Pulp fiction novels were wildly popular in the 1950's and 60's. These inexpensive paperback novels were filled with sex, some violence, cliches, and lots and lots of adjectives.
Stories with overtly sexual lesbian themes also became widespread during that time. They had provocative covers and seriously confusing synopses. They were billed as "Shocking!" and "Thrilling!" But what happens inside? Do the stories themselves make any more sense than the synopses do?
We went to the Lesbian Herstory Archives to investigate. The books tell tales of tropes we had hoped would have ended by now, i.e. a character hating men so she becomes a lesbian, and scenes that are still going strong, such as lesbians in jail cells. With some of them, we still have no idea what's going on. Oh, well. The covers are still brilliant.
1. Dyke On The Loose
A bold and provocative look inside:
When Julie's husband couldn't take care of her in the bedroom department, she sought love in the arms of other women -- for only their voluptuous bodies and offbeat desires could satisfy her unnatural needs.
This is Julie's Story -- but it could be the story of any one of millions of housewives across the country. It is the bold, provocative tale of what happens when a husband fails his wife in the most important area of all -- sex.
2. Gay Interlude
A heartbreaking look inside:
THEIR AFFAIR HAD REACHED THE CROSS-ROADS
"I can't go on like this," Carol said.
Tab leaped from the bed. "What are you saying? What's wrong?"
"Tab," Carol wailed, "please try to understand."
"I'm not gay!" Carol screamed, clutching her fists to her temples. "I'm not! I never was! I just can't be, Tab, I can't!"
Tab stared at the beautiful blonde girl. Her pulse throbbed and fear clutched at her breast. "Carol," she said in a low voice, "Carol, I love you."
"Stop it, Tab! Stop it!"
"I love you, Carol."
"Well, don't," the girl screamed, beating at her head with clenched fists. "I can't go on like this!"
"Come to me, Carol."
"No!" The girl whirled and ran from the room, the sobs of anguish trailing her.
3. Lesbian Wife
A worrisome look inside:
Mary had paid money for girls before, young luscious girls who would, for a price let a hunchbacked, young but not very luscious woman have them. But only part of this moment was familiar because there were other things torturing the desire in Mary. The platinum-haired whore could only hide part of her revulsion, then her greed made her peel down one shoulder strap. The size and solidity of the jutting white cone pinked with promise made Mary's distorted body whip tight with wanting.
"Lovely darling," Mary breathed. "Here -- let me!"
4. This Can't Be Love
An exhausting look inside:
Like fighting cats, the two women pounced upon each other. The impact forced them both to the floor where they rolled and kicked and scratched. Jan seized clothing, which gave way in her fingers, and she felt her own garments being torn from her body.
"She's mine!" Jan cried, panting. "And you're not going to move in."
"We'll see about that!" Arlene shouted back at her.
They renewed the attack. In a moment tatters of clothing fell about the floor. Blouses shredded first, then bras as the groping fingers pulled them loose. Naked to the waist, both women rolled and thrashed about.
5. Pagan Summer
A innuendo-filled look inside:
JUST THE TWO OF THEM
The beach was hot. Hot and deserted. Muriel sighed and looked down at the smooth-skinned girl lying on the beach mat. There as still need for caution. Someone could appear on the beach at any moment and discover them. For the first time she felt uncertain. Even so, her body ached to come into contact with that soft, feminine flesh.
"Muriel?" The cry was plaintive.
"Aren't you going to give me a massage?"
For a long, thrilling moment, Muriel gazed down at the young girl. The silky-tanned skin. The rounded thighs that offered such warm invitation.
The young girl opened her eyes. "Muriel?"
"Please. Aren't you going to…"
Silence. It was dangerous to feel this passionate. Muriel tried to fight her growing desire. Even the tips of her fingers tingled with excitement. "All right, baby, but not a massage. I know what you really want…"
6. Come Sin With Me!
A surprising look inside:
Jan felt Marion's arms encircle her tightly and her lips press against her hotly as she murmured incoherent words...she pulled Marion's hard, spare body to her and crushed her lips against the other's seeking mouth with a passion that surprised her.
