Policing male heterosexuality: the reformation of manners societies' campaign against the brothels in Westminster, 1690-1720.
For a forty-year period in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the reformation of manners societies arrested hundreds of men for being in the company of "lewd women." These middle-class societies sprouted up around London and in the provinces from the 1690s to the 1730s. (6) The societies targeted everything from profanity to Sabbath-breaking, but historians who have examined their activities in the brothels have tended to focus upon the societies' suppression of female prostitutes and male sodomites. (7) This article will show that the societies for the reformation of manners policed male heterosexuality by targeting whores' clients. Their arrests and prosecutions were relatively minor, and thus have been largely dismissed by historians, but they deserve more attention.
Generally, scholarship has agreed with the popular notion that prostitutes' customers faced little policing until the late twentieth century. Ruth Mazo Karras argued that "the laws and regulations" surrounding prostitution in medieval England "collectively betray a complete lack of interest in inhibiting male sexual gratification." (8) Similarly, Tony Henderson's study of prostitution and Tim Hitchcock's treatise on sexuality dealt extensively with the policing of female prostitutes and of homosexuals, but were tellingly silent on male heterosexuals. (9) Paula Bartley, author of a recent book on prostitution in the nineteenth century, stated bluntly that only "prostitutes, not the men who used them, were the objects of moral [and legal] scrutiny." (10)
Even Randolph Trumbach, the only historian to closely examine the reformation of manners societies' arrests of prostitutes' clients in his highly contentious Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London, downplayed the movement's significance in policing masculine heterosexuality. Although he acknowledged that men were arrested along with women in the reformation of manners' 1690-1730 campaign, the point served more as a backdrop for his overall contention that the eighteenth century saw an increase in male libertinism. (11) According to Trumbach, men were driven to seek out prostitutes, as the century wore on, by a strong desire to prove that they were not effeminate, not part of the new "third gender" of mollies. (12) Randolph Trumbach's conclusions have been widely questioned, and, ironically, his need to uncover these very subtle factors affecting masculine heterosexuality have caused him to downplay the more overt policing that occurred at the beginning of the century. (13)
As we shall see, the evidence of the societies' actions against prostitutes' customers brings into question many standing interpretations of the reformation of manners' historical significance. By calling for the arrest of middle-class men for buying sex on the street, the societies were clearly policing their own class as well as the poor, contrary to Robert Shoemaker's recent contention that they represent a growing eighteenth-century desire to police the poor. (14) Randolph Trumbach also argued that the reform drive concentrated on the poor and ignored the rich, despite his own evidence that the vast majority of the prostitutes' clients arrested were of middling, rather than poor, status. (15)
Rather than a modernizing movement of middle-class self-policing, however, the societies for the reformation of manners were as backward-looking as they were forward. Margaret Hunt has argued that the societies represent "a buoyant and essentially modernizing movement," and "one of the earliest systematic efforts by groups of middling people to remake the urban environment." (16) When we focus on the reformation of manners' efforts to curb men's liaisons with prostitutes however, continuity is more apparent than change. Marjorie McIntosh has traced regulation of male heterosexuality back to the fourteenth century in England. (17) Martin Ingram has noted "a sizeable minority of men" arrested for lechery in fifteenth-century London, and argued that the 1690-1730s reformation of manners campaigns were not especially unique. (18) Ingram also cited Joanna Innes' contention that "there was more of the same in the middle and later eighteenth century, particularly in the 1780s and 1790s." (19)
The 1690-1730s campaigns were unique in at least one respect, however. They occurred at a significant period in the history of masculine heterosexuality. Although men were accused of sexual wrongdoing before the eighteenth century, such policing was not connected to a broader message about ending the double standard. As Keith Thomas has observed, public disagreement with the sexual double standard was not heard until the end of the seventeenth century. (20) By the time of the societies' campaign against prostitution, a substantial proportion of middling men were beginning to feel--and argue publicly--that extramarital sex was as distasteful in males as it was in females, and that chastity should be a prized virtue in both sexes. This paper will argue that the societies arrested men buying sex because of this new middling self-awareness. This campaign is unique because it occurs during a transition period. The records reveal the continuing prevalence of the early modern sense that women were sexual predators, and men their victims. At the same time however, there was this new notion that, in order to be respectable, men had to control their own sexuality. Stephen Gregg, one of the more recent authors on the reformation of manners movement, has missed this latter point, concentrating upon the elements in the societies' literature which argue that whoring "feminized" men by making them diseased and lethargic. (21) As a result, Gregg presents an oversimplified picture of heterosexual masculinity in this period.
The belief in men's ability to control their sexuality seems to decline, along with the popularity of the societies, in the 1730s. As the eighteenth century progressed, male heterosexuality was increasingly seen as uncontrollable, and prostitution an unfortunate but necessary consequence of the male sex drive. (22) Prostitutes themselves were more often considered to be helpless victims, rather than the seductive predators of earlier times. (23) The reformation of manners' campaign falls at a significant transition point in the history of sexuality.
This article will explore the societies' attempt to police male heterosexuality in four ways. First, it will give a brief history of the movement, showing the significant numbers of middling and elite men targeted in the campaign. Historians who have ignored the arrests of prostitutes' clients have missed an important episode in the policing of male heterosexuality. The second section will describe how many of these men resisted arrest, and will present the evidence of violence against the societies in a new light. Rather than simply proof that the societies were not hugely popular, as many historians aver, the violence against the reformation of manners campaigns also shows the very real curb they represented to men's activity. This section will also recount the invasiveness of reformers--who often interrupted men in the very act of intercourse with a prostitute. The third section outlines the growing public demands for male chastity at the turn of the century, and how the societies embraced them. The final argument in the article deals with the persistence of early modern notions of men as sexual victims. As noted earlier, the idea that prostitution was a necessary evil as an outlet for men's uncontrollable needs coincided with newer notions that men could, and should, control their sexuality. These divergent views were reconciled by the societies' sense that men were sometimes the prostitutes' reluctant victims, but that those same men had to be reformed, and dissuaded from seeking further trade with whores.
