Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Venereal Disease


The following passage on the contraction of VD between men was inserted into the 1709 edition of Marten's book on venereal disease, almost certainly as a result of the publicity surrounding the raids on a molly house had occurred that year. Marten's book was extremely popular, which suggests that many people, and certainly physicians, would have learned about homosexual oral intercourse through him.

I had almost forgot to acquaint the Reader, that there is yet another way of getting the Venereal Infection, (which indeed I should have taken notice of in its place) and that is by one Man’s conversing with, or having the Carnal use of another Man’s Body, viz. B[ugge]ry, an abominable, beastly, sodomitical, and shameful Action; an Action, as its not fit to be named, so, one would think, would not be practis’d in a Christian Country, more especially since the Laws of God and Man, are so directly in force against it; but I say by that means have we known the Distemper to have been contracted, and I am afraid is what is too commonly practis’d in this dissolute Age, and the Distemper by that means very frequently gotten, as it was lately by one (as I was told) that I had in Cure.

And which is still worse, this Distemper is also gotten after another manner of Conversation, viz. by a Man’s putting his erected Penis, into another Persons (Man or Woman’s) Mouth, using Friction, &c. between the Lips; a way so very Beastly and so much to be abhorr’d, as to cause at the mentioning, or but thinking of it, the utmost detestation and loathing; but by that means also has it been gotten, and a Man so Infected (one that I know not, nor where to find) had I in Cure not long since, who assur’d me (tho’ with seeming concern for the committing so foul a Crime) that he contracted it no other way; and that the Person from whom he got it (being a Man) had at the same time (as he has since been assur’d) several Pocky Ulcerations, &c. in his Mouth; but in such a woful pickle was this Patient of mine, and indeed (as I told him) very deservedly, that I never in my Life before, saw one (both for Pox and Clap together) worse; and I being desirous to know the whole of this abominable Encounter, (having never known, tho’ before had heard, that such beastly Abominations were practis’d) ask’d him if ’twas any Pleasure to him, and how he dispos’d of his Semen? he told me ’twas great Pleasure, and that he ejected it into the Person’s Mouth he had to do with, who both willingly receiv’d it, and assisted, as he said, in this foul Act, by sucking his Penis. O monstrous! thought I, that Men, otherwise, sensible Men, should so vilely debase themselves, and become so degenerate; should provoke God so highly, contemn the Laws of Man so openly, wrong their own Bodies so fearfully; and which is worse (without sincere Repentance) ruin their own Souls eternally. A Sin so heinous and aggravating, that God particularly expresses his Anger against those that commit it, as being hardned and given up by him to uncleanness, speaking of such in Romn. I. ver. 4. Wherefore God also gave them up to Uncleanness, through the Lusts of their own Hearts, to dishonour their own Bodies between themselves. And again in the 26. and 27. verses – For even their Women did change their natural Use into that which is against Nature. And likewise also the Men, leaving the natural Use of the Woman, burned in their Lust one toward another, Men with Men, working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their Errour which was meet. But I proceed. [i.e. to his discussion of veneral disease, from which the previous two paragraphs were a digression.]

SOURCE: John Marten, A Treatise Of all the Degrees and Symptoms of the Venereal Disease, In both Sexes (London: The Sixth Edition corrected and enlarg’d, [1709], pp. 68-69).

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Venereal Disease, 1709," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 24 February 2005; updated 16 June 2008 <>.

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