Gummo's 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 – something that was apt to happen even when the name went unspoken. 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. Lesbos 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.”

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5 comments on “Gummo's Old Book Corner
  1. wbb says:

    I’m bidding $7.00 for that one, Gummo.

  2. tigtog says:

    So does this book have a single formal cite, or are we all meant to bask in the ineffable research skills of R Leighton Hasselrodt MA?

  3. Katz says:

    A quick Google reveals that Twilight Women Around the World; International Picture of the Other Love ILLUSTRATED, R Leighton Hasselrodt MA, Luxor Press London (12s/6d) 1965 is a sexed up version of Lesbianism around the world (A Midwood book, Tower Publications 1963), R. Leighton Hasselrodt.

    In 1963 it appears that Mr Hasselrodt may not yet have completed his MA.

    However, in 1960 a man with a remarkably similar name was published in ALL MAN Magazine: Trapped in a harem of seven foot blondes.; “What Every Woman Wants Out of Sex” (expose) by H.L. Hasselrodt, art by Barry Waldman.

    It seems almost inconceivable, given the specialised subject matter, that these were two separate individuals.

    It would appear, therefore, that Mr Hasselrodt enjoyed a brief career as a published author during that interregnum between outright repression and the sexual revoution of the later 1960s. This was the period of popular prurience. Previously, specialised presses catered to this niche market. Mr Hasselrodt appears to have been active in its democratisation.

    Am I confessing too much ignorance by stating that I’d never come across the word “tribadism” before?

    I thank Mr Hasselrodt and Gummo for filling this gap in my education.

  4. Sorry wbb, but the book is not for sale.

    And no, tigtog, there isn’t a single citation in the whole thing. Possibly the bibliography was lost on the way to the Luxor Press!

  5. Adam Gall says:

    ‘It would appear, therefore, that Mr Hasselrodt enjoyed a brief career as a published author during that interregnum between outright repression and the sexual revoution of the later 1960s. This was the period of popular prurience. Previously, specialised presses catered to this niche market. Mr Hasselrodt appears to have been active in its democratisation.’

    Brilliant analysis Katz! I’d also suggest, although I could be wrong, that the MA qualification cited might have been the 1960s equivalent of one of those degrees that you can get online in ‘just six weeks’.

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