Before launching into the evidence however, it is important to consider the sources in which it is based. Much of the material which follows comes from the recognizances to appear, issued by the Westminster Justices of the Peace. In form, recognizances are small slips of parchment, bearing only the JP's signature and a few sentences describing the details of the offence, but those sentences can be windows into the transgressive behaviour of the early eighteenth century. Recognizances represent a relatively minor legal proceeding, where an accused party entered into a bond, promising to appear at the next Quarter Sessions, and (often) to be of good behaviour or to keep the peace in the interim. They had little punitive power. The defendant was only inconvenienced. He or she had to find two sureties willing to enter into bonds for substantial sums (usually [pounds sterling]20), which would be forfeit if the defendant failed to live up to the conditions of the recognizance. The defendant had little choice but to appear, because Quarter Sessions clerks were very efficient at collecting for non-appearance, as Norma Landau has discovered. (24) When defendants did appear, they paid a small fee to the Quarter Sessions clerk, the recognizance was marked ven & exon (that the defendants 'came and were exonerated'), and they were free to go.
Many historians have ignored recognizances because they represent such a minor legal event. They exist in the thousands for this period however, and were used as a prosecutorial tool by the reformation of manners societies. As their activities increased, the societies were less likely to prosecute by indictments, because--although they could generate a trial and had more punitive power than recognizances--indictments were much more expensive. (25) If the accused were too poor, and had no wealthy friends to guarantee appearance (as was often the case with prostitutes), he or she would instead be placed in a house of correction to await the next Quarter Sessions. Thus, many individuals targeted by the movement only appear in lists of commitments to houses of correction, because they did not have sufficient wealth to enter into a recognizance. Robert Shoemaker has focussed upon the records from houses of correction in his study of the reformation of manners movement, arguing that reforming Justices preferred commitments to houses of correction over recognizances because the latter "were not an effective procedure for punishing or preventing vice." (26)
The societies' own literature recognized the importance of recognizances however, and the constraints of the law. Most men and women charged with lewdness could not be immediately incarcerated according to the penal laws, and were to be bound over unless they lacked sufficient sureties. (27) The latter was often the case for poor prostitutes, and they were generally committed (as noted above), but their middling and elite male clients could afford to enter into recognizances, and thus do not appear among the inmates of the houses of correction. (28) By choosing to concentrate upon the thousands committed to prison, Shoemaker was forced to conclude that "the reformers ... focused their efforts against ... prostitution on prostitutes and not their clients." (29) Although not entirely incorrect--prostitutes did form the vast majority of the societies' prosecutions for sexual immorality--Shoemaker's study has exaggerated the point. This article will show that there were, indeed, a substantial minority of well-heeled men targeted by the societies for buying sex.
The first of the societies for the reformation of manners was formed around 1690, in Tower Hamlets in London's East End. Tower Hamlets was plagued with bawdy houses, and the new society believed that preventing prostitution would lead to a decline in many other forms of vice. (30) By 1701, more than a dozen societies had sprouted up, both in the metropolis and in the rest of England. (31) Many reformers believed that the current system of policing was inadequate to control immorality; the private system of prosecution and the voluntary nature of constableship meant that the laws against morality were rarely enforced. The societies encouraged members to observe their surroundings carefully, and inform JPs of any profanity, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, lewdness, or other immorality. (32) To facilitate this process, the societies printed up blank warrants, and paid agents to hear informers' complaints and fill out the warrant forms correctly. The informers then took their warrant to a JP, who would sign it and seal it after examining them under oath to ensure that their story was true. (33) Members would then see that the constables received the warrants and would ensure that they carried out the arrests of offenders. (34) Offenders were then brought before the Justices and either prosecuted by indictment, committed to a house of correction, or asked to enter into a recognizance, depending upon the circumstances. The societies' members were enthusiastic and persistent reformers, and those targeted in the campaign would have quickly found themselves in front of a JP. (35)
The male clients of prostitutes were no exception. A cursory examination of the 31 sessions from October 1700 to October 1709 in Westminster reveals at least 234 recognizances binding men for heterosexual offences such as lewd behaviour and/or presence in a brothel. As part of the total of 11,893 prosecutions initiated by the societies in London during this period--which probably was largely composed of prostitutes sent to houses of correction--these records are minuscule. Nevertheless, this sampling of male defendants is significant enough to show that men must not have escaped completely in the societies' war on bawdy houses. (36) These numbers are also minimums--a search of recognizances going back to the 1690s and forward to the 1730s, and also of indictments over the longer period, would only add to the total of male defendants.
The societies did not hide their desire to include whores' customers among the targets of their campaign against vice. John Dunton noted in 1696 that the societies "have sent us in Considerable Lists of such persons of both Sexes as have come within their cognizance, with an account of their particular crimes." (37) He was probably referring to the societies' "blacklists" of offenders, which further support Dunton's contention that the reformers did not ignore heterosexual men. The 1706 Eleventh Black List,... of Eight Hundred and Thirty Lewd and Scandalous Persons, who ... have been legally Prosecuted ..., for example, named 92 men, or eleven per cent of all of their arrests for sexual misbehaviour. (38) It seems safe to assume that these men, charged only with being "disorderly persons," were not sodomites, as the latter denoted a much more serious crime. Thus, according to their own records, the societies included bawdy-house patrons among their targets of reform.
More significantly, the recognizances reveal that many of the men arrested were from the higher levels of society. Edward Bristow claimed that "the moralists never troubled with high-class brothels," but the recognizances show that men of some wealth and education were at least inconvenienced by the societies' activities. (39) In the recognizances binding men for frequenting brothels or being taken with a whore, 49 (one third) of the 147 defendants of known occupation were gentlemen. (40) An additional 21 were described as merchants or artisans in the luxury trades. Of the remaining half, only three were designated as labourers; the rest were artisans such as bakers, grocers, tailors, and victuallers. Most labouring men arrested would not have had the funds or contacts to enter into a recognizance, and would have been sent immediately to a house of correction. Nevertheless, the recognizances show that the Societies for the Reformation of Manners did not completely ignore the transgressions of well-to-do men; a significant minority found themselves before a justice of the peace, after being taken up with a lewd woman.
