Tag Archives: Jess Stearn

Flog Seven: Heard It Through the GRAPEVINE

Title: The Grapevine: A Report on the Secret World of the Lesbian
Author: Jess Stearn
Year: 1964 (first edition)
Publisher: Doubleday & Company

 

Description: Hardbound in dust jacket.

Pagination: [10] 1-372

Contents: ‘As a reporter who had covered every type of assignment, Jess Stearn was perfectly aware that nobody had ever penetrated the secret world of lesbianism’.

Jess Stearn, leveraging his success and connections from¬†The Sixth Man, an investigation into mid-century American gay male life, speaks with lesbians from across the USA and attends the convention of the Daughters of Bilitis, the ‘first lesbian civil and political rights organization in America’ (thus spoke Wikipedia).

Stearn discusses with a psychologist the causes of lesbianism (chapter title: ‘Why Oh Why?’), provides detailed descriptions of categories of ‘butch’ and ‘femme’, discloses the secrets of supposedly straight Hollywood sex symbols, and investigates the lives of married lesbians.

Throughout, Stearn is careful to assert his own heterosexuality:

‘More than once my own motivations were subjected to question. At a cocktail party, a sociologist, informed of my new project, remarked sourly, “Isn’t it strange that you should have written first about male homosexuality–and now lesbians?” “Not at all,” I answered lightly, ignoring the obvious innuendo. “I have lesbian tendencies.”‘

In many ways, the book reads like the ‘cony-catching’ or rogue pamphlets of the 1550s-1600s, the author-investigator leading the reader into the dark recesses of a secret underworld, explaining in-group terms and conventions (‘On Thursdays…multitudes of lesbians throughout the country wore a special color dress to identify themselves to other secret lesbians. In New York, Lost Angeles, and San Francisco, the cognoscenti wore green…’), feigning occasional moral disapproval while delivering to the titillated reader enticing details.

Condition: Light foxing to foredge. Dust jacket in good condition in protective wrapper. Light edge wear. Spine fading.

Price: £7.50 / $12 (+s&h)

 

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