chapter  6
“Now you get this spot right here”: Butch-Fem Sexuality during the 1940s and 1950s
Pages 40

The meaning of butch-fem roles during the 1940s and 1950s was multidimen­ sional. In addition to the political implications embedded in butch-fem appearance, butch-fem roles organized lesbian intimacy, creating and expressing a distinctive lesbian eroticism.1 Intrinsic to the butch-fem dyad was the presumption that the butch was the physically active partner and the leader in lovemaking. As D.J., who has given this much thought, explains, “I treat a woman as a woman, down to the basic fact it’d have to be my side doin’ most of the doin.’ ” Insofar as the butch was the “doer” and the fem was the desired one, butch-fem roles did indeed parallel the male-female roles in heterosexuality. Yet, unlike what transpires in the dynamics of most heterosexual relationships, the butch’s foremost objective was to give sexual pleasure to a fem. It was in satisfying her fem that the butch received fulfillment. “If I could give her satisfaction to the highest, that’s what gave me satisfaction.” As for the fem, she not only knew what would give her physical pleasure, but she also knew that she was not the receptacle for someone else’s gratification. Charlie remembers her pleasure: “I really didn’t do anything, just laid there and enjoyed it.” The essence of this emotional/sexual dynamic is captured

by the ideal of the untouchable butch, or the “stone butch,” that prevailed during this period. A stone butch does all the “doin’ ” and does not ever allow her lover to reciprocate in kind. To be untouchable meant to gain pleasure solely from giving pleasure.