Why Sarah’s Sex Life Matters

A lot of people have said "I don't know if it's fair to look at Sarah Palin's sexuality the way people are — I just don't know if it's sexist or appropriate. Why can't we just treat her like a human being?" Okay, I'm going to tell you why it's appropriate for us to gloat and delve into every detail.
#1. Sexual politics is important. It matters.

#2. Palin has made priggery, prudery and sexual hypocrisy a centerpiece of her law enforcement and public policy directives, as both the mayor of the beautiful Wasilla, Alaska, and the governor of the state.

She ran on a sex-is-icky platform. People who lived in Wasilla remember when being mayor was almost considered a thankless job, like being the town plumber. ("Who wants to deal with all the bullshit down at the city dump and the electrical wiring?") And then Sarah came along, with her Pentecostal church program behind her, saying "I'm not going to talk about issues like whose dog is pooping on whose lawn. I'm going to talk about stopping abortion now." That's the kind of stuff she ran on, and she got a bunch of people who'd never voted before to march down from her little church and put her into office.

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright." For a free month's subscription, click here. The longer, audio version of Susie's analysis can be found here.

And then Mayor Palin cut funding for rape test kits. It's like, "If you want to complain about being raped, sweetheart, well, you can just get out your checkbook." Because the city of Wasilla, no matter how much money they had in revenue from their oil, wasn't going to spend it on you. So Sarah has made sex a topic by her legislation and her lobbying and her speeches.

But here's the most controversial part, and it's just as rich as any other aspect of her candidacy: we finally have an image of a powerful, fertile, virile woman on the national stage. And it's a female image that's been almost entirely absent from America's pop culture. When you think of women who've been in the news, two kinds come to mind. One we'll call the Paris Hilton model — or Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears — this illiterate, anorexic, or drug-addicted pop tart. "She's so rich. Everybody wants to fuck her. She's so special." This, as many mothers wring their hands saying "This is the role model for our daughters? This is who they see as someone they should look up to?" It's been a travesty.

The other kind of strong woman on a national stage has been an older woman like Hillary Clinton. In some ways, you can say that's how sexism worked against her. Every time she got a little ballsy, a little rip-roaring — every time she showed her fierceness and her strength — she was bound to be called a Wellesley lesbian, that somehow she wasn't enough for Bill Clinton, that all those girls she went to college with she was secretly fucking. Now all of this has just been a big pile of right-wing baloney, but it's what happened to Hillary Clinton. She has never allowed herself, or been encouraged to show her sexual side, because it's been considered something that would get her in trouble — like there was no positive way to show it. She had to refrain from being a ball-buster for fear of being dyke-baited.

So here comes Sarah Palin, who apparently is not in menopause at all. She just had a baby a few months ago, so her heterosexuality is just bleeding out all over the place. She's just rolled out of bed! That's the impression we get from this woman. They can't get her on the dyke thing. She's up in Alaska, shooting guns and taking names! So she's gotten a pass on this. And she is irresistible!

We simply haven't had an overtly fecund, butch, straight-woman sex symbol in so long. She's like Annie Oakley with her six-shooters and her polar bears, her caribou dressing and her moose stew. She's got five kids hanging off of her, and you're like "Hells bells, that woman can fuck in the morning, go out for a long hike on the Arctic tundra, take down a polar bear or two, and be back in time to pass some new creationist legislation." She just kicks ass. I mean, she's just so — mmm. So like a powerful woman.

It's exciting, isn't it?

I think for every woman who's been appalled at her politics and the platform she's been running on — and this certainly includes me — well, there's this little part of me that's thinking "Oh, If only she was on my side. If only I could kidnap Sarah Palin and just lick her pussy for a few hours, I think we could just work this whole thing out." Do you know how many lesbians are discussing this? My friend Marga Gomez, who's a fantastic dyke comedian, has this line where she says "Sarah Palin? She's having my baby. And we've already named her Drill." If only we could move her political viewpoint around just a little.

I was talking to my good friend Christina the other night, and when I told her my kidnapping/cunnilingus fantasy about brainwashing Sarah Palin, she said "I don't think it'd really be that hard. I think she really does like us. I think she's ready for anything. She just wants to be a winner. That's all this girl cares about." When she was Sarah Barracuda on the high school basketball team, when she was in the beauty contest — you can just imagine how mad she was that she didn't win Miss Alaska and only won Miss Congeniality.

I don't think she's very congenial. She wants to win. And in Alaska, that meant siding with a certain kind of fundamentalist church. At first, it meant bucking the Republican establishment without leaving the Republican party entirely. It was the same thing with her church. If you go onto YouTube and look at that Wasilla Pentecostal church she belonged to — I mean, they make Ted Haggard look like a sober Lutheran Minister. And when she ran for governor, all of a sudden she stopped going there every Sunday, because it was just a little too wacky. You know, she had a private talk with them and said, "I really love you guys, but it's a little too theatrical for my political career."

What have we learned about Sarah Palin's sex life so far? The most important thing is that, like every other single person in Alaska, she seems to have had premarital sex. You can look at the elopement date, and then you look at when their first son, Track, was born less than 8 months later. All of her children seem to have had premarital sex — all the ones who've gone through puberty, at least. This is not unusual in America, and especially not in Alaska, where you have all these long, long months, a very narrow economy, and not the biggest educational system in the world. There's not a lot to do except fuck, drink, hunt, and fish. In fact, I don't really know how this Wasilla Pentecostal church really works with their abstinence program, because it goes against the Alaska way!

This kind of hurts me, because you know how I hate slut-baiting, but people at Bristol's high school say she got around, according to the National Enquirer. It's easy to imagine this, because when you see all the photos that are floating around MySpace, there's lots of supposed pictures of Bristol, her sister, and her cousins with gigantic tankards of Jack Daniels, tossing them back — jello shots, party, party, party. The kids have apparently been in a lot of hijinx.

I mean, on one level, I'm sympathetic to Sarah Palin having her life torn apart like this, because every other candidate has all kinds of skeletons in their closet, too. The kind of problems this family is dealing with aren't unusual for any American family. But we never found out what was going on with the Bushes, because they were from a ruling class elite that has a shroud of secrecy around their personal lives, and no one in those circles talks. You're never going to find out what they did at Walmart. You're never going to find out if they pulled their pants down and mooned somebody out a car window — because nobody talks among the crowd they've grown up with.

Sarah, on the other hand, in this working class/middle class community in Alaska? Everyone's got a story. There's no veneer of nobility or discretion. It's all up for grabs.

I know the GOP makes it their practice to select candidates — and this very much includes John McCain — not based on whether these people have intelligence or leadership qualities, or experience or character. They pick them the way a modeling agency picks a spokesmodel — they pick them like it's a casting call. Somebody like Richard Nixon would never be picked for a presidential nominee in a million years now, because he's not good television. Ronald Reagan changed everything. Now the GOP believes that government should be handled by professionals whose names you will never know. And they just want the little puppets on the outside to do the song and dance.

"Do you think she's pretty? Do you think she's cute? Great! Vote for her!" And they don't have any respect for her. When they start screaming about how she isn't shown enough deference by the media, I'm thinking "But you don't respect her. You think she's a useful idiot!" If she's really like Annie Oakley, she wouldn't put up with that. If she's really a tough woman who can stand up to a grizzly bear — can she stand up to the GOP?

That would impress me. If she's not going to do that, then she's totally under their thumb — under her husband's thumb, under the GOP's thumb. She's sold out for the money, like so many others, and she doesn't have the barracuda qualities of survival and dignity that we'd hope that she'd have.

We'll see.

I realize some other unbelievable surprise may be unleashed, but until then, all we can do is just turn the pages of the National Enquirer.

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Is It Legal Porn or Illegal Porn?

I just looked at an exposé from reporter Debbie Nathan, who attended a research convention of The Academy of Forensic Sciences to discover what the geeks at the FBI have learned about the relationship, and potential, between "real" and "computer-generated" pornographic images.

The police's particular interest, in this case, is child abuse. Sexualized images of real children are illegal, but computer-generated images are not prosecuted in the U.S., as yet, because they don't show actual kids.

This debate has gotten hotter, because it's now difficult to tell what's real — computer-editing programs are facile enough to turn anyone, theoretically, into an amateur touch-up artist.

Many questions also arise from the Feds' investigations. Do virtual pictures attract people with ill intent or actions toward children? Or is this a bizarre, if preferable, method of harm reduction?

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright." For a free month's subscription, click here. The audio version of Susie's analysis can be found here.

Debbie Nathan is perhaps best known for her book, Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt about some of the widely covered sex panic cases that rocked the U.S. in the '80s and '90s, such as the McMartin preschool case in California. Here's what she wrote after returning from the forensic scientists' conference.

"Back in the 1990s, the government outlawed computer-generated ("CG") images of sexualized children. But a few years later, ruling in a case called Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court said CG child porn is legal... the general consensus was that the technological state-of-the-art for CG human images wasn't so good anyway.

If you concocted a CG image of a child having sex, the thinking went, it wouldn't fool anyone, because it was too low-tech to seem real.

Within a couple of years, though, people caught with child porn images were going to court and claiming they didn't have anything real, only CG — and that if the government thought otherwise, it would have to prove it.

The government developed several responses. One: find the actual child depicted in the pornography, and bring that real child into court, or bring in the cop who handled her case. This would show beyond a doubt that the defendant's material was not computer-generated.

Another strategy is to match the images in evidence to others previously collected by the feds, then show that the whole set dates to pre-Photoshop times, back when anything that looked like a photograph of a real kid really was real.

But what if child victims and old photo sets aren't available? A third government technique is to tell courts that the average person (an FBI agent, a jury member) can still distinguish what's real and what's CG, just by looking with the naked eye.

Is this true? The government would like us to think so. But in point of fact, the boundary between real and CG is getting fuzzier by the year – and the feds are nervous."

Check out Debbie's site to see more incredibly realistic (G-rated! of course) computer-generated images, and to read the rest of her story... it's a science fiction novel come to life:

"After [the experts'] presentations, it seemed clear that the technology exists to make real child porn look fake. And — much more significantly — to make CG porn which looks genuine enough to fool ordinary people.

An obvious question that comes to mind, then, is: how much of this sophisticated child CG porn is already on the Internet?

My sense from attending the workshops is: Probably hardly any.

But the scarcity has little to do with technology. The digital world is now rife with graphics professionals and hobbyists who spend lots of time creating reasonably real-looking virtual people as still images – adults and kids. CG adults (especially women) often look “sexy.” Sometimes they're even having sex. But virtual kids are not portrayed sexually (though teen girls often look “come hither”). CG kids remain chaste, probably, because there's no commercial market for child porn and thus no significant money to be made by doing virtual renditions of the stuff.

Hobbyists, of course, don't need money to pursue their passions. But even they are probably reluctant to do CG child porn. It's not like they can post it on graphic arts websites and get props from fellow artists.

Plus, virtual child porn is legal in the US, but it's outlawed in many other countries. If an American's CG smut got emailed overseas, he could get in big trouble."

Nathan's final conclusion?

" Given the above, I bet most defendants and their attorneys who raise the CG defense are bullshitting. They've probably been caught with the real thing.

But for how long will almost everything on the net be real? One thing is certain: if something becomes possible for human beings to do, someone will do it."

See Also:
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan
The Perversions of Perverted Justice
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Beyond the ‘Zipless Fuck’ With Erica Jong

Beyond the Zipless Fuck With Erica Jong

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright," and is the editor of Best American Erotica, 1993-2008.

Yes, Erica Jong coined the phrase "the zipless fuck" when describing sexual adventures in her 1973 novel Fear of Flying. But now she's talking about a whole body sexual sensation that's more like lightning.

She's outspoken, thought-provoking, and still has a lot to talk about — like when you're a legendary sex writer, what sex advice do you give your teenaged daughter? Why is the media so obsessed with Anna Nicole Smith? But I even asked Erica how her sex life changed as she's gotten older — and for once, I got a straight answer!

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here.

SUSIE BRIGHT: There's been a certain type of book that's come out recently by a woman over 60 who says "Yes, I'm old, but my sexuality and my vitality are at their height." How you can continue to be Pamela Anderson at 80? (Laughs) I'm not buying it!

ERICA JONG: Are you anywhere near 50?

SB: I'm 49!

EJ: Oh, god.

SB: It's the last 40-something. So...

EJ: In many ways it's wonderful to get older. Apart from the fact that you're on the ledge, and after your parents die, you're the next to fall in. You do think about mortality a lot.

If you're not a total mess, you think about generativity, and giving back, and — you know, teaching, and things like that. Which is the healthy part. But sex is not the same!

Because the men are dying. The men are becoming impotent. They're having heart attacks, and they're being put on blood pressure medication. Nobody's writing about that. (But I am in my new novel!)

SB: You make it sound like men are the only ones who are having a small health setback. What about the women?

EJ: The women, for the most part, seem healthier than the men. At least anecdotally...

There are lots of ways out of this. Yes, you can find younger people. Yes, you can find — you know, your 30-year-old male lover with a constant erection. Apart from the fact that mostly they don't want women who are 60. (Laughs) Some do. You know. For whatever Oedipal reasons...

But one is too wise, by then, to think of it as anything but a zipless fuck. Or a zipless fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck — and done, because you don't want to be their nurse, and you don't want to be their purse. I did that when I was in my 40s. And you don't want to blurb their book — their bad book.

SB: I'm sure that's a real turn-off sexually.

EJ: "I will fuck you, and you can blurb my book!"

SB: Ouch!

