18th Century Gay Bars Thrived In A Very Dangerous England!


Like men’s club houses, molly houses were also places people went simply to socialize, gossip, drink and smoke. WELLCOME COLLECTION/CC BY 4.0

“There I found a company of men fiddling and dancing and singing bawdy songs, kissing and using their hands in a very unseemly manner”

Like other oppressed groups, gay men have always felt the need to congregate and "take the mask off", even in very dangerous times!! It took a lot of courage and a lot of alcohol!! 

"It’s hard to unpick exactly where molly houses came from, or when they became a phenomenon in their own right. In documents from the prior century, there is an abundance of references to, and accounts of, gay men in London’s theaters or at court. Less overtly referenced were gay brothels, which seem harder to place than their heterosexual equivalents. (The historian Rictor Norton suggests that streets once called Cock’s Lane and Lad Lane may lend a few clues.) Before the 18th century, historians Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant Ragan argue, sodomy was like any other sin, and its proponents like any other sinners, “engaged in a particular vice, like gamblers, drunks, adulterers, and the like.”

 "But in the late 17th century, a certain moral sea change left men who had sex with men under more scrutiny than ever before. Part of this stemmed from a fear of what historian Alan Bray calls the “disorder of sexual relations that, in principle, at least, could break out anywhere.” Being a gay man became more and more dangerous. In 1533, Henry VIII had passed the Buggery Act, sentencing those found guilty of “unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man” to death. In theory, this meant anal sex or bestiality. In practice, this came to mean any kind of sexual activity between two men. At first, the law was barely applied, with only a handful of documented cases in the 150 years after it was first passed—but as attitudes changed, it began to be more vigorously applied."


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