These men of genteel birth felt the impact of the moralists in a variety of ways. Gentleman Graves Pack was bound by a constable because he was standing outside a tavern late at night, and believed to be trying to entice women "to go into the Tavern ... in order ... to commit some obseane thing." (41) Thomas Cowper, also listed as a gentleman in his recognizance, was accused of "picking up a woman in the streete, and goeing along with her." (42) He resisted arrest for this offence, and was also bound for "assaulting, striking, kicking and very much abuseing" the constable and his assistants. (43) Although they were not directly charged themselves, Richard Meers and Richard Holland, gentlemen, came forward as sureties to guarantee Ann Robinson's appearance at the next quarter sessions, after she was taken up by the constables for being a "lewd woman." (44) Another gentleman, William Roberts, provided security for Sarah Roberts in her recognizance to answer for prostitution. (45) Again and again, throughout the period, men listed as artisans or gentlemen appear as sureties for women bound for prostituting themselves.
Whether lovers, pimps, or clients, these men had to go before JPs because of the societies' actions against brothels. Thomas Davis was actually prosecuted for "Going ab[ou]t for bail for comon Lewd women." (46) The idea of such a prosecution was sufficiently distasteful to Davis to cause him to try bribing the constable "to conceal his name from the Justice." (47) Davis was clearly aware of the shame in being arrested for consorting with prostitutes. Writers in support of the societies for the reformation of manners argued that men who frequented the bawdy houses were "always in hazard of being seized by a Constable, and brought to a publick disgrace, as many have been, whose reputation was formerly untainted." (48) As sureties for suspected whores, or as defendants themselves, the men in the Westminster recognizances illustrate the restrictions placed upon them because of the reformers' actions against the brothels.
A substantial number of the societies' prosecutions reveal that, rather than simply stopping men in the streets, officials had invaded the brothels and interrupted men in bed, in the very act of intercourse. This is interesting because, by law, the societies could choose to focus only upon public (i.e. outdoor) acts of lewdness. Constables had authority to arrest "all suspicious persons that go abroad in the night," and particularly "all open lewdness." (49) Nevertheless, the societies chose instead to focus on the laws that allowed them inside the walls of the bawdy house. (50) Randolph Trumbach found 76 per cent of all of the arrests of prostitutes' clients for Middlesex and Westminster in the 1720s to have been "inside a well-known bawdy house," rather than in the street. (51)
Reformers and constables showed little concern for male patrons' privacy or dignity. John Walker was bound "for being ... in a Notorious house with a woman of known ill fame and Reputation she standing between his Leggs and him ... having his briches [sic] down and his Privy parts Bare." (52) Robert Lewis was taken "in bed" with a woman, and Richard Lary was taken "with 2 Lewd women in an obscene posture." (53) Samuel Hornby was found "in Bedd with a whore bigg with child." (54) Thomas Horler and Elizabeth Pointon were both bound for being "taken together in a private room." (55) Walker, Lewis, Lary, Hornby, Horler, and other men like them, were pursued behind the brothel doors, interrupted in the very act of copulation, and clearly prosecuted for their sexual behaviour.
The latter point is particularly interesting in light of Robert Shoemaker's previous contention that the men pursued by the societies for the reformation of manners were more likely to be arrested for multiple offences. According to Shoemaker, the reformers were reluctant to hamper masculine sexual activity unless it was associated with other crimes, such as assault or theft. (56) The above examples suggest otherwise however. There are many recognizances which do not mention additional offences, and several (particularly those listed above) show efforts to include details which stress the sole importance of the sexual nature of the offence.
Aside from the recognizances which bind prostitutes' clients for attacking their arresting officers (to be discussed in more detail shortly), there are remarkably few recognizances against heterosexual men which combine charges of lewdness with non-sexual offences. Isaac Heycock, bound for "being taken with comon Whorish women" but also "striping[sic] Margaret Boreman Naked and assaulting and beating her in a violent manner with his drawne sword" would fall into this category. (57) Similarly, it is difficult to know if Michael Gillingham's arrest was prompted more because of his "receiving and entertaining ... lewd & disorderly women ... in his house at unseasonable hours in the night," or because two of his guests "did Pick the pocket of the [complainant] ... of twelve guineas & one half Guinea in Gold & seven shillings in silver." (58) For the most part, however, the men arrested for consorting with prostitutes did little else to catch the authorities' attention.
In one very interesting example, Justice of the Peace John Sully arrested a whore "Having my Selfe taken my sunn in Bed with her." (59) This brief statement alongside the prostitute's record of imprisonment is a rare window into an additional group of men who were indirectly policed by the campaign against prostitution. John Sully's son was never formally arrested, but there can be little doubt that he experienced considerable discomfort and embarrassment by being caught flagrante delicto by his own father, who considered the prostitute to have "Ruened" his son. (60) The societies and their various agents intruded into the heart of the brothels, stopping men in the very act of intercourse, and launching prosecutions which described the situation in detail.
It is not surprising, then, that many recognizances also include evidence of the defendants' displeasure at their arrest. Captain Francis Piercy was "taken with a Lewd woman" and additionally charged with "assaulting the Constable in the execution of his office." (61) "Druggist" Thomas Owen, similarly arrested for being "in Company with Lewd women," "assault[ed] & Insult[ed] the Constable." (62) When "ferryman" John Seddon was "taken with one Martha ... Kempe with Her Coates up," he also assaulted the constable "in the Execution of his office." (63) Constable John Slaughter brought three men before Justice Saunders in September of 1719. Two were "taken out of a notorious and reputed house of Bawdry in Company with Lewd women," and had assaulted him in their anger at being stopped in their activities. (64) The third "rais[ed] a riot" after assaulting the constable "& several of his watch," creating an image of the great frustration displayed by male clients when they faced arrest for their presence in a brothel. (65)
Previous historians have treated the assaults on officials connected with the societies for the reformation of manners as evidence only of widespread opposition to the societies. (66) Randolph Trumbach acknowledged the prostitutes' clients' higher likelihood to violently resist arrest, but failed to perceive its broader significance. Trumbach saw it only as more evidence that these male customers were able to evade arrest more often than the prostitutes themselves. (67) Edward Bristow argued that the murder of Constable Dent while taking a group of men to the watchhouse for "grossly indecent behaviour" was proof that the campaigns against male promiscuity were unsuccessful. (68) The episodes of violent opposition to reforming constables made the work of the societies "a labour of Sisyphus," according to Bristow. (69) Tony Henderson considered the attacks to signal the "terminal decline" of the societies for the reformation of manners. (70) In general, historians have considered the violence against reformers or their representatives to be evidence of the societies' failures.
