Public Sex collects the best of Pat Califia's work published over the past 20 years. Providing both a chronicle of the radical sex movement in the United States, as well as the definitive opinions of America's most consistent and trenchant sexual critic, Public Sex is must-read material for anyone interested in sexual practices, feminism, censorship, or simply the art of the political essay.
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Among the beacons of sex radicalism--alongside Susie Bright, Carol Queen, Kate Bornstein, and very few others--Pat Califia has been writing angry, sex-positive essays and politically charged erotica since the late 1970s. The bulk of her many nonfiction pieces is collected in this reprint of a book first published in 1994, providing a lively, informal history of the sex wars of the '80s and '90s--from the absurd, puritanical Meese Commission Report to the antiporn feminists to the unexamined attitudes behind the popular Re/Search book Modern Primitives. The chief apologist for the S/M community and one of the strongest voices in the anticensorship fight, Califia is at her best when the subject is closest to home. Her peevish reflections on the stupidity and political shortsightedness of anti-S/M feminists and lesbians are a joy to read; you can hear the swish of her whip and the stamp of her boot heel. With its excellent introduction, this book should be on the shelf of every feminist, every lesbian, every sexual adventurer, and anyone who hopes to understand sexual politics in America. --Regina MarlerAbout the Author:
Pat Califia needs no introduction for lesbian and gay readers. Her writings on sexuality, pornography, censorship, S/M, and other controversial topics have earned her the reputation of a fearless defender of the rights of perverts - and a fearless intellectual adversary. Pat Califia is well-known as a long-time activist for gay rights and the right to free sexual expression, and a sharp critic of repressive American attitudes toward sexuality and pornography. She lectures widely on university campuses and at the invitation of community-sponsored conferences, workshops and other gatherings. Among her best-loved books are Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism, Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex, The Advocate Advisor, Macho Sluts and Melting Point. Her numerous articles and essays have appeared in The Journal of Homosexuality, The Advocate, Co-Evolution Quarterly, High Times, Brat Attack, Taste of Latex, Skin Two, Invert: The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Sensibility, On Our Backs, Drummer, and The Spectator. She received her M.A. in counseling psychology from University of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco where she writes and works as a therapist intern serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. Pat Califia was born in 1954 in Corpus Christi, Texas. She came out as a lesbian in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the early 1970s. She was a member of the first local feminist consciousness-raising group and helped start the first women's center in Salt Lake City. Pat has said many times that she chose writing as her preferred mode of political activism because writing could go where she could not. Having grown up in Texas and Utah, she certainly experienced the pain of isolation as a future butch lesbian and genderbender. Perhaps this is why Pat has been so dogged in her insistence on sexual freedom for everyone - and so relentless in her criticism of sexual censorship, both from the feminist movement and from the Right. In 1973, Pat moved to San Francisco, where she was active in Daughters of Bilitis, the first national organization for lesbians. In the mid-1970s, she began educating herself about lesbian sex. She took volunteer training at San Francisco's Sex Information hotline, led a lesbian sexuality discussion group, worked as a research associate at the Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research at San Francisco State University under the direction of John De Cecco - and began writing Saphistry (Naiad Press, 1979) the book that sparked the famous lesbian sex wars of Reagan years. In the early 1980s, Pat was busy organizing in the lesbian S/M community, beginning with Samois. She helped produce What Color Is Your Handkerchief?, the first pamphlet on lesbian S/M in the English language, and helped edit Coming to Power, an anthology of work by S/M lesbians. In 1983, she moved to New York City and joined the Lesbian Sex Mafia. Throughout the 1980s - while S/M was viciously contested as a legitimate avenue of sexual expression for upstanding righteous feminist lesbians -Pat wrote, edited, lectured, taught, attended meetings and conferences, sat on boards, judged contests, cranked out honest, no-bullshit sex advice for The Advocate, and set the standard for heart-pounding, risk-taking, literate lesbian erotic fiction. For more than two decades, Pat Califia has been "fuming and fussing" about censorship and the rights of perverts in America. Whether she's writing about lesbian relationships, S/M and "leather sex," sex between lesbians and gay men, eroticizing latex and safe sex, role-playing and genderbending, sex with youth, prostitution, sex in public, or the politics of transgenderism in Western culture, Califia- always clear, provocative and eminently reasonable- sets the standard for writing about sex. Califia's dedication to sexual, political and informational freedom has earned her the admiration of activists everywhere. She provided key testimony in Little Sisters' censorship case against the Canadian Government. There she was put in the unenviable position of defending to a room full of government prosecutors, customs officials and bureaucrats "The Surprise Party," a story full of rough sex and bondage, in which a lesbian is "raped" by a cadre of gay men dressed up as cops. Califia wrote in the introduction to Forbidden Passages: Writings Banned in Canada, "Until the last page of this story, the reader has every reason to believe that it is a description of three cops sexually assaulting a lesbian. Then it is revealed that it was in fact a complicated, staged S/M scene produced as a labor of love for the heroine's birthday (hence, the title) I had forgotten just how twisted sexual politics can be. When liberals become censors, they come up with some novel rationales. 'The Surprise Party' was under suspicion for potentially instigating antigay violence. The state was attempting to censor a piece of gay writing under the guise of protecting us from homophobic assaults. At one point, I believe I commented to the court that heterosexual policemen were apparently telling me as a lesbian author that I did not have the right to have sexual fantasies about cops. Nobody laughed." Since the broad consequences of sexual repression (and repression in general) are never far from Califia's mind, Califia sees sexuality where we didn't think it mattered and provides a wealth of information for concerned folks addressing seemingly non-sexual issues. Writing of proposed Internet regulations in Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex, she observes, "The U.S. Government has used the pretext of looking for kiddy porn to institute a wide-ranging campaign of on-line surveillance and entrapment. And Great Britain has proposed to prevent all Internet newsgroups in the 'alt' category from being transmitted into that country. These groups include discussions of kinky sex, but they also include medical information, rock 'n' roll fandom, sci-fi readers, and a bunch of other interesting conversations. If this effort succeeds, an antiporn rationale will have been used to cut off British citizens from a rich culture capable of generating many kinds of social change." Pat Califia is available for print, on-line and broadcast interviews, and for lectures and workshops on university campuses.
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