Sunday, April 01, 2007

Old Book Corner

Twilight Women Around the World; International Picture of the Other Love ILLUSTRATED, R Leighton Hasselrodt MA, Luxor Press London (12s/6d) 1965

I recovered this little beauty while Helga and I were sorting through all our old books, getting them ready for sale. My best guess at its provenance is that it came from the deceased estate of a former teacher who had acquired it through the widespread practice, in secondary schools of the 1960s, of confiscating books that were deemed unfit reading for their young charges.

The book deals with the love that dared not speak its name, lest it be whispered about behind the shelter sheds, or written about on toilet walls. As the title suggests it's an anthropological and historical survey of lesbianism around the world, starting with the US. Here's a chapter listing:
  1. The four F's of Homosexuality: Fable, Fiction, Fancy - and Fact

  2. The Neglected Lesbians

  3. The Loneliest People

  4. You Can't Keep Them Down on the Farm

  5. Split-level Sapphists

  6. The Village Deviate

  7. The In-Between In-Betweens: Girls Attending Boarding Schools, Women in the Armed Forces, Call Girls and Prostitutes, Women in Correctional Institutions

  8. Canadian Capers

  9. Down Mexico Way

  10. The Torrid Tropics

  11. Carnality in the Carribean

  12. Down South America Way

  13. East Side Story

  14. The British Lesbian

  15. Liberte, Egalite - et Homosexualite

  16. Bi-Sex in Benelux

  17. Sapphist Smorgasbord

  18. Deutschland Uber Sexualis

  19. Inversion alla Italiana

  20. Behind the Ironical Curtain

  21. Sapphism in the Satellites

  22. The Home of Homosexuality

  23. The Aberrant Arabs

  24. The Dark Continent

  25. Primitive Paraphiliacs

  26. Sapphism 'Neath the Southern Cross

  27. The Sexual Mysteries of India

  28. The Lesbians of Chung-Hua Jen-Min Kung-Ho Kuo

  29. Lsebos of the Orient

  30. The Globe Girdled
I'll bet that "Sapphism 'Neath the Southern Cross" title caught your eye - it did mine. We'll get to that in due course. First let's lift the "Ironical Curtain" and take a peek at sapphism, Soviet style at the height of the Cold War.

R Leighton Hasselrodt MA begins this chapter by debunking a common misconception:
Anyone having seen photographs of rough-hewn, muscular Russian women toiling as bricklayers or steelworkers might be reasonably expected to suspect that there was an underlying streak of homosexuality beneath the surface manifestations of "mannishness".

Actually, the percentage of female homosexuals in the Soviet Union is very high, though not necessarily among the women who perform such heavy "man's work." These are often merely rugged women of peasant stock, long accustomed to hard physical labour and, despite their appearance, entirely heterosexual with strong, even voracious, heterosexual appetites...
Evidence on Lesbianism in Russia was a bit thin on the ground, because:
As in all matters which might conceivably make the Soviet Union look like anything short of a Utopia, information about the problems of sexual deviation inside the Iron Curtain is seldom released by the authorities...
Nonetheless, with the help of such limited information as was available, R Leighton Hasselrodt MA manages to provide a historical and cultural analysis of Lesbianism in Soviet Russia, before moming in on the salacious details, such as:
Dildoes and other penis-simulating devices are to be found only in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Novosibirsk. They are virtually unknown outside these cities.

...Lesbians in Kiev seem to derive particular pleasure from homosexual activity with pregnant women or recently delivered mothers ...
Sadly:
Despite the much-publicized achievements of Soviet medical science, the Soviet Union lags far behind the West in psychiatric knowledge and techniques. There is little psychotherapy available for homosexual women who desire such help in changing their behaviour patterns to heterosexual ones...
When I turned to "Sapphism 'Neath the Southern Cross" to see what R Leighton Hasselrodt MA had to say about Aussie Lezzoes, what did I find? In a word - nothing. There was plenty of salacious stuff about various South Pacific cultures, but Australia didn't score a mention - the closest R Leighton Hasselrodt MA's global survey got to Godzone country was Papua with its "famous" Orakaiva cult:
... also known as the "Taro Cult". Members hold frequent ritual orgies. These begin with the chewing of betel nut and the eating or drinking of aphrodisaical and hallucination-inducing drugs. Wild and unrestrained dancing - called "kassamba" by the natives - follows. The members of the cult work themselves into an insane sexual frenzy which culminates in a feverish orgy of homosexual, bisexual and pluralistic sexual activity. The homosexual activity among the women generally manifests itself in mutual cunnilingus and frenzied tribadism.
Well, you can see why a school teacher might confiscate such a book, can't you? Reading passages like this might lead to some embarrassing scenes in the classroom:

"Sir, please sir?"

"Yes, what is it Trotsky?"

"Sir, what's tribadism, sir?"

"Trotsky, what have you been reading this time?"

"Just a book sir."

"Look it up in your dictionary boy."

"Have sir - it's not there."

"Then ask Miss Prunesquallor - she's your English teacher, isn't she? She ought to know. Now open your desk, so I can see this book."

Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo.

1 comment:

GoAwayPlease said...

Hi GT -
Your post has reminded me that decades ago we all used to say anybody ill was
"looking very D.S.Burton".
He was the original 'stop it or you'll go blind' proponent; so I Googled him and
it's all there of course.
cheers, B