Was Popeye gay

Distant Objects of Desire: The Beautiful Sailors

The sailor as an icon of homoeroticism in the film

The fantasy figure of the beautiful sailor inspired Hans Henny Jahnn to one of the hottest kisses in world literature. Reason enough to take a longer look at this idol, especially of homosexual desires. The sailor Gari kisses the shipowner's son Matthieu in the changing room of a bathing establishment, as follows: “Suddenly Gari pressed his friend against one of the wooden walls with the weight of his body, came with his head very close to the Matthieu, opened his mouth and pushed his full wet ones Lips over those of the other. Matthieu was paralyzed for a moment. Finally he understood the violence of the kiss. Their teeth ground together. Gari lifted one of his knees and pressed it between the thighs of Matthieu, who wanted to scream in pain. But his mouth was closed and the pain grew to pleasure. With his eyes closed, hardly able to breathe because Gari's nose blocked his, he gave himself up to the touch, this kiss that lasted for minutes and gradually tasted of blood. "

The sailor, so one can read and one can hear, was the one who, after hard months at sea, calls at the ports of distant and distant countries and experiences adventures there that those who stayed at home can only dream of. He was the one who brought the strange things with him from far away, from Ceylon, Sumatra, Easter Island or the South Seas, which inspire the imagination and arouse wanderlust: poisons, idols and spices, lingams and aphrodisiacs, strange coins, shrunken heads, colorful birds and monkeys.

It is said that he was married to his comrades and to the ocean, free from all civil constraints, had a lover or a lover in every port in the world; he contracted the mysterious diseases that puzzled doctors. Or he swore and was eternal loyalty to the woman who stands crying on the quay with the baby in her arms.

It is not just today that most of what made the character of the sailor so fascinating at some point and made him the hero of so many novels in world literature have congealed into this cliché, which, painstakingly made afloat again, by Hans Albers or Bards like Freddy Quinn is sung about.

In the age of container ships and absolute tourism, which scours the most distant countries for strange things, the comic sailors Popeye and Donald Duck and then the well-trained single, who with the well-cut sailor's uniform as a surefire eye-catcher, have become the heirs of the well-traveled sailor Scene goes.

Fashion designers, trash artists, advertising and the porn industry successfully convert the longings and sexual fantasies projected onto the figure of the beautiful sailor into cash, and it is astonishing to see how the charisma of this icon has not completely disappeared. It seems that the sailors, the "distant objects of desire", still have a "sad-romantic aura", as the actor Quentin Crisp called it: "They are the ones who go away."

The persistent myth of the sailors' “sexual adventurism” is also regenerated under the hand in sociological studies that actually aim to disenchant the much sought-after sailor in the US Navy: the early 1990s in the USA on the question of legitimacy The Clinton administration ended the debate under the military service of homosexual men and women with a compromise summed up in the feeble formula “don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue” .

For the American sociologist Steven Zeeland, this was the reason for an empirical study on the subject, which appeared in 1995 under the title “Sailors and Sexual Identity”. The provocative thesis of the study, backed up by abundant interview material, is that, paradoxically, making homosexuality taboo in the Navy is so close to the heart of the military precisely because it makes homoerotic military rituals and male-male sex happening on the tween decks of consciousness could be kept free to have something to do with homosexuality "in the true sense":

This refers initially to the massively homoerotic initiation rituals that are performed on the novices during the so-called equator baptism: events in which same-sex anal and oral intercourse are at least simulated. Steven Zeeland, however, ultimately emphasizes the sexual transgressions in the social structure of the US Navy, which seems to have more homosexuals in its ranks than was thought before this study.

According to Zeeland's far-reaching thesis, the unsuitability of the rigid rubrics “heterosexual” and “homosexual” can be demonstrated in the soldiers of the Navy in particular, and the view is sharpened for the broad spectrum of erotic activities of humans. And with that, the myth of the sailor as a prince of dreams in the realm of lust flourishes again here.

The sailor as the archetype of the one who gets to see the world and experiences the monstrous has thus also advanced to the archetype of the narrator. From Odysseus to Ishmael and Captain Ahab in the "Moby Dick", John Silver, Captain Nemo to Lord Jim and the series of famous names from literature goes on.

In addition to this gender sequence of seamen, so to speak, who are free from minors, who are given for confirmation, there is also the sideline of murderous and dissolute sailors, who mostly appear in personal union, shining in a gloomy light. Your most famous copy is probably the eponymous hero of Jean Genet's novel “Querelle”, which begins with the succinct statement: “The idea of ​​murder is often associated with the thought of sea and sailors. The sea and sailors then do not appear with the sharpness of an image, rather murder lets our excitement ebb away in waves. "

While in the texts that fill the children's rooms, the seafarers function primarily as carriers of the adventurous events, the brothers on the dark sidelines stand in view as themselves. The actual subject of the story is the figure of the "beautiful sailor" and his fateful fate. It begins here with Herman Melville's story of Billy Budd, swarmed and mothered by his comrades, whose "natural nobility, which made his joints so flexible, wafted in his blond hair and made his neck so narrow that made him so beautiful, too." 'Beautiful sailors' par excellence. "

The beautiful sailor as an object of same-sex desire has survived the time of the amalgamation of homosexuality and crime, forced by social repression, of which the disreputable harbor pub is one of the classic places. Because, according to the literary scholar Wolfgang Popp, in the picture of the beautiful sailor “a literary cipher of the homosexual fantasy is condensed: physical male beauty, virility, erotic charisma, masculine camaraderie, the pure male society on the ship, the dependence of men on one another Lake".


This is an excerpt from the text. You can read the whole article in mare No. 4. Subscribers can also read it here in the mare archive.