Molly house

A Molly house is an archaic 18th century English term for a tavern or private room where homosexual and cross-dressing men could meet each other and possible sexual partners. Found in most of the larger cities, Molly houses were a precursor to the modern gay bar.

18th century illustration of a "homosexual"

In 18th century England, a "molly" referred to an effeminate male, or a sodomite.[1][2] Mollies, and other third sex identities were the precursor to the 'homosexual' identity of the 20th and 21st centuries.[3])

The most famous molly house was Mother Clap's in the Holborn area of London.

Patrons of Molly houses who dressed in women's clothing were called "Mollies", they would take on a female persona, have a female name, and affect feminine mannerisms and speech. Marriage ceremonies between a Mollie and her male lover were enacted to symbolise their partnership and commitment, and the role-play at times incorporated a ritualised giving birth.[4]

At the time, sodomy was a capital offence in England, and court records of sodomy trials of the period provide much of the evidence about molly houses.[citation needed]

On 9 May 1726, three men (Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright) were hanged at Tyburn for sodomy following a raid of Margaret Clap's molly house. Charles Hitchen, the Under City Marshal (and crime lord), was also convicted (in 1727) of attempted sodomy at a Molly house.


[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Grose, Francis (1796). A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue (3 ed.). Printed for Hooper and Wigstead. "MOLLY, a miss Molly, an effeminate fellow, a sodomite.". 
  2. ^ The Gay subculture in eighteenth century England Rictor Norton Quote: However, I think we have to exercise some caution and avoid jumping to the conclusion that just because we do not hear of the molly subculture or effeminate queens before 1700, therefore they did not exist until 1700.
  3. ^ Sex and the Gender Revolution, Volume 1, Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London Randolph Trumbach; Quote: A revolution in gender relations occurred in London around 1700, resulting in a sexual system that endured in many aspects until the sexual revolution of the 1960s. For the first time in European history, there emerged three genders: men, women, and a third gender of adult effeminate sodomites, or homosexuals. This third gender had radical consequences for the sexual lives of most men and women since it promoted an opposing ideal of exclusive heterosexuality. In Sex and the Gender Revolution, Randolph Trumbach reconstructs the worlds of eighteenth-century prostitution, illegitimacy, sexual violence, and adultery. In those worlds the majority of men became heterosexuals by avoiding sodomy and sodomite behavior.
  4. ^ Norton, Rictor (1992). Mother Clap's molly house : the gay subculture in England, 1700-1830. GMP. ISBN 9780854491889. OCLC 27100305. 

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