A brief history of Gay Saunas and Molly Houses. Gay saunas and steam bath are premises for men typically wanting to experience sexual relations with another man. The history of these places can be traced back to the early 15th century with the tradition of a general public bathhouse finding its route around six century BC.
Records from ancient Greece depict many homosexual encounters in these places as really the first privately organised location for sexual encounters amongst males as the gay community really started to come to life in the world.
In the UK the Victorians took a surprisingly liberal view toward homosexuality in society compared to the very conservative views held by the vast majority of Western countries.
The secret meeting places for homosexual outside of the home work called Molly houses these locations were typically caverns, coffee shops to even privately rented rooms when men could freely explore their sexuality.
History reframed from classifying Molly houses as brothels as the presumption of only being used for sexual activity in the main was not true as men could meet and socialise in these places to.
The name Molly house has a couple of theories as to how the name came about the most plausible theory is at the time “Moll’ was a slang term used to describe a lower class girl or woman to even a prostitute.
As Molly houses grew in popularity and increasingly spread across cities in the UK the reality of homosexuality is still attracting the death penalty if men were caught using them, because the target for organised crime gangs into blackmail men using them for large sums of money as they had little to no where to turn for help.
One of the most famous Molly houses ran in Holborn between 1724 -1726 called Clap’s. It operated as a legitimate coffee house by Margaret Clap she was incredibly sympathetic towards the gay community that she cared so much for. Being so heavily involved in the business and overseeing its running day and night it is said she would only leave the premises to pop across the street to buy alcoholic drinks for her customers. Each room lavishly decorated and contain one bed for her clients.
The business is said to have been grown more for pleasure than for profit, one example is that she provided force testimony to the police to get a client released on sodomy charges, knowing full well the repercussions she could face if caught lying.
When eventually her premises were raided and shutdown in 1726 during her trial she was offered opportunities to become an informant to the police for a lenient sentence to which she flatly refused and at the culmination of her trial she was fined and giving a two year prison sentence.
Unfortunately this is when history records end for Margaret Clap it is not known what happened to her and if indeed she made it through prison.
I hope this has given some depth and some substance it just how intrinsically deep and ingrained into our society male saunas and massage parlours in one disguise or another. also the conflict between society, the police and homosexuality is far far from a modern 21st century occurrence.
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