Sunday, February 24, 2008

Introducing Sue Katz

One of my favorite things about blogging has been the opportunity to connect with people who I would never otherwise meet. That is one reason I was so intrigued by Neil's Great Interview Experiment and it delivered what it promised. Below you will find my interview of Sue Katz, author of Sue Katz:Consenting Adult. Her blog is an interesting blend of commentary on culture and mature sexuality. It's good reading--go give it a look.

You are a professional writer and contributor to a variety of publications. What made you decide to start a blog?

I first started my blog on the advice of my literary agent as a tool to demonstrate to potential publishers that there is interest in the subject of my manuscript – the intersection of ageing and alternative sexualities. I continue with my blog because it is the perfect forum for me as a writer with eclectic interests who enjoys doing short pieces. In fact, if I didn’t have to scrap around for a living (paid journalism is dying), I’d love to blog daily.

One of your key interests is mature sexuality. If you could give one piece of bedroom advice to women over 50, what would it be?

Keep the lube flowing, use pink bulbs in multiple nightlights for a flattering rosy milieu, keep tables on both sides of the bed to easily stash your bifocals, and initiate/negotiate activities that will make all of your sexual dreams come true. If not now, when?

In terms of sexuality, what do you see as the biggest issue facing young women today?

Young women need to control their own bodies and establish mutuality in their relationships if they’re to feel they can get a grip on the world. Since Bush has been president, access to birth control and abortion has been restricted world-wide, alternative sexualities have been under attack, and impotent “abstinence-only” sex education has replaced the real thing.

You describe yourself as a rebel. Were you rebellious as a teenager?

I had a miserable time as a teenager. To put it diplomatically, my mother and I did not get along. I started my life-long political activism at age 13 – against the bomb and for civil rights – in a rather segregated industrial town. I fell in love with another girl at 15, with eventual disastrous consequences when we were caught – in those days homosexuality was considered a mental illness and was widely illegal. But whatever was going on, I kept my grades way up, knowing that a college scholarship was my ticket out of Pittsburgh.

It looks like you've lived in quite a few places. Which was your favorite and which was your least favorite?

Luckily, I’ve never felt the need for a national identity. For me, “home” is the place you run away from. That said, every country has its cons and pros – the most important being close friendships. I lived in Israel for 14 years and London, England for 10 years before returning to the States in 2000. Life in Israel is very intense, very passionate and Tel Aviv is the most cosmopolitan city I’ve ever been in. But Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian people is a constant distress of life there and the summers scorch. In London I found privacy, incomparable museums and a location from which it was easy to travel the world. But foggy England is also an elitist, colonial-minded and cold social environment. Luckily London itself is far more diverse than the rest of the country and I found friends from around the world. As for the States, I’ve never really felt comfortable here, although I’ve always adored the shopping. Now that I know more about the exploitation of foreign workers being at the bottom of all those low prices, it’s not so much fun.

What drew you to martial arts and do you still practice?

I began the martial arts in the late 60s after seeing a woman (Jayne West, one of the first women black belts) defend another woman from an attack by some drunken men trying to pick them up. The idea of being able to protect myself and my girlfriends was intoxicating, and my subsequent immersion in the training gave me an endorphin rush I’ve never since been able to do without. I never anticipated that I’d own and run my own championship gyms for 18 years. No, I no longer train. Ballroom and Latin dance replaced the martial arts as my endorphin source in my 40s and sex with my lover does it for me since my mid-50s.

Do you have a favorite candidate in the 2008 Presidential Election? Is there a topic you would like to see addressed by the candidates?

My favorite candidate, Dennis Kucinich, is no longer in the running. Now I prefer the unknown Obama over the hawkish Clinton. I’ve never been hugely engaged by electoral politics, and my list of “demands” would run the gamut from stopping the USA’s role as world bully, economic justice and the end to the government’s reach into our bedrooms. Total social transformation would be nice, and while I’m at it, I’d like Jay Leno’s job.

Has the U.S. made strides in gender equality in the last 20 years? What do you think still needs to be done?

I was involved in one of the very first feminist collectives in the late 1960s and have written about gender issues ever since. While I have lived through some of our profound gains, I’ve also seen these grossly eroded, particularly in the last seven years. Over the decades, I’ve noticed how women are erased from the public eye in war situations. The dominance of fundamentalism, no matter which religion, is always bad news for women and queers. May I mention my pet peeve? Why oh why must women newscasters on American TV wear those massive teased, bleached hairdos?

Describe one defining experience in your life.

Leaving home and supporting myself at 17 was a biggie; coming to gender and class consciousness allowed me to make sense of the world; and leading my brilliant London dance partner Brian in the rumba was heart-stopping. When we impacted foreign policy through out anti-Viet Nam war movement and then later opened up options for women through feminism, I got my first we-can-change-the-world buzz, which I have only lost in this new millennium.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve traveled extensively and there are many places I’d like to return to, not the least Kenya and Peru. But for a vacation, I always love visiting my dear friend Jaya Schuerch, a marble sculptor ( who lives atop a mountain in Tuscany, Italy, in an ancient converted wine-making house among the vineyards and chestnut forests, with a view down to the Mediterranean Sea.

Is there anything you would like to do in life that you have not yet done?

Oh my gawd, the list is as long as this election primary season. There are many travels to complete, unknown sexual thrills to seek, a PhD to earn, more dance to be done and, most of all, books to be written and a revolution to foment.

What is your favorite book? Magazine? Movie?

My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Richard Schweid and Primo Levi. My favorite magazines are “Colorlines” and the Vermont Country Store catalogue. And my top movies are “Monsoon Wedding” and, despite its title, “Twelve Angry Men.”