"Oh, Marion," she moaned. "I never knew! I didn't realize it could be this way."
7. Sisterhood Of The Flesh
An exciting look inside:
"The three of us?"
Ellen and Beth nodded enthusiastically.
Melanie managed a smile. But while she appeared calm, she felt vaguely apprehensive about what was to follow. "What happens now?" she asked.
"The first thing," said Ellen, "is to get rid of all these nasty clothes.
Beth and Ellen removed their sweaters and skirts, matter-of-factly. But Melanie seemed to hesitate.
Ellen's voice softened with sympathy. "I was embarrassed on my first threesome, too. I'll tell you what: just pretend that we're going to take a shower together. We do that all the time, don't we?"
The suggestion worked…
8. Babes Behind Bars
A criminal look inside:
Ginger lay there in the dark, her heart pounding, a strange, exciting feeling beginning to seep all through her as she listened to the sounds in the dark below her. She heard Lila whisper: "There, that's better, darling. I don't like to have even that old nightgown of yours between us.
Then Maureen whimpered: "No! No! Please don't. Not tonight, please!"
"I can't help it, hon. Just for a moment. Your breasts are so cute and warm and firm. Ahhh!"
Then there was silence for a few moments, except for the sound of increasingly heavy breathing. Then Maureen made a faint, muffled outcry and Lila giggled, and said: "There! I knew you'd like this. Want me to keep it up?"
Maureen practically groaned it: "Oh, yes! Yes!"
9. Dyke Farm
A pendulous look inside:
Sue Ellen lay in the darkness, filled with apprehension. Something about this large woman frightened her, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She felt something when she'd seen Marlene come from the bathroom, naked, her huge breasts hanging pendulously, her hips fat and largely out of proportion even to the rest of her body. There still was this something between them. It was there between them in the darkness, as palpable as the darkness that surrounded them, and though she couldn't explain what exactly it was, yet it was present.
She rolled over to face the middle of the bed. In turning her hand brushed lightly against Marlene's. She pulled back immediately, afraid that she had offended the older woman.
They lay silently in the darkness after that, breathing softly. Then Marlene moved. Her foot brushed briefly against Sue Ellen's leg, but this time Sue Ellen didn't move. She lay there, thrilling to the contact of their bodies, waiting, hoping that there would be something further than these furtive touches to fulfill their evening.
10. Debut Of A Belated Lesbian
A gender-ambiguous look inside:
Wanda gaped at the six-foot thing dressed in men's loafers, black sock, V-neck sweater, and men's shirt. It was a 190 pounds on the hoof, with closely chopped hair, and the only way Wanda knew it was female, was that its huge breasts were thrust into Wanda's face. "You mess around with my chick again, you bitch, and I'll break you in two!"
Pat pushed Mary toward a large walk-in closet and said: "There's a hanger of belts in there. Go and get me the one that will hurt you the most!
Mary emerged from the closet holding the longest, heaviest belt that Pat owned. "Now get down on your hands and knees, you bitch!" Pat ordered with a menacing, imperious sneer as she took the belt from Mary…
11. Never Love A Man
A man-hating look inside:
"Hurry," Alestra called.
Carole slipped in beside her.
Alestra's hands played their symphony, striking harsh chords. There were no kisses. The hands were crude, the nails cruelly cutting.
Carole was transfixed. "What has happened to us?"
"Nothing," Alestra said, her actions remorseless.
Carole felt panic mounting. "You're hurting me," she screamed.
And then she felt the world go red, slip away. Before she sank into tortured, outraged pleasure, she heard Alestra's words, enraged behind clenched teeth.
"If it's a man you want, I can fulfill that, too…"
12. Rebel Woman
A rebellious look inside:
Delores suddenly picked up a blanket and walked away from the fire. Jim Patterson stared after her. She might be a rebel soldier, but she was the loveliest creature he had ever seen -- a Cuban blonde with brown eyes of liquid beauty and a body softly delicate and slender.
