The last of my five sexual exploitation exposés is Sex & Love Among The Poor by Russell Trainer, published in 1968. Now get a load of the title, first of all. You certainly can judge a book by its cover as this one has a poor-people-are-oversexed slant all over it. I certainly knew what I was getting into when I picked up this book well over twenty-five years ago from a donation rejects pile at my library. It has taken me a quarter of a century to read it because I had been using it as risqué bookshelf wallpaper all this time. I have no desire to keep it any longer. However, since this book had been sitting on my shelves for over twenty-five years, the least I could do is read it before I got rid of it.
Trainer’s premise is simple: poor people are lazy slobs who have no money, so they have nothing to do with their time except have sex:
“Poverty is where most of its people have only sex as a pleasure experience.”
The key word in the above citation is “only”. Poor people are usually unemployed, so they have lots of free time to lounge about. Sex can be pretty adventurous if it’s your only pastime, so “the poor” have invented fun new ways to do the nasty. According to Trainer, those in the upper classes would find all this sex talk foreign and offensive. It is almost as offensive as Trainer’s constant pejorative referral to poor people as “the poor”. Only the poor engage in recreational sex, supposedly, and only the poor partake of sexual activities outside of heterosexual intercourse. Affluent people lead more meaningful and civilized lives so they wouldn’t know anything about the sex lives of the poor or their “deviations”. Chapter titles are condescending, such as “Masturbatory Habits of the Poor” and “Sexual Deviations and the Poor”. The case histories are really all elaborate porn stories, high on details that no therapist would ever delve into with a client (like what kind of buttons were on my daughter’s blouse before I banged her). I do not hesitate stating the intended function this book: it’s a collection of jerk-off stories, plain and simple.
The book is full of prejudices about race, youth, economic status…you name it. Incest is rampant among poor neighbourhoods:
“Poverty breeds loneliness and isolation, both geographic and social. The poor know a proximity of family members that is not usual for other social classes. These conditions encourage incest to fester.”
“There is much less guilt associated with incest among the lower-level individuals than among the middle classes. A lesser exposure to sex education among the poor is one reason. Another reason is that it is the act itself, rather than the chosen partner, that provides the pleasure, which is in keeping with the often postulated enunciation that deprived individuals tend to be more self-centered in their desire for sexual gratification.
“Betty Hansen’s father was very self-centered.”
We can’t even feel sorry for Betty Hansen. In her case study, she says “[Having sex with my father] didn’t seem wrong to me”. Perhaps exposure to sex education would have taught Betty that screwing your own father is frowned upon. Or maybe her poor brain was too stunted to think otherwise.
I could only roll my eyes as I read each scathing prejudice. Trainer persists in equating poverty with inattentiveness:
“There is an emotional distance between lower-class husbands and wives that is instrumental in the development of many of the sex practices that are followed.”
This is a canard in order to introduce how poverty leads people to commit sodomy and any other “unnatural” sex acts. It is also a way for Trainer to reproach poor people who express their sexuality. He goes so far as to call this sexual expression a problem of worldwide significance:
“Unwanted births among the poor are rising at an alarming rate. They must be reduced through new methods and approaches to sex education. This, far more than the way the poor make love, remains the world’s biggest problem.”
I cannot take Sex & Love Among The Poor seriously, as it is a pulpy sexual exploitation book disguised as a scientific study after all. Yet in the guise of a jerk-off book Trainer has written some of the most pernicious vitriol against poor people, and also tainted his work with racism, sexism and antisex-ism. One is left with the impression that if a poor person engages in any sexual experimentation outside of intercourse, that is to be condemned because the parties are uneducated bored layabouts, while those with money can do it because…well because they have the money.