its literal translation is “rabbit”, although it has nothing to do with the tender furry mammal with long ears … or yes it has. Lapin was a term used in French schools between the mid-19th century and the early 20th century, especially in male boarding schools, to name the boy who provided certain services to other boys, sometimes called Chasseurs (hunters). Or more specifically, as it usually appears in many dictionaries of the time, it is defined as a boy who masturbates his companions either for pleasure, servility, obligation or in exchange for “gifts”.
“Terme d’écolier pour désigner celui d’entre eux qui branle ses camarades“
(scholar term to point out the one who jerk his comrades off).
Dictionnaire érotique (erotic dictionary). Alfred Delvau, 1864.
On the origin of the expression, we have, on the one hand, the etymological version, which would relate Lapin with another word from the old French, Lespin, which referred to the prostitutes (male or female), and from which other similar words applied to homosexual boys as Lesbin and Lesbien are derived. It does not have a direct relationship with Lesbiene (lesbian), but we cannot forget the phonetic proximity of Lapin with another term of similar meaning, Tapin.
On the other hand, we have a more elaborate, thought-provoking explanation. Bearing in mind that the French schoolboys had extensive learning in the Latin and Greek languages, and knowing that the symbol of the hare was related to classical pederasty by appearing in a multitude of vessels, as a love offering from the erastés (adult) to the erómeno (young beloved), it can not be ruled out that the boy Lapin became a modernized and captive version of the Greek erómeno, playing the role of passive in amorous or masturbatory relationships.
And although today this expression is no longer used with this meaning, it is common to use the familiar and affectionate expression Mon petit lapin (my little bunny), referring to children.
As a curiosity, tùzǐ 兔子 (rabbit) is a euphemism in the Chinese language to name gay people, with Hu Tianbao (the rabbit god), as the god of homosexual love.