Out of the corner of his eye, Patterson could see that Mirtha was also watching the girl, a look of strange hunger on her face.
"I would like to talk to you, Mirtha," Patterson whispered.
"I have nothing to say to you."
"But I can think of much to say to you."
"No." She turned from him and looked for a long moment toward the place where Dolores lay rolled into her blanket. Then she glanced over once more at Patterson.
He let his gaze touch hers, then pulled it away and stared into the fire.
Mirtha picked up a blanket and threw it across her shoulders. Then she went slowly up the incline to where Dolores had made her bed.
13. Lesbian Web Of Evil
A bloody look inside:
The touch was the touch of death. Sudden death. That aroma was a mixture of heady perfumes, fragrant, female, frankly sexy. Sound-point, counterpoint-a young girl's heavy breathing, the steady pitter-patter of shower flow pelting flesh and bathtub porcelain. The taste was the dryness of fear and horror, salt-flavored with unshed tears, sour with the bile of nightmare nausea. And sight. The unseen scene. A small motel room, bath adjoining. The room dark with night, the bathroom bulb-lit. Half in, half out of the tub, bent backwards with hair cascading into the small puddle forming on the floor, sprawled the body of a young girl. From just under the swell of one scarlet-tipped breast protruded the handle of an ice pick. Her eyes were wide open, staring. She was dead.
14. Lesbian Limbo
An impulsive look inside:
Bea felt herself flush with embarrassement. She'd never thought of herself as pretty. Suddenly she had the impulse to kiss the beautiful woman in gratitude. She planted a warm kiss firmly on the woman's mouth. Betty responded, and the kiss lasted a very long time. Bea felt her heart pounding within her as the woman's tongue searched inside of her mouth. She pressed up close to the woman, wanting more.
When they broke apart, the woman's dark eyes searched hers. "Did I offend you?"
"No," Bea felt a dizziness engulf her, and her arms went more tightly around the woman. "It...it was...wonderful…"
Suddenly the woman's mouth came down again on hers. Their arms went around each other hungrily. But then Betty pushed her away, gently. "Come, we'll lie on the bed."
15. I Am A Lesbian
A cheesy look inside:
It was while I clerked at Hansen's Dress Shop that I met the girl who I knew at first glance could be as close to me, as all-important, as in my loneliness I'd dreamed a girl could be. She was the accountant at the store. Jan Nelson! Her name was Janet, but ever since she could remember no one had called her anything but Jan. Jan suited her.
I'd never known anyone like her!
Jan was tall, slender, broad-shouldered. She always dressed in blouses and skirts, or trim, tailored suits. She walked with long steps. Her stride was graceful. And her voice, while deeper than most women's, was always gentle.
Jan's dark-blonde hair had a slight wave in it. She wore it cut short, parted on one side and combed back behind her ears. There was a natural dignity about this quiet girl. She had about her the essence of sincerity, as some women wear about them an aura of perfume.
The first moment I saw her, when she came out of her cubbyhole in the business office and said, "Hello!" in her throaty voice, my heart knew what it means to thrill.
A week later, when she asked me to go to lunch with her, my world really began.
As we had spaghetti and cheese, French bread and coffee in a booth for two at Tony's Italian Cafe, I was fascinated by Jan. I couldn't take my eyes off her face. I didn't even glance at the food, which I hardly tasted. All I thought of was, With Jan I could really be happy. Jan could really be happy with me. And in a psychic way I was sure that Jan knew it too.
16. The Loyal Lez
A psycho-sexual look inside:
IN HIS BOOK, PSYCHO-SEXUAL PROBLEMS, ALEX M. SZEDENIK, WRITES: "Society tolerates homosexuality in women somewhat more than in men, possibly because it is more easily hidden… It is not thought unusal for two women to live together. In our society women may make a show of affection for each other, kissing, walking arm in arm, and so on." The photographer who owned Lasley Features, Inc., was all in favor of female alliances. Sharon Lasley indulged in them, and made her fortune by distributing pictures of her girls together. Ben and Angie tired to put an end to her lucrative business, but she knew how to stop them...or thought she did.
