After the War: A look at lesbian life in the 1950s
In a sense, these lesbians were more mature, more conservative, and had stronger relationships than their predecessors.
Lesbian life before the war
Before America’s involvement in their first World War, same sex relations were relatively indulged– specifically during the Jazz Age in the 1920s.
It wasn’t the norm like opposite-sex relationships, but it was known to occur.
When the war exploded and most of the American men had to go overseas, it left a lot of women alone among themselves. This was when the romantic bond between women blossomed.
After the war, as the world began to rebuild again, same-sex relations were also being rebuilt from the ground up.
Lesbian life in the 1950s: The butches and femmes
It was in the 1950s that the butch-femme relationship became more pronounced.
The butches wore masculine attire: t-shirts, jeans and sweaters. The femmes, on the other hand, were very fashionable with their high heels, dresses, and makeups.
While the butch may appear like men in passing, their aim actually was to claim their lesbian sexuality. They were women but they were tough, ready to fight, and were as competitive as men in fighting for their femme.
It was also during this time that sex developed a different characteristic. Oral sex became an element in sexual relations, i.e. the butch giving pleasure to her femme but not the other way around.
Those who didn’t play this strict butch-femme role and would switch sides were called KiKis or AC/DC.
Unfortunately, because of the Lavender Scare during the fifties, these AC/DC folks were regarded to be undercover police.
Lesbian life in the 1950s: Bars and coffeeshops
The building of big cities also brought in a migration of LGBTs which helped form urban centers. Because of this, gay and lesbian bars became popular hangouts.
It was in the bars that lesbians got to meet other women and relax after a day’s work.
Next to bars, coffeeshops were also popular hangout places for gays and lesbian. Because of the strong business they brought in, coffeeshops allowed the LGBTs to meet at their places.
Lesbians in pulp fiction
A surprising treasure that came out from the fifties were the cheap paperback novels that later become known by its paper: pulp fiction.
A lot of these pulp fiction carried stories of women who love other women. Although these would usually end tragically– suicide, mental breakdown, or heartbreak– these novels were valuable to the lesbians.
“Pulp fiction proved to be what one historian has called the ‘survival literature’ of lesbians during that era,” David Bianco wrote in Planet Out.
To sum, the 1950s was an important chapter in lesbian history as the community life became more defined.