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Catching Southerners with Their Pants Down

An Interview with Suzi Parker

by Joyce Dixon

 
 

A couple of years ago, the name "Suzi Parker" was being whispered under dryers in beauty salons or during cocktails at the country club. Her article "Genie in the Bottle: The Sex Drink Thatís Rocking Little Rock" for Nerve.com had been picked up by the wire services, and every woman was dying to get their hands on Niagara, the blue aphrodisiac bottled drink. The exposure had negative and positive effects on freelance writer Suzi Parker. The one clear conclusion was that Suzi has a talent for uncovering the hidden kinky side of "the nation's premier sexual hothouse."

A writer and editor from her youth, Suzi Parker holds a journalism major/English minor from Arkansas State University and a masterís degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas. She worked for a major Arkansas daily newspaper and as editor with a Little Rock publishing house, before becoming a freelance journalist covering politics and sex. Natural topics for an Arkansas native, you think?

Suzi frequently covers Southern politics in Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia. Some of her noteworthy coverage includes: an expose on John McCainís slave-owning ancestors for Salon during her time traveling with the 2000 presidential candidate; an exclusive post-acquittal interview with Susan McDougal for The New York Times Magazine; and covering President Bill Clinton come rain or come shine. Suzi Parker admits to being obsessed with the Clinton Presidential Library, which opens in 2004 in Little Rock.

Suzi won a Society of Professional Journalist Award in 1999 for her story about tainted prison plasma. She was recently named the International Journalist of the Year by the Cowboy Church of Hot Springs for a story she wrote about the church for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Today, Suzi Parker regularly contributes to a number of national and international publications, including: The Economist, US News & World Report, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

For those of us of a certain age, we may be doing a double take with the name "Suzi Parker" -- it's familiar and brings up images of the 1950-60s supermodel Suzy Parker. Could this Suzi be writing about sexuality as the other Suzy oozed it in front of a camera? When asked, Suzi Parker replied, "Nope, I was named after my mom's favorite dog who was poisoned before I was born. How's that for Southern gothic?"

 

"Rocking the headboard is fine, as long as you don't rock the boat."
-- Suzi Parker, Sex in the South

 

As a freelance journalist covering politics and sex, how are the two subjects alike? How are they different?

Politics and sex are two topics that people are taught never to discuss at the dinner table. People are either obsessed with the subject of politics or sex and they can't stop talking about them, or they avoid them like the plague. If you are going to be successful in politics or sex, you have to have confidence, charm and the innate ability to think on the fly.

Your article "Genie in the Bottle" (nerve.com) about the blue aphrodisiac drink Niagara, caused a national buzz, but caused a Little Rock scandal for you to the point of having you banned from a Arkansas PBS program and being subpoenaed by lawyers for Vigara. Now that that period has passed, what is your take on the scandal and how it reflects on sexual taboos in the South? Would a male reporter go through the same treatment?

The Niagara fall-out is the perfect example of the double-life led by the average Southerner when it comes to sex. Bottles of Niagara were flying off the shelf and were presumably being consumed by Arkansans but the state had a collective gasp of disapproval when a single girl wrote about her experience with the popular drink. Everybody does it, but nobody talks about it. In Arkansas, I can't think of a male reporter with the balls to write what I wrote, even if he drank a case of the blue potion.

Believing that many Southern women identify with either Scarlett or Melanie in Gone with the Wind, you admit to identifying with Scarlett. Has your practice of asking, "What would Scarlett do?" ever led you astray?

Only once, but we won't talk about him.

What was the most unusual activity you saw on your sex tour of the South?

It's Trigger, the human equine. Trigger is a man whose desire is to be a horse. He likes to be ridden by women and even wears a bit, reins, and stirrups as women get on his shoulders and go for a ride. I met Trigger in a mainstream hotel in Nashville on a Saturday afternoon where he gave demonstrations. Nearby? An outlet mall.

What is the most uninhibited state below the Mason-Dixon? Why?

Go Bama! No doubt, it's Alabama. I think it's because the state lies in the buckle of the Bible belt. The politics in the state are so dominated by church and God that it's hard to get away from the repression that holds that state hostage. But right underneath the surface of the holier-than-thou attitudes bubbles a world filled with eroticism.

Housewives seem to be balancing the church covered-dish suppers with hosting sex toy/lingerie parties or their own naughty web sites. Do they manage the double-life of good girl/bad girl or would you say this is the nature of southern womanhood? Do you see southern women as being more powerful then southern men in their sexual expression?

Southern women have mastered the art of double life. To uphold the prim exterior, the southern woman has to have some sort of outlet to let out the repression or she will go crazy. Not every southern woman is swinging from the chandelier in a leather catsuit but every southern woman has to find an escape from the good girl world. For some, it may be something as benign as a night of scrapbooking. For others, more than you think, it's the retractable stripper pole in the basement or the hot pink dildo under the bed. It doesn't matter if it is a southern, western, northern or mid-western woman, women can be powerful if they choose to use the power. Southern women are just raised to be more prim and not really discuss sex. They let men rule especially in the bedroom. Southern women just need to be more aggressive and go for what they want. Southern men appear to dominate and have control sexually and that's because a lot of southern women let them.

Your swinger statistics from The International Lifestyle Association were interesting, showing that swingers tend to be conservative, churchgoers and Republican. Do you think that the Bible Belt aura over this region causes natives to extreme expressions of hedonism or does it reflect a pleasure-seeking attitude that has been in the South since the beginning?

I think it's both. The region with a church on every corner leads natives to extreme obsessions with sex. But this is nothing new. I think the South has always been a randy region ever since the British colonized it and the mint julep was created. Southern belles have always had secrets hidden under their hoop skirts.

Kentucky and Virginia are missing from your sex tour of the South. Did you run out of time, or are these two states abstaining from the practice?

I reached my word limit and found way too many tantalizing tales in Alabama. You can bet your Mama's fine china that Kentucky and Virginia are hotbeds of erotic escapades.

The film rights to "Genie in the Bottle" were bought by Revolution Studios. What is the status of that project? Who would you like to see in the lead roles?

The project is still optioned. Since Julia Roberts was initially interested, I'd say Julia. She's Southern, so it seems natural. Adam Sandler was also mentioned in the early days of the option. But if I had my say: George Clooney.

Can readers look forward to future sequels to Sex in the South?

I have enough material left over to definitely get a good start on a sequel. The sex spy in me has been unleashed so who knows what's next? Definitely something sexy.


Suzi Parker's Web Site

 
Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt
by Suzi Parker
Justin, Charles & Co., 2003
Hardcover, $23.95 (358 pages)
ISBN: 1-932112-16-2

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Selected Sites Mentioned in Sex in the South

Linda Brewer - Passion Parties

Dale Miller - also known as Skirtman

Trigger the Humane Equine

 

© 2003, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved