“Pirates are kind of a kink for me,” shares Amy, a 29-year-old graduate student. She owns eight sexy pirate costumes, and has a vivid fantasy life about sexual conquests Captain Hook style.
“I might be a barmaid, in a coastal town, and these pirates come into my bar and demand free drinks, and then start hitting on me,” she says, describing one of her many fantasies. “Then one of them might coerce me into sex.”
Amy asked to remain anonymous because she thinks it might shock her friends, teachers and potential future employers if they ever found out about her kink. But their opinions do little to dissuade her from carrying out her impulses. She admits she’s acted out several of these fantasies in role-playing sexual encounters in the past.
Movies, romance novels and porn often romanticize the act of piracy for people like Amy. Yet David Moore, a nautical archaeology curator, once told National Geographic that it wasn’t such a vibrant time for people back then. "Life at sea was hard and dangerous, and interspersed with life-threatening storms or battles,” he said. “There was no air conditioning, ice for cocktails, or clean sheets aboard the typical pirate ship."
It was a far cry from how Amy envisions it; her ideals having been marred by the Hollywood inventiveness of very straight, very strong men having their way with swooning drunken wenches of coastal towns. As historians have found it to be, pirate sex was often homosexual, or at least bisexual in nature, for a multitude of reasons.
During the Golden Age of Piracy, from about 1650 to 1730, there were a lot of cultural factors at play many people have never heard of. For example, in England during the 1600s, homosexuality was fairly common for men. Even noblemen engaged in homosexual behavior of one kind or another, according to Barry Burg, author of “Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition.”
During this time, male prostitution thrived in England even though the Church and Christianity played a large role in society. Burg explains that same sex relationships were less controversial in the 17th century in England than they are now, and didn’t matter much to the Church. It condemned all premarital sex equally, whether it was with a man or a woman, distinctions notwithstanding.
Even noblemen, who were immersed in society and typically expected to go to church on Sundays for political optics, rationalized their sex lives away. Given this comparatively liberal ideology on sex, pirates were even more removed from the conventions of society’s expectations, since they were living such lawless lives anyway.
Back then, ships were full of a lot of sweaty, horny men, often with crowds so large they would sleep more than one to a hammock. Bisexual acts in these transports were common, asserts Burg, in the same way that homosexual and bisexual acts become more common when men are living in close, constant contact with only other men — like in modern day prison systems, the Navy, or in all male boarding schools.
There is also truth to the long-held belief of pirates sleeping around and soliciting prostitution in coastal towns , according to John C. Appleby, author of “Women and English Piracy.”
He says not only is there documented evidence of pirates being “hurt” with STDs — most likely while engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes — but their sudden influx of wealth after pillaging and plundering made them prime candidates for binge drinking and binge purchased sex.
In actuality, there is some truth to Amy’s fantasies, but the reality was much harsher than the porno version she replays in her head during slow work hours.
Because pirates often engaged in what Burg describes as “opportunistic” homosexual acts while horny and at sea, and then binged sex anytime they were ashore and had cash. Forced activity was kind of the norm.
The history itself is telling, and sheds light into how homosexuality and bisexuality were more common than many believe. It’s nothing new, just washed away by revisionist history.
Understanding life on the sea won’t do much to change the kink of pirate sex, however. Thousands of romance novels, sexy pirate costumes and other pirate-themed sex items are sold each year. Not to mention the library full of pirate themed videos on Pornhub. The market is there, and won’t diminish because pirates were degenerates and opportunists. On the contrary, it probably stands to help the genre all the same.
The irony here is, as much as society likes to think it’s the most accepting of any past, it has only made small progress toward accepting human sexuality for what it is. And although some may assert rising generations are more open or lewd about sexuality, in the overall picture, as much as things change, things also stay the same.
People are horny. Pirates were too.