My partner and I have been decluttering our house, and part of that has been trying to reduce the number of bookcases we have. As I was sorting through our books, I came across several from the 1960s about lesbianism. Let’s take a look inside a couple of them.
First there’s Women Without Men by Marise Querlin, which states on the cover that it’s “the best-selling French case-study of female homosexuality.” According to the back cover, it’s a “study that no member of our sexually sophisticated society can afford to overlook.” The book was released in 1965.
From the cover, we can conclude a couple of things: lesbians live in the shadows, and some of us don’t have arms.
The title grates. It defines lesbians in relation to men, so it already misses the point. Let’s crack open the book. I’ll offer only one passage from this beauty.
“At the start of her life, the little girl lives in close contact with her mother, as of course does the boy. From her mother she receives food, tenderness, and protection. It can be said, therefore, without arousing cries of horror from prudes, that she lives in a homosexual relationship with her mother. I do not mean to imply that there are any sexual exchanges between mother and daughter. But the absolute dependence of the girl on her mother may develop later into a certain degree of eroticism. This applies even more rigorously in the case of the small boy. But later their development takes different courses. The boy, in order to become a man, must gradually abandon his intransigent love for the mother and turn towards some other woman, whom he will marry or take as his mistress. His love will become modified without having to change the sex of his choice. The same does not apply to the little girl, who for her part, has to undergo a complete psychological reversal and to substitute later for the exclusive love of a woman—her mother—the attraction of a man.
The girl, therefore, in her psychological development, has a far more perilous path to follow than the boy.” – p. 45
So there you have it. We’re lesbians because we couldn’t make the switcheroo from being in love with our mothers to being in love with some man. Apparently fathers played no role in bringing up children.
The second book we’ll peek at is Lesbianism Around the World by R. Leighton Hasselroot, MA. It was released in 1963. From this cover, we can conclude that many lesbians hug their breasts in ecstasy—while alone.
According to the cover, the book is an “enlightening study which in no way condemns nor condones but merely reveals. It does much to dispel the prevalent ignorance of the subject.” Hmm. We shall see.
The book takes a look at lesbians in different countries. It starts out promising, by stating that homosexuality is present in the animal world, and discussing how it has been viewed historically. But it goes downhill from there.
“There are, however, common denominators which are shared by virtually all Lesbians. One of them is the awful sense of loneliness, of being isolated and alone, which Dr. Nathan Blackman describes so movingly. Another is the sense of insecurity which almost all Lesbians manifest. Yet another common denominator is found in the deep-seated guilt-feelings which are to be noted in all lesbians—whether they are entirely feminine women who have participated in one or two homosexual acts or case-hardened, confirmed “Butch”-type Lesbians with a lifetime of homosexual experiences behind them.” – p.25
Okay, let’s get to some of the country-specific stuff. First, Germany. Hug your breasts, ladies, because I’m about to reveal an actual lesbian personal ad from a German tabloid. Ready?
“Vivacious redhead, 26, wishes to meet sympathetic, affectionate and understanding woman of same age for purpose of forming close and intimate friendship.” (from the book’s front matter)
I apologize for the shocking ad, but I did warn you.
Next, Canada. If you’re Canadian, like I am, and you’ve been wondering why you’re a lesbian, wonder no more. According to Lesbianism Around the World:
“The marriage rate is low…great numbers of Canadian men work in remote areas and women are not eager to marry them and leave city and town comforts for the primitive life of the icy northern wastes or virgin woods.
Whatever the reasons for the [low marriage rate], the problem does exist—and, as always throughout history, when women have difficulty finding men, they turn to other women.” – p.54
So there you have it, Canadians. We’re lesbians because many of our men are working up north. We can’t find ourselves a man where it’s warmer, so we turn to each other. Yeah.
On to England.
“It is little wonder that so many Englishwomen seek sexual outlet with members of their own sex. Men “interest” them—and they would rather engage in intercourse with male partners. But men—or at least very large numbers of men—are not “interested” in women and particularly not unless they are street-walkers or the inmates of houses of prostitution.” – p.102
I guess this is saying there aren’t really any lesbians in England? And it’s a wonder any children are ever born there, if men aren’t interested in women—well, not unless they’re hookers, apparently. Oy vey.
Let’s do one more. The U.S., or more specifically, the suburban U.S.
“… are bored and have nothing to do with their time. Hence they will go “next door” or “down the block” to a friend’s house. They drink coffee or cocktails—depending on the time of day, their economic level, and their personal tastes—compare notes, trade gossip and, in many instances, will gradually slip into homosexual liaisons in order to gratify their mutually pentup [sic] sexual hungers.
Almost half of those who admit to engaging in homosexual acts say that their first essay into Lesbianism came as a result of “kidding around” with another housewife over coffee or cocktails.” – p.38
If you’re a suburban housewife, be careful. One minute you’re exchanging recipes or discussing how Billy’s doing in school, and the next minute, bam, you’re performing cunnilingus on your best friend (though according to the book, lesbians in Los Angeles and San Francisco preferred anilingus).
One does wonder when the housework got done, and the shopping, and taking care of the kids. Who were these mythical housewives who had nothing to do with their time? When my mother wasn’t working, she was busy running the house and keeping her kids in line. I’m sure U.S. housewives were the same.
That concludes our peek into the wild and crazy books from the ‘60s. A few sellers at Amazon.com are offering Women Without Men, but Lesbianism Around the World is nowhere to be found.
I think I’ll hang on to the books, to remind myself of how fortunate we are today. Tons of fiction and non-fiction books about lesbians are only a click away, and many of them are written by lesbians. We speak for ourselves now.
Sarah Ettritch writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories featuring lesbian main characters. She’s a certified story junkie who spends more time than she should making stuff up, reading, watching stories on Netflix, and pretending to be other people in role-playing games. Sarah lives in Toronto, Canada. To find out more about her, visit www.sarahettritch.com.
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