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Feminist sex writer Susie Bright to donate archives

ITHACA, N.Y. (Jan. 17, 2013) – A quarter of a century ago, Cornell University Library began to gather books, letters, photographs and all sorts of ephemera related to sexuality — much of which was ignored or shunned by academia and society at large.

That bold idea grew into the rich Human Sexuality Collection, which will honor the 25th anniversary of its founding with a host of events.

Best-selling author Susie Bright, the country’s preeminent feminist sex writer, kicks off the celebration with a major donation of her archival materials and a talk on Cornell’s campus in Ithaca, N.Y. She will speak on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 4:30 p.m. in the Lewis Auditorium of Goldwin Smith Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Susie BrightBright is a leading voice on sexual politics; she broke new ground publishing the lesbian sex magazine “On Our Backs” in the 1990s and remains on the cutting edge of publishing as an author, editor and podcaster.

“I've admired Cornell’s archives of GLBT history for years — really, it's one of the world’s finest when it comes to sexual representation, and the range of erotic and sexual identity in full flower,” Bright said. "The ‘On Our Backs’ legacy — the hundreds of women we published who took such great risks, and our thousands of readers who had their lives changed by this vision of lesbian sexual self-determination — deserve the perfect spot.”

In her talk, the “Sexual State of the Union Address,” Bright will discuss the current status quo of sexuality in the nation’s bedrooms and courtrooms, from the most personal to the most global consequences. Her visit is sponsored by Cornell University Library with Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies; Haven; the Office of the Dean of Students; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Studies; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Resource Center; the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series; and the Society for the Humanities.

Bright is giving Cornell her unique archives, which document sexual politics over the past 35 years. Her collection contains the written history of “On Our Backs” and rare museum objects, such as specially designed costumes the publishers wore at magazine fundraisers, as well as detailed documentation of the feminist sex wars and censorship battles that defined lesbian publishing in the ’80s and ’90s. Bright is also an expert on the history of the pornography business and its censorship, and she is donating priceless videos and documents that record the path of these controversies. Researchers will also be able to study the development of Bright’s own activism and publishing. 

“As a researcher and writer, Cornell's library has been a beacon to me, a place where respect for America's cultural history — the outlier and the avant-garde — is unsurpassed,” Bright added.

Bright’s talk is just the beginning. The Human Sexuality Collection will host additional anniversary events throughout the year, including announcements of new initiatives, the arrivals of more key collections and art exhibitions in Ithaca and New York City.

The collection was formed when David B. Goodstein ’54 (longtime publisher of “The Advocate”) and Bruce Voeller (scientist and early leader of the National Gay Task Force) formed a friendship out of their mutual desire to help society combat static conceptions and fear of sexuality — and to see a major research library preserve the materials needed for this research. With their generous support and approval from Cornell's Board of Trustees, the Library took on this mission and established the Human Sexuality Collection in 1988.

“Bright has served as a trusted source of information as well as an inspiration for my generation of feminists,” said Kate McCullough, associate professor in English and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. “I am thrilled to be a part of the institution that houses Bright's papers!”

“I have worked with Susie Bright for years and admired her smart and sensitive work in the field of sex,” said Beth Anderson ’80. “As a Cornell alumna and a friend of the Cornell Library, I am thrilled that Susie’s important documents will be part of the library’s collections for generations of students and researchers.”

To learn more
Visit the Human Sexuality Collection and the Library online, and learn more about Susie Bright on her blog.