I consider the attacks to be, instead, evidence of the success of the movement, particularly in policing masculine heterosexuality. Men who attacked constables acting on members' information clearly took the societies very seriously. They recognized their power to prosecute them, and in sum, perceived the societies as a very real threat to their own liberty. Their attacks on arresting officers are less significant as "opposition" to the reformation of manners campaign than as evidence of the real power that it possessed. Recognizances such as that binding gentleman William Burrows for "assaulting ... stricking ... and threatning" constables as they executed "a search Warrant for lewd disorderly persons" need to be viewed from the perspective of the men prosecuted. (71) They indicate an attempt at limiting masculine sexuality which was sufficiently effective to elicit their angry resistance.
The reformers targeted whores' male clients at a time when some writers, at least, still espoused the idea that men needed to see prostitutes to avoid the greater sin of adultery with respectable women. Bernard Mandeville, for example, argued in favour of state-sanctioned brothels in 1724. Mandeville held it as self-evident that "there is constantly in the Nation, a certain Number of young Men, whose Passions are too strong to brook any Opposition: Our Business is to contrive a Method how they may be gratify'd, with as little Expense of Female Virtue as possible." (72) As late as 1871, these arguments were still in circulation. A Royal Commission stated that, unlike women, men committed fornication "as an irregular indulgence of a natural impulse." (73) At the same time, however, feminists argued that the sexual double standard was wrong, and the broader public also had little sympathy for men's need to resort to brothels. (74) By the nineteenth century, women were considered asexual, resorting to prostitution out of poverty and desperation, while their male clients were seen as dangerous predators. (75) The public eagerly digested tales of "privileged men who 'ruined' women"--a concept very different from that of the earlier period, where prostitutes were said to have 'ruined' their male customers. (76)
Though they did not always see men as sexual predators, writers sympathetic to the societies for the reformation of manners spoke in favour of chastity for men as well as women. In a 1711 issue of the Spectator, Joseph Addison condemned the "loose Tribe of Men ... that ramble into all the Corners of this great City, in order to seduce such unfortunate Females as fall into their Walks." (77) As early as 1696, John Dunton pointed out that whores' clients "would be ill pleas'd to have [their] Wives follow [their] own Examples, ... which is a plain Demonstration that [they] hate[d] that vice in others, which [they] indulge[d] in [them]selves." (78) His distaste for such hypocrisy was echoed in the Tatler of 1709, which claimed it to be "certain that chastity is ... as much to be valued in Men as in Women." (79) The writers also sensed the newness of their ideals. One letter in the Spectator, attributed to "a Man of Pleasure about Town," felt that "the World is so altered of late Years.... The Time was when all the honest Whore-masters [prostitutes' clients] in the Neighbourhood would have rose ... to my Rescue." (80) Now, it lamented, "Fornication is to be scandalous." (81) The societies rode the cusp of a new age in which male heterosexual behaviour was policed in the name of a middling-class desire to hold both sexes to the same standard.
It was especially important to the men of the middling sorts, as their moral respectability was closely intertwined with their financial success. Margaret Hunt has observed that the reformers "were convinced of the contagiousness of vice," and worried that immoral activities and associations would "inevitably entangle their intimates in debt." (82) Vice was a danger to the middling sorts, and could bring about their ruin; respectability was a vital component of the middling identity. Sexual morality, even for men, had become key to their social status. The Gentleman's Library instructed middling men to avoid sexual "Adventures," or they would "render themselves more vile and despicable than any innocent man can be, whatever [his] low station ... or Birth." (83) Only "a Porter, Common-Soldier, Trooper, or ... Common Carmen" would consort with "Bawds," according to John Dunton. (84) Randolph Trumbach gives the example of an early eighteenth-century youth, "from a family of pious and prosperous Dissenting tradesmen," who succumbed to a long-held curiosity and walked and talked with a whore in the theatre district. (85) The youth later recorded feeling, the entire time, very "uneasy that somebody that knows me should have seen me." (86) By the eighteenth century, masculine chastity was closely connected with one's respectability and membership among the middling sorts.
As gentlemen with a special role in society, JPs' chastity was especially important during the time of the societies for the reformation of manners. One issue of the reformation-friendly Nightwalker was especially dedicated to the Magistrates of London and Westminster. An "unclean Magistrate is an abomination to God and good Men," it argued. (87) The instructional literature for Justices of the Peace also stressed the importance of chastity. A JP might sometimes have "to examine an unfortunate Woman about the Father of a base Child [bastard]," and he was expected to refrain from asking "minute" questions, and behaving "so Extravagantly ... as if [he] took much pleasure in the inquiry." (88) The JP's job in such situations was to encourage the woman's "Natural Modesty;" otherwise, he would "effectually teach instead of Correcting the Crime" of which she was guilty. (89) By the last decades of the seventeenth century, the middling distaste for the sexual double standard was being voiced publicly, and its impact is clear in the activities of the societies for the reformation of manners.
At the same time, the societies also accepted the more traditional notion that men could be victims of seductive female predators. (90) In the literature surrounding prostitution, attitudes about the seductive dangers of women and male sexual victimization had changed little throughout the seventeenth century. Midcentury literature depicted prostitutes as "ensnaring" young men, picking their pockets and infecting them with venereal disease. (91) The same rhetoric of male heterosexuals as victims permeated the reformation of manners movement. (92) A London Grand Jury Presentment of 1699 described young men, "especially Apprentices," as "corrupted and enticed to wickedness ... by meeting and conversing with many Lewd persons that boldly attend those places." (93) The Rev. Josiah Woodward, a great proponent for the societies until his death in 1712, described London prostitutes as "lewd wretches, who openly lay Snares and Enticements" for the young men. (94) Another of the societies' publications celebrated the arrests of prostitutes' clients because younger men were then "by this seasonable chance ... discouraged and turned ... from following such sinful courses." (95) The rhetoric surrounding the societies for the reformation of manners' campaign against the brothel represented its male patrons as helpless victims.
