Unnatural by Sloane Britain (Midwood #47, 1960)
I wonder how a lesbian author felt having to, for marketing and legal reasons, have “Two women sharing a love that was unnatural” and “forbidden love in the twilight world of the third sex” on the cover of her novel, especially when she was also her own editor.
Unnatural is the story of Allison’s wandering maze through the lesbian world, and her love for Lydia, a woman who has made Allison her submissive in a D/s relationship.
Is this the same Allison in These Curious Pleasures? Do the events in this novel take place before the other? Britain doesn’t say, but it’s possible. The Allison in Pleasures is hesitant to get into a serious gay relationship with another woman because of past bad experiences, and Unnatural is all about Allison’s bad sexual experiences.
The first is a rape by her boss at her first job in New York. She has come to the Big Apple with Big Dreams. She does secretarial work and her boss had taken notice of her. He calls her into his office, plies her with booze, and then makes his move on her…she is frozen, not knowing what to do. She’s a virgin. She lets him fuck her. When he sees the blood on the couch, he freaks out, saying he would never have done it had he known. Worried about repercussions, he gives her $100 and tells her to go home and look for another job…
She spends days in bed, shellshocked by the experience.
She walks around the city, wondering what to do with her life. She winds up in Greenwich Village and goes into a gay bar. After a few drinks, she meets Lydia, a woman with pale blonde hair and a fair complexion. Lydia picks Allison up, they go to Lydia’s spacious apartment and have tremendous twilight sex. Allison never knew it could be this way, etc.
Several days later Allison moves in — Lydia insists, presumes, never asks. Lydia is controlling. Allison goes along with anything she says, which gradually gets depraved.
Lydia id a theater actress but seems to make more money than she should. Lydia prostitutes on the side. She does it for “kicks.” She seems to get off making men pay her for love. She brings men home, and the agreement is that the men get to watch Allison and Lydia make out and undress. For $125-200, the men can join in. Allison’s first time doing this is a bit strange for her.
He took Allison first. It didn’t hurt. It was just, well, sort of nothing. She could feel him, the nerves responded to his movements. But the sensation stopped there. (p. 35)
The debauchery also includes women:
Sometimes she took Allison to a gat bar in the Village. Lydia would pick up girls in the bar — sometimes two or three — and take them home. They would have wild orgies. Lydia liked having Allison watch her making love to another woman. Lydia would taunt her that she wasn;t as good a lover as the other women.
Then Lydia had hit on the idea of having Allison go to bed with men for money. She knew that Allison hated being touched by a man. The issue of money made it even more humiliating.(p. 58)
Why would a woman put up with such treatment? Why does anyone? The relationship is based of depravity and pain. The games are: Allison is the good or bad little girl and Lydia is either the nurturing loving Mommy or the Mommy who punishes.
Allison grew t hate Lydia. And she loved her at the same time. She needed Lydia. Everything about her that was mean and cruel excited Allison, made her desire Lydia more.
More than she hated Lydia, she hated herself. (p. 58)
Allison has never been in a situation like this, nor does she understand the complexities of D/s or BDSM, so it’s all the more confusing. Perhaps the title of the novel doesn’t have to do with lesbiana, but the dynamics of their sexual interactions, which makes Allison ”
feel sick and rotten inside and she couldn’t break away from the sordid mess.
She was no good inside, evil. Evil should be punished.
And Lydia punished her. (p. 58)
Lydia has her own hang-ups as well. She liked to “make love” (i.e., go down on) women, but doesn’t like it done to herself. It
wasn’t enough for Lydia. She liked to be made love to also. Only it had to be a man. She said that the two kinds of love-making were completely different for her. The kocks she got from a man were different from the way she felt with a woman. It was the other side of the coin for her. Lydia liked a man to abuse her in bed. Even though she was a controlling bitch with everyone in every other sort of situation, in bed Lydia liked a man to act as if he were her master.
Allison had watched her make love that way many times. It looked ridiculous. The men only slapped and whipped Lydia because she wanted them to. They didn’t force her, she was the one controlling everything. (p. 61)
Much more explicit than your usual 1960 sex paperback.
