With my new series, London Underside, I have immersed myself in Victorian London, which has always been a passion of mine. In the first book of the series Molly Boys, I began to explore the underground LGBTQ+ community of Victorian culture and it surprised me that so few people knew what Molly Houses or Molly Boys were.
Starting in the 18th and continuing into the 19th centuries, Londoners began calling gay young men ‘Molly Boys’, while some of them may have been prostitutes a large number of them, in fact, weren’t. A small amount of Molly boys walked the streets of London, frequenting places such as Hyde park looking for paying partners, but most others visited molly houses.
Molly houses were secret and discreet meeting places for gay men where they were able to dress in drag, have relations with other men and even perform play marriages, all while avoiding the condemnation of Victorian society. These places led to a flourishing LGBTQ+ community.
However, it was not without risk or punishment. While female working girls and unfortunates faced arrest also, it was nothing compared to the harsh punishments for homosexuality. From the time of Henry VIII, lustful contact between two men was punishable by death, although that law was later repealed and the sentence commuted to hard labour and often life imprisonment.
The prudish and inflexible attitudes towards same sex sexual relations only served to push Molly houses further underground where London’s gay men found a welcoming community that accepted them.
Sound intriguing? Check out the upcoming new release Molly Boys! You can find the pre-order here