chapter
Mollies
Pages 4

In northwestern Europe during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, urbanization went hand in hand with the development of a male homosexual subculture. By the first decade of the eighteenth century in England, participants and opponents had begun regularly to employ the term molly to signify male sodomites who sought out and engaged in sex with other men. Prior to this period, there had been places where men met and had sex. But the taverns, back rooms, inns, and private houses that made up London’s numerous “molly houses” are the first locales (outside of the royal court) known to have provided a consistent network of like-minded individuals and relatively secure access to erotic gratification. The mollies who socialized in these places were crucial to the formation of a modern homosexual identity. While the name molly has disappeared from the current gay male lexicon, related terms such as Mary Ann, girlfriend, and sister along with queeny camp behavior reflect cultural continuities across time.