Not surprisingly, the men themselves embraced such an image. Several men even went before Westminster JPs to accuse 'disorderly' women of trapping them, and leading them to their 'ruin'. Hannah Howard and Elizabeth Pigg were committed to a house of correction, after each was accused of "being a Nortoriouse Idle Lewd woman having ... Ruened Severall young Gent men." (96) William Perry brought a complaint against Katherine Sheppard and Susannah Thomson "for being loose idle Disorderly persons common night walkers & Deluding him into a reputed house of Bawdry." (97) By claiming victimization, men like Perry were thus paradoxically accepting the notion that the brothel was a dangerous area, and that lewd women were unacceptable companions for any man. These assertions of victimhood indirectly represent complicity with the aims of the societies for the reformation manners. (98) While this defence allowed men to escape or lighten their punishment, such narratives also implicitly accepted the reformers' stance against extramarital sex. Thus, through the rhetoric of male sexual victimization, the more modern notion of the need for male chastity was brought into agreement with early-modern ideas of whores as sexual predators.
Several records exist which suggest that the late-seventeenth century desire to curb masculine heterosexuality had a fairly broad base of support. John Dunton claimed to have witnessed "a couple of sparks" enter a tavern "with a notorious strumpet" in 1696. (99) He remarked that "tho' they were jeered by some that were there," it did not stop the men from "pursu[ing] their wicked design." (100) The jeering onlookers are fascinating for us because they reveal an outspoken group of tavern-goers who were not ashamed to express sympathy with the ideals of the societies for the reformation of manners. Similarly, an angry group of spectators killed Mother Needham, an infamous procuress, when she was put in the pillory in 1730, and in the same year Colonel Charteris--a notorious whore monger who was popularly dubbed "the Rape-Master General of Great Britain"--was attacked and beaten by the mob when spotted in Chelsea with two young women. (101) The Old Bailey Proceedings give an account of Philip Johnson, who entered a public house and wanted to drink brandy "in a private Room with one he called his Wife." (102) The landlady suspected his deception, and refused to allow extramarital relations in her establishment. Johnson was so angered by this, that "he fell to raling and abusing her after a gross rate, but in the end she got him out of the Dores." (103) This event, which occurred a decade before the first of the Societies for the Reformation of Manners was formed, shows that sympathy for reform ideals was probably fairly prevalent within many quarters of London society.
On the streets and in the taverns, the men of Augustan London might face criticism if they failed to observe a certain level of decorum and respectability. As with the example of Philip Johnson above, the legal records suggest that it was not uncommon to find men going to fairly great lengths to mask their sexual indiscretions. John Ben was bound to answer a watchman for having "Brought & Procur'd a Lewd woman ... at two o'clock in the morning alleadging she was an Honest woman." (104) Mary Lefountaine and her male companion found a similar subterfuge necessary, "pretending she was his wife" when the watch questioned them. (105) When illicit couples did not resort to such clandestine methods, they faced policing in the form of night watchmen and constables, but also of ordinary people, like the tavern patrons, pillory crowd, or public house landlady described above. Each of these stories reveals men attempting to employ falsehoods in order to continue their liaisons with prostitutes.
The campaign against heterosexual male brothel clients is but one small activity in the reformation of manners movement. It is not surprising that it has been ignored or dismissed by previous historians. By looking at the reformers' activities in this area however, this article has revealed a slightly different picture of the societies. Although the thousands of prostitutes arrested were poor, their clients were not. The recognizances binding gentlemen or wealthy artisans at the societies' behest revise Shoemaker and Bristow's conclusion that the reformation of manners movement was a campaign against the poor. Similarly, the violence against the societies is not only evidence of opposition to their work, as Henderson and Bristow have contended. Viewed from the perspective of heterosexual males' fighting arrest, the attacks on reforming constables reveal the societies' success in curbing men's sexual behaviour. The men were sufficiently frustrated to try to resist the officers, and were then prosecuted for their violence as well as their lewd acts. As we have seen, the societies intruded into the heart of the brothels without discretion, interrupting men and whores while they were engaged in sexual activity. This policing of heterosexual males represents a conscious endeavour, on the part of the reformers, to elevate the level of chastity required of men to that of women in the early eighteenth century.
This attempt at revising the sexual double standard occurred long before the feminist movement. While subsequent campaigns against prostitution that targeted male clients (such as that against the Contagious Diseases Acts in the nineteenth century, or that in favour of the Sexual Offences Act of 1985) have connected their reasoning very closely with feminist ideals, the societies for the reformation of manners lacked a strong feminist message. In other words, the arrests of the male patrons of bawdy houses show that the middling desire for equal standards of sexual conduct clearly preceded the call for political and social gender equality. This suggests that the policing of male heterosexuality was not inexorably linked to feminist protest against patriarchy.
In fact, the societies' attitudes toward prostitutes' clients are arguably more backward-looking than forward. Although, as Tim Hitchcock has noted, the reformers were the first to use the criminal courts (where past policing occurred in the church courts), vigilance over men stretches back to the middle ages. (106) The reformation of manners marked the end of an era as much as it marked a beginning. Nevertheless, we should not let this obscure its significance in the history of the policing of male heterosexuality by letting subsequent developments overshadow the hundreds of arrests of prostitutes clients between 1690 and 1730, as Randolph Trumbach has done. More investigation is needed, but I think it is possible to argue that the societies receded by the 1730s with the decline of the image of the female prostitute as a powerful seductress. As these women began to be seen as victims, plying their trade out of desperate economic need, rather than lust, their arrests became more and more distasteful. This would better explain Trumbach's findings that the later campaigns against prostitutes were much less enthusiastic (where he instead chose to underscore the fact that no men were arrested in the later campaigns). (107) We might hypothesise then, that the societies disbanded not because their male clients had so many sympathisers, as Trumbach and others have hinted, but rather because of their activities in arresting female prostitutes. (108)
In sum, the societies for the reformation of manners' campaign against prostitutes' clients constituted an important event in the policing of male heterosexuality. Though small in number, such prosecutions were significant because they occurred as part of a growing middling-class desire for male chastity. Though male bawdy-house patrons resisted such a concept, and struck out against those attempting to arrest them, they were also complicit, to some extent. By accepting the image of themselves as prostitutes' victims, these men constructed their own sexual suppression, painting brothels as evil and negotiating around notions of sexual respectability in a manner not completely different from that expected of eighteenth-century femininity.
