This article uses Beijing police case records between 1913 and 1948 to uncover a new view of male-male sexual relationships and their legal regulation in fin-de-siècle China. It moves beyond previous studies' focus on sexological discourse and the world of Peking opera, revealing that sex between men was neither rare nor secret to most denizens of the city. Much older practices and vocabularies surrounding male-male sex endured, even flourished, for far longer than the media or elite discourse might lead one to expect. Testimonies in these archives also make clear how difficult it can be to separate sexual abuse from the need for survival and for erotic fulfillment. Studying how the former imperial capital's many disenfranchised men and the law enforcement prosecuting them defined these boundaries, as well as those of erotic legitimacy more broadly, offers insights for understanding sexual politics in today's China.