned out differently. For him, it's like a musician talking about music. It's a language.
RU: Plus he speaks in this rapid high pitch. It's like getting a download of information from some kind of alien.
SB: I just couldn't wait to go home and write about all the things people talked about. But while I was there, some of us women noticed that virtually every presenter was a guy; all the poetry was read by fellows — it was almost quaint. We didn't, like, have a hissy fit about it, it was just sort of dumb. There were so many interesting women there. Every woman I met there, I wanted to spend hours talking to. Everyone was so interesting and intelligent. So some of us started brainstorming about what would be fun to talk about at a woman-oriented conference. And I said, "Well, so many things. I mean: sex. And not just the erotics of sex, the pleasures of sex, but sex in terms of one's sexual life cycle. A lot of us here have our memories of what it was like when we discovered psychedelics as young people. But then, what happens when you become a mother? What happens as you age? How does your relationship to your sexual life cycle and your drug of choice change over time? I don't know. No one talks about this! Wouldn't it be great if we did?"
So we got a group of women together at this crazy sort of "Peacock retreat" in Sonoma run by a woman who's really into Egyptology. She has a lot of gorgeous peacocks wandering around, which kind of added a little atmosphere. It was so much fun. It was like fifty people. You got to know everybody on a first-name basis.
The untold story — which I didn't get until I was there — was the generation gap. We had a lot of good talks about it. There were these young people who were in MAPS and Erowid — they're like these new groups that are trying to decriminalize drugs and raise drug consciousness in a very contemporary fashion.
RU: They're very organized and intelligent and digital.
SB: Yeah. They're very geeky.
STEVE ROBLES: Drug nerds.
SB: They're drug nerds! Thank you. They aren't drug hippies. And they said very politely — we don't want to just sit around listening to how great your acid trip was in 1969. And they were right. They want to hear about stuff that's happening now, and in their future. At one point this amazing young woman who everybody seemed to revere stood up. She looked like the all-American girl. She was like Gidget on acid.
RU: I think Gidget was on acid
SB: She asked, "How many people here are acid babies, or had an acid baby?" And I hadn't heard that expression in a long time — the notion that someone would trip and conceive, or that someone might be the child of such a conception... I just haven't been keeping up! And several people in the room raised their hands and told their story. It was so great to have that kind of honesty. Because the way the media played it — it was all about how you're going to take acid and you're going to screw up your baby's chromosomes. They're going to be wandering around going "Blll bllll bbbb bbbb bbbb" for the rest of their life.
RU: But that "Bbbb bbbb blbbb bbbb bbbb was going to be very cosmically meaningful! (Laughter)
SB: But of course, it was just like real life. Some people were fine — brilliant, went to Harvard, had lovely lives, grew beautiful gardens. Other people...
SR: ...did go "bbbb bbbb bbbb bbbb!"
SB: ...didn't fare so well.
RU: LSD is so non-toxic in the amount that you have to take to get high that it shouldn't really...
SB: Yeah, whether their parents took it had nothing to do with what happened in anyone's future.
And then, a number of the older women started talking about their parents being in hospice or dying. We talked a lot about cancer and what it was like to give your elders a final trip before they die. It was so moving.
I came to my sex workshop with little slips of paper and pencils. And I said, "We're all experts here. I would just like to get some honest reaction to some questions in terms of what you've noticed about your drug experiences. What's your favorite drug? What didn't you like? Why do you use? Why don't you use? What makes sex special?" One of the touchier subjects was about those times when you've had really great, insightful, memorable sex with somebody when you were both tripping; but you knew deep inside that if you weren't tripping, you probably wouldn't have done it with them. And so, should you not have done that? You know, "Am I bad?" or "How embarrassing." It's that notion that without chemistry there would've been no chemistry. But maybe it's like saying you really loved going to Paris with someone, but you don't want to live with them here in San Francisco. I mean, there are certain things you're going to do with certain people within certain boundaries. Outside of those boundaries, it wouldn't work.
RU: Did anybody complain about getting married one week after taking Ecstasy with somebody?
SB: No, not at all!
RU: Were there patterns that emerged? You were talking earlier about people having experiences when they were younger, and then maybe different ones after they were mothers and so forth. Were there discernible patterns or similarities?