EJ: If you've achieved a little bit of self knowledge, maybe that works once, maybe it works twice. Maybe it works three times — but then it doesn't work so well.

I'm not talking about a real, wonderful affair with a younger man — you know, possibly you walk off into the sunset together, or you always have this wonderful place in your head that you can go back to. Affairs with women seem to proliferate after 50.

SB: After-50 bisexuality or lesbianism that wouldn't have happened before?

EJ: Yes. I think it's mostly because the men are dead. (Laughs)

SB: You are so cruel! Your husband isn't dead!

EJ: No, my husband isn't dead. But I'm talking about what I see around me. And then with the one that one loves, one has to re-invent sexuality. It can't be the same.

SB: Everybody says "re-invent," but what would that really look like?

EJ: Suppose he doesn't have an erection? You have to be whole-body — tantric sex. You have to change the way you look at sex, and him too, because men have a real problem with that. They're so focussed on their penis, you may have noticed, that making the change from focus-on-the-penis to focus-on-the-whole-body...

SB: It's almost like the symbol of the erection as desire is more important than fucking for 10 hours without stopping. Because hardly anyone wants to do that. It's like the erection is the symbol of "You want me." It's what I'm accustomed to seeing.

EJ: But even if you think it doesn't mean something to you...

SB: Even if you pooh-poohed it, and said it wasn't a big deal....

EJ: Even if you pooh-poohed it, and said it wasn't a big deal, as a woman, the infrequency requires a leap. But men have to also make that leap.

SB: I just talked to a friend in his 60s who's just fallen in love over the phone with a woman. He says he gets hard the moment he hears her voice, and yet now that they're planning an in-person meeting, he's frantic to get a Viagra prescription. He was asking me if I had any undercover connections.

EJ: Go to your doctor! They gave them out like M&Ms!

SB: I said, "I don't think you should fret so much. You're throbbing just talking to her on the phone. Don't worry so much that you have to have this perfect insurance plan!"

I don't know whether guys would find that a relief to hear, or...

EJ: No, because they have to get over their identification with themselves and the hard dick. And once they do, the sex can be truly wonderful.

I've really gone through this with Ken. He had an aneurysm of the aorta, and had to take blood pressure-lowering medication. It was counteracted by Viagra, but Viagra gave him blue spots in front of his eyes. And it made him feel so exhausted after sex that the day was ruined for him.

SB: Oh...

EJ: He wasn't allowed to take Cialis, because it was contraindicated with his medication. It took a while for both of us to accept that it was going to be different. I think it took him longer than me.

I've always thought of sex as being a whole body experience. Yes, I liked intercourse very much, and I liked oral sex very much. With certain men, I could have wonderful orgasms with intercourse. With other men, I could have better orgasms with oral sex.

With women, you have better orgasms with oral sex, I think. Although I decided that I'm not really gay.

SB: I'd never heard you announce that you were gay. I missed that...

EJ: Well, for a while I thought it would be wonderful to be really gay, and I had some experimental flings with women that I really loved. But then I decided that I was kidding myself — that I wasn't really gay — although I loved these women very much.

I really believe that Gore Vidal is right, that there are sexual acts, and that we make too much of a big deal about whether they're gay or straight. That if you love someone, you can find a way to express it physically. Or not! I've always been tremendously attracted to you...

SB: (Laughs) Oh, goodie! What a compliment! (Laughs) Why?

EJ: Because you have such an alive spirit. And because you're so life-loving. I honestly think that's why people are attracted to me.

SB: Mmm hmm.

EJ: You know, it's not about one's tits — although you have very nice tits, and I'm told I have very nice tits. It's about lifeforce and energy.

I've always felt like I was a kundalini person. I've always sort of believed, "raise the kundalini, let's get with it" — you know? "It's going up my spine, my solar plexus is glowing..." So we found a new form of kundalini sex after he got over his feeling that he was failing in some way.

SB: Do you think there was a turning point for him?

EJ: Yes — when he started to have these electric orgasms down his spine!

SB: Oh my god. You hear about people who have spinal cord injuries talking about this, or people who suffered an injury that supposedly was going to change their sexuality forever. Then they started feeling sexual orgasmic sensations in an area that they had never even felt before. Or the initiative, the catalyst, was coming from a different spot.

You can hear and hear and hear about how there's a different sexual way, but until you actually experience it, you're feeling "Okay, fine. Everyone else can have the party, but I'm not invited."

EJ: I think that Ken had more of a block about finding different ways of sex than I did, because I always thought that was there for me. You know, somebody could touch my neck and I could get juicy. Touch my cheek.

I knew that the whole body is an erogenous zone, but most men don't know that, and he didn't know that. You know, he was always into oral sex. That was not a problem. He loves oral sex. He enjoys it, he's good at it. He's not uptight about smells or tastes.

One time I got a bikini wax, and he was horrified. I said, "But what about the hairs between your teeth?" He said, "I like the hairs between my teeth!" So he's totally into, you know, smells, tastes...

SB: The whole woman.

EJ: He's really alive to that stuff.

But what happened finally was doing oral sex, touching, tasting, playing... It's very hard to even describe. Playing, listening to music, laughing, telling jokes — we've always been enormously close. The Sunday mornings in the country, we take a hot tub, we listen to music. We hang out, we read the paper, we laugh, we get in bed... If it's warm enough, we swim.

And then he started having these orgasms where his whole back would become lightning. You've heard that from people...

SB: Yes, of course. And often people who say "Look, I'm an atheist, I'm not the sort of person who sees UFOs or has out-of-body experiences, but I'm having sexual sensations that aren't on the first or second page of The Joy of Sex. They're just not your standard penis-vagina or tongue-clit... Something new is happening to me."

I'm such a great believer in sexual creativity, and how — as much as everyone says "The mind is our most important sexual organ," they don't understand that it is. That you could lose everything else, but as long as you didn't have a lobotomy, you'd be sexual. It's the key to everything.

On the other hand, folks who've had brain injuries and brain tumors — when you lose sexual desire and creativity from your mind, it doesn't matter if all the other parts work. It's gone. And that's quite bracing.

EJ:I could get a headline any day of the week by calling up the New York Times or the Washington Post and saying "I have given up sex."

SB: Oh, that would be so good...

EJ:I could get on the front page. "And now I am entering a nunnery. It's going to be an orthodox Jewish nunnery, and I will never — I'm shaving my head. I'm wearing a sheitel..." And... You know, that's what they want you to say. "Author of 'Zipless Fuck'..." — which is what people think it's really called.

SB: "...finds her zippers!"

EJ: Right! I mean, it's so preposterous. People want the complete turnabout. It's like Christopher Hitchens and his atheist book.

That's how low our press has fallen. Everybody's infected. Noam Chomsky predicted this thirty years ago. He said, "When the news is owned by five conglomerates — we won't have news." And guess what? We don't. We have Anna Nicole Smith.

You know, I actually saw the headline during that whole circus — "What's next for Anna Nicole?"

SB: "In the afterlife!" Exactly.

EJ: Well, she's rotting...

SB: The worms are talking all the time...

EJ: "What's next for Anna Nicole?" Can you believe it? I mean, that's our media!

SB: I want to ask you about something on the other end of the generational syndrome. You have a daughter that's older than mine. I think your daughter is in her twenties.

EJ: 28.

SB: And I have a teenager. I wasn't trying to keep sexual knowledge secret from my daughter. I wasn't going to be like "You're going to be a virgin, and I'm locking you in a convent."

EJ: "I have the key to your chastity belt."

SB: Exactly.

EJ: "You're gonna feel something you never have felt." We used to sing that in high school. (Laughs)

SB: I find myself biting my lip in certain circles talking about how they're managing their teenaged daughters when I realize that's not the approach I've taken. Sometimes I feel defensive, like I'm as protective and as mama tiger-ish as anyone would be. It's just that I'm not going to be spurred on by some sexist notion of "virtue" any more than I wanted somebody hectoring me about that when I was a teenager.

So I wanted to ask you — did you ever feel tempted to become a conservative nag, that would lock her in the cellar...

EJ: Never.

SB: How did you deal with it?

Sophie Dahl
EJ: I was very permissive. In those days, Molly's best friend was Sophie Dahl, this beautiful model and actress, and they both were at the day school in New York. We would have these long conversations. They'd sit down with me, and they'd say "Erica — When should you go all the way?"

SB: As if a bell's gonna ring!

EJ: Yeah, because I'm the expert — right? I'm the maven.

And I would say, "Well make sure it's with somebody who you really like, if not feel affection for. And make sure that he's kind. Make sure that he will not push you around, that he will use birth control unless you have birth control — that you should have birth control." That he is somebody, you know, who will be a friend, and...blah blah blah.

Well, they both agreed that that was ideal. And they both went off and did the opposite! (Laughs)

SB: Someone really mean, who didn't give a crap!

EJ: Right! So what people say about sex, and what they do are two different things. To watch that, as you're getting older, and to watch them go through — you know, the druggie sex, and the debasing sex, and all the things they said as good little feminists they didn't want...

You've got to realize that there is this tremendous gap between the beau idéal and the reality!

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D.C. Sex Diarist Bares It All

Washington D.C. Sex Diarist Speaks Out - an Interview With Washingtonienne Blogger Jessica Cutler

Jessica Cutler was a bored, envelope-tossing, congressional staffer for former Republican Senator Mike DeWine — until the online diary about her sex adventures got some unexpected notoriety. Her stories about adventures with the political elite snared a few pious policy-makers, including her apparent S&M fuck pal, Robert Steinbuch, DeWine's former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Naturally, she was canned from her job, accompanied by media fireworks.

Did Ms. Cutler crawl away, hide under the bed, enroll in a 10-day rehab, or issue a non-denial denial? Hardly. She wrote a scintillating novelization of her experience — the bawdy, smart, and hilarious The Washingtonienne — and posed for Playboy.

Jessica retired her online diary — also called The Washingtonienne — after blogger Wonkette revealed her identity. But she continues to blog at JessicaCutlerOnline.com while contemplating her next novel and jumping out of the occasional cake.

Jessica and I talked about the hypocrisy of Capitol Hill's Christian conservatives, the differences between prostitution and getting paid for sex, and which drugs are best for getting it on.

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here.

SUSIE BRIGHT: It seems like you found yourself writing a novel because you were forced to. I mean, you had your little private life, and your girlfriends, and you were gossiping like anybody else would with their friends. And then all of the sudden, your secret blog got outed! So you kind of had to write a book to say your piece, or to set the record straight.

JESSICA CUTLER: Yes. I think that was totally the situation, you know? And not a lot of people understand that. The longest thing I'd ever written prior to that was like a 5,000-word article for a magazine.

SB: About what?

JC: Shoes. It's so clichéd — a "Sex and the City" type thing. Whatever. I didn't like writing. That's why I quit a job at a magazine and ended up working in D.C.

The thing is... my life wasn't perfect, but I was really happy! You know, I was dating lots of guys and just living my life. We were talking among friends, you know, and at the time, we just thought, "Oh, we're using up all our minutes on our cellphones, and... I don't want to email this to you because it has our IP addresses and you never know."

SB: So when you blogged the gossip, you were actually trying to be more private.

JC: Yeah! And I thought, worst-case scenario, if this ever gets back to me, I will delete it, I'll deny that I wrote it, and it will be bygones! (Laughs)

SB: Well apparently you learned your lesson in D.C. — just deny and shred!

JC: (Laughs) But then I thought taking responsibility was the right thing to do. It's better than lying about it. I remember the first couple of days when all this came out, after I left my job, I went on the Internet and there was all this speculation over who was writing it. And they were suggesting other people in my office, and people in other offices. I felt bad, you know?

So I started getting phone calls from reporters, and they have my unlisted number. I figured, they must know. How did they get my number? So I figured that whoever knew it was me was emailing reporters. It really freaked me out. I was a journalist in college, so I know what it's like to be a young reporter. If you hear about this girl who could be another Monica — that's sort of what everyone's hoping for. If you find out her address and where she lives, what are you gonna do? You're gonna go to her house!

Other people were telling me, "You probably better call these people back before someone shows up at your apartment." And that was something I didn't want. So I thought I handled it the best I could.

SB: Well, it's interesting when you say, "the best you could." Because you have this air about you, especially in person, where you're self-deprecating. And everything I'd heard about you before I read your book made me think that you were sort of like a deer — a sexy deer — caught in the headlights.

But when I started reading your book, I thought, "My god. She can write! Her timing is incredible. She has acute observational skills. She can Write with a capital W." This book just flies. And then I thought, well, okay… maybe it's ghostwritten and this is just a creation of a scandal. But then I went to your blog, and there was that same voice again. And there was your wit and your authority. You have so much authority in your writing...

JC: Thanks!

SB: You do! If only people could see the look on your face. It's all squished up, like you're saying… "What?!"

JC: Well, I think when you read a lot of criticism, you start to see yourself through their eyes. But I'm proud of the book. I think a lot of people just try to diminish any kind of accomplishment. You know, 'cause it always goes back to… "Well, she was a hooker."

SB: You've gotten all the stigma and criticism of being a sex worker without the paycheck.

JC: I know! It's not fair! (Laughs)

SB: It's more like you were a party girl. Maybe you're still a party girl. You enjoyed going out and having all the usual fun, whether it meant drugs, dancing, great sex, bad sex, crazy adventures.

And then just having the fun of talking about it the next day — but you weren't charging by the hour!

JC: (Laughs) I know. That is one of those things that just doesn't go away. And it's like a big sticking point for people

SB: I want to know what your own response is to that, Jessica. Because I've also been characterized as a full-time pro. And I have not run my life as a prostitution business. Not because I think it's wrong, but it's just not my life story.

