Susie BrightHere’s a little sex talk to spice up this week’s Ten Money Questions. Susie Bright writes, speaks and teaches on the subject of sexuality. She’s every lesbian’s favorite “sexpert” and dishes it out on “In Bed with Susie Bright” her weekly audio show along with daily updates at Susie Bright’s Journal. If money is the last taboo, then read on as Susie breaks barriers and gets personal about sleeping with money.

1. As a feminist archetype, what does money mean to you?
Do you mean as opposed to when I’m sitting in a bubble bath, smoking a joint, and dreaming about strawberry shortcake?

I would say my political views about money are largely informed by old-fashioned Marxist economics, with the feminist spin being that women are super-exploited by having their value as mothers, wives, housekeepers, and family caregivers completely undervalued. “Women’s work is never done,” and never paid for adequately. The feminization of any profession is its death knell economically.

Obviously, this isn’t my original thought!

But it sure pisses me off every day. And it annoys me that people think this state of affairs can be overcome by a perky entrepreneurial attitude. If we had feminist government and public policy, we would see a revolutionary turn in respect for women’s contribution.

2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Being scared that we (my mom and I) didn’t have enough money for groceries and rent, being scared that my mother was so upset about money. I understood money through her and her reactions.

That sounds so sad, that I’m trying to think of another example of something more pleasant. I liked “coins” as a child, as objects. I loved sorting them and looking at different kinds from different countries. I imagined designing my own coin and what sort of portraits I’d like to emboss on them. I guess you could say coins impressed me as design objects, powerful pieces that you could make art with.

3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Being scared. See above. Not wanting to pry my fingers from covering my eyes and making a decision that might not be ideal, but would at least be my plan rather than my reaction to others’ plans. However, the fact that I can tell you this habit shows that I have made some progress.

4. Is sexual or financial compatibility more important in a partnership?
Ha! I assume you’re discussing a romantic partnership, a lover. If you want to survive more than a few walks around the park, you’re going to have to have both. One or the other will blow up if you don’t.

5. When you first started writing, did you ever feel like a starving artist? How did you cope during this period?
Well, you can’t make art if you’re starving. When you’re living on the street, you spend most of the day just making it from one night to the next. Someone who would seriously ask that question is contemptuous of what it takes to be an artist, in time, commitment, and materials.

I had a working stiff “day” job until I got a lucrative regular magazine writing gig, and then I gleefully quit the old job. I wasn’t starving; I was just living communally, on the cheap. I had dopey part-time jobs so I could have as much free time as possible. I cleaned people’s houses, waited on tables, sold pot I grew from one plant on my windowsill for $20 a bag, worked in bookstores, and temped in offices.

6. Have you ever paid or been paid for sex?
It’s funny, I had to think about this one. It’s one of those “almost, but not quite” stories.

I’ve lived and worked in a cathouse, but I was the only one not doing pro sex. I’m a really good cook, though.

I wouldn’t be good at providing sex professionally – I’m a bad actress. You can see everything I think on my face. And I’m just not charming enough. Too crabby.

I’ve been paid to work professionally in sex films, but I didn’t actually have sex. On the other hand, I’ve made sex movies with friends where I did have sex, but there was no money changing hands.

I’ve tipped erotic dancers profusely, and although we didn’t have “sex,” in a narrow sense, they certainly thrilled me to death.

By far the creepiest sexual situations involving money I’ve been in was with so-called “investors.”

I used to publish a magazine, and on two occasions, I was asked to “put out” to cement the deal. One family flew me out to Florida who initially appeared as “angels,” but turned out to be horny cokeheads with guns. Another one was a prominent advertiser who wanted “lesbians” to entertain him. Barf. I was so upset; I had thought they were sincere. I walked out, shakily, much to their anger.

7. I read that in the eighties you worked at Good Vibrations. What was it like working retail for a living?
Retail is retail. It is no more fulfilling to count buttplugs in an inventory review than it is to count pencils. Customers can be rude anywhere; the pay isn’t very good. I’ve been fortunate to work full time as a writer.

I loved the educational part of my retail job. I liked that about bookselling, too. I enjoy teaching and listening and trying to understand where the customer is coming from. I was thought of as a remarkable sales person, but without a lot of patience for the stockroom part of my job.

