Hello, sailor

(This posting is about (real or fictive) sexual encounters between men, sometimes discussed in street language, so it’s not for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Daily Jocks ad from 2/15, under the header:

(#1) With the motor boat emoji (there’s a ferry emoji that might have done the job here, with a bad pun as a bonus)

The model, in what serves as nautical gear in the DJ world, with the accompanying DJ ad text:


Unleash your nautical fantasy with 3 pieces that complete the new Code22 Naval Collection.

Horizontal stripes in white and navy blue are the basis of the brief, boxer and jockstrap made with high quality sports mesh.

[Two side notes. One, the heavy horizontal striping makes the model’s junk seem especially substantial and weighty, even though his cock is not visibly erect (as it often is in underwear ads aimed at gay men). Two, the model is displaying a carefully crafted body — and one that’s also carefully shaven, all over, for total smoothness (or, possibly, it’s been airbrushed away); one consequence of the very low body fat from that crafting is that the superficial veins of his forearms and belly stand out quite visibly, an appearance that is then not hidden by any body hair. I admit that when I see such prominent veins I worry that the model’s body fat is dangerously low. Can that be healthy?]

The portal to gay nautical fantasies is the catchphrase Hello, Sailor. From Wikipedia:

“Hello, sailor” is a sexual proposition made to a sailor, presumably by a prostitute or promiscuous woman supposing the sailor to be male and sexually frustrated after a long time at sea. [That is, sailors are taken to be intrinsically highly sexual beings.] This usage has become a camp catchphrase, implying that sailors stay away at sea so long that they cannot tell the difference between a woman and a man in drag, or a play on the common conception that many sailors are homosexual. Hello, Sailor in this usage is also the title of several books, including one by Eric Idle and another about gay life in the British merchant navy, as well as a 2007 Liverpool museum exhibit about gay sailors. The British comedy act Monty Python, which includes Eric Idle, also made use of the phrase in several of their sketches.

On the other side of the portal is a sea of nautical queerdom, cruising under the Hello, Sailor flag.

[The result of this history is that “Hello, sailor” is now associated with a sexually tinged greeting from one man to another: perhaps plainly the opening of an offer to engage in sex, now, with the addressee, in fact in hard-core sex (sodomy, anal intercourse, fucking) rather than more everyday sex (fellatio, cock-sucking), with the default understanding being that the man making the offer will be the receptive partner, and the sailor the insertive one. Short-cutting all the indirection that’s possible in this exchange, “Hello, sailor” canonically  conveys “Please fuck me”.

All of this is potentially variable, of course. The addressee need not be a sailor, but only a hot guy the speaker is playfully treating as one. The exchange might be only flirting, offering a compliment to the addressee (“You’re hot, buddy”). It might be exploring the possibility of a future sexual encounter, rather than something more urgent. The physical setting of the encounter, or the tastes of the participants, might mean that it’s cock-sucking rather than fucking that’s on the table. (Giving a sailor a quick blow job — no names, no affection, little foreplay, just  the blow job, man — in a dangerously semi-public place, in the near dark, is something of a gay cliché-tale.) And the sailor might be taking cock rather than giving it. Lots of real-life encounters are not the canonical ones.]

The t-shirts. A ton of tees, represented here by the two winners of a t-shirt contest on the 99designs site (which matches designers with clients who have ideas about designs they would like to have realized), on the theme Hello Sailor – Looking for Seamen, Searching for Love:



Yes, the seamen / semen pun is going to be unavoidable. Few can resist it. Even I riddle: Q: How are seamen like semen? A: They’re both salty.

Catch of the day in #4 is, however, a relatively fresh pun, taking advantage of an ambiguity in catch. From NOAD:

noun catch: … [b] an amount of fish caught: a record catch of 6.9 billion pounds of fish. [c] [in singular] informal a person considered attractive, successful, or prestigious and so desirable as a partner or spouse [or, to be frank about it, lover or trick]: I mistakenly thought he would be a good catch.

The crowd roared their hello-sailors as these hunks in their naval-pattern swimwear (cf. #2) sailed past in a Gay Pride Sitges parade (in The Gay Village on the seafront of Sitges, Spain (about 35 km / 22 mi southwest of Barcelona, in Catalonia), usually early in June):


Said the soldier to the sailor. This Tom of Finland 1986 drawing (gouache on paper) seems to be untitled, but obviously it should have the soldier rasping throatily “Well, hello, sailor!”:

(#6) An encounter in the hypermasculine, sex-drenched world of Tom of Finland

Said the lad to the sailor. A hello-sailor welcome to the world of the artists Pierre & Gilles, sealed with a kiss:

(#7) Note la marinière, the cotton long-sleeved shirt with horizontal blue and white stripes; characteristically worn by seamen in the French Navy, it has become a common part of the stereotypical image of a French person (and recall the use of the naval stripes  in underwear, above)

Sailors are so central in the world of Pierre et Gilles that they assembled an entire book on a nautical theme, Pierre et Gilles: Sailors & Sea (2005). The beginning of the publisher’s lengthy, extravagant blurb (it sounds like something P&G wrote themselves, then had translated into English):

An unbridled celebration of a life beyond guilt and expiation [interpretation: they’re prepared to show pretty much anything about gay male sexuality, believing that casting it all as high camp removes the stain and sting of dirtiness]

As sweet as raspberry ripple, as tempting as popcorn. Welcome to the seductive pictures of Pierre et Gilles. Again and again they show people in kitschy scenarios against a background of flowers and hearts.