So I find when I get that sort of attitude from someone, I get kind of feisty. In many respects, I identify with whores. If I'm around other whores, I feel like part of the crew. Because we'd have some things in common, in terms of our life experience, in the way people perceive us. And I can identify with a lot of their values – their sense of the reality of what really goes on with sex that people don't like to talk about. I wonder if you feel the same way, or if you just want to be as far as possible from anyone thinking you have anything to do with it.

JC: The latter is totally not the case. When I start to feel defensive, my attitude is sort of like, if people are calling me a whore, "Well, what's wrong with being a whore?" You know? I mean, I think girls who are sex workers — and men, all sex workers — they see another side of humanity and sexuality. People who've never worked in the sex industry — people who've never done it — don't know the half of it.

I've heard girls I know who escort say, "I think every woman should do this, because you find out a lot. You learn a lot about men." They tell me, "You don't even know. You wrote a book and even you don't know the half of it." And I'm like... "Yes, I want to know all about it..."

I really don't know what the hang-up is about that. I don't know why people really seem to dislike prostitutes. I don't understand that attitude at all.

SB: Are you more confrontational than you were when you first started working in D.C.? I ask because you worked for a lot of conservative guys that have… like, piggy opinions about how women should stay at home with their legs crossed. And god forbid they have an abortion. You know, the attitude that America would be better if women were basically barefoot and pregnant.

You worked for some really famous so-called Christian conservatives. [Ed: Jessica worked for Senator Mike DeWine (R) - Ohio, who was defeated in the 2006 election.] And the way you describe D.C. political life, it's just as hypocritical and full of shit as everyone imagines it to be.

JC: Oh yeah. I mean, the platform the Senator I worked for had... he was a Christian conservative.

SB: And was he really? Do you think these people have a grain of sincerity?

JC: The way it is, each Senator is a figurehead. And you have the staffers doing the work. But you know, like… from hanging out with them and partying with them and stuff, like — I wasn't the only girl in my office that had an abortion.

I went there not knowing anyone, you know? I'm not the daughter of any contributors and didn't know anyone who had anything to do with Capitol Hill. I just went in there for my interview. I would have worked for anybody, you know?

SB: You were a whore!

JC: Yes, I was! (Laughs) Ideologically, yes!

It was sort of like I just took whatever, because you need names on your resume. And they didn't ask me what I thought about anything. They didn't ask me, "Have you had abortions? What do you think about that? What are your views on this or that? You're single. Are you sleeping around?" It didn't matter… then.

And even when I started working there, people knew I was dating around. They knew I was seeing someone in my office, and that we had, you know… non-vanilla sex. And none of it was a problem until it got out.

SB: There's a part of your book that doesn't get as much attention, but was riveting to me. It actually created both a lot of tension in the storyline, a sense of suspense — and also, I hate to admit this to you, but it brought out the mommy in me.

It wasn't your sexual activities. But I found myself thinking: "Jessica, don't keep drinking! Jessica — Jessie, you're getting too high! That's the fifth night in a row! You've been a wreck in the morning! Oh, this poor little baby. I'm just all worried about her." And then I would think to myself, "God, you are such a mom."

And it was actually quite interesting to read a female narrator being so blasé and straightforward about being high and saying what she likes about being high. Because, of course, male novelists do this constantly, and they don't provoke such a protective reaction. If it's Ernest Hemingway or Bret Easton Ellis or whoever, you know, they drink every night, they're always loaded out of their minds, and everybody still sort of expects that they'll work it out in the end. But when a young woman talks about it, even I start to worry.

And the way you write about it, it's often hilarious — your drug adventures had me rolling on the floor! I couldn't believe all the nutty shit you did. But I also found myself saying to myself, "I wonder what's gonna happen?" Actually, if it had ended up with you saying, "And now I am a good AA member and all this is over" — I don't know if I would have liked that. That would've been too neat.

Anyway, I want to get your opinions about what drugs are the most fun, as far as sex is concerned. And where you're at in terms of the peril of being high all the time.

JC: Obviously drugs are a distraction from… you know, real sex, and the way intimacy is when you're sober. But if you really don't want to deal with that, you will have a lot of drunk sex, high sex. It's fun, but it's not real. I mean, I don't do this frequently. I would say the last time I, you know... (laughs) got high and had sex was last week. And I woke up the next morning and thought, "That was sloppy!"

SB: But why is it attractive?

JC: If you're doing this with someone, and you're really not secure with them, or you're worrying what they think — if you're both messed up, you're not thinking about it so much.

SB: Have you given any thought to your next book?

JC: Well, I have meetings with editors and they just want to hear about my life. I tell them, and they say, "Oh you have enough material for three books." But I don't want to do that. So I have some outlines. I think it'll sorta be chick lit.

SB: Well, I'm going to jump in and give you some advice. Fuck the chick lit notion, because it's already over. You have acute powers of observation, and you've seen into some interesting lives. Your candor comes out when you write.

I just interviewed someone who was talking about how she studies the Victorian Age. And she told me that in those days, best friends would write each other's biography. I thought that was fascinating. Like, what if I had to write another friend's memoir...

JC: Oh, I would love to do that! I've met so many girls who just blow me out of the water. You know?

And I've met girls who had really sad stories. Like, "If I wrote a novel, you could def…" But the thing is — they're too scatterbrained or too troubled to actually get around to it. And people are always saying, "Well, you should write it for them!" But then I'd feel like I'm stealing her stories...

SB: Well, when you're a writer, you become a story stealer.

JC: I hate people like that! I mean (laughs), there was a book kind of written about me. I left things out of my book, out of respect for the author, and then she wrote about them! And I was like… ohhh!

I was kind of surprised that she did that. And I wonder if her husband knows the scenes are real. He probably doesn't. [Ed: Maybe he does now!] Or maybe he knows and he doesn't care. But if I'd put it in my book, she might be suing me! (Laughs)

SB: Well, I think the fertility of your blog is probably going to show you the way. Every time I turn to it, you get me screaming or you get me giggling about something.

JC: It's supposed to be fun. In a way, I wish I never took the original blog down.

SB: You could always resurrect it.

JC: But I'm being kind of sued over that. (Laughs)

SB: Nothing would be happening if they didn't perceive you as someone with deep pockets to go after.

JC: I so don't. Actually, I filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

SB: Oh! Why?

JC: (Laughs)

SB: Congratulations, Miss Cutler!

JC: Yes. I am officially broke. Kind of a relief. You know...

SB: Well, not to be a target.

JC: There's that.

But with a blog — I mean, what happens when someone's offended by something someone's posted. Usually, there might be some email exchange, or some blog war...you know, if someone writes an attack on you, you can respond to it, if you want to acknowledge it at all.

It's mostly really silly. Especially someone calling you ugly or slutty. Okay — how many times do I have to go through this? Okay, I'm an ugly slut. And you're not? "You're better than me, you're so much smarter, you have a better blog..." What else do I have to say?

SB: Well, I'll just clear it up for our audience. Jessica Cutler is a talented writer. She is not ugly — she is so not-ugly. She is bankrupt, however. She's very pretty, very bankrupt... And she's slutty in all the good ways that so many of our slut-positive friends like to be.

JC: Sluts are the nicest people in the world. They're people pleasers!

See Also:
The D.C. Madam Speaks
Senator Vitter's Suppressed Statement
Five Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
Don't Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Politics
Deep Throat, Big Brain: Sex Blogger Chelsea Girl
Three Hundred Pound Porn Queen Decimates Oklahoma Town
Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright

Read More

The D.C. Madam Speaks!

The D.C. Madam Speaks - Deborah Jeane Palfrey Interview

Reached for comment today, the D.C. Madam had this to say about Larry Craig.

"My former position...does not qualify me to comment upon such matters. Folks like Senator Craig and for that matter Senator Vitter most likely need the opinion and guidance of professional psychiatrists!"

Deborah Jeane Palfrey was an experienced madam — that is to say, an escort service manager. A brothel-keeper whose customers at least chose a different path than Senator Craig — they never had to solicit sex in airport bathrooms.

Ironically, the clue that tipped off the Justice Department was a Homeland Security "terrorist watch program," Palfrey tells us. In one of her first interviews, she complains that she'd run her service for 13 years without so much as a peep of trouble from the police until one day, 11 months ago. And then all hell broke loose — just four weeks before the crucial 2006 elections. Under pressure, and suspicious about the timing of her bust, Palfrey eventually decided to go nuclear. She published the phone list of everybody who'd used her services.

Hypocrites beware! Among her customers was Randall Tobias, Condoleeza Rice's #2 senior official in the State Department. (Tobias was responsible for withholding funds for AIDS treatment and prevention if it didn't come packaged with "education" preaching abstinence and monogamy.) And though Senator Craig wasn't a customer, another implicated visitor was the conservative Senator from Louisiana, David Vitter — or "Vitter the shitter," as prostitutes often call him in his hometown of New Orleans, for his alleged diaper fetish. All these folks who rode into town on a moral majority agenda turned up on the D.C. Madam's phone list.

But what does she have to say now?
For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here: Link

SUSIE BRIGHT: Has there been any silver lining to the notoriety of being busted so wide open?


SB: On the one hand, it seems like it must be the biggest stress in your life, and that maybe you'd give anything to be back in Vallejo, just quietly running your business. But I wonder if there's an aspect that you couldn't have predicted where you're thinking, "You know what? I'm kind of glad this happened!"

DP: Well, first of all, it came as a tremendous shock. (Laughs) I had no concept whatsoever that this was about to hit.

In the beginning — from the time that everything happened to me on October 4 of 2006 until I was indicted five months later... I tried desperately to maintain the status quo. I tried desperately to keep this quiet, to make this go away, and to try to understand what the government was doing. I figured surely there must've been some rational explanation for why they came after me. I can say without equivocation that my civil attorney — Mr. Montgomery Sibley and I — tried in vain to get this to stop.

And we don't know what the rationale has been for them to go forward with the case, other than the fact that we simply wouldn't fold and give them what they wanted. At that time, I think they pretty much wanted to just take my entire life savings from me. So of course they ratcheted it up a notch, and it went into the criminal realm.

It's at this point in time that the status quo pretty much went out the window. We went public for all intents and purposes — although I believe this was made public by the Department of Justice when they leaked this information to the Smoking Gun in October, shortly after my home was raided and the search warrant was executed upon my property.

SB: Who tipped them off? Was it a customer who was really a police officer investigating you? Was it somebody who worked for you and got pissed off and decided to blow a whistle? Why, out of all the zillions of escort services in Washington and Virginia, did they decide to bug you?

DP: I was obviously sitting on a powder keg of information. There is much still to come out. David Vitter is not the sole and substance of my entire 13 years of operation, that's for sure. I was sitting on something — or they thought I was sitting on something. I was under observation — J. Edgar Hoover-style — from as far back as March of 2004, until the trigger was pulled on me early in October of 2006.

SB: Wow.

DP: For 31 months I was being observed! Any good vice cop will tell you that a simple prostitution bust or investigation takes no more than a few days to a few weeks to a few months to put together — from start to finish. It doesn't appear that I was being looked at for prostitution-related activities, as much as I was being watched for my own personal and professional actions. My banking, my business affairs, my personal acts. So as for the question: why me and me alone? I think it's logical to conclude that there was something that I had, or knew, that they found to be very valuable.

Who are they? We don't know. Is it the GOP? Is it this administration? Is it Homeland Security? Is it the CIA? Who is "they"? We don't know who they are...
For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here: Link

SB: Do you feel like your legal pressure strategy of focusing on the customers — do you think that's making the prosecution say, "Oh, god. Just make her go away. Drop everything." Is the fact that you've been so much more defiant than they ever could've imagined helping?

DP: Oh, well... defiant, yeah. I just think they don't know what to do with me any more.

SB: Have they ever suggested, even in a low-key way, "You know what? Just pay us a couple hundred bucks and we'll go away." Or are they still acting really fierce.

DP: When we were quiet as church mice — from last October 4, when the search warrant was executed, until March 1, when I was criminally indicted — we went to them on three occasions. We went to them in late October/early November, again in mid-January after New Year's, and then finally at the last pre-indictment conference in late February. And we did everything — beg, plead, threaten, and cajoled the Assistant US Attorneys in this case. We asked them, "What is it that you want? What is going on here?" But they would not talk to us! They stood us up for an appointment. They did the most rudimentary motions work that they had to do... They wouldn't hand over discovery! They stonewalled, stonewalled, stonewalled. And they were able to do so procedurally in the civil phase of this. We got nowhere.

At the very end, at this last pre-indictment conference in late February, we took the now famous photocopy of one page of that August, 1996 phone bill. And we said, "Look. We've got 46 pounds of this."

SB: Wasn't that what they were after to begin with?

DP: That's the biggest irony. You have to remember — I was under observation for 31 months, and they didn't do anything. So why would they pull the trigger all of a sudden, in October of last year?

SB: I suspect something partisan is going on. J. Edgar Hoover used to watch certain people he was politically afraid of, like Martin Luther King. "I'm gonna get all this sex shit on him, so that I can use it later."

DP: That's what came to our minds eventually, because October was one month before the very crucial November election of last year, when both the Senate and House went Democratic, and the balance of power in this country shifted.

And, here I was, after 13 years, this very routine life... They must've watched me and thought I was the most boring person in the world. And all of the sudden, I start making these rather unusual or aberrant moves. I put my house of 15 or so years on the market. I closed my business rather unexpectedly — it wasn't really unexpected, but if you're watching me from afar, it would be a flag. My 13-year-business was shut down. And then I wire money — $70,000 — over to Germany, and make a little trip to Germany.

