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Jolly Roger!

BAMMER47: I recently was sent an article on the concept of matelotage, a common rite among pirates and some other sailors on the open seas in the 1600s and 1700s. Have you heard of this practice? I know I hadn’t.

At that time, pirates often engaged in this form of partnership, a same-sex civil union among sailors, whereby two partners would form an economic pairing and agree to share their incomes and inherit each other’s property in the case of death. They also pledged to protect and fight alongside each other in battle and otherwise act in the other’s interest.

Some have interpreted these arrangements as a platonic form of mutual insurance, but, many historians consider them the equivalent of same-sex marriage. After all, in the male-dominated world of piracy, homosexuality was common. This validated relationships that would otherwise have been considered against societal norms. In fact, matelotage was disapproved of by colonial authorities, who often sent female prostitutes to regions where the practice was common to deter buccaneers from engaging in it. By all accounts, that tactic didn’t work!

Today’s pics are the closest thing to pirate-related imagery in my vintage photo collection. In 1992, I went on an RSVP Caribbean cruise with hundreds of other gay men. We stopped at a different island almost every day. But, one day, we were offered the option of a “Jolly Roger” excursion, where we boarded a vessel that could easily have been a pirate ship, decked out with the traditional “Skull and Bones” flag that identified such ships prepared to attack, and spent the day drinking and carousing at sea.

Not one to imbibe alcohol typically, I overdid it that day, as is evident in pic #2. I ended up having my first-ever threesome in that condition with the couple on either side of me, once we all got back to our cruise ship and retired to their cabin.


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