By Stephen Basdeo
Such a man begins to commit actual murder from the first moment that he begins to indulge his sadistic day dreams, from the instant that he deviates from his normal routine, and begins to buy sadistic novelettes, or seek out a prostitute or masochistic amateur to share his perverted interests.
We return once again to that book I tracked down the other week: Robert Fabian’s London After Dark (1954). We shall once again be shining a light into the dark corners of 1940s and 1950s London, where, if we believed its author, vice and perversion reigned supreme.
Robert Fabian (1901–1978) began his career as a police constable in London. He rose through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police and was eventually appointed to the rank of detective superintendent.
The sights he saw could have filled volumes—and they did!
Last time we focused on “Red Katy”, a sex worker who got rich because well-to-do men paid her to humiliate them.
Let us now venture into the districts of London which Fabian tells were frequented by “queer” people.
When he was a young bobby on his nightly wanderings around London, particularly in the Paddington and Tottenham Court Road areas, Fabian tells us that he was struck by the appearance, in the windows of certain “low” shops, postcards from men seeking “companionship”:
This is the sort of advertisement they carry:
“Young man, artistic type, in need of strict discipline, seeks companion, preferably older, of dominant personality and habits.”
“Female impersonator (amateur) wants instruction in escapology.”
“Bachelor (45) seeks young man, artistic and understanding disposition, to share flat. Nominal rent to right kind of personality.”
Alas!—Fabian tells us that while there is indeed violence and sadism in gangster movies, boxing and wrestling matches, it is when a man—and it was always men—focuses on these violent tendencies too much that his tastes can degenerate, and he begins to crave pain and humiliation in his sex life.
Fabian therefore “translates” those shop window messages:
But the fact is that those three advertisements mean: a) that a young pervert who finds sexual pleasure in masochism is blatantly advertising for an elderly sadist to indulge in mutual perversion: b) that a man who enjoys dressing up as a girl wishes somebody to tie him up and indulge in perverted practices; c) that a homosexual with his own flat wishes to find a younger homosexual to live with him—rent free, if satisfactory.
The repetition of the word “perverts” clearly indicates that Fabian had what we might call a “Victorian” attitude to sex (a false stereotype, of course, for Victorian lovers in actuality often wrote letters that had more steam than a Stephenson rocket).
While Fabian’s remarks would simply raise a smile in any reader today, he was clear that sadomasochism could take a darker turn:
There are perverts who find pleasure in dressing up themselves in rubber garments, from surgical gloves to motor-cycling mackintoshes … the list is almost bewildering in its assortment. But the fact is that many murders—particularly child murders—are committed by men who first of all had a tendency towards sadism, and deliberately provoked this weakness within themselves, and went out of their way to indulge it—until one day their unhealthy day dreams and erotic thoughts came to the logical, tragical conclusion and they suddenly find themselves kneeling upon the grass, or in the dust of an empty cellar, with a dead child between their hands.
Obviously, it would be too much to ask Fabian to provide any evidence for such “slippery slope” arguments.
All we have is a warning:
Such men are a menace to the safety of our children, and to the moral well-being of London, from the first step they take along the road to moral perversion.
Categories: 1950s, 20th Century, Crime History, crime literature, Gay History, History, London After Dark, Perverts, Police, Robert Fabian
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