Which by the way was picked up on one of those Homeland Security terrorist watch programs — the ones which are supposed to be watching the terrorists?

They were watching me.

And I think when I made that wire transfer, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Because as soon as I made that wire transfer, on September 28 of last year, the next day this languid, non-investigation/investigation went into warp drive. A few business days later, on Tuesday October 3, I had two postal inspectors who flew out from Washington D.C. to Northern California, standing outside my house, seeing the sale sign that's in my front yard and apparently calling my real estate agent. They identified themselves as a couple being transferred from Washington D.C. to the Bay Area — they loved my neighborhood, they loved my house, could they get in and see it?

When my real estate agent told them no, they could not — because she did not have a key for the property, I was in Germany, they could not get access... We believe it's at this point in time, that they drove up to Sacramento, which is about an hour from where I live. They got a search warrant based on information that was three and a half to five and half years old. To put this into perspective for your audience, rarely is a search warrant ever issued in this country in any kind of case in any jurisdiction based on information that is older than 6 months.

SB: Were you leaving Vallejo because you'd always wanted to live in Europe, and you were just ready for a change...

DP: That's it. You got it right there.

SB: So you were just planning your life.

DP: That's right.

SB: You weren't trying to be a fugitive or anything.

DP: Nope!

SB: You were just moving on to the next stage.

SB: My favorite part of your story is that you had your own newsletter when you were running your service. How did you get the idea of starting a newsletter. I mean, you have a lot to say...

DP: Boy, I have a lot to say now!

SB: And plus, you know, even — when I read your use of the word "misogynist," I think to myself: that's somebody who has a very political point of view.

DP: Oh, I have very definite views about the police. But aside from that, let me say this. Those newsletters have been largely taken out of context and made to seem a little more tawdry than they are.

SB: I'm not interested in the tawdry part. I'm interested in the feminist part!

DP: I understand that. However, they are quite colorful.

SB: Yes they are!

DP: Yes, they — I did make them colorful, because I wanted to get my point across, because I had a staff that was ever-changing.

One of the topics, of course, was misogynists. These cops — the vice cops, you know, the lowest on the food chain at the police department — they love to go after defenseless women. You know, it's, it's... It is something that I want to explore when this is all over -- when my actual civil/criminal case is all over. I am even talking to some folks right now about putting together a documentary on what the police have done, do, and will continue to do to defenseless women in this country involved in the sex industry.

The very first person who emailed me when this all broke was a woman. And the subject header was: "My mother is an ex-madam." She went on to explain who she was, and the terror that she, her mother, and her family experienced at the hands of the police. This particular email was followed up by many many others, all having their own little monikers. Some were very well-known madams who have stories to tell that will make your blood curdle.

SB: You had already had — going back to the early 90s at least — a really harsh experience with the criminal justice system. And you had a prison experience. How come when you got out you stayed in the business? I mean, why didn't you say "That's it! I'm joining bible study groups, I'm becoming a missionary... This was horrible! They just put me on the rack." How come it didn't scare you straight?

DP: Well, first of all... You come out prison with a scarlet F — "Felon" — across your forehead. Despite the fact that I had a four-year degree, and a little less than a year of law school — I was a fairly well-educated, well-traveled, well-read, sophisticated young woman in my mid-30s... there was no chance in hell for me in this society — certainly not back in the early 90s — to go forward, to get any kind of a job, or to do anything. I had no choice. My life was in tatters financially, emotionally...

I came out of prison almost blind, because I have this little hereditary defect in my eyes which made my cornea detach, and it made me kind of go blind for a while.

SB: Oh, god!

DP: Oh it was — it was a lovely experience. The whole ordeal.

So, I was really not in a position to do much of anything but to go back into the business. And to go back into it in a way that I felt — and I believed — I would never have a repeat experience.

SB: And how were you going to feel protected this time?

DP: Well, I was going to not open up a business in San Diego, for starters! I was going to go to the other side of the country — Washington D.C. or New York. And then I was gonna set it up in a way where I hoped no one would do anything that would get me into trouble. And I guess I did a pretty dog-gone good job, because for 13 years, from late 1993 until last August of 2006, we did not have one bust!

SB: I'm glad you brought up the J. Edgar Hoover connection, because — you know, I'm about the same age as you, and I know the era you're speaking of. And it makes me wonder — when you decided "I'm going to set up this service in the D.C. area from a remote location" — was there any part of you that thought, "Oh god, D.C. It's gonna be all government workers! I should go to Chicago or New York or L.A."

DP: Oh no no, no. We didn't live in fear in 1993, Susie. We were only living in fear in the day and age of the Patriot Act.

SB: (Laughs) Okay. Well I just wondered, because there is going to be a certain kind of style of person you're going to be dealing with in Washington.

DP: True. And in the beginning, I alternated between New York and D.C. And I ultimately ended up choosing Washington. I still do believe, to this day, that it had a higher brow base of clients — as does New York — without that Tony Soprano element.

SB: (Laughs) Okay. I see what you mean. It's kind of — yes. I get it exactly.

SB: From my own experience, I know there's a lot more to an escort business than the woman who's entertaining the customers. Did you decide "I want to be a manager, I want to own my own place," because you yourself had been an escort? And were you always thinking, "I could do this so much better, and this is so stupid..."

DP: I knew some people in San Diego who owned and operated an escort service many years ago. I looked at what they were doing and I thought, "My god. They're nincompoops."

SB: What did they do that was so nincompoop-y?

DP: (Laughs) I thought they were trashy people. No business sense! No ability to just run a simple business operation. That's exactly how I saw the situation — a simple business operation. And if they could just run it like a commercial enterprise, it'd do so much better.

So I got into it more or less that way. As I've often said, I got into it because the money attracted me — just like it does with each and every other person who ever enters the escort service business.

You know, the classic male question, and the hoped-for response is...

SB: Is that you're a nyphomaniac? (Laughs)

DP: Yes, yes... Nobody does it for that. Everybody looks at it as a business opportunity. I just chose to take it on as a real business opportunity, and to cultivate it accordingly.

I think a lot of these men enjoyed women who were strong personalities. Who were smart and engaging. That is what they were looking for. And that's who I hired.

SB: How could you tell that someone was tough enough to handle the secrecy, or ready for the pressures and the risk.

DP: Well, you know — up until last October, there was no pressure. We had a great gig goin' on, let me tell you. We all had a great gig! I did, the clients, the girls — We were not under pressure. We all had a happy life. We were all happy.

SB: So you didn't feel like, when you talked to someone, that it was like interviewing them for the Marines — "Are you tough enough to handle this? You need to be mentally tough..."

DP: Well, I made sure that they understood that there was a sexual component to this business. Albeit legal, again — you know, I've got to stand up for my attorney, who is not here at the moment, to jump in and make sure everybody understands... "albeit legal." There was a sexual aspect to this, and I needed to make sure that they understood — was this their cup of tea? They had to know that they weren't just going to go out and be wined and dined at the best restaurants in D.C. and given hundreds of dollars when the night was over. They had to know that there was an aspect to this where they would have to earn their money...

SB: When women interviewed to work for you, what were the things you looked for or didn't look for?

DP: Let me say this. Even though I'm heterosexual, I have excellent taste in women. I've been told I have excellent taste in women. I thought like these men did, a lot of times. I'll tell you what they're looking for — and that's the same thing I was looking for.

You don't have to be particularly pretty, but pretty doesn't hurt. You have to have a nice figure, but you don't have to have a rockin' body, by any means. Weight is important. It's an indicator of health more than anything. Education. Sophistication. Good sense of humor. A charming disposition. And not someone who's particulary a sap.

SB: Did everyone already feel really comfortable with kinky fantasies and eroticism? Did you feel like you had to vet people to make sure they weren't gonna be shocked or disgusted?

DP: Yes. I told them in general what the business required, and made sure this was something that they could go along with? And many times, the answer was "God, yeah! This is hardly anything compared to what my boyfriend would've expected of me!"

SB: (Laughs) And that was the right answer?

DP: That was the right answer.

SB: "My boyfriend already has himself in diapers...."

DP: Okay, well, we were not going down that road...

SB: Oh, come on. It's so funny.

DP: Well, yes.

SB: I mean, when I think about... It's almost like everything these people rail against becomes the very thing that they're into. It's almost as if they're revealing themselves by their preaching. Whatever they're screaming about...

DP: What is that word when you beat yourself up?

SB: Self-flagellating?

DP: Yes. Of course, I'm just a regular gal from southwestern Pennsylvania, you know, growing up in the '60s like you. I just, for the life of me — professionally, personally, and any other way — I could not possibly imagine the sexual kick out of that one.

SB: Some of my friends who haven't had experience in the sex business will say to me, "Well, what's in vogue? What's the top thing people want to do?" But I think most guys just want someone to listen to them and be charming and deferential. And, you know, provide very basic stuff. That was my guess. That it wouldn't be, like — "Everybody wants you to be in a French maid's outfit."

DP: My girls can probably give you a better answer than I could. But I would tend to think that a lot of it has to do with companionship. I absolutely would agree with that. I experienced it myself. I became quasi-friends with many of these people over the years.

SB: And they would want to have, you know, like, phone time with you, just to be chatting...

DP: Just chatting. And we weren't talking about sexual things. We were simply talking as one person to another.

SB: Did you get a sense of how many people want a "girlfriend experience" versus how many people want a one-night stand — a "Don't tell me your name"-type experience?

DP: Yeah, there was a lot of that going on. And I would always tell these folks, as kindly as I could... "Look. This is not Match.com." It's just not! It's another animal.

So many men were confused, thinking that this was the way they could do it. You know, like they could go to Russia and buy a bride! It just wasn't that way.

SB: Well, what do you think of having personal relationships, particularly with men, when you're in this business?

DP: Well, I was not in the business. I ran the business from California. To clients who said, "Well gee, can't you come see me?" I would say, "It would be a heck of a transportation fee."

SB: I mean, does romance become sort of ridiculous...

DP: I would have to explain myself and how I make my living.

SB: I would think that you probably didn't feel like you could just be somebody's wife and act like nothing had ever happened, or that you didn't understand what you understand about men's sexuality.

I mean, you probably don't believe that monogamy is very possible. I would think you couldn't have an "Ozzie and Harriet" point of view about heterosexual relationships...

DP: Actually, in an odd sort of way, I do. Doesn't everyone want to find their soul mate?

SB: Well soul mate, yes. But that could mean so many things.

DP: Let's put it like this. Now that I am freed from the chains of this business, in a way that I never thought I would be free... I have great hope, in the coming months, as I work my way out of my current predicament, to end up in another place, obviously. And in that place, I hope, indeed, to find a nice man.

SB: I just can't wait to see who it's gonna be!

SB: What were your thoughts about sex when you were young? And what changed as you started growing up and opening your mind up to new ideas?

DP: Well... I had to have to somebody explain to me what the word "queer" meant because I had no concept that such a thing could ever occur. That was in the ninth grade. It was explained to me that that's when two boys kiss each other like a boy would kiss a girl.

And then, I never — it wasn't until I got out of high school that I connected that girls could do the same thing. So that might give you a really good basis of where I was at sexually.

SB: You were sheltered.

DP: I had no concept of sexuality on any level, or in any way. Uh... I was — I will say this on air — I was absolutely a virgin in high school. I was a virgin.

SB: I've seen the picture somebody ran of you on some kind of a prom date, and you look like a virgin. You look like a girl who's nervous about her prom, but trying to look her best. But you don't look like somebody who's a wild-haired, bra-less hippie.

DP: No. I was not a hoochie cootchie girl, that's for sure. So, you know, my understanding of sex really was very limited. I grew up in such a loving home, with doting parents. I was completely shielded. I had no concept of sexuality.

SB: What were your thoughts about money?

DP: I grew up in a very nice, very good blue collar household. I did all the odd jobs to earn a few extra dollars, like most kids do in junior high and high school. And when I got out on my own, I was working like a dog, like most people, trying to go to school, doing two-or-more jobs... killing myself! In high school I'd done a great deal of food waitressing, in these family-style, Denny's-type restaurants. I advanced from working as a food waitress to a cocktail waitress position. Because you could make so much more money.

And then I figured "This is ridiculous!" By then I had become somewhat pretty. I wasn't the mousey little thing I might've been in high school. And I thought — you know, well why not? This is ridiculous!

And then that led to the next jump. To my foray into the escort service world. Also — it should be pointed out, it was never about greed. I think it's about leveling the playing field a little bit financially — and that was certainly true when we were coming up in the 70s and then into the 80s...

SB: (Laughs) When I think of the prominent people who've been revealed in this whole escapade so far, do you feel like you've made your point? You can say, "Look. These people are hypocrites. It just exposes the whole nonsense of the prosecution. Back off." Or do you look forward to a future where you can discuss more of the names and the politics on the list, because there's a further point to be made.

DP: I don't wish to ruin anyone's life. However, I do share the same mindset as Larry Flynt: expose the hypocrites. And for those few dozen to a hundred or so that ultimately will be revealed — like David Vitter — I go to sleep very easily at night without any guilty feelings whatsoever about the David Vitters of the world.

He has the ability to send us to war, in part. He has a vote. We don't have a vote, but he has a vote. So these people not only are hypocrites — they're kind of dangerous.

And these people can and should be exposed, as far as I'm concerned. And that's the very reason I let the records go as I did, in the very end.