SB: Well, I have all these index cards that I compile on my blog. If you go to my blog, you can check this sort of thing out — just find the drug section, or search for women and psychedelics. It was interesting how some old standards really went throughout the whole crowd. Somebody wrote down just one thing on her card: "Pot and caffeine." And everyone said, "Yeah!!"
SR: It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
SB: It was so simple! It was like somebody holding up a perfect lettuce.
SR: Kind of the reasonable person's version of a speedball. It's not going to send you to the grave.
One topic that's come up on this show a couple of times is where sex positivity and drug culture collide in a bad way. There's one vital element of the sex positivity movement that has this idea that sex and drugs — and sex and alcohol — don't mix because you're capable of bad judgment. This fits with what you were talking about earlier — people who have sex inspired by psychedelics when they may not have had sex without them.
SB: Last week, we were criticizing and laughed about the preacher who enjoyed his sex on meth — you know, he liked speed and sex together. And from a purely drug enthusiast point of view, it's like, well... yes! I mean, if you haven't tried it...
RU: Intense orgasms... very localized.
SB: In terms of sheer sensation, why shouldn't people be able to see, "Well, this is what it feels like?" And another person could say, "Well, Vicodin! Why not some sort of morphine derivative?" Any kind of connection of orgasm to anything seems like a legitimate topic. I remember somebody told me that after they went through menopause, they loved having an orgasm and a hot flash simultaneously. And I said, "Really? I had no idea there was something to look forward to!" That stimulated my imagination.
We all enjoy the notion of sensation. The problem is addiction really, isn't it? You can become dependent and not even get off any more because of your tolerance. And the other thing Steve mentioned — this sense of losing your "safety belt." "Oh, you didn't use the condom. Oh, you jumped off the bridge" — that sense that you couldn't take care of yourself as well as you needed to because that sense of self-protection was gone. And our society really hasn't figured out how to handle this very well. Our only answer to all of that is clamp down, criminalize — lock people up. It's not like I've sat down and figured out how I would run my little SIMS game if I was in charge, but it would involve tremendous education. I started home schooling my daughter, and one reason was that they started doing drug programs in lieu of science in my daughter's elementary school. I hit the roof! I said. "You're not going to go through this." And I combed the bookshelves. I thought — there's got to be a book for young people that talks about drugs as plants, as medicine, as consciousness.
RU: There is Andrew Weil's book, From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.
SB: See? You and I are on the same wavelength. Andrew Weil's book From Chocolate to Morphine is written more towards a smart high school/early college level, but I got it for my kid a lot earlier. I couldn't find anything else. That's it!
But it's pathetic that there's only one book that tries to address drugs from a wholistic point of view.
RU: And it's dated, also.
SB: There needs to be a lot more. Most of the people at the conference I went to are in families. They have kids, or they're kids living with parents. And I met lots of people who could talk to their family members about this. It's a two-way street.
RU: That's new.
SR: There are two levels of the discussion. One is obviously in the public policy level, which is a complete disaster. I was just reading today in the news that nobody takes abstinence seriously in the generation that is having it thrust down their throat by this administration
RU: Nice metaphor!
SR: At the same time, they don't know what the hell to do because there's a vacuum. They're not teaching safe sex. That's a complete disaster.
RU: It's the worst possible combination.
SR: Exactly! But there's also a simplistic viewpoint within the sex positive community in terms of drugs and in terms of safe sex. There's this real binary thing like: "Well, you always have safe sex, and you never have sex on drugs! Or drunk!" And it's really naive to think that people will resonate with that and always follow it in the actual world. It may be just as simplistic as the Bush thing.
SB: I've been to the Clean and Sober session in the sex community. Fine, I can go with that. But on the other hand, I like to have this bohemian sense of indulging this and indulging that. Anyway, somebody just told me last night that there's this hallucinogen that that just cures you of heroin addiction in one snap. Of course, it's illegal in America.
RU: Ibogaine. Although it's not exactly a snap. I's a very intense, difficult experience. It's quick, though. It's fast.
SR: It's a snap compared to the old-fashioned way of kicking smack, which was just to lock yourself in a goddamn asylum for...
RU: You sit down and have a really intense and unforgiving review of your entire inner psychology for about 24 hours. You might be happier going through withdrawal.
SB: I am impatient.
RU: This Ibogaine could be a tremendous thing. There's a great book about it. The theory in the book is that you don't kick heroin, you kick consumerism.