8. What did your mother teach you about money?
Kind of a combo of “root of all evil,” and “Let’s go get an ice-cream cone and new shoes!”

9. Do you and your partner, Jon, see eye-to-eye on finances?
I love this interview. I should ask Jon this question. We do share common values – there’s nothing he’d want to do with money that would upset me or shock me, and I bet he’d say the same.

He’s more frugal than me. He’s more ambivalent about purchasing things for his pleasure.

He’s reticent to put his stuff out there to the public, I’m the go-getter type. He’d rather build something himself than ask anyone for help. I love to talk to strangers; I always imagine the happy connection. If I was a political conservative, I’d probably be a whiz at selling cars or toothpaste, or really anything.

He’s also the sort of person who can read the news about global finance and quickly translate that into how that’s going to affect us, next week. I’ve learned a lot from him that way. He’s also quick to sing that John Prine song, “we’re not the jet-set, we’re the old Chevrolet set, but ain’t we got love…”

I would say I’ve changed more than he has about money over time. I used to find shopping relaxing; now it annoys me most of the time. I’m more picky now. I’m all too aware of its fleeting thrill. I’d rather have my house be paid for, and live off the grid.

In the past, I would have been perplexed by such investments, they seemed so politically correct but vague. Now, I think going solar was the best thing I ever did with a book advance; it gives me a tingle. I belong to a farm co-op, and I never enjoyed food so much. I sew most of my clothes – and it’s so much more fun to make them than try them on in a badly-lit fitting room.

I hate being dependent on companies I despise, whether it’s PGE or Cingular. I tell my daughter to do anything she wants in life except take out a “student loan.” It’s like a new kind of hippie hardcore… get the materialist monkeys and money-lenders off your back, to the extent that one can.

Short of a seizing state power, it’s the best I can do.

I can’t wait to see what my daughter will say to answer these questions in a few years!

10. What are your plans for retirement?
Yeah, WHAT ARE they? I’m dying to find out.

I am not prepared in the sort of fashion that money experts would advise. When I look at those questionnaires in financial advice magazines that ask, “do you have this? are you all set for that?” I just sadly shake my head.

If you’re not upper middle class with dyed-in-the-wool security, much of their advice seems pointless. Of course I’d love to have a bulging IRA and my mortgage paid off… who wouldn’t? But you can’t just do these things without a healthy foundation and thriving income, not to mention an absence of debt. America affords those opportunities for very few people; fewer all the time.

The best practical money habit I changed, that impacts my future, was to get rid of my consumer debt. I don’t carry it anymore. That was huge. And I’m going to get an electric car, darn it, and run it off my solar panels, and never pay for a gallon of gas again. I’ve had it.

I’ve read all about how I could save $600 a year if I stopped eating ice cream and coffee out at cafes, and it just doesn’t seem worth the sacrifice for the pleasure I get from such little sweetnesses.

My crippling expenses are health care and all the inflation driven by oil prices going up… this isn’t something I can solve by abstaining from Netflix and chocolate. $600 wouldn’t buy me a trip to the emergency room on a Saturday night. So I get irritated by a lot of those little tips.

I don’t want to live long unless my health is remarkable. I’m planning a respectful death before I become disabled. It’s not a morbid thought for me, it’s liberating.

If I could kick myself into doing one thing consistently now, it would be to take care of my body. It’s been dawning on me that I’m not the eternal fountain of youth sitting on my ass in front of a computer screen. Whatever I might spend on keeping moving and well-oiled now is nothing compared to the costs of illness and infirmity. You’ve heard the pep talk; now let’s see if I do something about it!

One last thing: you can’t say enough about good friends, good will, and integrity. When I got pregnant, people asked me if I’d worked out the finances, and I said, “no!” But I knew my family and friends were devoted to me, they feel well-cared for by me, and they would adore this baby so much, that we weren’t just going to just sink down a drain. Ain’t we got love!

More about Susie Bright
Susie Bright (also known as Susie Sexpert) is a writer, speaker, teacher, audio show host, performer, all on the subject of sexuality. She is one of the first writers/activists referred to as a sex-positive feminist.

She has a weekly program entitled “In Bed with Susie Bright” where she discusses a variety of social, freedom of speech and sex-related topics. She blogs at Susie Bright’s Journal.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.