SB: I heard from one of Randall Tobias's staffers, who is an international aid worker, working with AIDS — after his name was made public, and he had to go away, quickly. My friend had to listen to this man pushing his "abstinence" policy all around the world...

DP: Mmm hmm...

SB: And they were just, like, "Thank god. He's out of here." Everything about public service and what decent people here are trying to do was being ruined by people like this.

DP: I am so happy you told me that. I had not heard that. Because that's exactly why I released the records.

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Deep Throat, Big Brain — Sex Blogger Chelsea Girl

A former stripper who once got nekkid on the Howard Stern Show, Chelsea Girl calls her very smart sex blog "Pretty Dumb Things." And it's been gathering so much attention that she's been asked to write for Yahoo! Personals, the Sappho's Girls blog and Penthouse. In her spare time — or in another life — she's a professor of English literature.

In this conversation, we discussed "viscous porn-starry spit," her scholarly interest in Victorian erotica, and — of course — her blog.
For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here: Link

SUSIE BRIGHT: You were a stripper who became known for your erudite sex blogging. Were you even keeping any kind of diary when you were stripping?

CHELSEA GIRL: No. Nothing.

SB: Your blog isn't all about you being a raconteur with stories about your dance days.

CG: Sometimes...

SB: Sometimes you'll bring it up, but the blog is more in the now. I'm interested in what got you started on blogging about your sex life?

CG: Spite. Spite ended up being a really good motivator. I was dating a man who had a blog. And it was the first time I had ever heard about blogging. This was around January, 2005. And he very much seduced me with his blog. He wrote wonderful things about me. And then the relationship came to a crashing halt. He actually broke up with me via email.

SB: Ouch.

CG: Yeah, it was charming. And then he wrote something really Milquetoast about me, and that was the end for me with his blog. At that point I decided: "You know what? I can do this so much better than you — so much more successfully, and I'm going to. And I did.

SB: What was it like being on the Howard Stern Show? I've never been on, and I have mixed feelings about it. Like if he asked me to take off my shirt — I take off my shirt all the time. But here's my dilemma — I don't want somebody else telling me to take off my shirt!

CG: Well, before I became a stripper, I was waitressing in a strip bar. And some people came in from the Howard Stern Show and were looking for girls to appear on the show. So I said I'd do it! This was well before there were even blogs — '93. I'm sort of one of those people who will think, "Sure! It's a good idea. I've never done it. Why not?" And that may sometimes be against my better judgment, later.

Like you, I have mixed feelings about Howard Stern. But, not surprisingly, once you're there, he's incredibly charming.

SB: How does he do that?

CG: You sort of get swept up in the whole thing. Plus, I had to be there for the interview at 6 in the morning. And I'd only had about an hour and a half of sleep, because bars close at 4. So my hair was still all ratted out from my night before — I might've still been wearing the night-before eyeliner. I was in this total daze. But I thought: When am I gonna have the chance again to strip for Howard Stern? And what a good story! So I did it.

SB: I hope I don't make you blush, but I want to quote you. Recently in your blog, you're writing about your beloved, who you call Donny. And you're having a talk where you say you're not happy. And then you say Donny admitted he was happy with your current state of affairs and that he was frightened of change. He says...
"I know you haven't been happy with our sex because it's not raunchy enough. But I think it's raunchy." He paused. "What would make it raunchy for you?"

"Spanking," I said, for one thing. Flogging.

"I have a hard time hurting you because I love you." He said.

"Honey," I said, "flogging is love."

And then you go on to say, "Lots of men have this issue... Lots of guys have a hard time having the rough and raunchy spanking sex with their girlfriends once they fall in love with them."

Would you please talk to us a little bit more about that?

CG: Yeah. I didn't even really realize this was an issue until I wrote a post about it at some point last fall. I think the post was called "The Dance With Me." I wrote about how — when I first started seeing Donny about three years ago, our sex was intensely inventive and often really rough in a nice way. But over time, it becomes sort of this… "You do this to me, 1-2, I do this to you, 3-4" kind of thing. And I got about five comments and a bunch of emails from men who basically said, "Yeah. Once I really fell in love with my girlfriend, I found I couldn't do this to her any more." So that made me realize that this isn't just a problem with my beloved — it's larger.

It's something that I don't think very many people really talk about. So often when we read about sex, it seems to imply that it's the woman's issue — it's the woman's fault, or there's something that we have to do. There are ten more ways to be seductive in bed, according to Cosmo — or whatever. Even in a recent New York magazine cover article by Naomi Wolf where she argues against porn, her implicit thesis is that it's the female's responsibility to sort of keep up the hotness level. But all of these men were sort of admitting to me — privately or in comments — that it was their psychological issue. It's been really interesting to begin to parse that idea out.

SB: Do you think it's because men have a hard time imagining the wife/mother of their children needing a really good whupping to get off? Because that's the bad girl? And the virtuous woman is sitting there in some kind of prairie outfit accepting missionary position.

CG: (Facetiously) Well I know I am!

SB: She wants to be spanked in a prairie outfit!

CG: I have the cowboy boots — several pairs! Yeah, I think that may be part of it. But I also think it's something else. I think that it's more this idea that once you're in love, and once you're committed to trying to put this other person first, the idea of hurting them becomes somewhat anathema.

SB: "Hurting someone?" I mean, when we hurt each other emotionally, it's devastating. And if Mr. Donny doesn't get more involved with you, he is going to inevitably hurt your feelings.

CG: Exactly.

SB: Right. Yeah. But the kind of hurting that you were asking for...

CG: It's the good hurt.

SB: ...it's orgasmic!

CG: Yeah. It's the John Cougar Mellencamp Hurts So Good. Right.

SB: When you get into your bottom space, and you want a lot of sensation, do you like that to go hand-in-hand with roleplay? Where you've been bad...

CG: No. I'm not much into that "Oh yeah, punish me" kind of thing. And humiliation really doesn't work. I wrote a while ago about when my boyfriend called me a stupid slut, and that just ripped me out of the whole moment. I was like, "I am not stupid! You can call me your slut. You can call me your whore. You can call me whatever — but I am not stupid." And he laughed, and he said, "You're right. You're not." And we kissed.

One of the things I like about writing a blog is that it allows me to write about whatever I want. And I learned how to write about sex, I think, relatively successfully. And I'm kind of like — yeah, been there, done that, and wrote about it. Or been there, fucked that, and wrote about it. So I've been writing less and less about sex in terms of specific sex acts. And that's partly because I figured out how to do it; and partly because my readership is so huge; and partly because I don't really want my acquaintances to know.

SB: People don't understand the similarities between blogging about your life and the great fiction writers. All the famous authors you've ever read — particularly ones who have written about sexuality — I don't care if it's Erica Jong, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Doris Lessing, John Updike... they're all writing "fiction" about people that they have observed and experienced. Of course they're twisting the facts to their literary whim. But all their friends and family and lovers who read those books recognized themselves.

Privately, I think novelists have always dealt with a lot of anger, and slammed phones, and people saying I'm never speaking to you again. But with bloggers, there's a premium put on the authenticity — "This is my life. This is real." It's more intense.

CG: Well, I never could keep a journal because nobody was reading it. I can't write without an audience.

Until this past spring, I was working on a doctorate in English literature. I was dissertating — that would be the verb form of writing a dissertation — when I realized, nobody's going to read this. And I just could not write it. Meanwhile, I was writing reams and reams of what would be paper for my blog. So I realized, "I don't have a writer's block. I just don't want to write my dissertation!" So I decided to leave the program.

SB: What is your scholarly interest in English literature?

CG: 18th century British literature.

SB: That's a very smutty period.

CG: Terrifically smutty. Absolutely. The 18th century was an intensely messy period because the print world was exploding. It was the first time you had professional female writers. The novel appeared, as a genre. You had memoirs, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. All of these things were more or less new.

So, in a lot of ways, what is happening now with the internet is very analogous to the 18th-century print culture. It was absolute, cacophonous mayhem. Also, people were stealing stuff. People were assuming other people's identities. It wasn't until William Hogarth in 1743 where you had the first sort of copyright laws. Daniel Defoe wrote under seven or eight different identities advocating completely opposing positions on issues, and he was paid from various political affiliates. He was the biggest writing 'ho' in history.

Women, in particular, had a really interesting place in the publishing world. In the earlier part of the century, Eliza Haywood was the biggest-selling author, but you couldn't find her writing until about fifteen years ago. It wasn't until there was a feminist rediscovery of the writers of the time period that her prominence and her texts sort of came to light again.

SB: Did she write about relationships?

CG: Yeah. It was pretty much "one-handed reading."

SB: No way!

CG: Way. Amorous fiction. I mean, you take something like the big work of 18th century pornography — Fanny Hill — and it reads shockingly like a porn movie, with escalating sex acts and the various kinds of configurations of bodies.

And there was a lot of terribly, terribly smutty poetry — people like The Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot — even parts of Pope and Swift. All that was very much expurgated when I first went to college in the 1980s, but when I went back to school and finally finished in the 1990s, this stuff had come to light.

SB: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to talk about your oral sex discussion.

CG: The "deep throat" post.

SB: I learned so much from that. There are all these people writing "deep throat this" and "deep throat that." And there's even porn how-to films. But it never gets beyond the sort of Linda Lovelace fanfare of deep throat. Until you, no one talked about how you really get things...

CG: Down.

SB: How the nature of your saliva changes once you get in the right... You call it the viscous stuff.

CG: Yeah, the viscous, porn star-y spit.

SB: How did you learn how to give spectacular deep throat sex? Who taught you?

CG: My pediatrician.

SB: Oh, come on! No, stop!

CG: I had strep throat a lot as a kid. And I hated tongue depressors. And every winter I would have my throat swabbed over and over again. And so I learned how to control my gag reflex so that I didn't have to have a tongue depressor in my mouth when they swabbed my throat. That's essentially the same technique I use when I deep throat. I had no idea it would come in handy. But seriously, the first time I gave head, it just went down.

SB: Well, did you realize that the nature of one's saliva and mucus would change and that you'd get more lubrication?

CG: Oh, that came from Jenna Jameson — I was reading Jenna Jameson's book, which was ghostwritten by Neil Strauss, of course. Anyway, Jenna sort of articulated how, once you start, your gag reflex is your friend. And once you start to have the gagging happen, that's when you get that nice thick viscous spit.

SB: Now, are you someone who, when you're giving a blowjob, you can feel your own sexual rush? Can you feel your own clit getting harder, and how exciting it is? Or are you someone who gets a huge ego rush from it?

CG: I don't know that the two are inextricable.

SB: I was gonna say, it could go together. But there are some women, you can just see when they're performing fellatio or cunnilingus, they are getting really hot.

CG: It depends on the person and the moment and how I'm feeling. I remember the first time I ever came — like "Look ma no hands" — while fucking. I had been giving my boyfriend head and I was getting really turned on. I was thinking, "OK, this is really weird, but cool." And then I got on top of him and started riding him, and I came. And I was sort of like, "Wow. This is really weird."

Other times, it's more of the ego thing. Because it is kind of this spectacular show, particularly for guys who've never been deep-throated. The more I really care about my lover, the more exciting it is for me. With my current boyfriend, it's way more exciting than if it were some dude off the street.

SB: You're so romantic. Your blog title — "Pretty Dumb Things" — is intriguing. You told us in an anecdote, that when your boyfriend was talking dirty, and he teasingly called you a stupid slut, you said, "Don't say stupid."

CG: Right. So… why dumb? I had a list of names I like. "Pretty Dumb Things" was my name for an indie rock band. If I were a country-western singer, I'd be Dakota Rage. If I were a drag queen, I'd be Cocoa Rococo. And if I had an all-female trapeze troupe, they'd be the Flying Buttresses. And if I were a performance artist, I'd be Tender DeBris.

In part, it's the irony, because my writing isn't dumb. And I like the ambiguity of the title because dumb can also mean someone who is unable to speak. And when I started to blog, I wrote about many issues that have sort of been buried for a very long time, and that I haven't spoken about, and that I needed to bring into the light.

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The Prince of Gonzo Porn

Jamie Gillis

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright," and is the editor of Best American Erotica, 1993-2008.

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. Links to the full audio versions of this interview can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.

Jamie Gillis was the first male superstar of porn.

Gillis graduated from Columbia University in 1970. An aspiring actor, he was working as a cabbie when he answered an ad in the Village Voice and — ka-boom! He found himself making porn loops.

Gillis worked in the most important movies that were ever made in American erotic cinema — titles like The Opening of Misty Beethoven, directed by Radley Metzger; and director Richard Mahler's Midnight Heat.

Twenty years into his career, Gillis originated what came to be called "gonzo porn," simultaneously (and accidentally) pioneering the reality show genre. He hired a girl, a camera, and a car, and cruised San Francisco's North Beach to find fellas who'd be willing to have sex with her on camera, right on the spot. It was called, "On the Prowl."

For our interview, I met Jamie in New York City, his longtime home. When he admitted to our studio staff that he was 64, there was an audible gasp. This youthful man has a timeless sex appeal. Beyond that, he's a great conversationalist.

We started off by talking about the last time we'd seen each other in person. We were at a Christmas party at the Mitchell Brother's theater — owned by the late Jim and Artie Mitchell, who pioneered hardcore (and established intellectual property rights over the same). This was long before Jim shot Art, and the mood was celebratory.

Jamie and I reminisced about a mutual friend who partied with us there — Lisa Thatcher, a formidable (but now long-retired) porn star in New York during Jamie's early days in the business.

