The History Of Gay Marriage Among Pirates

Ahoy matey! This common pirate phrase may mean more than you realize!

By Melissa Sartore

Pirates are known for eye patches, walking the plank, and collecting booty. However, there are more pirate traditions than you might be aware of. Like the fact that same-sex relationships were quite common among the pirates of the Caribbean. Actually, we can frankly call it a gay marriage.

Matelotage was a gay marriage of sorts practiced by male pirates from the 17th century. Some of the most successful pirates had relationships with other men as a means of companionship and protection. Having a mate was both a personal and professional arrangement for a pirate. Therefore the word ‘mate’ itself is probably a holdover from the institution of matelotage.

Let’s check some historical facts!

Matelotage Began Sometime During The Seventeenth Century

During the 1600s, pirates began to enter into civil relationships with one another, known as matelotage. Matelotage, meaning “seamanship,” derives its name from the French word for sailor or seaman, matelot. Aspects of matelotage were practiced by sailors and pirates alike but the latter did it openly. Pirates that entered into the bonds of matelotage shared everything – affection, possessions, and even other sexual partners.

It is amazing that gay marriage at that time was more common at that period of history than in some periods after that. Or it was just more open?

Same-Sex Relationships Were Taboo But So Was Piracy

Much of Europe was ideologically against same-sex relationships during the 17th and 18th centuries, describing them with terms like “sodomy” and “buggery.” Homosexuality could be punished by death, although it rarely was. With pirates defying social norms in pretty much every way, their acceptance of such taboo relationships arguably fits into their general way of life. Sailors, on the other hand, were deterred from such practices. The British navy actively tried to prevent same-sex relationships on ships in the 17th and 18th centuries but with ships full of men, sailors tended to become intimate. The same is true for pirates.

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Ironically, homosexual relationships in European society were associated with (and often tolerated, as a result) the wealthy and elite, who were considered to be above the law. It soon became a known practice among pirate outcasts, outside of the law, who supposedly used “bugger” as a term of endearment during the 18th century.

In any case – gay marriage was well and alive.


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I bet you would love to get into Matelotage with this pirate

Matelot Meant Different Things To Different Groups

For pirates, the relationship of matelotage was a much more public and accepted practice. Naval sailors would have to take such relationships under-ship, so to speak, but pirates readily approved of formally entering into a committed relationship to another man.

As it came into greater usage, 17th and 18th century buccaneers in the Caribbean specifically used the word matelot to refer to their sexual partners. The relationship between buccaneer and matelot was affectionate and intimate as well as social and economic.

French and English seafarers both used the term matelot but when the English incorporated it into their parlance, it meant “buddy.” It was later shorted to just “mate” and continues to be used in the buddy-context today.

Matelotage Meant Commitment But Not Monogomy

The two men that became linked though matelotage were in a committed same-sex relationship but women could be part of the equation. On Tortuga, buccaneers continued their relationships with their matelots even after women were sent to the island to deter them. In fact, they shared women with their partners in true what’s-mine-is-yours fashion.

Let’s call it introduction of bisexuality and “open relationship”. Or just early type of a gay marriage as it was.

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Matelotage Meant You Inherited Your Partner’s Property When He Died

An additional protection afforded by matelotage was inheritance. When one member of the union died, the other got his possessions and any plunder owed to him. When Francois l’Olonnias attacked the coast of Venezula in 1666, he made sure that the matelots of the men who died in the exchange received their portion of the booty the pirates had seized.

It is amazing that gay marriage war recognized as just any marriage and partners in homosexual marriage had the same rights as those in heterosexual one.


Well, I guess that would be just enough of history for today folks. A quick conclusion of the above article could be that most of the pirates were at least bisexuals. Do you too think that being bisexual today is more suppressed than being gay? Send me your opinion about that.

Anyway, enjoy whatever are you doing, stay safe and spread the word – share this article on your social media

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