This one came in the mail without a front or back cover. It’s a lesbian novel by Linkletter. I happened to also catch on cable the movie, Monster, as I was reading this, and they are oddly similar: about butch lesbians searching for love in a prejudiced world.
Sex Substitute is the diary of a 35-year-old woman named Peggy, a “butch” lesbian who has a thing for young lipstick lesbians, who keeps getting hurt and betrayed, often when a lover turns to a man, as we see in the first chapter. She’s worried about being one of those old lonely dykes who chase young tail. Her rival and friend, a woman named Johnny who hooks on the side for money, tells Peggy that true love and ever-lasting lesbian relationships are impossible for women like them, and she should take the “love them and leave them” route.
Peggy still believes she may one day meet a woman she can be with forever, even marry. She picks up a young girl walking down the road named Sheila. Sheila has just jumped out of a car of a man who tried to rape her. Peggy expounds on the evils of the penis and how women don’t need it. Sheila is naive, a virgin, and has no idea Peggy is a lesbian.
They become friends, and Peggy has her designs on the heterosexual Sheila: she will turn the girl to the joys of the third sex. Over the course of months, Peggy falls desperately in love and dares not make an overt move for fear she will lose Sheila.
Peggy shares a house with her younger brother, Ray; their parents died and left them some money and a home, which is why Peggy can afford to help Sheila and spend her time drinking and hanging out at lesbian bars. When Ray and Sheila meet, it is love at first sight, and as much as Peggy tries to keep them apart, Ray winds up asking Sheila to marry him and she accepts.
In a drunken rage, Peggy attacks Sheila and tries to rape the girl, but Sheila fights her off, and agrees to forget the incident if Peggy mainatins herself. Ray has no idea his sister is gay and would disown her if he knew — which he eventually does.
Having the love of her life marry her brother send Peggy into an alcoholic, suicidal downfall; she gets into a car accident and later tries to kill herself. But no fear — she does find some love at the end, when she goes to see an old flame she broke up with because the woman wasn’t young anymore. Peggy realizes if she is going to have gay love in her life, she can’t be picky about age, and the young lipsticks are no longer for her.
At times trite, this is a pretty mature novel about butch lesbian lifestyles, and I’m surprised not to see it on the lesbian classical pulp lists, perhaps an oversight for having been published by schlock house Neva/Playtime, which had an address in Vegas but was really run out of Florida.
There’s a powerful section where Peggy remembers her father visiting a mulatto hooker he was in love with, and the atmosphere of bigotry at the time (and still exists).
If you can find a copy, this is recommended along with Linkletter’s others recently read: Taxi Dancers, Our Flesh was Cheap, and The Gay Ones.
There are about five or so other Linkletter books we will look at soon as well…