You might think that the campy world of P&G is far from the raw transgressive carnality of ToF (in Tom’s world, if the guys aren’t fucking in front of us, they’re probably thinking about it), but P&G collaborate with the outrageous fashion designer and fragrance purveyor Jean Paul Gaultier, who’s also sailor-obsessed — there are tons of sailors in his advertising — but enthusiastically embraces the association between sailors and sodomy.

Hello, sailor, you smell fantastic; fuck me. In my 9/7/20 posting “Le Male, the men’s fragrance” (which comes with an entirely relevant section on sailors and sodomy), this ad for the fragrance:

(#8) Le Male, the scent of a man, playfully presented as provoking sexual desire for the man who wears it; and note, again, la marinière, a regular feature of Gaultier’s advertising (some examples in my posting)

Two significant allusions in this ad (both entirely intentional, both employing campy puns): to James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 poster recruiting soldiers for both World War I and World War II, with his Uncle Sam figure pointing his finger at the viewer and declaring “I Want YOU” or “Uncle Sam Wants YOU” (for military service); and to the Village People’s 1979 song “In the Navy”.

— wanting. The recruiting poster has the root sense of the verb want (which is available in a number of different argument structures), and JPG certainly wants you to buy his fragrance. But he also intends a different sense, from NOAD:

verb want: … [d] desire (someone) sexually: I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you.

Of course, we understand that the ad is probably not suggesting that Gaultier himself desires you sexually — maybe that the model in the ad does (in some fictive world in which the model is a character), but, much more likely, that any man  will desire you if you wear Le Male, you will be a fuckin’ sex magnet, you will become the intended recipient of this message:


— in the Navy. Once you realize that the allusion is to the Village People song, you realize that the function of the Navy in it is to supply sailors for other men to have sex with, just as the function of the YMCA in “Y.M.C.A.” is to provide an easily available location for men to have sex with one another. The thing is that, although the Village People are a wildly camp act, the words of their songs steer clear of obvious double entendres — to such an extent that the songs have been considered as advertising tools for the Navy and the YMCA, respectively (a fact I continue to find astonishing).

From Wikipedia:

“In the Navy” is a song by the American disco group Village People. It was released [in 1979] as the first single from their fourth studio album Go West.

… After the enormous commercial success of their 1978 hit “Y.M.C.A.” which unexpectedly became the unofficial hymn and powerful advertising tool for the YMCA, the group took on another national institution, the United States Navy. The Navy contacted group manager Henri Belolo to use the song in a recruiting advertising campaign for television and radio. Belolo gave the rights for free on the condition that the Navy help them shoot the music video. Less than a month later, the Village group arrived at Naval Base San Diego where the Navy provided them with access to film on the deck of the berthed frigate USS Reasoner; in the end, the Navy did not use the video, choosing to remain with the traditional “Anchors Aweigh”.

Excerpts from the text:

Come on and join your fellow man
In the navy
Come on people and make a stand
In the navy, in the navy, in the navy, oh

They want you, they want you
They want you as a new recruit

If you like adventure, don’t you wait to enter
The recruiting office fast
Don’t you hesitate, there is no need to wait
They’re signing up new seamen fast

(even the seamen doesn’t sound out of place.)

Hello, sailor, in print. Over on the Goodreads site, a contributor has assembled a list of 116 items in the category “best gay romance featuring pirates, sailors or nautical themes” (romance in this context is understood very broadly; it looks like anything with sexual or affectional content counts as a romance). A few of the items seem to be sheer exercises in outrageous  language and action, not sustainable for any length (in fact, they all seem to be short Kindle books).

For example:

There’s Seamen on the Poop-Deck! (The Seamen Sexology #1) by François le Foutre (Kindle edition, 34 pp., published 5/19/15 by DaDo Publishing)

In Book 1 of The Seamen Sexology, Rear Admiral François le Foutre [Francis / Frank / Frenchy the Fuck] is come upon by his arch-nemesis and part-time lover, Captain Cocksmith Standish. Cocksmith and his men come all over the Raging Queen, take all of François’ seamen, and store them in the fo’c’sle with no hope of escape.

Don’t think I could manage 34 pages of this sort of thing. But to each their own tolerances.

3 Responses to “Hello, sailor”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    Very evocative post, to be sure. One quibble, however, is using “junk” to mean genitals. I prefer “family jewels”, but YMMV. Junk just squicks me.

  2. Paul Wary Says:

    I always assumed the saying originated because the red-light district, with brothels and gay clubs, is often near the wharves in a port-town, rather than any suggestion that a lot of sailors are gay, or undiscriminating. The “Hello Sailor” come-on could be from a prostitute, or a gay.

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