From an interview with Susie Bright:SB: You were recently reviewed by the New York Times. How do you think the mainstream media regards sex museums, schools and cultural centers these days? What’s their spin versus your own observations?[Note: Here’s the article Susie mentions: ]CQ: Lots of people have seen the little NY Times article, which was about an event we did, the Belle Bizarre Bazaar — a holiday shopping fair where most of the vendors were sex workers selling sexy stuff. Proceeds went to our Exotic Dancers’ Education Project, providing dancers with skills that will help them maximize their potential and choices. This event got into the Times despite the worries of its author, a journalist who’d been posted over by her editor. She thought the Times was way too conservative for the likes of us, which may be true, except they now have so many column inches to fill with distracting stuff that isn’t about Judith Miller!The one thing the Times article does not do is present the spectrum of the Center for Sex & Culture’s work, especially the academic and serious side of what we do. This, I think, points to the real answer to your question: mainstream media culture remains quite nervous and touchy about sex-related issues, especially those that take sex really seriously. A frivolous take (or a good, juicy, shocking angle) on a sex story works for the mainstream press: a sex-positive and serious take, not so much. When the San Francisco Chronicle did its article about us a year ago, the writer focused just on our porn collection. Now, we very much value that, but we also collect academic journals and sex education materials, and not a word about those! I think this is one really essential linchpin of sex-negative or erotophobic culture, that sex is only allowed to be either light or heavy, and when it’s heavy, it’s about really heavy issues like abuse. Recently I gave some quotes about something-or-other for a Cosmo story and the editors didn’t want to use the term “sexologist” to describe me, saying that it wasn’t a real word! You know, stuff like that from the Times would not be all that surprising, but Cosmo is now policing the language? Please!
From the standpoint of integrity, I think we all need to own up to our dirty little secrets. I believe that when we are open about our own strange desires or unusual lives, it paves the way for others to do the same. In the past thirty years, gay men and lesbians took a lot of flack to tell the truth about their love lives and their courage opened the door for a mass migration out of the closet. We’re now at a moment in time when unconventional families (even thirty-year triads and gay couples) are losing their children in custody battles because their families don’t conform to mainstream ideas about what a family should be. Given this context, I want to be someone who stands up for my choices even if they’re unpopular, even if I get snickers at cocktail parties.
If you spend any amount of time doing media analysis, it’s clear that the most frenzied moral panic surrounding young women’s sexuality comes from the mainstream media, which loves to report about how promiscuous girls are, whether they’re acting up on spring break, getting caught topless on camera, or catching all kinds of STIs. Unsurprisingly, these types of articles and stories generally fail to mention that women are attending college at the highest rates in history, and that we’re the majority of undergraduate and master’s students. Well-educated and socially engaged women just don’t make for good headlines, it seems.
Read any women's magazine and you'll see the same complaint over and over again: men - those little boys ten or twenty or thirty years on - are hopeless in bed. They are not interested in "foreplay"; they have no desire to stimulate the erogenous zones of the opposite sex; they are selfish, greedy, clumsy, unsophisticated. These complaints, you can't help feeling, are ironic. Back then, all we wanted was foreplay, and girls weren't interested. They didn't want to be touched, caressed, stimulated, aroused; in fact, they used to thump us if we tried. It's not really very suprising, then, that we're not much good at all that. We spent two or three long and extremely formative years being told very forcibly not even to think about it. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four, foreplay changes from being something that boys want to do and girls don't, to something that women want and men can't be bothered with. (Or so they say. Me, I like foreplay - mostly because the times when all I wanted to do was touch are alarmingly fresh in my mind.) The perfect match, if you ask me, is between the Cosmo woman and the fourteen-year-old boy.