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Molly Houses: Clubs or Closets?

An Analysis of Molly Houses in Eighteenth-Century London and their Influence on Homophobia in Modern America

Thomas Tessier

on 28 February 2012

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Transcript of Molly Houses: Clubs or Closets?

Molly Houses: Clubs or Closets?

An Analysis of Molly Houses in Eighteenth-Century London and
their Connection to Modern Stereotypes of Homosexual Men
Due to the insular nature of Eighteenth-century Molly Houses in London, their use, while temporarily freeing for "homosexual" male visitors, perpetuated specific stereotypes and beliefs about male homosexuality by confining "homosexual” interaction to a private space.

Thesis: “I went to the prisoner’s house in Field Lane, I found between 40 and 50 men making love to one another, as they called it. Sometimes they would sit in one another’s laps, kissing in a lewd manner and using their hands indecently. Then they would get up, dance and make curtsies, and mimic the voices of women…Then they would hug, and play, and toy, and go out by couples into another room on the same floor to be married, as they called it.”

Samuel Stevens, November, 1725 “‘Molly’ was a term originally used for female prostitutes. Its application to adult effeminate male sodomites began as a linguistic practice that has been maintained for centuries in which many of the popular terms once used for female prostitutes were subsequently used to categorize effeminate men (Some later examples in English language usage: queen, punk, gay, faggot, fairy, and fruit)”
Trumbach, 92 [ "Molly" + House + Eighteenth Cent. London = Stereotypes? ]
Population increasing
Unplanned housing
Minimal sanitation
Crime (some police)
Death rates high
Class tensions Context: Eighteenth Century London The result of this self-imposed isolation within Molly Houses (however justified), further marginalized the homosexual community by physically isolating them and, as the result of targeted raids (both police and non-police), identifiying them with specific behaviors like cross dressing as inherant negative componants of homosexuality.

Resultantly, such effeminate stereotypes, while representative of some members of the homosexual (now queer) community, still exist and are commonly associated with most homosexuals. Such associations, while viewed less negatively today, still marginalize homosexual men and generally cause them to remain within insular communites (e.g. San Fran, Greenwich Village...) Can Homosexuality truly exist within
a Judeo-Christian framework?
Gen. 19: 1-26; 38: 1-11.
I Kgs 14: 22-24; 15: 12;
II Kgs 22: 46; 23: 7
Lev. 18: 22; 20: 13;
Dt. 23: 17-18
Voltaire, Montesquieu, Beccaira
expreess public dissent, compare to search for sorcery and witchcraft British Government

Judeo-Christian Relgion


Biblical Revival 169o - 1730
NOT procreating
"Coitus Interuptus"
Societies for the Ref. of Manners
New roles in domesticity
Euro-centric polity - Lex Scantinia in Rome
Persecutions in Geneva - 16th C.
England - Buggery Act of 1533 (hanging
penalty not lifted until 1861)
Sir William Blackstone (1723 - 80)
"abominable and detestable
crime against nature" in Treatise on
Common Law

Excremental associations
Beastiality assciations
Promiscuity and Prostituion
Undercover operations

Eurocentric modelof homophobia (not just pasisve partner)
Largely Middle and Lower classes (upper classes have private networks)

In 1726, twenty Molly Houses were discovered Many of the men, even those with large athletic bodies, were effeminate and called themselves Miss Selina, or Pretty Harriet, or the Dutchess of Devonshire "the sweetest, fairest, nicest, dished out creatures; and by their elegant address and soft speeches, you would guess them to be Italians... " BUT difficult to prove - need both penetration and ejacultion NO centralized police (surveillance)+ London make growth possible
Molly Houses
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