The Lesbian – Dr. Benjamin Morse aka Lawrence Block (Monarch Books, 1962)
The sleaze book era of the 1960s gave rise to the fictional medical case study book, after the bestselling status of Masters and Johnson and The Kisney Report. Publishers wanted to cash in on this genre so hired writers out of Scott Meredith to pen bogus academic studies — Lawrence Block was Benjamin Morse, Robert Silverberg was L.T. Woodward. I know Art Plotnik did one of fetsihes.
I have wondered how many people picked these books up back then and thought they were real, and if students or researchers cited them in papers. And what’s the danger of such for academic accuracy and scholarly evidence in research, something that has been an issue lately with global warming and other research. Indeed, the notion of “the politics of evidence” in academics has been a point of heated debate the past two years.
Today, of course, these books would never pass muster; what they really are: collections of short stories linked by a fake sexologist, much like the recent studies by Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow. Entertainment, no less!
This book was published when “homosexuality is illegal. Yet common sense tells us that it should not be” (p. 136). Men and women could be, and were, arrested if caught in the act, even in the privacy of their homes, and often in hotels when management would turn them in. “Queer friendly” motels were common.
Block/Morse goes through the gambit of “types” of lesbians that he interviews, from the college girl, the office girl, the career gal a literary agent in this case), the prostitute, the matron, the man hater, the bohemian, the frigid wife, the “unsuccessful heterosexual” and the dull dyke. Some he deems are not true lesbians but just girls experiemnting, or who are bi-sexual; others he deems are born lesbians.
But how accurate is this book, knowing it is fiction and written by a man? Block knew the gay community well, writing about lesbians as Leslie Evans, Jill Emerson, and Sheldon Lord. A more authentic typology would be Ann Aldridge’s We Walk Alone.
In conclusion, Morese write:
There is no way to sum up a book such as this one. It is not a novel or a biography. It is not even a single complete argument… (p. 140)
What is it then?
Pulp sleaze written for a quick buck.