Susie Bright: If you remember, when we saw Lisa Thatcher at the Mitchell Brothers' Christmas party, you told me something like, "Not everybody is right for this business. Lisa was." And like myself, Lisa is now middle age. If you saw her on the street going to the grocery store now, you wouldn't say, "Oh my god, it's a porn star." And yet she still has this sort of glimmer in the eye. What did you mean when you said that?

Jamie Gillis: She wasn't just some innocent kid, you know? She knew exactly what she was getting into. She loved all kinds of sex, so she was never, in any sense, a victim of the business. And I think she did well in the business.

Those were some pretty raunchy days in New York. But you'd go someplace and there would be a line of guys trying to get to touch her. I'd never seen that big a line. And she loved it! She told me that one of the things that got her excited was the hunger of the guys who got to spend one or two minutes with her. She would relate to that kind of hunger that they felt. And she loved that. It turned her on.

SB: What do you notice about a performer who doesn't belong in the business?

JG: Well, they're not happy. They're doing it for the attention or maybe for affection that they haven't gotten from their families, or whatever. It's a sad story when they're not that interested in the sex — they just want to be noticed. They'll put up with the sex but you can see they're not there. They don't want to be there and they're trying not to be there. They're just saying, "Look at me. Hold me. Love me."

And, you know, you do get attention if you're a porn performer. We're concerned about you, and we'll send a car for you, and all that stuff — you know? So it can feel good, but with disastrous results for people who don't really belong in porn.


SB: You got started in the business in the early '70s, I think.

JG: '71. There wasn't even a business. It was a dirty basement.

SB: I was about to say, it wasn't so much a business. It was a fly-by-night thing happening in a counterculture. So on top of the sex, you had this attitude: "This is our generation doing something different than anybody else would do." Even though it wasn't explicitly political, in the sense that some of the rock and roll was — it was of the time, like smoking pot or dropping acid. It had that vibe: "We hang together because we have some kind of consciousness, and we're also making some bucks and getting our rocks off." But then you had this complete change in technology in the business, and now there's nothing countercultural about the scene — nothing "outlaw" about it.

JG: It's no longer counterculture. The counter is gone. "Hey, ma! We're culture now!"

SB: Did this change depress you at all? You came from this era where you could be a freak or an intellectual, or you could have some cinematic or theatrical background, and you could fit in. Whereas now it's more like, "What do you mean? I'm busy, I have this many minutes to make this many dollars before my next real estate seminar." Was that change hard to cope with?

JG: In a way. It's sort of sad to see sex be a business.

SB: You didn't do it for free before...

JG: No!

SB: ...but there was just something else going on.

JG: But then, we don't want to get too romantic about this. I got into the business just looking for part-time work. I wasn't making any money acting so I was looking for a part-time job to support myself. But it did feel good, and it became a social thing. We were excited about what we were doing. It was kind of fun. (Laughs)

SB: I got interested in doing porn and being a porn critic in a sort of revolutionary spirit. I have zero interest in going to the AVN awards or some business seminar, or making some cookie-cutter movie with people who wouldn't know a filmic moment if it fell on top of them. It pisses me off! I get a little cranky about it.

JG: Well, people are making money and doing what they want. But I did get disgusted with the business around '89. I'd been in it for a long time. That's when I started doing that gonzo stuff, because the scripts were so stupid. So I thought — we'll just take a girl out to the streets…

SB: See what might happen.

JG: ...get her fucked. Yeah.


SB: For those people who don't know, what is gonzo? What did you want gonzo to be?

JG: All I wanted to do was just go out into the streets and meet people. Bring a girl out – maybe to a dirty bookstore or something — and just throw her to the wolves.

SB: Your first movie in that style was "On the Prowl." You took a pretty girl out and she said, "I'll fuck whoever wants to if you'll let us tape it." A lot of people will think everyone jumped at the chance. But of course, they didn't! There was a lot of tension. People were afraid of being conned, or that it wasn't real, or that she would cut their balls off in some crazy... There's this tension that they don't know if they can trust you with their nuts.

JG: It's a very unusual offer. Sure!

SB: (Laughing) Yes it is!

JG: I remember I was hanging out with Long Jean Silver and she said, "Let's go find some boys!" She wanted a group of boys to fuck. But we had a hard time finding them! We'd go up and I'd say, "Hey, you guys want to come back to our place?" They'd run! Finally, we found a group of seven. I said, "We're not taking seven. We're taking three. And I told her, "Pick three that you like the most."

There were two sailors that we picked up early on for a film we made. And I got a call from the Navy. One of the guys was in the brig because he did this movie. So I said, "What do you mean, one of the guys is in the brig because they did this movie?" (laughter) And it wasn't even the guy that did the fucking! It was the other guy.

So the guy's lawyer told me, "Well, they want to get rid of him, so they're using this as an excuse." So I said, "You tell the Navy that if they use this as an excuse to get rid of this guy, I'm going to call the press and tell them that he didn't even do anything in this movie, and the Navy's just trying to screw him. Because they're leaving alone the guy who actually did the fucking. So tell the Navy it's going to be on the front page of the Chronicle. So the lawyer said, "OK, thanks." He called me back a half hour later and said, "Thanks a lot. He's out. Everything's fine." That was the only time in my life I had any sense of what real power was.

SB: The classic report from most men about doing porn is that they think they'll have a giant dick on TV, but when the camera is on them, they're just sweating bullets. Did you ever have one of those shy moments back when you were a little lamb?

JG: Never. I was a duck to water. I mean, to me it was like — wow! Even though it wasn't good money back then, it was like — "Thirty bucks to fuck a pretty girl!" I couldn't believe it.

I don't know if it was because I was a sex freak or because of my acting training. I didn't care if anyone was there. I would just concentrate on what I was there to do. It wasn't hard to do that.


SB: I've heard that it might be hard for men who were in the business to have relationships. Mike Horner told me that.

JG: Mike is the male version of somebody who shouldn't be in the business. He's too sweet for it. You know what I mean?

SB: Well, I want to hear what you have to say about the dilemma he described. He said, "If I'm fucking somebody all day at work, and I come home, and someone's all needy and saying, "I want you to fuck me now, because I'm your girlfriend and I need you to show that same enthusiasm for me.'" And he said, "It's too much. I can't do that." And I said, "Well, what if you hook up with someone in the sex business? Maybe they'll feel the same way. Maybe they'd also come home from a hard day of being fucked, and they don't need you to turn on, or turn off." But he said, "Oh, I can't win. I've tried a lot of different things." He really wanted to have a girlfriend the way other people have girlfriends.

JG: But this is even true in the "legitimate" Hollywood. If you're a guy, you get on the set and you're working with the most beautiful woman in the world. Maybe your wife or girlfriend at home is just as pretty, but still, this is fresh meat. You know? And they're all over the place — not just the actresses, but there are the extras. But Mike has a point. You can't live with somebody "straight" in the sex business. Of course it doesn't work. How could it?

I've had relationships with girls in the industry, and that seemed to work out OK, because we were both sex nuts. You know? But a "normal" girl? How can somebody even think about that?

SB: Did you ever feel like you wanted a romance or a domesticity that you couldn't have, or was your attitude just, "No thank you"?

JG: At the time when I got into the business, I was with a girl who saw me as this nice Jewish boy. I came out of college. I was acting. I was a mime. I was a good boy. (Laughter)

SB: You still are.

JG: Yeah, I still am. But all of a sudden I started fucking all these strangers. Somebody once said that a man is as faithful as his options. That's how it is.

So all of the sudden, I didn't even have to go out and look for the girls. They were thrown at me. And I was getting paid for it. So it's like, you've got this really wonderful woman at home. But on the other hand, you've got this other great stuff happening too. And if you're in your twenties, that great stuff is gonna win out… or maybe in your thirties and your forties, even. You know?

SB: (Laughs) Okay, well let's go to the fifties.

JG: Fifties? I don't know. (Laughs)

SB: Whenever I read official descriptions of your film career, they'll say, (solemnly) "Jamie Gillis — who never denied his bisexuality!"

JG: Oh… I saw that on Wikipedia.


SB: I love that phrase — "who never denies it." (Laughter) And it's not like you've ever been the grand marshal of the bisexual float in the gay parade. But you also haven't had this issue that some guys have where they think their career rests on a certain kind of perception that they're straight. I always think that's such a facade. If you're in the sex business, and you're fucking around other people all day long — the notion that you are some kind of "Kinsey 0" is a joke. You can't be. Because you're dealing with other people's dicks and cunts all day long. You better be comfortable with people's bodies. Anyway, how come you haven't been smeared by it?

JG: Well, I think the entire porn business is just fag-ridden. (Laughter) Including the customers! I mean, it's all about dick! It's all about dick, and watching dick come. Look at the dick squirt. See Dick. See Dick squirt.

I've always had this funny image of myself as a straight guy who just happens to have more fag sex than any fag I know. Because when I was coming up, gays were the only ones that were really sexually crazy. Before there was a Plato's Retreat, there was a place called Continental Baths. It was the exact same location. And I used to go to the Continental Baths, because that's where you could have crazy, wild sex! Nobody else was doing that. And I remember walking around that fucking place thinking, "If only there was a heterosexual place like this. Wouldn't that be amazing?" And I didn't even dream that it would happen — but it did, like about two years later, with Plato's Retreat. It was this straight place with all these hundreds of girls going there.

In my ideal world, if you were walking down the street, there'd be a place where you could just touch people. There would be a grope club.

SB: Did you ever have a moment when you were a teenager where you thought, "Oh my god, why am I so kinky?"

JG: No, not "Oh my god." Maybe "Thank god!"

SB: (Laughs) But you're supposed to feel guilt and despair and compare yourself to everyone else. How come you didn't?

JG: I guess I always sort of liked sex — almost any kind. It was a big treat! There's this Woody Allen line about how bisexuals have it better because they have twice as many opportunities for a date on Saturday night. And I remember thinking the same thing when I was eleven, before Woody Allen said it. I thought that as a kid! It was before I had any kind of sexual contact. It seemed like a reasonable attitude to me.


SB: Has your family been shocked by what you do? Did you have to negotiate this with them?

JG: It was hardly a problem. My family always recognized that I was a little different.

SB: Why do you think that is?

JG: Cause I was always a little different. (Laughs)

Once my mother saw me on television — that sort of legitimized it a little bit for her. And she would read the Daily News or whatever and see my name in advertisements. My older sister told me, "You know, she has clippings."

My father became a pain in the ass because I made the mistake of getting him a girl once. My parents were separated, so I got him a beautiful young girl. I think it was for his birthday or something.

SB: And you had reason to believe your dad had a strong sexual interest in...

JG: Oh, absolutely. He was always interested in women. So I knew this would work out and he'd be very happy. But the problem was — until he died, I could not talk to him without him saying "Do you know any more girls?" So every once in a while, I had to throw him another hunk of meat.

SB: So the lesson is — do not procure for members of your family?

JG: Don't procure for your father. It's a pain in the ass.

SB: Do you have kids? I mean, how do you deal with it...

JG: I have one child who's practically older than I am. I was a virgin when I was seduced by an older woman. And then she got pregnant. It was a plan — she wanted the child. I told her, "If you have that child, I will never see you again." And she said, "Well, I don't expect to see you anyway. I'm going to have the child." So that's how that was. But I must say, I'm now delighted that I had this child, because it sort of takes that edge off of wondering what that's like. There is this human being out there and I'm glad that she's around now. But it took me about nine years before I even acknowledged her. It was only because I didn't want to be a bad father. I wasn't prepared. I didn't want to end up like my own father, who had six children because that's what you did in those days.

SB: I think men in this business know some things about masturbating that a lot of other guys don't.

JG: I don't know. People just have to relax. And people will still ask, "Does it affect or hurt your real sex life?" And I've had women be bashful about using a vibrator when they're having sex. To me, that's crazy. Whatever works! You want me to hit you on the head with a hammer while you're using a vibrator? If that works, I don't care, whatever it is. So I'll say, if you like to use the vibrator, go ahead. As a matter of fact, it would turn me on. Because if somebody's excited, that's exciting for me.


SB: As you get older, does the sizzle endure?

JG: It never ends. I remember — there used to be an old Jewish dominatrix in New York called Belle du Jour. And she was popular. I would go to her place just to hang out sometimes because it was interesting. Guys would come in.

This old guy who must have been close to ninety comes in, and he goes in the back with her. And she has these black, thigh-high boots on. And he falls onto the floor, and he's lapping at her boots. And I'm thinking, "My god. It never ends." You know, you'd think when you were ninety, you'd have a little dignity. Something would change. But it doesn't! It just goes on.

SB: Do you know more about how to touch people now, than you knew ten or fifteen years ago? Actually, I don't even know how old you are…

JG: I… I… I… I sort of have a spasm whenever I say how old I am. This is the worst possible year, actually, because the Beatles song keeps running through your mind.

SB: Are you 64?

JG: 64. And there's nothing worse than knowing that you heard that song when you were a kid, and you were thinking — what a joke. There are 64-year-old people walking around the street. And then there you are. It's ridiculous.

SB: Well, you're very honest about this, so I'd treasure anything you can tell me about being a sexual man at 64.

JG: (Pause) Well, first of all, I don't feel I have to fuck everybody I meet.

SB: What a relief!

JG: Of course, also, the girls also don't feel they have to fuck me as much. But you're a little more in control, particularly if you've had as many women as I've had. You sort of know what they're like. And you can appreciate them more just for themselves. You can talk to them and have a good time. And you can just sort of look at one of them and have a good idea of what it's like to fuck that one. And you can think about that and not have to go through with it.

