While doing research for an upcoming Novella, I found it surprisingly difficult to find information about male sex workers during the regency period in England. There’s quite a bit of information about the subject during the Victorian era, as well as, some references to Georgian times… but regency proved to be harder to pin down.
I wished to learn more about homosexual men during that period, and wanted to know if it was realistic to have men working in a brothel like The Scarlet Salon? I’d say that based on all that I’ve read, the answer would be YES.
Homosexuality was of course not acceptable during those times (illegal in fact), but like most people know that didn’t stop it from existing. Gay men were often referred to as “Mollys” because they tended to be more effeminate. They met in “Molly Houses” which were the equivalent to today’s gay bars but those were not brothels. They were places for socializing, a safe place for gay couples to interact.
So, if a gentleman wanted to pay for the pleasure of another man’s company during regency times, his best bet was to take to the streets. The most common form of male prostitution back then was “hustling” where men sold their wares, much like women, on the streets of London or in parks. Covent garden was one of the top destination for prostitutes, and streetwalkers could often be found in St. James’s Park. Later on, in Victorian times, Piccadilly Circus was particularly common for male street hustlers.
Another surprising source of male sex workers was the British army. “Barracks prostitution” is well-documented, as many soldiers sold sex to gay clients to supplement their meager pay. They often earned as much as a week’s pay in half an hour. It’s interesting to note that these clients preferred soldiers’ straight trade and felt they were more trustworthy and less likely to blackmail them than typical street hustlers.
I’m not sure how this tidbit of information was discovered, but in earlier days, including regency times, male prostitutes were often bottoms to customers top. Later, in the mid-to-late 1800s, working-class men generally topped their upper-class customers. I suppose it reflected the clear social shift taking place between the classes during that time.
While I was unable to find an exact example of a London brothel employing male prostitutes, there are references to brothels offering transvestite men, called “fairies”, as exotic offerings to male clients. Brothel madams, being the smart businesswomen they were, would have been able to satisfy their clients every whim. They were also known to bribe police officers to turn a blind eye toward their establishments, giving their clients a modicum of safety.
That male prostitution existed in the regency era is a fact. But because sodomy was a capital offence it was kept very much under wraps, making it very hard to find information on the subject outside court persecutions. Supply and demand is the key that drives any market. Since there was a definite demand for male bedfellows then I’m confident that there were high-class male brothel prostitutes just as there were street hustlers.