Oriental Sexpotism

Paperbacks and war go together. The first American paperback was published by Pocket Books in 1939; by 1943 these small, soft-covered, portable volumes were being produced in the millions in special Armed Services editions to be given free of charge to soldiers abroad. Platoons of sex-starved servicemen came home with a taste for reading and a hunger for stories as hard as the action they’d faced on the front. Four-color men’s magazines had hardboiled novels with lurid covers catered to the masculine appetite, though prurient content was often couched in scientific, literary, or historical terms to discourage “obscenity” prosecutions.

One sexual revolution and several successful court cases later, pornographers were finally free to anatomize the sexual Zeitgeist with total abandoned—and numbering precision. By the 1970s most every freak and fetish had its own imprint. Early in that decade one could still find books about sex with schoolteachers, stewardesses, and hitchhikers. But as the porn movie industry took off, publishers turned to themes too extreme for even the most Vaselined lens. “Adult books” tackled incest, beastiality, and pedophilia, as well as graphic tales of torture and sexual violence. American Art Enterprises led the pack, with a roster of imprints that included the “Sex Brutality,” “Captive Women,” and “Female Prisoner” series.

In 1979 the mob-owned Star Distributors of New York launched its “War Horrors” imprint, a repetitive catalog of perversions and ethnic caricatures, set in a variety of exotic locales and unapologetic in its race to the bottom line. Women get captured, raped, tortured, and turned out by Koreans(The Communist Slaughterhouse), Russians(Siberian Sex Farm, Slaves of the Kremlin), Vietnamese (Nurse Prisoners of the Cong, Saigon Hell Hole), and especially the Nazis(Gestapo Stud Farm, Swastika She-Devil, Nazi Rape Squad, Dominatrix of Dachau, ad infinitum). But the hoariest and most stereotypical episodes involved the Arabs. Sex slaves and harem girls abound in War Slaves of the Sheik and Slaves of the War Sheik, two completely different books published within months of each other. There is a sense in which all the myriad villains of the ethnographic rogue’s gallery that is “War Horrors” are interchangeable, save for certain telling details. In Prey to Arab Lust the rapists wear white robes and the blond-haired victim is a recent graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.