Susie Bright blogs at Susiebright.com

See also:
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out
Sex & Drugs & Susie Bright
Dana Plato, Porn Star
300 Pound Porn Queen Decimates Oklahoma Town
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Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan

Read More

Sex Panic! — An Interview With Debbie Nathan

Woman Screaming

Editor's note: We experienced some hesitation at publishing this piece. We know that people have strong emotions about these topics and, obviously, the sexual abuse of children is no trivial matter.

But given the players, including the New York Times, the Justice Department, the Internet, and Free Speech itself, we feel confident that it will start an important debate on a number of issues that are usually dominated by hysterical, reactionary voices.

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright," and is the editor of Best American Erotica, 1993-2008.

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. Links to the full audio versions of this interview can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.

Debbie Nathan is the expert on sex panics and is perhaps best known for her book, Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, about some of the widely covered sex panic cases that rocked the U.S. in the '80s and '90s, such as the McMartin preschool case in California. Susie and Debbie share a deep distrust about former New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald's much talked about articles on Internet child pornography.

SUSIE BRIGHT: First of all, you uncovered the bizarre so-called "satanic abuse scandals" that were happening in Southern California in the 1980s, and I remember thinking, "How could people re-create the Salem witch trials in this day and age?" And the next time you popped up in my life, I was reading these sensational stories in the New York Times about child pornography, which the reporter described in amazing, titillating detail — and of course he was on a campaign to stop it.

Nevertheless, I put down the newspaper I was reading, and I thought, "How does this guy get to look at anything that is remotely like 'child pornography' when the whole genre is utterly and completely illegal in the United States? What is the deal... Did he do a deal with the Justice Department? And what are they showing him?" And, "How come he doesn't talk about any of this?" (Ed: Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald has denied ever looking at illegal pornographic images.) The very next day, there's an article in Salon — by you, Debbie Nathan. And it had this provocative title, Why I Need To See Child Porn.

DN: And then the next day, it was gone.

SB: And then the next day, it was gone! Because the reporter who'd written the original piece just blew his stack and threatened Salon with legal action if they didn't take this piece down. Well, I want to get back to your rebuttal — the very first thing you said, which is: If child porn is such an immoral outrage, then why does anyone need to look at it? Why is it anybody's business? Aren't we just supposed to say, "My god, that's aberrant," and turn our heads away?

DN: Well, there are two reasons for that, and I'm not sure which one is more important. But the first one has to do with technology. It has to do with the fact that in this country — not all countries, but in the United States where we respect the First Amendment — the reasoning behind outlawing child pornography is that it is the record of the victimization of a real child.

SB: The photographic record.

DN: The photographic record. Now, we don't outlaw photographic records of other crimes. For example, we didn't outlaw looking at the Abu Ghraib torture pictures...

SB: Boy, I'll say.

DN: ...which were sexual tortures. But we do outlaw looking at photographic records of sexual crimes against children. Now, of course, that brings up a whole other can of worms, which is that a lot of child pornography involves 17-year-olds or 16-year- olds. It used to be that you could make pornography in this country if you were over 16.

SB: How recent was that?

DN: You know, I can't tell you the exact year, but it seems to me that it was changed in the 80s. It might've been the late 70s. But the age of model consent used to be lower than it is now. So then you get into the whole argument and controversy about what is a child? We have statutory definitions, but in the real world, I think we know that there's a huge variation in emotional development.

SB: Let's say it's non-consensual, it's basically rape on camera. You know, there'd be no question that everyone would be horrified.

DN: Let's say an 8-year-old who's being raped. Okay?

SB: Oh, god. Okay... Why does anybody need to scrutinize that, aside from the Department of Justice?

DN: I still haven't even finished my first point. And my first point about the technology is that it might not be a real child. Because we now have morphing. We have ways to take pictures of adults, for example, and fiddle around with pixels in Photoshop. We have ways to make adults look like children. You can actually make a young adult look like an 8-year-old. You can do cartoons.

SB: This is reminding me of when I was a good Catholic, and we discussed venal sin. There, somebody might say, "Okay. So you didn't really do this. But you thought it."

DN: You thought about it! That's right.

SB: "And we should lock you up forever and chop your balls off for even thinking about this!"

DN: Yeah, — well, that's where we're at. Now we've got the technology to produce sexualized representations of children where there's no children. So it's not a record of the exploitation of anyone. It's just a piece of art. You might consider it tasteless and repulsive, but it's just a representation and it's not a representation of reality. Now in this country, that is not illegal. In other countries it is, but not in the United States. So how do we know what's on the internet? This is question #1. The government goes around saying there's a tremendous amount of child pornography on the internet. No one really knows how much of it is photographic records of real crimes against real children and how much of it is morphing imagery. So that's question #1. How much illegal stuff is on the web? We don't know. People need to know. And somebody needs to be able to look at that stuff who's not in the Department of Justice, because they've got their own agenda.

SB: At this point, the Department of Justice's reputation is so bad, I wouldn't give them authority to walk across the street.

DN: The thing is, this is the last frontier of authority for the Justice Department. And that's the second point — not only do we not know how prevalent child pornography really is, the government is claiming that it's a multi-billion dollar industry and it's huge. And they're now using that claim to justify the Patriot Act.

And we all know Gonzales is in big shit right now because of a bunch of things including illegal use of the Patriot Act and the firing of all of these attorneys. So he's trying to divert attention by saying, "Well, I'm not so concerned about all that because I'm still following my agenda, which is to attack this terrible problem of child pornography on the internet."

And when the DOJ puts this stuff out, nobody makes a peep. Because this country, this culture, is so ready to believe anything that the government says about child pornography. And that's why you need people outside of the government to be able to look around on the internet. No one has any idea what's really on the internet except maybe — you know, the FBI. Although I'm not sure what they know either. But they're very quick to make claims. And that's dangerous!

SB: Well, when it comes to how to get at the perpetrators of child abuse, why isn't the law completely focused on the criminal act, as it happened, as opposed to whatever record there is of it?

DN: Well, the DOJ will tell you that it's very hard to go backwards and find the child. I mean, there are a lot of people in the world who like to look at representations of children having sex. And most of them, it turns out, never touch kids. It's just like most of the sort of more far-out pornography — people don't do the stuff that they look at. You know? And that's true, apparently, with people who like looking at child pornography. They never touch kids. So there is a lot of stuff out there that's consumed by people who don't touch kids, and the government claims that they can't go back and they can't find the kids.

But the government also makes this argument, which is completely specious in terms of any research, that child pornography causes or incites people to molest children. There's no evidence for that whatsoever.

SB: Maybe I should get to the big picture question behind a lot of this — the notion of sexually taking advantage of an innocent. Child porn boils down to the ultimate taboo. The ultimate "big picking on little" — sometimes the incestuous thing is brought into it — the notion of somebody who has all the power taking advantage of someone who has nothing. It is a classic, epic taboo. Yet, if it's so taboo, then why do we hear about it all the time as if it was a tuna fish sandwich? I mean, how do those two things reconcile? Something that cannot be spoken — unspeakable, makes people's stomachs turn. And yet, oh — child porn here, child porn there, kiddie porn, massive billions. You know, where is the truth in those two completely opposite pictures?

DN: I think they go together. Censorship goes together with the proliferation of porn and this incredible fascination with porn. But it's even moreso with child porn. And, you know what's interesting, Susie — if you look cross-culturally, and you go way back in history, you'll see that whenever a culture is worried about something, or feeling guilty, it puts kids up as a symbol of the ultimate innocence of the culture. And it also posits kids as the symbol of its future. So if it's worried about the future, and it feels culpable — then people just really zero in on the endangered child. And then you combine that with Western, and particularly modern Western fears, since the last couple hundred years of sexuality — and you get this incredibly potent, overloaded symbol in the sexually abused child. And also, over the last couple of generations, there's the increasing use of sexuality as a consumer god.

SB: My own political roots are as a feminist. And part of the way feminists changed public conversation was to say, "You know what? Next time people start blithering about the plight of women and children..." — and of course, they're always put together. They're infantilized together — "...we're going to take a different tack. We're going to talk about this differently. Not just for women's sake, but also for children's sake." And I was wondering — you're a feminist. What do you think would be a healthy way for anyone to discuss young people's sexuality — whether they are children or teenagers?

DN: I highly recommend a book by one of my good friends, Judith Levine, which is called Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. It's a wonderful book about the fact that children really do have sexuality. Children are not "innocent" in the way that term is used in our culture. And how do you deal with children's emerging sexuality? Well, I think the first thing you have to do is acknowledge it. The second thing you have to do is teach kids how to own their own sexuality, and I think you start that immediately. Children are conscious human beings from the time that they're born. But of course in this country, we have this complete crisis — this total attack on sex education. So the first thing you have to do is have a national conversation about the fact that children are sexual beings.

That's a Freudian idea that's completely out of style now. And I'm not saying Freud should come back, but the actual baby got thrown out with the bath water when people started critiquing Freud.

SB: That's ironic, isn't it? In some ways, I was part of the rejection of Freud that went on during early feminism. But we had our own version of claiming one's sexuality, as the rhetoric put it, which had a lot to do with masturbation, and the idea that this is your body, it's yours to decide — your virginity does not belong to somebody, it can't be sold to the highest bidder. You know, it's not something that your father is protecting, to hand to another man in marriage. All those kind of ideas were getting the big heave-ho with the notion that you have your own sex stuff. It belongs to you. And I don't see that kind of consciousness being very popular today. It's more like, oh, you're growing up? You're starting to come into your own? Well, how can you look sexual? And then, how can you pitch that look to your advantage? That is what I notice in popular culture now.

DN: That was certainly true when I was a teenager. I think it's gotten exacerbated because every year consumerism becomes more powerful. People express themselves more and more through consumption, through commodity consumption. And sex has been colonized by —

SB: The aliens?

DN: ...by the aliens who make all these commodities! Whether it's clothes or makeup. 15-year-olds who are virgins are now getting Brazillian waxed. It's like, every single part of the body and every form of expression is being colonized by the idea that you've got to buy something. And sex is the way that you convince people to buy things. Because, you know, you terrorize people by thinking that if you don't buy this product, you're not going to be sexy!

SB: When the words "child porn" or "kiddie porn" are referred to as a business or some sort of industry that's in progress — I feel a little suspicious. Because there are millions of kids around the world who are being used as slaves, basically — they're forced to work in a factory, or in someone's home. Or just sweat labor. And they have no out. They have no passport. They have no wages. Nothing. This is monumental. And certainly, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, considering they have so little power, they might be sexually exploited at many ends of their situation. But it is not a child porn business, per se. It is an "exploiting children" business — it's got a lot tentacles, it goes in every direction. It's not like it's a cut-out. Do you know what I mean?

DN: Absolutely. Anyone who has spent any time in a poor country knows that there's a continuum of exploitation. Everyone is exploited, and kids go to work early. Kids go to work in a country like Mexico, working class kids, when they're 8 or 10 or 12 years old. And they can be working in a factory for $4 a day. They can be out on the street selling pumpkin seeds for $5 a day, or they can be in a red light district for $50 a day. So, for women in the third world, it's more lucrative to do sex work. And I've talked to poor women and to poor children. They don't even consider themselves children any more! You know? They're out working by the time they're ten years old. So in their minds, they're not children. They're contributing to the livelihood of their families. They have "agency" — that's that word that sociologists use. They will sit and talk to you — they're very rationale, in their own 10-year-old, or 12-year-old, or 15-year-old way. They've figured out how to support their families the same way that older women try to figure out how to support their families. And, you know, it's a political/economic problem. It's not, to my mind, a moral problem. Unfortunately, the sad thing is no one cares about girls who work in factories. And no one cares about girls who sell pumpkin seeds. And no one cares about women who work in factories.

I wrote a piece in The Nation a couple years ago suggesting that there was far more slavery in this country involving non-sex work. (Actually, two years or three years after I wrote that piece, the Government Accounting Office has just released a study suggesting that's probably right.) It was a very controversial piece. And the biggest attacks I got were from self-described feminists who want all prostitution to be defined as slavery, even when it's voluntary. So it's very hard to get people excited about people being forced to pick broccoli in a field, but they will get really excited about the idea of sex slaves. It sounds prurient. It gets people excited. It's another one of those S&M fantasies.

SB: You have a new book out called Pornography , and it's part of a learning series for young adults to grapple with issues of the day, but it's a good primer for anyone who might want to look at some of the basic arguments about porn. And what amazes me is, when it comes to the huge majority of porn that is produced and consumed, it is the same banal sucking and fucking over and over and over again that dominates the market.

DN: I think the stories that you hear in the media, the gloom-and-doom, scary stories about the bukkake and the donkeys — that's all coming from the so-called clinical samples. That's coming from the people that are in therapy because they consider themselves to be porn addicts, and they've spent all their time finding the weirder and weirder stuff. That's the story, right? "I lost control of it. I wanted to see weirder and weirder and weirder stuff." And that's the porn consumer in the popular imagination now.

SB: I totally reject the notion that that's the cycle. Most people don't sit around with their porn having to have more and more and more extreme...

DN: No, but that's the clinical tale. That's the tale that the media likes, because it's the scary tale.

SB: Well, it's funny you should call it "clinical." Because it's not even accepted by most of the psychiatric profession. There is no such thing as porn addiction in the DSM manual.

DN: I know. And if you look in my book, you'll see that I debunk that. But that's the story the mass media likes to tell. That's what they hang the problem on — the weirdo stuff.

SB: Explain that, because people hear this all the time. "Are you a porn addict? Are you going to become addicted to porn?" Why is that an inappropriate word to use?