At a wild party that becomes a drug-happy orgy, Allison meets Calvin Stanton, a tall skinny guy with a blonde beard. He’s more interested in her than she is in him; waking her up in the aftermath of a multi-girl sex romp, drunk and abandoned by Lydia, she goes home with Calvin to sober up and ponder on why she agreed to go to an orgy and do whatever Lydia wanted. Cal seems to be aware of the D/s relationship and knows Allison isn’t happy. He thinks she needs a man, him, not a woman.
Cal is a curious character…
“I thought you said you were an artist.” [Allison]
“Oh, I probably did. I’m not,” he said.
“You talk and look like one.”
“That’s because I’m really a writer. Unsuccessful painters and unsuccessful writers look all alike.”
“What do you write?”
“Did. I haven’t written anything in over a year.”
“They call it writer’s block. Can’t get the words out of my head and down on paper. When I could, I wrote novels. Mostly cheap things for the trash paperback market.” (p. 82)
Cal is similar to Gabe in Meet Marilyn, trapped in the hackwork of sleazecore paperbacks, something Britain/Williams knew well.
We learn that Cal was once married to a girl he loved, a simple farm girl from New Hampshire, and he write a mainstream novel that was published to good reviews and decent sales. Then his wife was killed in a freak car accident and after that, all he could write were sex books, sleaze, and tawdry detecttive yarns.
Allison succumbs to him and has sex with Cal and is shocked that she feels something — the sex is better than with Lydia. How can this be? because Lydia is cruel and Cal is sweet and kind?
She goes home, afraid Lydia is scold her for being away, but Lyda is not there. For days she doe snot show, and she learns that Lydia was arrested in a raid for prostitution, and because she was high ion reefer, she acted like a mad woman and attacked the cops.
Lydia is in jail for a week, having fun with her teenage cell mate. Allison wanders into a gay bar and gets picked up by a gal named Sally. Allison decides to switch roles — instead of being the demure one, she tells Sandy, “I want to be the Daddy tonight” and tops the surprised Sandy. She likes having Lydia’s role.
She stays with Sandy for a week…it’s great but is temporary.
She returns home and Lydia is there, furious. She gets out of jail and her bad baby girl was with another woman? Lydia punished Allison sadistically, whipping and beating her to a near pulp, then clawing her nails into Allison’s bruised ass. Allison attacks Lydia, bashing her Mommy’s head into the wall.
All along Cal has been searching for Allison, professing love, but she has been avoiding him. Now homeless, she seeks Cal out and he says she will live with him and they will get married.
What the hell? After her other books did not adhere to the genre formula of the repenting lesbian, is Sloane Britain going to have Allison find happiness with a man, turning her head back on dykedom?
I was shocked, surprised, disappointed in this, as much as Vin Packer hated to have the “lesbianism leads to tragedy and madness” ending of Spring Fire.
And yet…reading between the lines, I can tell that Elane Wlliams/Sloane Britain is making fun of this genre trick to keep the pure ones happy, to keep the government from charging Midwood with obscenity.
The book ends this way:
Cal would always be near her. From now on. For always. Alllison sipped the wild sweet wine of happiness. (p. 158)
But we know this isn’t so, this is not real life, there will not be any happily ever after. How could there? They hardly know each other, only had sex once. The true reason she’s with Cal in his home is because Lydia threw her out and she had nowhere to go. She’s using a man the way Lydia used men for money. When Cal isn’t looking, Allison will slip out to the gay bars for quickie sex with strangers. She may find another woman for love and leave Cal.
Or maybe she will get the acted bug like Lydia and eventually do a TV pilot and meet “Sloane Britain” and move out to L.A. with her?
Because as much as she may have hated the D/s relationship and the depraved kinky sex, deep down she loved it, and she knows she can play both little good girl and Daddy, too.
Between the lines, Sloane Britain tells us: “These patent happy endings of men and women are bullshit. She’s a dyke and will always be a dyke.”