SB: Wow! Light me up! You mean my shoe problem would go away?
SR: Does it also get rid of chronic gas?
RU: We were talking before about sex positivism. I've thought a lot about the whole 1960s sexual revolution idea that was expressed by Xavier Hollander in The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. She said, "Sex is the nicest thing two people can do for one another." And that was very hippie — "nice, nice, nice." And actually, in the mid-70s people sort of realized that hippies weren't very sexy — and people who are naked all the time aren't very sexy. And everybody started going back to night clubs. And it seems to me that really good sex exists on the boundary between total liberation and taboo. And I think that shows up in a lot of the stories in your own book as well. If there isn't some friction or some tension, then it becomes less interesting.
SB: Well, it certainly becomes less interesting in literature. I tell people in my erotic writing workshops, "You may want to talk about a lovely day at the beach, culminated by a warm cuddle in the missionary position and that may have happened and been great. I believe it. But for literature, you're going to need a conflict or else no one will keep reading it, so get hit by a tidal wave somewhere halfway through your story." But that's different from sexuality. I mean, I confess to you — I'm a hippie. So I like nudity, and I like hippie sex, and I think hot tubs are fun.
RU: I guess I'm like an early 1970s person. I just didn't start getting off until people put their clothes back on.
SB: Do you have to go to either of these extremes?
RU: Well, that's my point. It's somewhere on the boundary between this idea of total liberation and a sense that there's something a little bit naughty or whatever — there's some tension there. Even the act itself, there's a certain tension and release. It could be a guy thing.
SB: No, not at all.
RU: Actually, speaking of gender differences, I want to read from a piece in your book by Daniel Duane. He writes: "For men, the fundamental wrong is an active infringement on the rights of another. By punching me, you violate my right not to be punched. For women, torts have more to do with the failure to fulfill responsibility." On my other show — NeoFiles - we've had some discussion about gender distinctions and the question of to what degree are gender distinctions innate. And here, this guy is putting right up at the front of his story that there are innate gender distinctions. In terms of erotic literature, my idea is that guys like to watch it on TV and women like to read it. Do you find more women in your audience? And what do you think in general about the discussion about gender distinctions in terms of sex?
SB: Well, everyone would love to get to the bottom of that question — is one group of people more visual than another, is another group of people more aroused by writing than another? We don't have any serious study or research.
JEFF DIEHL: There was a government study. It was part of a controversial congressional campaign involving Vernon Robinson. There was an NIH study where they showed women pornography. They connected probes to their genitalia and measured the arousal level as they watched various images like people having sex and animals having sex. I don't know what the results were, but there was a study.
RU: No people having sex with animals, though.
Actually, I think that study showed that women enjoyed looking at pornography.
SB: What a shock.
RU: Stop the presses!
SB: I've noticed from my raw empirical studies that a lot of women respond to visual stimuli. I think it's obvious. Look at how fashion magazines are sold. If women didn't like to watch, they wouldn't be so visually sensitive to the many things they do enjoy. Also, I always have a survey in the back of my book where I ask people what they like and so forth, and I ask about their gender. And it's remained around 50% the whole time. I meet a lot of men who say, "I want a story." Who doesn't like a story? So the sexist description of one being one way and one another... I don't buy it. Women certainly tend to realize their sexual fantasies much later than men. It takes them longer to feel confident about expressing them, searching for them, asking for them, and creating them. I mean, there's not a little boy on earth who doesn't know where his penis is, but a lot of women don't know where their clit is until they're much older. Can you imagine? Just ask a man, "What if you didn't know where your cock was and had no idea how to get off? And then, by some bizarre accident, you found out. And then you were afraid that if anyone knew, you would be expelled from your family and no one would ever want you — that you could never be a spouse or a parent.
RU: (Ironically) That's exactly what happened to me! (Laughter)
SR: And you weren't even Catholic!
SB: I talk to women who say, "You know, I just don't know about erotica. I'd rather not get close to that." And as I start exploring their sensual life, I start to find out that they have lots of things that give them visual pleasure; or they think that romances are really hot. And other women who have come into their own sexually will tell you point-blank: I want Rocco Siffredi. And I want him pulling my hair. And I want it right now. They don't make any bones about it.
A lot of us have been being frank about what we want from sex. It's not just because we're exhibitionists. We want to make it more common for women to speak as if they're sexual, just like any other animal in the kingdom.
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