The research and writing of this paper were generously funded by Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. Many thanks to Nicholas Rogers, Douglas Hay, Ian Gentles, Robert Shoemaker, and Elizabeth S. Cohen for commenting on this portion of my doctoral dissertation. Thanks also to all of those who heard my talk on the policing of male heterosexuality in early modern London, given at Carleton University in January 2003, and Trent University in April 2003. Although former versions of this paper greatly benefited from their insights, I take full responsibility for its weaknesses.
All of the manuscript sources are from the London Metropolitan Archives, and recognizances are denoted by the abbreviation "R".
1. Laws, Statutes, etc., Sexual Offences Act, 1985, c. 44. Prior to this, prostitutes' clients were only arrested for disturbing the peace.
2. Janet Fookes, Speech to House of Commons, 25 January 1985, Parliamentary Debates (Commons) 6th Ser., vol. 71 (1984-5), col. 1243, and Charles Irving, ibid., col. 1254, respectively.
3. Paula Bartley, Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England, 1860-1914 (London, 2000), 84. See also pages 25, 30, and 39 for additional comments on how male clients of prostitutes were exempt from scrutiny in the nineteenth century.
4. See, for example, Abraham A. Sion, Prostitution and the Law (London, 1977), 148-149.
5. Alfred Dubs, Speech to House of Commons, 25 January 1985, Parliamentary Debates (Commons) 6th Ser., vol. 71 (1984-5), col. 1256.
6. The societies for the reformation of manners will be explained in more detail later.
7. On regulating prostitutes, see, Robert B. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment: Petty Crime and the Law in London and rural Middlesex, c. 1660-1725 (Cambridge, 1991), Ch. 9, and idem, "Reforming the City: The Reformation of Manners Campaign in London, 1690-1738" in Stilling the Grumbling Hive: The Response to Social and Economic Problems in England, 1689-1750, L. Davison et al., eds. (New York, 1992), 103-110. For sodomites, see R. Trumbach, "Sex, Gender, and Sexual Identity in Modern Culture: Male Sodomy and Female Prostitution in Enlightenment London," Journal of the History of Sexuality 2, no. 2 (1991): 186-203.
8. Ruth Mazo Karras, Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England (New York, 1996), 31. My emphasis.
9. Tony Henderson, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London: Prostitution and Control in the Metropolis, 1730-1830 (London, 1999) and Tim Hitchcock, English Sexualities, 1700-1800 (New York, 1997).
10. Bartley, 30.
11. Randolph Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, Volume I: Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London (Chicago, 1998), 10. Trumbach wanted to show the significant difference between the number of male clients arrested at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and that at the end of the century.
12. Ibid., 194-5.
13. On the controversial reception of Trumbach's book, see for example, Thomas Laqueur's review in American Historical Review 106, no. 4 (October, 2001): 1456-1457.
14. Shoemaker, "Reforming the City," 99-120; and idem, Prosecution and Punishment, 250. Edward Bristow also perceived the reformation of manners movement as policing the poor, in his Vice and Vigilance: Purity Movements in Britain Since 1700 (London, 1977), 19, 23.
15. Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 92-3.
16. Margaret R. Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780 (Berkeley, 1996) 102.
17. Marjorie Keniston McIntosh, Controlling Misbehaviour in England, 1370-1600 (Cambridge, 1998). McIntosh depicts several peaks and valleys in the levels of anxiety over sexual misconduct in this period, but argues (pages 73-4) that "local jurors" wanted "to regulate disorderly sexual behaviour wherever it occurred, among both men and women." Graph 3.5 (page 73) shows that the courts that tried sexual misconduct generally targeted both men and women, "with women named alone in no more than a fifth of all courts in any duodecade."
18. Martin Ingram, "Reformation of Manners in Early Modern England," in P. Griffiths et al., eds., The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (London, 1996), 61, and 55-69, respectively.
19. Ibid., 56-7.
20. Keith Thomas, "The Double Standard," Journal of the History of Ideas 20 (1959): 205.
21. Stephen H. Gregg, "'A Truly Christian Hero': Religion, Effeminacy, and Nation in the Writing of the Society for the Reformation of Manners," Eighteenth-Century Life 25, no. 1 (2001): 17-28.
22. Tim Hitchcock, 108, summarises the mainstream historical position on the growth of male libertinism in the eighteenth century, which cites many underlying factors, in contrast to Trumbach's sense that libertinism developed entirely as a result of men's fear of being considered sodomites.
23. Henderson, 179-90.
24. N. Landau, "Appearance at the Quarter Sessions of Eighteenth-Century Middlesex," London Journal 23, no. 2 (1998): 30-52.
25. In theory, "Adultery, & c, and all Acts of Bawdry, are Breaches of the Peace ... for which an indictment will lie," according to one of the widely-circulated pamphlets published by the societies. An Abstract of the Penal-Laws against Immorality and Prophaneness ... (London, Printed by William Downing, 1698). However, Robert Shoemaker notes that the societies prosecuted by indictment less and less as time went on because "the reformers soon realized that such prosecutions threatened to bankrupt the campaign." "Reforming the City", 106. See also Prosecution and Punishment, 246.
26. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, 248.
