Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 July 2011

Butt Pirates?

I honestly haven't felt like blogging much while I've been on vacation in Los Angeles. Sorry 'bout it, y'all. It's weird, actually; each trip to Los Angeles feels really different to me. Sometimes I am here and the whole thing feels really spiritual (like last year) and sometimes I feel connected to different people or rekindle certain relationships or feelings that have meant a lot to me. This time I have been feeling really productive. I was telling my friend Michael that this time I feel like I want to be doing something while I am here so I have been... assembling furniture and moving bricks.

And I've been reading, of course. I just finished a book called Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash by Hans Turley, which was intended to be a corrective to B.R. Burg's Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition. There has been lots of rigmarole about sodomitical pirates, it seems to me. And the fact that there are two books about pirates having sodomitical sex is actually quite excessive considering that there is basically no evidence that any pirate ever had sex of any kind with another pirate.

Burg's point is, basically, that well of course they were having sex because men having sex with men was just not that big of a deal in the eighteenth century (a theory I don't necessarily disagree with completely), and there were no women on the ships, so... and this is what Burg more or less says... you do the math.

The trouble is: that is not a theory. And Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition is deeply flawed for all its (delightful) fantasizing about pirate sex.

Turley's Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash takes a different tactic, exploring histories of pirates and placing what he calls the piratical subject (an exceedingly clever term) in relationship with normative, middle-class English sexual subjects from the eighteenth century. The whole thing is quite an ingenious frame. The book goes a little off the rails at the end, examining for thirty pages, the two sequels to The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe with hardly any discussion of either sex or pirates. It was a very strange end to the book, but academic texts can sometimes end abruptly. I am not sure I understand why this is, but it is a tendency I have noticed.

Anyway: pirates and homoeroticism don't necessarily go together, as it turns out, although what Turley is great about pointing out is that as a criminal deviant, the pirate necessarily becomes an implied sexual deviant for many, many readers, and his sexuality is automatically called into question because of his curious monosocial culture and his rejection of middle-class economic and sexual mores.

If you know of any other books on pirates and queerness, I'd love to hear about them.