Pirate Sex

Sodomy and the Priate Tradition coverSodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English sea rovers in the seventeenth-century Caribbean

Submitter: Since it was just “Talk Like a Pirate” day, I submit to you this title. This book is being weeded because I know we do not have any pirates in our library community.

Holly: Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

Remember Long John Silverstein?


Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition Contents

Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition Preface


  1. And yet again, I pause to wonder why this was purchased for a collection in the first place. Or how it was accepted for publishing.

    1. Maybe by someone who was tired of seeing people think of pirates as romantic heroes and exceptional lovers of women? A little “take that for your idolizing pirates” stuff. The way some guys go on and on about how disgusting vampires are when their girlfriends are too into them or the way some guys will automatically say a male celebrity is gay even if he’s known for catting around with women.

  2. Arrgh, rum, sodomy and the lash. Who knew that was part of pirate life? The sodomy part anyway.

    1. Well you know, all those long nights at sea, with all that rum, and since women were thought to be bad luck on a ship, it only makes sense that this sort of thing went on. I would also wager a guess that none of those pirates would consider themselves give a second thought to killing anyone who even hinted that any of them were less than the manliest of men at the end of a voyage either. As Mr. Cotton’s parrot would say, “Any port in a storm.” 🙂

  3. You may not have pirates in your community, but do you have gay people or people interested in the history of homosexuality and the way it was treated legally and socially?

  4. I remember reading an interview with Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series) in which she said she got odd looks for purchasing not one but *two* special-order copies of this book (one for research, one as a gift, strangely enough). So people interested in her things, especially now that Outlander is becoming an miniseries, may search for this book out of curiosity.

  5. This could be an interesting subject to anyone–people into history, LGBT issues, or isolated populations–not just pirates.

    1. It depends what library this was in – it seems to be presented as an academic title, so fine in a university or main city library (possibly one with a reserve stock) but inappropriate for a school or a small community library largely populated by mums and kids. Perhaps rather than binning it, it could be passed on to somewhere more suitable. Gay people and researchers or pirates of any orientation, could access it though the union catalogue.

  6. There is a patron at the library where I work who is 90 and absolutely obsessed with pirates. He comes in every day with Interlibrary Loan requests related to piracy, and I’m 99% sure he has requested this title before.

  7. A WorldCat search shows that it is quite common in colleges, universities and large public libraries in the southeastern U.S., probably because of the Caribbean history connection. A smattering in other locations, but I’m having trouble understanding why several high schools in Pennsylvania own a copy.

    1. I wish my Pennsylvania high school had carried this book!
      I had a friend do an in-depth report her senior year on the changing definitions of “love” in American history. This might have been pretty useful…It sounds like an interesting read into sexuality, deviance, and, you know, piracy.

  8. I’d buy this in a heartbeat from your bookshop sale – it can cuddle up on the shelf with all my titles on Medieval prostitution.

  9. I did a really interesting 17th Century course focussing on popular culture. A couple of the lectures were about sexuality. This would have been a really useful text for that subject. It would be really good in a university where 17th Century history is taught, but I appreciate it probably wouldn’t be much use in a public library.

  10. Right, let’s remove all books about same-sex desire, behavior, and identity. Don’t want anyone getting the idea that LGBT people exist, or that they existed in the past. While you’re at it, better get rid of “Gay American History,” “Gay Life and Culture,” “Gay New York,” “The Gay Metropolis,” “Before the Closet,” “A History of Homophobia,” “Out of the Past,” “The Other Side of Silence,” and about 1000 other books.

  11. Joss O’Kelly: what makes you think that ‘mums’ and heterosexuals are inappropriate audiences for this? You don’t have to be a male pirate who sleeps with male pirates to be interested in the history of sexuality!

    1. Well I’m heterosexual, though not a Mum, and I’d love to read it! I wasn’t quibbling about the subject matter, just that it seems to be too academic and specialist for any library with very limited shelf space. I wouldn’t expect to find (quick glance around my own bookshelves) a 990 page work on The Apocryphal Old Testament or a substantial two volume history of 19th century British Folklorists in a village library either. Much as I wouldn’t expect the village shop next door to sell 45 different kinds of cheese.
      I would of course expect that the village library would have a reasonable selection of fiction featuring gay characters, some biographies etc and of course an interested Mum could request all the books about pirates in the 17th century or folklorists in the 19th century that she wanted. It would be nice to hope that she could also ask the shopkeeper to order in some Blu del Moncenisio, though I doubt she would have much success! Alternatively, she could spend the day travelling to the nearest city and borrow this book from the library there and call in at the delicatessen at the same time.
      Same with a school – I am a school librarian and we do stock teen gay fiction but on the non fiction side we barely have room for the books needed for the curriculum, which does not include Piracy in the Caribbean in the 17th century! If one of our history A-Level students, who do dissertations on a subject of their choice, asked for this book, I would of course get it for them.

  12. This book was taught in a history survey course when I was in college, specifically to teach us how to evaluate history books for scholarly merit. The book’s mostly conjecture and poor research.

    1. Ooooh, no! Don’t spoil it for the rest of us 🙁

      I heard a lecture on this very topic a few years before this book was published. There seem to be little doubt that homosexuality was a good reason to run off to sea. There are many ways to misfit in a strict society, and when they met, and looks were exchanged, and so on…

    2. The book’s mostly conjecture and poor research.

      Damn. I was all ready to ILL that baby. Somebody needs to write an academically-sound version, STAT.

  13. I haven’t read this title, so I’m not able to vouch for its historical accuracy (or otherwise), but a good academic book on this subject would be worth having in a large library. Pirates! LGBT history! what more could you want? (Ok, so there’s no vampires in it… can’t have everything). There’s been fictional treatment of the “gay pirates” idea by some well-known authors like William Burroughs (in Cities of the Red Night, if I recall correctly), and people are going to be interested in what the real history was.

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