27. An Abstract of the Penal-Laws against Immorality and Prophaneness ... explicitly stated that the "Resorters and Frequenters of Bawdy Houses" were "to be Bound with Sureties to good Behaviour," as were those "that haunt lewd Houses, or keep Lewd Company or commit Outrages." Only "Idlers," "Disorderly Persons," and bastard-bearing women were to be immediately incarcerated.
28. Randolph Trumbach uncovered only "a handful" of prostitutes' clients "who could not find sureties [and] were sent to the houses of correction," in contrast to "most men" who "were bailed." Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 92.
29. Shoemaker, "Reforming the City," 106.
30. Bristow, 16; Dudley Bahlman, The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven, 1957), 31; Henderson, 86.
31. Bahlman, 31-38, found evidence of societies in the "city and suburbs" as well as "Gloucester, Leicester, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Hull and Tamworth."
32. An Abstract of the Penal-Laws against Immorality and Prophaneness ... outlined the offences, penalties, and relevant statutes for all of the offences in which the societies were interested. The headings included "Prophanation of the Lord's Day," "Drunkeness," "Swearing and Cursing," "Lewd and Disorderly Practices," and "Gaming."
33. Bristow, 17-18.
34. Bahlman, page 34, described the members' making "lists of the constables and Justices who handled their warrants, lists which could be turned over to the Justices at petty sessions, so that the Justices would know which officers were faithful in carrying out their duties and which were not."
35. The literature published by the societies reflects their reforming zeal and persistence. For example, Edward Stephens' A Seasonable and Necessary Admonition to the Gentlemen of the first Society for the Reformation of Manners [1700?], 2, exhorted members to "make [their] real virtue Exemplary to the Nation," and never miss an "Opportunity" where "an Honest Prosecution might" result in "Greater Advancement." A Help to A National Reformation ... (London, Printed and sold by D. Brown, B. Aylmer, T. Parkhurst ..., 1700), provided readers with a digest of the "Penal Laws against Profaneness and Vice," and forms for "warrants issued out in cases of Prophaneness and Debauchery." Emphasis in original. It expressed hope "that Men will not now ... find any ... Excuses ... for their declining to assist ... one way or another." The same publication contained a sample of an "Agreement for the Forming of a Society for the Reformation of Manners," where new members vowed to "use all proper means to prevail with men of all Ranks to concur with us in this Design.... That we encourage and assist officers in the Discharge of their Duty of Discovering Disorderly Houses, of taking up of offenders, and carrying them before the magistrates."
36. Shoemaker, "Reforming the City," 105, table 6.1., gives numbers from the societies' own records of their total prosecutions, including 7,344 for "Lewd & disorderly practices" from 1700-1702 and 1704-1709.
37. John Dunton, The Night Walker: or Evening Rambles in Search after Lewd Women ... Vol. I, (London, Printed for James Orme, September 1696), "Epistle Dedicatory." Emphasis in original.
38. Eleventh Black List,... of Eight Hundred and Thirty Lewd and Scandalous Persons, who ... have been legally Prosecuted ... (1706). Ninety-one of the 92 men were listed as "disorderly persons," and the remaining man was charged with keeping a disorderly house. Aside from these designations, the others were "whore" and "bawdy house-keeper" (for which no men were listed), and "pick-pocket" (for which no one at all was listed).
39. Bristow, 23.
40. A defendant's occupation was only listed when he was one of the sureties; even then, sometimes no occupation was listed. This did not necessarily mean that the defendant was poor.
41. MJ/SR2250 R102, 30 June 1715.
42. MJ/SR2310 R8, 20 June 1718.
43. Ibid. The next section will deal with violent resistance to arrest in more detail.
44. MJ/SR2018 R49, 21 Aug. 1703.
45. MJ/SR2037 R40, 25 Sept. 1704.
46. MJ/SR2078 R unnumbered, 18 July 1706.
48. Dunton, Vol. II (January 1697), 22.
49. William Hawkins, Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown (1716; reprinted London, 1973), 61 and Richard Burn, Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer, Vol. III, 28th edn. (London, 1837), 718, respectively. Emphasis in original. Burn also cited the 1663 case against Sir Charles Sedley for opening his breeches in Covent Garden, to reinforce the point that any "indecent exposure to public view is an indictable offence at common law."
50. Michael Dalton, The Countrey Justice ... (London, printed by William Rawlins and Samuel Roycroft, 1697), Cap 124, 293, states that "Upon information given to a constable that a Man and a Woman be in adultery or fornication together (or that a Man and Woman of evil Report, are gone to a suspected House together in the night), the officer may take Company with him; and if he find them so, he may carry them to prison; or he may carry them before a Justice of Peace to find Sureties for the Good behaviour."
51. Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 93. Trumbach takes this to indicate that "a man's whoremongering was less likely to become known," but, in light of his finding that eleven per cent of men were arrested in the street, and of the likelihood that their names would be published in a black list (regardless of where they were arrested), I would argue instead that this indicates the invasiveness of the societies' campaign. In addition, there is evidence that men recognized the humiliation of any arrest and tried to avoid detection, as we shall see in later paragraphs. If the societies were so careful to keep these men's indiscretions from public knowledge, it is unlikely that those arrested would have exhibited such resistance and attempts at subterfuge.
52. MJ/SR2275 R22, 5 July 1716. Anna Bryson recounts the probable embarrassment of exposed genitals to early modern men. Anna Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility: Changing Codes of Conduct in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1998), 97-98, 100-101.
53. MJ/SR2118 R45, 13 July 1708 and MJ/SR2083 R22, 9 Dec. 1706 respectively.
54. MJ/SR2098 R141, 18 Sept. 1707.
55. MJ/SR2002 R23, 11 Nov. 1702.
56. Shoemaker, "Reforming the City," 107.
57. MJ/SR2123 R15, 16 Dec. 1708.
58. MJ/SR1860 R29, 12 July 1695.
59. MJ/SR1979 Calendar of Prisoners, 8 Jan. 1701/2.
61. MJ/SR2103 R120, 14 Dec. 1707.
62. MJ/SR2310 R153, 30 May 1718.
63. MJ/SR2353 R117, 26 Aug. 1720.
64. MJ/SR2334 R146 and R42, 22 Sept. 1719 respectively.
65. MJ/SR2334 R36, 4 Sept. 1719.
66. In addition to the examples which follow, see also Hunt, 120. She ignores the societies' concern with male heterosexual promiscuity, focussing only on "arrests of prostitutes, especially street walkers ... [and] raids on 'molly houses', that is, public houses and taverns catering to men with homosexual tastes" (page 115). Thus, Hunt cannot see the significance of heterosexual men's violence against officers enforcing the societies' campaign.
67. Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 94-5.
68. According to Bristow (page 24), the campaigns lacked an "element of equal justice for both sexes."
69. Ibid., 25.
70. Henderson, 89.
71. MJ/SR2211 R11, 25 Apr. 1713.
72. Bernard Mandeville, A Modest Defence of Public Stews (London, Printed by A. Moore, 1724), 62.
73. Report of the Royal Commission upon the Administration and Operation of the Contagious Diseases Act (London, 1871), quoted in Thomas, 198.
74. Judith Walkowitz discussed the impact of the Contagious Diseases Acts in Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State (Cambridge, 1980), 192-213. See Josephine Butler, "Men will have their Victims," in E. S. Reimber and J. C. Fout, eds, European women: A documentary history, 1789-1945 (New York, 1980), 222-229, for a reprint of Butler's feminist opposition to the Acts in 1871. The Contagious Diseases Acts were suspended in 1883.
75. See, for example, Ruth Perry, "Colonizing the Breast: Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century England," Journal of the History of Sexuality 2, no. 2 (1991): 204-234; Randolf Trumbach, "Sex Gender and Sexual Identity," 186-203; and Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London, (Chicago, 1992), 7.
76. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight, 126.
77. The Spectator, no. 203, 23 Oct. 1711, reprinted in Angus Ross, ed. Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator (London, 1982), 273.
78. Dunton, Vol. I, (September 1696), "Epistle Dedicatory." See also Vol. II, (March 1697), page 98, where Dunton asked a young man caught in a liaison with a prostitute whether "he believe[d] his own wife ... to be virtuous?" To which he responded affirmatively, and Dunton told him "you ought to be so too, or ... allow her the same Practice you have done."
79. The Tatler, no. 58, 23 Aug. 1709, reprinted in Donald F. Bond, ed., The Tatler, Vol. I (Oxford, 1987), 401.
80. The Spectator, no. 182, 28 Sept. 1711, reprinted in Angus Ross, ed., Selections from the Tatler and the Spectator (London, 1982), 265.
82. Hunt, 107-8.
83. The Gentleman's Library ... Written by a Gentleman (2nd edn., 1722), 125.
84. Dunton, Vol. II, (January 1697), 23.
85. Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 103.
86. Dudley Ryder, quoted in ibid.
87. Dunton, Vol. II, (February 1697), "Epistle Dedicatory."
88. Edmund Bohun, The Justice of Peace his Calling and Qualifications (London: Printed for T. Salusbury, 1693), 46-7.
90. Gregg, especially page 21, underscores this element in the societies' literature.
91. See, for example, The Prentices Answer to the Whores' Petition (London, 1668), which described the whores as standing "at your doors ... Poxed and Painted/Perfum'd with Powder ... /You with your becks and damn'd alluring looks/Are unto men just like to tenter hooks." See also The Crafty Whore: or ... they ensnare and beguile youth ... (1658), and Peter Aretine, Strange News from Bartholomew-Fair, or, the Wandring Whore Discovered ... (London, 1661), where four whores discuss how they rob their customers.
92. An Auction of Whores ... Worth the reading of all Single Men and Batchelours (London, Printed for N.H., 1691), warned men that harlots would "put one hand in your Cod-piece, and another in your Watch-pocket." Similarly, The Devil and the Strumpet ... (London, Printed for E.B. near Ludgate, 1700), 7, presented "filthy and lustful Prostitutes" as serving the devil, and The Lady's Ramble: or, the Female Nightwalker (London, 1720), 4, had a whore's customer lament, that "we are still so Confoundedly Blind;/As not avoid your Delusions and Charme,/This brings still upon us such damnable pains:/Such Troubles and Plagues." John Dunton's January 1697 (Vol. II) issue of the Nightwalker, 22, said that a man who conducts business with "Nasty Trulls ... is in danger of having his Pockets pick'd and being Pox'd into the Bargain." See also the "Epistle Dedicatory" in the February 1697 issue.
93. 24 May 1699, quoted in Bristow, 27.
94. J. Woodward, A rebuke to the sin of uncleanliness. By a Minister of the Church of England (London, 1740), 17.
95. The Fifteenth Account of the Progress made towards suppressing profaneness and debauchery, (London, 1710), quoted in Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 93.
96. MJ/SR1979 Calendar of Prisoners, 8 Jan 1701/2.
97. MJ/SR2280 R173, 10Nov. 1716. See also MJ/SR1883 R73, 30 Dec. 1696; MJ/SR1754 R37, 21 Feb. 1689/90; MJ/SR2230 R16, 30 Apr. 1714; and MJ/SR2310 R4, 6 May 1718.
98. This complicity also precludes these men from being classed as libertine rakes, who were proud to flout authority. Anna Bryson has defined libertines as representing "anticivility," with behaviour "purely ... directed towards shocking an external audience and impressing the protagonists with their own freedom from convention" (page 255).
99. Dunton, Vol. I, (November 1696), 23. Emphasis in original.
100. Ibid. My emphasis.
101. Bristow, 25 and Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, His Life, Art and Times, Vol. I (New Haven, 1971), 248, respectively.
102. Old Bailey Proceedings, 18-19 Apr. 1683 (London, printed for George Croom), 2.
103. Ibid., (London, printed for Langly Curtis), 3.
104. MJ/SR2300 R198, 10 Dec. 1717.
105. MJ/SR2018 R41, 11 Aug. 1703.
106. Hitchcock, 102.
107. Trumbach, Sex and the Gender Revolution, 113-114.
108. See, for example, ibid., 426, and Henderson, 89.
By Jennine Hurl-Eamon
Canada, K9J 7B8
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