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"Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash."
Winston Churchill, unwittingly inspiring a name for an album by the Pogues.[1]

It's a lonely life in the Navy. Perhaps outside Prison Rape or single-gender schools, one of the well-known versions of Situational Sexuality is in the naval service. For years, men would be left alone together on ships for weeks on end, as female sailors served in a very limited capacity if at all (this is slowly changing), causing these men to have their sexual urges met somehow. This has led to sailors becoming sex symbols among gay men. Definitely Truth in Television on occasion, and in fiction, a common subtrope of the Manly Gay and Straight Gay types. Pretty much Older Than Steam.

A somewhat outdated trope nowadays, however, as most military fetishists have been leaning towards the sweaty and permastubbled soldier or marine as of late.

Note that the British Navy abolished the practice of flogging in 1948, and that rum rations were discontinued in 1970. The modern British Navy runs on sodomy, and sodomy alone.

Examples of Hello, Sailor! include:


Anime And Manga

  • In the Area 88 TV series, former US Navy pilot Mick Simon is seen reading a Playgirl magazine in the cafeteria.
  • Kurogane Pukapuka Tai fills the Indian Ocean with lesbian sailors during World War II.


Comic Books

 Misty: What do we do?

Colleen Wing: Relax, they're sailors. Just look cute.

Shang-Chi: That might not work for all of us, Colleen.

Black Cat: They are sailors, Shang.

  • Deadpool accidentally invokes this trope by walking into a bar full of sailors in a tiny tank top and short shorts. Bright pink tank top and short shorts. In San Francisco. And then he comes up with his hairbrained scheme to join the X-Men.


Commercials


Film

  • Captain Shakespeare of the Stardust film (though not the book) is a flamboyantly gay secret Drag Queen. Technically not a Navy man, but a sky pirate. Played by Robert De Niro, of all people!
    • It's said DeNiro took the role of Shakespeare out of deep regret at having passed on playing Jack Sparrow. Make of that what ye will.
  • Top Gun. Yes, they're pilots, but they're still Navy.


Literature

  • Jean Genet's Querelle De Brest, later made into a film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
  • Referenced vaguely a few times in the Temeraire series, when Laurence reflects on some of the hazards of the Navy, while musing he was lucky to escape that part of it himself.
  • Herman Melville's unfinished novella Billy Budd makes this Older Than Radio. It's all about homosexuality among sailors on ships in the age before steamships.


Live-Action TV

  • Homosexuality in the Royal Navy was the subject of one episode of the Channel 4 parody news show Brass Eye. Sailors did ridiculous things like marching in pairs pressed right up against each other and devoting over 90% of their medical training to treating "penis wounds." It also showed footage of a naval officer fellating a gun.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has its own parody on the subject, exchanging "homosexuality" for "cannibalism", and making countless of jokes of navy men casually eating one another, or discussing nonchalantly of who should get eaten. This comes right after a sketch with a letter from a member of the Royal Navy who is outraged that the show would demean Her Majesty's naval forces... that soon descended into describing the "perfect little buttocks" of the sailors, and John Cleese saying, "And we can't show you the rest of that letter."
  • Veronica Mars first season episode "M.A.D.":

  The Navy? Cover my back, wingman. The rear admiral wants us to pound away with the 10-inch gun. I mean, isn't just joining the Navy alone gay enough to get you thrown out of the Navy?

  • Used in Mystery Science Theater 3000, of all shows, in the final host segment of Teenagers from Outer Space. Tom Servo has a rather...spirited reaction to the sight of Joel in a homemade Navy-style uniform.
  • In one round of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? game "If you Know what I Mean," which involves speaking in nothing but sexual innuendos, one of the players reminisces, "When I was in the Navy, I was surrounded by seamen!"
  • Saturday Night Live had a continuing serial Dickens parody with guest Michael Palin, who as the youthful hero gets initiated to the manly life on the sea with manly men on the "Raging Queen".
  • The second-season Blackadder episode "Potato" is full of gay sailor jokes since it revolves around explorers and sea voyages. The next episode has Baldrick suggest making money down at the docks by exploiting this trope.
  • In the UK comedy Brass, the Camp Gay son borrows his mother's perfume, "Bonsoir Matelot."


Music

  • The subtext of the Village People song "In the Navy".
    • Just remember what "subtext" is an anagram for!
    • Hilariously, this song was originally recorded as the theme for a US Navy recruitment spot. The deal fell through when conservative activists complained about the Village People's association with the gay community. While the Navy yielded to the right-wing screeching, they took umbrage to the implication there was anything at all gay about the Village People or the song "In The Navy" in any way promoted homosexuality.
      • Or on a less insulting note, people questioned the legitimacy of the government using taxpayer money to fund a music video.
  • Martin Mull sang a rousing sea shanty about being on a 'ship all filled with men' - he does note "But none of us are sissies/And so we sleep in sep'rate beds/and blow each other kissies!"
  • This trope has been immortalized in song for well over a century at the very least. "Backside rules the Navy; backside rules the sea...."
  • The Frogs' song Sailors Board Me Now is one big ode to seaside sodomy.
  • Damon Albarn, while working on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, apparently worried that the nautical theme would come across this way, according to this interview.
  • Subverted in Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates, which has nothing to do with Situational Sexuality and everything to do with The Power of Love.


