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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 51. James Gardiner "A Bit of Scarlet"

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A Bit of Scarlet

 

After [the First World War], and back to civilian life, Monty continued to photograph soldiers, but in a different way; not as working colleagues and friends, but as [alluring subjects].

The Gay mythology of working-class men as objects of sexual desire extended quite naturally to include the ranks of the Armed Forces; they were, after all, the same young men, wearing a different uniform. One which completely transformed not only their appearance but also their status. In uniform, and especially in time[s] of war, ordinary working-class young men [are] transformed into heroes – “Our Lads.”

Any military uniform gives the wearer an air of potent and virile masculinity, and consequently it has strong homoerotic appeal. Soldiers have taken advantage of this appeal, for at least the last two hundred years, and have offered themselves for sex in the guise of supplementing their poor pay. [Edward Prime-Stevenson] (in The Intersexes, Florence 1910) suggests that pay was so poor in the earlier periods that prostitution became a necessity.[i] “The price of giving his physical beauty and sexual vigor, […] to the embraces of some casual client, brings him more money in half an hour than he is likely to receive as his whole week’s pay.”

[Prime-Stevenson] also suggests that these ‘practices’ were not confined to the ranks; petty officers were to be had, for more money. Also, over the years, numerous cases have come to light where officers have been instrumental in introducing men from the ranks to prospective clients on a commission basis. This would not be as unlikely as it may seem if one considers that having been through the traditional upper-class educational system of ‘public schools’ [meaning, the most exclusive of private boarding schools in England], and then Oxford or Cambridge, officers would be more likely to know what ‘a queer’ was than some young recruit from, for example, a remote rural community, and use this knowledge to their own [unscrupulous] advantage.[ii]

From the clients’ point of view, the advantages of having a soldier lover were many. According to [Prime-Stevenson], he is likely to be: “cleaner, less disease-prone. Less likely to be brutal, or a blackmailer as he has as much to lose by a ‘row’ as his patron. So, as a rule, he is ‘discretion itself.’”

By the nineteenth century the tradition of the soldier prostitute had become widespread, and all garrison towns and ports had pubs and well-known ‘trolling’ areas where soldiers and their prospective clients could meet. [Edward Prime-Stevenson] noted that “ . . . one only had to stroll around Portsmouth, Aldershot, Southampton . . . to find the soldier prostitute in almost open self-marketing . . . on any evening, the street corners, or the promenades of the Music Halls and cheap theatres of London and other cities, show one the fine flower of the British Soldier prostitute, dressed in his best uniform, clean-shaven, well-groomed and handsome, with his Anglo Saxon pulchritude and vigor, smilingly expectant.”

Apart from such casual meetings, soldiers were sometimes involved in organized forms of prostitution. There was at least one known procuress operating from a confectioners shop near the barracks in Regent’s Park, and soldiers were found to have been working along with Post Office messengers in the [male] brothel in Cleveland Street which became notorious when exposed in 1889.[iii] When one of the defendants in the case, Jack Saul, himself an ex-soldier, published his (undoubtably ghost-written) memoirs in 1881 under the title The Sins of the Cities of the Plains, or the Recollections of a Mary-Ann (a masterwork of Victorian pornography), he stated: “This is the experience of all the men in my regiment, and I know it is the same in the First, The Blues and every regiment of the Foot Guards.”

The tradition of male prostitution in the Armed Forces, and particularly the London-based Guard Regiments, lasted until relatively recently. Into the early 1970s the Guard Regiments had a well-founded and longstanding reputation for being readily sexually available; they were “TBH” (“to be had”).

For lovers of soldiers (or to give them their correct name “philostratists” – from the Greek, naturally), the Guard Regiments had particular appeal: with their dashing uniforms of scarlet, black, white and gold, tight tunics, tighter trousers and knee-high shiny boots, they were every uniform fetishist’s dream come true. In fact, having sex with a tall, blond young guardsman was the most popular romantic fantasy for Gay men of Monty’s time, a fantasy made all the more potent by the fact that for a few [shillings] it might become reality.

The neighborhoods around the Guards’ barracks – the parks and squares of Knightsbridge and St. James’ – were well known trolling grounds, and many of the pubs in the Knightsbridge area became notorious as haunts for Gay men looking for “a bit of scarlet” (nineteenth-century slang for sex with a soldier). The Grenadier on Wilton Place, and Tattershall’s Tavern on Knightsbridge Green were among the best-known.

Over the years, Monty rented several flats in the area. For a few years in the 1930s he lived in Buckingham Gate opposite the Wellington Barracks; he even managed – one cannot imagine how – to get inside the barracks and photograph the Guardsmen both in and out of uniform.

—James Gardiner,[iv]

1992

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Excerpt from Rodney Garland The Heart in Exile (London 1952)]

 

“ . . . well, it happened in the first month of the war. One day, Morland, who was then a private, was picked up in a pub by Julian. [Morland] pretended to be just an ordinary Tommy. Well, he was an amateur boxer, well-built, and I suppose he put on an accent . . . . Julian had an ongoing romp with him, not knowing he was the Viscount Morland. But of course, when he found out, that was the end of it. Julian told me he couldn’t do anything with people of his own class.”

 

 

[Excerpts from Boys will be Boys – The Male Prostitute in London, originally published in the November 1962 edition of Encounter Magazine; the first quote is from an interview with a rank-and-file ex-Guardsman, followed by one from an active Lance-Serjeant [sic] in the Home Guards]

 

“Some of us get quite fond of the blokes we see regularly,” he said. “You go to their flats and have some drinks and talk a bit – they’re nice fellows, some of them, and interesting to listen to. And as for the sex bit, some of the younger ones aren’t bad looking, and I’ve had some real thrills off them in my time . . . ”

 

“ . . . Centuries of city life [have] endowed these regiments with a traditional knowledge of, and a notorious capacity for, all sexual activity of a venal nature. If a young guardsman wishes to augment his modest pay, and if he has no objection to hiring out his person to this end, then he need only ‘ask about’ . . . and some older man, occasionally an NCO, will tell him which pubs or bars to frequent, or which street corners to wait on, and will sometimes offer to accompany him to see fair play.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  


[i] Edward Prime-Stevenson was a prolific and highly popular author. He published the very first (and still rare to this day) English-language novel where the central same-sex couple build a happy ending for themselves. In Imre: A Memorandum (Naples 1906), Prime-Stevenson illustrates a psychologically rich love-match evolving from casual meeting in a Vienna café to lifelong commitment. Because he was a bestselling author of mainstream fiction, Prime-Stevenson generally published his writings on Gay History and same-sex love under the penname ‘Xavier Mayne.’

[ii] Perhaps the author of this piece is himself a product of ‘public schools’ elitism, for his statement that natural lads from the country have no exposure to Gay people is laughable. Frankly, it reads nowadays as a grossly un-self-aware class-biased projection upon rural populations; one not based on anything factual, as same-sex love is ubiquitous as the grass. I’d direct the Mirror reader to this entry:

https://gayauthors.org/story/ac-benus/the-great-mirror-of-same-sex-love-prose/9

[iii] The author misspoke: it was several young men who worked delivering telegrams who were brutally prosecuted by the Crown in the “Cleveland Street Scandal,” even though they had previously been granted immunity for naming “big name” clients. None of these upper-class men ever faced charges, which many suspect was owing to the Prince of Wales' eldest son being among them. I’m unaware of any soldiers being deposed in the investigation, but that might have been kept quiet too.

[iv] “A Bit of Scarlet” James Gardiner A Class Apart: the Private Pictures of Montague Glover (London 1992), Chapter 4, ps. 50-57

_

Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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This is a fascinating window on history that few know about. Thanks for bringing it to light. 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

53 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

This is a fascinating window on history that few know about. Thanks for bringing it to light. 

Thanks for reading it. It dovetails seamlessly with Tor Hell's account of his soldier lovers in Stockholm. No doubt, such scenes were present in every capital city of the Western world at the time.

It also fits in nicely with Max Beerbohm's firsthand witnessing of Guard soldiers hanging around the second trial of Oscar Wilde "...wearing Her Majesty's uniform, another form of female attire..." and "...wink[ing] at likely persons" to have sex with.  

Edited by AC Benus
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Fascinating really is the best descriptor for today’s offering. I found myself wandering back and reading it again, as well as looking up some of the sources. 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

25 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

Fascinating really is the best descriptor for today’s offering. I found myself wandering back and reading it again, as well as looking up some of the sources. 

I posted this in preparation for Edward Carpenter's moving account of losing his virginity to one such soldier, in one such male brothel in London. lol, but I am having trouble locating it -- it's in one of my books! And when I look, I find other gems to document for the Mirror as well. The search goes on :)

Edited by AC Benus
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