Abnormal Tales: 33 Vintage Lesbian Paperbacks From the 50s And 60s
“TWISTED”, “Depraved”, “Warped” – these are words often found on the covers of sleazy lesbian paperbacks of the 1950s and 60s. Anything other than “normal” heterosexuality was seen as shameful and deviant. Yet, the populace gobbled up these lesbian tales by the truckload… it was sinful to practice, but evidently okay to read and fantasize about.
Here, for your vulgar amusement, are 33 covers of sinful tales of women who love women (the horror!). I’ve divided them up into 3 categories. Just because it’s filth, doesn’t mean we can’t keep it organized.
1. ABNORMAL TALES
Lesbianism is an abnormality, a sickness. Somebody call a doctor!
“An actual factual story told as it is by the person who lived through it. Plus other case histories.”
So, it’s not just a factual story, but an actual factual story. Tell me more…
(from the back cover)
“Whether we are aware of it or not, each of us is endowed with a streak fo homosexuality. Psychologists have long agreed that this latent homosexuality could become overt as the result of as little as one exposure to a homosexual act…
Lesbians are made, not born, and if a woman is exposed to the degenerate thrills of lesbianism by her own mother, the odds are that she will also look for her sex life among her own gender.”
“The dark world of lesbian love held her captive. Could she ever be NORMAL again?”
Not only is it abnormal, but, as this book points out, it’s also “unholy”. With all these negative descriptions, one wonders if there’s any crime on earth worse than a chick liking another chick!
Odd Girl Out, published in 1957, demonstrates how midcentury lesbian literature had to be a bit tamer. The lesbians were still “odd girls out”, but things weren’t quite as risqué.
“A novel that courageously comes to grips with the hidden problem of deviation among women”
This book is from 1967, yet it still looks at lesbianism as a strange behavior, freely chosen.
“Told with unblinking honesty, here is a penetrating study of society’s greatest curse: homosexuality!”
“The tragedy of a sex doomed to take their delights in strange and unnatural ways.”
These paperbacks are so conflicted. On the one hand, lesbianism is an unnatural curse. On the other, it’s the most awesome and sexy thing in the universe. No wonder people were confused.
2. LOVE IN THE SHADOWS
Lesbianism was something best kept secret – what would the neighbors say?
The Shadowy Sex explains lesbianism as a result of fearing to love men. Sounds reasonable…. of course, wouldn’t that mean the flipside could also be true – that some women love men because they fear to love women? Best to not dwell on it – it’s so much easier to just thoughtlessly condemn.
Sex in the Shadows puts the blame on “older lesbians” who lure young innocents into their world of sin.
“Drifting and tormented, she was torn between giving herself to a woman and selling herself to a man!”
Spoiler alert: She decides to give herself to a woman.
A common term in vintage lesbian erotic literature was “twilight”. Apparently, this word was synonymous for “illicit and disgraceful” long before the vampire movies.
“They were twilight lovers in the world between the sexes.”
With such a long history of whispering and hiding in the shadows, it’s no effing wonder the gay community holds parades.
3. A LIFE OF SIN AND DEPRAVITY
Amoral tales of those wild and wicked lesbians
In 1964, when this book was published, there really was the mentality that lesbianism was a cult. The concept that it might be physiological wasn’t even entertained. Like cult membership, “normal” citizens made a choice to take part in a “deviate” lifestyle.
“Tormented passions of woman for woman”
Ummmm…. these gals don’t look very tormented. In fact, they look like they’re having heaps of fun. Did nobody tell them they’re supposed to be sad and self-loathing?
Once again, the “tormented” lesbian looks the most content of the bunch.
That’s more like it. Lesbians should look destitute and world-weary.
Ah, the scourge of the hot lesbian gangs. When will the violence end?
“Half temptress, half lesbo…” Wait, what? Can you be half a lesbian (or half a temptress for that matter)? I don’t think that’s how it works.
I’m not sure why the girl doing push-ups has a sandwich buckled to her ass, but I’m willing to overlook it.
“She was only seventeen, but her body was already bought and paid for in full by another woman – a Lesbian.”
Was the “-a Lesbian” bit really necessary?
“They wore the name of the forbidden breed… The tragedy doomed by her own unnatural desires”
And here’s another that takes an incestuous angle…
I presume these authors thought that if you’re willing to enter the dark sinful world of lesbianism, incest wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
I Googled “hollywood dyke alley” and ended up with search results for Dick Van Dyke and Kristy Alley. I’m not saying it didn’t exist, but I’m a little skeptical.
Much preferable to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Sisterhood of the Flesh takes on interracial sex as well as lesbianism in one blow. Pretty provocative for 1965.
I’ll end with the winner for best title. It also offers the best reason why women are lesbians: “frustration and boredom”. Bravo, Women on Beaver Mountain. You are the clear winner.