Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Lesbian Pulps: A Comparision
Lesbian-themed pulps were a popular sub-genre beginning in the mid to late 1950's. The books were accompanied by titles and cover copy that made lesbianism sound perverted yet seductive-- the "shadowy" sex, "strange" activities, "abnormal love", etc. Looking at three different lesbian pulps, one can see how the cover illustrations evolved as society's standards relaxed and as the country began to enter the sexual revolution.
Strange Path (1953): "Strange Path" is one of the earliest lesbian pulp paperbacks. It also has one of the most evocative covers in terms of portraying lesbian stereotypes. Notice how the woman with the short, dark hair is cutting the blond's hair short. Notice the silly, over-the-top cover blurb: "Her choice: normal marriage or lesbian love?" No skin is shown here. It is devoid of any sex or suggestion of sex. The only things that indicate lesbianism are the title, blurbs, and hair-cutting.
Campus Kittens (1964): "Campus Kittens" is a great example of mid-1960's "soft sleaze." Notice how there is much more skin on this cover, and how the three women could be just finishing a sexual act or about to engage in one. The various states of undress evoke that.
Amateur Night (1965): Although "Amateur Night" was released only a year after "Campus Kittens," it was published by a company that was geared towards actual "sleaze" writing (i.e. sex books), compared to the softer, gentler stuff of "Campus Kittens." The packaging of "Amateur Night" suggests a sexier tone as well. The art is much more provocative with only pasties and strategically placed hands blocking the breasts. The backside of the blond is similarly cloaked by shadows, but the "side buttocks" makes the reader think he or she is seeing much more.
Paul Rader art on "Campus Kittens." Fred Fixler art on "Amateur Night." Not sure who did the art on "Strange Path."