Weird History This Old Hollywood Siren Refused To Change Her Sexual Preferences For Anyone  

Melissa Brinks
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The silver screen stars of old Hollywood entrance people even today. As some of our most enduring celebrities, their personal lives became public discussion – that's why Katharine Hepburn's sex life is still talked about. Because it wasn't possible to be very open about sexuality in the days of Old Hollywood, it's hard to say exactly how Katharine Hepburn would identify in today's terms, but many people, thanks to ample evidence, believe the starlet was attracted to women. 

It's difficult to verify a lot of the claims made about her, but some have been well-documented in researched memoirs and biographies. Hepburn's relationship with sex is an intriguing one. Rumors run the gamut from the famous Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy tabloid-fodder relationship to her and some 150 women. Combined with her preference for masculine clothing, Hepburn's affairs have led to a lot of speculation over the years. Though they're hardly the only interesting thing about her, the nature of these relationships continue to fascinate people to this day.

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Photo: Full Service/Grove Press

A Hollywood Pimp Hooked Hepburn Up With Some 150 Women

Scotty Bowers, a former marine, served an interesting purpose in the golden age of Hollywood: he connected the gay and bisexual actors and actresses of that generation with lovers of their preferred gender. In his 2012 memoir Full Service, he claims that he connected Hepburn with roughly 150 women.

It's important to note that Bowers was quite progressive for the era, as he was willing to connect these people together without judgment. He kept their secrets until after their deaths to prevent public scrutiny. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, "... I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares." Though not every story has been corroborated, multiple people have vouched for Bowers as a reliable source.

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Photo: Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

One Of Hepburn's First Rumored Relationships Was With A College Friend

One of Hepburn's earliest relationships with a woman was allegedly with Alice Palache, a fellow student at Bryn Mawr, the all-women's college Hepburn attended. The two had much in common and built a fast friendship, though others read that relationship quite differently.

For example, Hepburn and Palache went to see The Captive, a Broadway show, together. The Captive was notorious for attracting young, unaccompanied female viewers because it depicted a woman trying to decide between an idyllic life and pursuing the woman she loved. Palache also wrote many letters about her attraction to and crushes on women – which some view as being platonic – with one of them detailing a dress she wanted to wear to impress Hepburn. It's unclear whether anything ever happened between the two since such things weren't openly discussed at the time, but their fondness for one another has led many to believe it was more than friendship.

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Photo: Asbury Park Press/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Laura Harding Was Rumored To Be One Of Hepburn's Lovers

Laura Harding was one half of Hepburn's most famous same-gender relationships. Like all of her couplings, it's unclear whether or not it was sexual in nature. But Harding did publicly refer to herself as Hepburn's husband at one point, even though Hepburn was married to Ludlow Ogden Smith at the time. Harding was even a guest on Hepburn's honeymoon with Smith – who also brought a companion, Jack Clark – and the two remained friends and may have lived together for much of their lives. One biographer claims the two were involved in a long-term relationships from 1928 until Harding's death in 1994.

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Photo: Sylvia Scarlett/RKO Radio Pictures

Hepburn Played Many Roles People Viewed As "Masculine"

Hepburn was known as a classic Hollywood starlet, but she was also notorious for flouting traditional gender norms. This extended to her characters, who were often more commanding and emblematic of modern womanhood than typical idyllic Hollywood figures at the time. In college, Hepburn often played men on stage, and, as she began her Hollywood career, she starred in a film by an open lesbian, Dorothy Arzner, which included an unhappy romance with a man. In Sylvia Scarlett, she played a woman who disguised herself as a man and kiss a maid on screen. The film was directed by George Cukor, another openly gay director, and included not only a same-gender kiss between Hepburn's character and the maid, but also some homoeroticism in the way that male characters responded to Hepburn's character's masculine presentation.