DN: Addiction is a physical thing, like nicotine is an addiction, and alcohol is an addiction, and heroin is an addiction. These are things that your body becomes physically dependent on. And people reject the use of the word "addiction" for things like brushing your teeth, or as Leonore Tiefer puts it, "spending too much time reading the New York Times."

SB: Guilty!

DN: Or spending too much time at work, which is a huge problem. Or spending too much time, in your own estimate, watching sports on TV. Or spending too much time in the garage, playing with your drills and making boats in bottles. And now we have spending too much time watching porn. These are just — as Leonore calls them — "bad habits."

SB: What's the difference between a bad habit, or maybe feeling like, "Gosh, I really wasted too much time doing that," and what would be diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder?

DN: I think that's pretty subjective. I mean, if you look in the DSM, it says most disorders have to do with whether the person feels troubled by the behavior. Even if you look at pedophilia, the definition of pedophilia is that you have an attraction to pre-pubertal kids and it bothers you. If it doesn't bother you, then it's not a disorder.

SB: What if it it bothers everyone else?

DN: Well, they wouldn't know if you didn't go out and act on it. If you go out and act on it, then you're a child molester. But not all child molesters are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are child molesters. The same thing with porn. Certainly, if you're the president of Vivid, and you have to look at 14 hours of porn a day to make your $300,000 a year, I don't think anyone would call you a porn addict. That would be a useful thing to be doing!

SB: What do you say to people who say, "Debbie, look! I personally feel like I look at porn too much, and it's upsetting to me, and it's upsetting my life."

DN: I'm not a therapist, but the therapist that I talked to for the book said that...

SB: Don't they ask you anyways? They don't care whether you're a therapist or not!

DN: They only call me the evil journalist who doesn't care about kids.

SB: But when you're not an evil journalist, I bet you get treated like a shrink sometimes.

DN: Okay, so here's what the therapists say. They take that very seriously. And what they say is, "We need to look at what the problems are in your life that are causing you to sooth yourself?" They see looking at a lot of porn as a self-soothing activity, in the way that many activities are self-soothing when you're anxious, or you're suffering from anxiety, or from depression. And so they try to get the person to look at the behavior in terms of — "Why did I decide to look at porn on the net instead of read the New York Times all day?" Or "Why did I decide to look at porn on the net instead of watching too much basketball?" And if you really look at the meaning of your habits — because everyone's a complicated individual, with a complicated, intra-psychic past — you can come up with some pretty good stories about yourself, and what your attraction is to this particular self-soothing activity.

The therapists that I've talked to have said, "If the person's depressed, you treat the person for depression. If the person's anxious, you treat 'em for anxiety." And you also work on trying to understand what the behavior is, and what the fantasies are that lead to the behavior. And again, I mean, it's a wonderful thing to explore your fantasies. And not all fantasies have to do with pornography. Some of them do, some of them don't, right? We need to understand all of our fantasies.

SB: I often say "sexual expression" rather than using words like "pornography" or "eroticism." Because I'm so tired of all the baggage those words carry.

DN: Well, Leonore Tiefer has a lot of patients who come in complaining that they're addicted to pornography. And she says, maybe the person started looking at pornography on the web because he came from a very restrictive, strict background, and it's a way of rebelling against an overly-strict authoritarian father. So then the fantasy is not so much sexual as it is rebelling against that father. Now, of course, you get a whole sexual overlay, because the bad habit happens to be porn-viewing. But the real profound thing might be what happened in childhood with the father that has nothing ostensibly to do with sex. People are just very complicated.

SB: Also, porn is typically discussed in terms of whether it's harmful, or it's benign.

DN: Yeah, it's so utterly overloaded with moral stuff. And that makes it even more troubling to people.

SB: I come from a place of saying, "Well, I'm an artist. And I'm interested in including the sexual part of creativity in the work that I publish or produce." And so it's not a matter of me deciding whether something is harmful or benign. But rather, in an artistic work, a creative work — sexuality is going to make all the difference in understanding it — its pathos, or its comedy, or its tragedy. It's hard to imagine a lot of the greatest artistic works that people revere if you took the sexual element out of them. That doesn't seem to get discussed in political debates.

DN: It's really weird that you just made that statement, and juxtaposed it with this sort of really sad conversation we're having about people in deep distress. You know? Because your statement is a very joyful, aesthetic statement, and what we just talked about is people coming in hating themselves, feeling that they're evil and out of control. It's very sad. And porn is just so completely overloaded with moralism that the therapist that I spoke with said, "It's really hard to get people to even think deeply about what their relationship is with it, when they're in therapy and they come in with these complaints. Because they're so ashamed!"

SB: Well, as a fellow professional journalist and a researcher into this sort of thing, you have this tendency — like I do, to just throw yourself into the most volatile situations! And then you say, "What's a nice girl like me doing in this anyway?"

DN: Yeah. It's really true. You've heard me kvetching, haven't you? (Laughs)

SB: Yeah, I have. But I understand it, because I often tell my friends, "I'm so scared." You know, I took on this monster. I've put myself right in the middle of it. And I can't handle it. I can't handle it! And they're like — are you kidding?

DN: You know what it was with me, Susie? The first time I got involved with this — what I call sex politics and sex panics around children — was with the Satanic daycare panic.

SB: And did you know what you were getting into?

DN: No. I had a two-year-old when I first heard about the Satanic daycare centers. I remember hearing about the McMartin case. I was sitting in a rocking chair, giving my kid something or other — like maybe a bottle or a book. And on the radio, they were talking about the little old lady at the McMartin pre-school — the 80-year-old who killed rabbits while she brutalized children sexually. And I believed this! I can remember sitting there saying, "Oh my god! Oh no! I can't send my kid to daycare..."

I can remember this so well. I thought, you know what? People will do anything. They're capable of anything. Well, then Ellen Willis, god bless her, who just died last year, started getting suspicious about this stuff. And she asked me if I looked into McMartin. It's a long story, but there was a case in my own community in El Paso, Texas. The first two women to ever be convicted were in my little city. And I was supposed to spend six weeks — but I spent eight months looking at this case. And I had no idea what it was when I first started. But I was just knowing that there's certain ways that kids act, and that you probably wouldn't be able to put a 14-inch knife up a 2-year- old's rectum...

SB: Oh, god!

DN: ...and then have the kid come back from daycare smiling and telling you that he couldn't wait to get back the next day. You know?

SB: And yet those were the stories.

DN: Now do you need to have a two-year-old child to know that? I don't know. But the thing is, I was a mom, and — you know what? I didn't feel guilty about critiquing the believability of these cases. A lot of the reporters back then were men, or they didn't have kids. And if they would have asked any questions about those cases, people would have said, "You don't care about kids."

SB: Or you're a pervert yourself.

DN: "You're a guy." You know? "You're a man, you're a pervert, you're supporting the molesters..." Fortunately I was a woman and a mom. When I read the interviews of the kids, I could see the way the cases went forward forensically. The adult interviewers, whether they were detectives or social workers or psychologists, brainwashed the kids. They interjected their own fantasies into those kids by asking them leading questions over and over and over and over. I heard some of the tapes of kids who would walk into the room loving their teachers. And they would walk out utter basket cases, thinking that they'd been brutalized by Miss Mickey or somebody that they loved before. And I would cry. I would say — these kids have been brutalized by the investigation and by this whole panic. So were the women that were working in public daycare. That pained me to no end, the fact that public child care was under such assault. And it pained me to see women so guilty about going to work. But the thing that really got to me was the fact that relationships that were really beautiful were destroyed. You could hear it on the tapes. It was horrible to hear those interviews. And then you're like, "Oh my god. I have to tell the world about this."

SB: Well now that you've seen and researched a number of these stories, do you have any conclusions about what the seeds are for a sex panic? Like, can you recognize certain things that are in play before it blows up? Or is it still kind of unexpected when it happpens?

Some people said, after these daycare scandals were exposed, "This is to try to get women to be afraid of using daycare." You know — an anti-child care plot. I thought, well that's interesting, but how would anybody have known that to begin with? What is it about a community where the beginning of a Salem witch trial is just bobbing underneath the surface?

DN: I cannot predict it. In fact, what's happening right now is a panic about kids and the internet. And there is a panic about teenagers having sex with each other. Those two things are working off each other. Did I predict those? No! I didn't predict them. And it seems to be happening since 9/11, actually. I think that the most proximate thing is fear of the internet. There's always a panic over a new technology. There are moral panics all the time. I mean, there was a moral panic over the telephone when it was first introduced.

SB: That's right! Because strangers would call you...

DN: Yeah. Male voices would call up young women in their homes.

SB: And god knows what would happen from there.

DN: There was a panic about comic books. There's always a panic about new technology. We're looking at it in hindsight. We're looking at a panic, and we're looking back and saying, "Oh, the internet."

SB: Oh yeah. Remember when that was such a big fright? And now it seems like nothing. That's what always happens as soon as the technology ages.

DN: But it's not nothing for a lot of people with kids today, you know?

SB: Well, I had another interview on our show with a social scientist named Mike Males. And he has these great papers that say, "Look, your kid statistically is in greater risk being in church or at the shopping mall than they are on their MySpace page." The notion of the actual risk that young people are facing on the internet is completely blown out of proportion.

DN: Right. And are people going to listen to that? I mean, that's not what a panic is about.

SB: They're going to, because I'm going to say it until I'm blue in the face!

DN: That's right. Say it! Yes.

SB: The thing that gave you a little bit of liberty to speak out was the fact that you were a woman and a mom, and people couldn't easily toss you aside and think you had bad motives. But have you ever felt the sting from a different direction — people saying you're unfit to be a mother? How dare you speak about this? You know, "You're crazy, you need to be discredited." How do you cope with attacks from people trying to undermine you?

DN: When I was doing the daycare work, I actually had the cops at my door.

SB: That must've been terrifying.

DN: It was pretty scary. Yeah. Back then I had little kids. Now my kids are big, so nobody can use my kids against me, because they're adults.

SB: Did you ever feel like "Gosh, I'm going to have to join the Daughters of the American Revolution" or the PTA?

DN: I was already in the PTA! I was living in El Paso, Texas. I was a Brownie Scout leader. Come on! I had street cred down there.

SB: This reporter who you called into question at the Times, Mr. Eichenwald. He got your story thrown out of Salon [with] a phone call to the editor.

DN: It wasn't one phone call, believe me.

SB: Well, okay, continuous screaming phone calls and emails. Suddenly, you're put into the limelight as...

DN: The flake?

SB: Well, you were not just described as a flake, but it was — "she's obsessed with looking at pornography. And here this reporter (Eichenwald) is just trying to save the children. Why doesn't she care about saving the children?" What do you do when people get that picture of you as cold and unfeeling and just ready to trample over all these poor sex slaves with your calculated attempts to defend the first amendment. I'm trying to conjure up some of the stuff you might have heard.

DN: You know, I don't mind criticism, when it's honest criticism conducted in a normal, democratic forum — i.e., letters to the editor. Things like that. I mean, somebody threatening to sue you is really beyond the pale. But when people criticize me, there's always a whole bunch of other people — there are never as many as the people who criticize me, but the people who defend my point of view are often quite eloquent. In the Salon piece, for example, there was a very active discussion going on before that piece was pulled. There was dozens of letters that came in, just in the first few hours. I was very gratified by them. And my biggest regret about that piece being pulled, and that there were legal threats made — was that the discussion got shut down. And I'm really looking forward to starting that discussion again.

I think it's a really important discussion. I think child pornography needs to be de-mystified, and all the politics need to be broken down. And all of the First Amendment issues need to be laid out on the table. And the criticism — I don't know. I'm just getting too old to worry about it.

SB: Are you a First Amendment absolutist? Or do you feel like there is a certain place where you want to kick in a certain exception for those under 18?

DN: I don't know. I mean, honestly? This is where people who I have great respect for have taken issue with me, because in the Salon piece I said that there should be a vetting system put in place by the government so that legitimate researchers and journalists should be able to review what's on the web. There were critics who were very sympathetic to my opinion that child porn really needs to be looked at by civil society, who nevertheless said, "That's a terrible idea. To call for the government to put in place a system that decides that some people deserve to do that and other people don't. That's a lousy idea!" But I've also said before that I just don't know. I haven't come to a position about whether everyone should be able to look at child porn — that we should all just be able to look at records of assaults against children.

SB: Well there's a lot of scrutiny going on right now about who are the bodies of people who make decisions about what can be seen, or can't be seen — like the motion picture ratings association. It's always been shrouded in secrecy. Who are these people that decide that something's an "R," and something's an "X"? As it begins to get peeled away, and you look at the actual fallible human beings who are selected to these bodies, you say, "What the hell do they know? And this has nothing to do with democracy.

DN: Yeah. And, you know, really, when you look at the content of child porn, to the limited extent that people in civil society have been able to study child porn, a lot of it is older minors. A lot of it is a 14-year-old standing in a lake with her breasts exposed. Some juries and some judges will say that's not pornography, that's just simple nudity. Other judges and juries will say it's obscene and exploitative. So the definitions are very hard to parse out. But this is my irrational spot. I haven't got this all figured out yet. Because there is really awful stuff, too, of little kids, and there was no consent whatsoever. It's very horrible stuff. Some people talk about civil suits. There should be a way to bring civil suits against people who make this stuff and publicize it, because it's embarrassing, potentially. I just haven't figured it out yet.

See also:
The Perversions of Perverted Justice
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out
Sex & Drugs & Susie Bright
World Sex Laws
My Opponent Pays For Gay Teen Bestiality

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