17. Twice As Gay
A life-altering look inside:
"Come over to the bed, baby," ordered Butch, the boyish looking lesbian as she closed the door of the cottage.
"Don't do that," protested Carol, feeling a sharp anxiety sweep through her loins and up into her sharp pointed breasts. "I already told you, I'm not going to….let you touch me."
"Cut it out, baby," smiled Butch, "and you'll find out what it feels like for a girl to make love to another girl. When I get finished with you, never again will you want a man."
18. Lesbos Beach
A gloriously naked look inside:
"Take off your dress and come help me with my bath," commanded Wanda as she stood in glorious nakedness before her hostess. Seeing Cara's reluctance as she stripped down to her panties, the aggressive Wanda said, "What are you ashamed of? Your husband probably wanted the same thing."
Cara looked surprised and flushed as she peeled off her panties and then unhooked her bra. Her breasts bounced high and pink, the summits already as hard as sea shells. "Yes, we used to do these things...both of us washed each other."
An angsty look inside:
Carla Manning paced the empty and quiet apartment, her eyes darting to the wall clock incessantly. She puffed on a filter cigarette in an agitated manner, her slender hands occasionally brushing back her loose black hair. It was close to midnight and yet sleep was unthinkable as long as she was alone in the apartment and had to endure depression alternating with unrest.
I'll bet she's kissing him right now, Carla thought, standing by the window and hugging her arms to her small firm breasts. Parked on some dark street, probably necking like two high-school kids. She's doubtless even allowing him to pet her, and he's asking her to move into the back seat where they can have more room.
Carla shuddered and frowned, touching her forehead to the cool glass of the window. What's the matter with me, she thought. Why on earth should it matter so to me what she does? Why does it make me feel sick inside just to think of her letting a man put his hands on her body? Why do I become so upset when she goes out on a date? Why do I worry so about her?
20. Queer Patterns
An intimate, honest look inside:
Honey-haired, statuesque Sheila Case had a "crush" on Nicoli. But Sheila wasn't a schoolgirl any longer…. She should have realized that the attraction of woman for woman was unconventional, unhealthy, strange.
On the other hand, Nicoli knew exactly what she was doing. Cool and deliberately sensual, she let herself slip entirely into a half-world of unnatural lovemaking.
This is an intimate, honest novel about a delicate human problem -- the rarely faced-up-to matter of lesbianism -- written at an intelligent, mature level.
21. A Lesbian For The Making
A flirtatious look inside:
Linda felt the woman's eyes exploring her body. She tried to keep her mind on what she was typing but found it very difficult. She needed this job and she liked the idea of working for this famous woman, Terry Reeves -- and if it meant flirting, then Linda would flirt.
22. She Devil
A surprisingly hetero look inside:
Julia Harrison stood at the rear of the class. In front of her, spread in a wide semi-circle around a raised wooden platform where a naked model posed, her class of fifteen students were busily putting the finishing touches on their clay figures.
Julia was impatient for the class to be over. She had been impatient for this day to come for weeks, but she was also afraid. The impatience began the moment she said goodbye to Don and he left for a three-month trip to the Persian Gulf aboard his ship. She looked beyond the model to the skylight, where the soft light of a late autumn afternoon glowed. In just a few hours, she thought, he'll be here.
23. A Lesbian Happening
An educational look inside:
"Lisa," she said, "we were meant to meet."
She saw Lorri's face come in closer. Then she felt the soft, full lips against her own.
"Lisa...Lisa...I'll be so gentle with you. Not like him. Not like any of the men," she whispered.
Lisa released a sigh and slumped against Lorri. "Lorri," she breathed, "teach me."