Video Games

  • In the video game Tradewinds: Legends, the burly Berber swordsman Hasan Tazere is a Straight Gay with occasional Camp Gay ("Does this tattoo complement my eyes?") and Manly Gay ("Visit meat market. Find bear.") concerns--and he's out! E.g., when he makes a particularly large deposit, the Banker is likely to ask if Hasan has met his or her son, and the other playable characters inquire if he's had any success searching for his . . . brother. (Since a Running Gag of the game is that the playable characters persistently misunderstand each other, this gay troper is convinced that Hasan's warrior brother Omar is straight.)
  • The trope name is actually a recurring Catch Phrase in the old Zork games.


Web Comics

  • Apparently referenced in this Crew Dogs strip by an Air Force member.


Western Animation

  • Used in an episode of The Simpsons with the Sea Captain, where he was shown purchasing lots of pornography before a long voyage to keep himself and his men straight ... for about five minutes.

 Sea Captain: "I don't swing that way ... on land!

    • "Simpson Tide" had the Village People sing on the submarine with Smithers dancing along.
  • In some Popeye cartoons from WWII era (such as "Seeing Red, White and Blue"), Navy sailors (except Popeye of course) were portrayed as "funny", groping, mincing and occasionally cross-dressing.
  • A rather odd version would be Mirage of Transformers Energon who is most of the Decepticon navy by virtue of being a boat. He's also completely gay for Megatron.
  • Shore Leave a walking stereotype from The Venture Brothers, a parody of Shipwreck from the G.I. Joe cartoons.
  • Used in an episode of Johnny Bravo. After being told that women like a guy who's "in touch with his feminine side", the not-very-bright Johnny ends dressing in drag to impress a girl and gets hit on by a couple of Ambiguously Gay sailors who tell him suggestively that they're "on shore leave."
  • A naval school in Family Guy, described by an instructor:

 Instructor: ...Our curriculum consists of being on boats for long periods of time with men, just men, for many days at a time. Up on the deck with lots of men, or down in the galley with lots of men.

Chris: Is this some kind of pirate school?

Instructor: Well... a certain kind of pirate. Yes, we've been called that.

Stewie: Is there some kind of preschool program?

    • Also this short of Stewie as an old British Navy Captain

 Stewie: I'm the greatest captain of the queen's navy

Sailors: And your record will stand as proof.

Stewie: Be it galleon or freighter, I'm an expert navigator.

Sailors: And you're also a world class poof.

Stewie: My manner quite effete/Is mistaken on the street For a sailor who can pirouette on -->cue.

Well despite your point of view, I can thrill a girl or two...

But I'd rather get it on with you!

Sailors: Ha Ha Ha!


Real Life

  • Many sailors have no problem making fun of this trope themselves as evidenced by the jokes "It's only queer at the pier!" and "It's not gay underway!"
    • Everyone knows submariners are all this way, everyone of them, just ask anyone else in the Navy "100 men go down, 50 couples come up!"
  • Referenced often by Army personnel in most nations who wish to start a fight with their navy comrades -- "Backs to the wall boys, here come the Navy!" is a favorite in the UK.
    • "How do they separate the men from the boys in the Navy? With a crowbar and a bucket of cold water!"
  • Also referenced in England's old anti-sodomy laws, which had one exception: it was legal "after ninety days at sea."
    • Though bear in mind that, by 1750, even crossing the Atlantic didn't take 90 days, and fooling around- or even trying to- with another man, at least in the Navy, would be punished by being strung from the yardarm if anyone reported it.
  • Strangely this might be less Truth in Television the further back one goes. In the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men it was common for sailors' wives, girlfriends, and whores to slip aboard ship whenever the ship was in port for an extended period of time. Leaving port always called for an attempt to run the women off the ship, which was rarely 100% successful.
  • Discussed in depth in the book Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition (which Johnny Depp read in preparation to play Captain Jack Sparrow): the argument is basically that gay sex actually wasn't nearly as taboo and shocking in the seventeenth century as it is today, and that those who lived as pirates had little regard for societal norms and "rules" anyway, so it wouldn't really have been a big deal for men stuck onboard a ship for months at a time to turn to one another for sex and/or love.
    • There was even a term for a more permanent arrangement: matelotage. Two sailors who were matelots would often share possessions and have some of the commitments of a married couple (sometimes indicated by 'matelot marks', a significant tattoo.) This wouldn't necessarily include sexual exclusivity, however- the 'possessions' shared would sometimes include having a three-way marriage to a woman as well.
    • Tolerance probably varied between cultures and vessels, however. (On the other hand, deep-sea sailors were pretty much a self-selecting group anyway- they might have been men who were less bothered than others about spending a long time in a male-only environment...)
  • The UK Merchant Navy/US Merchant Marine were well known for being (in practice) accepting of homosexuals compared to the permanent branches of the military and even to most of civilian society prior the gay rights movements improving treatment across the board. This meant homosexuals were far overrepresented in the merchant fleets at those times.

Notes

  1. Churchill didn't actually coin this phrase, but certainly wished he did.
  2. Spermaceti, an oil found in the head of the sperm whale, which was originally thought to be whale sperm
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