Gay Pirates

I received a present the other day – a book through the post from an ex-colleague: ‘Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition.’ It’s a fascinating read.

Admittedly, I was a little wary: there’s a long history of ‘actually, they were gay’ books which would have us believe that Jesus, St Paul, Shakespeare and even George Michael (ok, fair enough) were all gay… but this book is not that at all.

As the author points out, it would be tempting to think ‘yes, there was probably homosexual activity on ships, because, like prisoners, they didn’t have any other outlet.’ But this is to entirely miss the point. Pirates had escaped the prison conditions of the naval ships. They were free men. And some of them – not all – but some of them formed intentionally all-male communities.

Why is this important? Firstly, for reasons that are non-purient. I’m just not interested in an ‘exotic’ twist to the piracy thesis. I think it’s important because it shows, again, how pirates emerged to create TAZ spaces in which taboos could be broken. The emergence of these ‘transgressive’ communities began the process of the deadened orthodoxy being challenged and changed. This is the archetype I’ve been working on in the book from an economic, religious and social perspective… but I’m really glad to be able to expand that into sexual politics too.

Challenging material for some, I’m sure. But that’s what this is all about. As the author writes in the introduction:

‘the major portion of the literature has been concerned with piratical deeds than with pirates. Its appeal, one would surmise from the content, is to an audience of small boys, retired naval officers, and other primarily concerned with cannon, cutlass, gore and decks awash with blood… the opportunity to investigate one of the unique groups in human history has been ignored.’

So, yes, if you thought all this pirate stuff was just about eye-patches and children’s parties, think again. What these challenging and marginal communities of (mostly) men did at the turn of the 18th century has an enormous amount to offer us as we seek to challenge the hegemony of white, Christian capitalist, hierarchical and misogynistic power structures that fanned out in Empire building and did damage that we still suffer today.

I’m hoping to have the 1st draft finished in the next couple of months… just taking time.


2 responses to “Gay Pirates”

  1. Fascinating ! I never thought about gay pirates. I did draw a cartoon today showing Jesus as a bit more liberated than many modern Christians would want to imagine him — sort of fitting with your theme here. I was surprised to find this post.

  2. Patrick Corsi

    Yes, fascinating! Not being gay, but certainly not feeling threatened by people’s private sexual preferences among consenting adults / being a pirate in spirit alone nowadays,but coming from a family of corsican-greek Corsairs with a family tree that goes back some 800 years / and determined “…to challenge the hegemony of white, Christian capitalist, hierarchical and misogynistic power structures that fanned out in Empire building and did damage that we still suffer today” / and having lived half of my life in the South Pacific where Pacific Island societies prior to the nineteenth century were essentially gift economies and not market economies, I am very eager to hear more about the marginal societies of pirates, not the swashbuckling variety, not particularly their sexual preferences, but the philosophical & social viewpoints that they entertained prior to implementing them…in a bloody good way ..! lol. One certainly cannot dismiss such profound conversations they must have had on calm days at sea as no more than intellectual masturbation…oops, ship ahoy …! …better get busy… / hope to hear from you soon /!/haapiti1 / /