Things You Didn’t Know About Pirates (And Their Social Lives)
By | September 16, 2019
When you think of the pirate life, you're probably picturing a bunch of burly, jolly men drinking rum and burying treasure, but the Disney version of pirate life was largely a myth. Sure, there was rum (and we'll totally get to that), but being a pirate meant your life was riddled with violence, poverty, danger, and pretty much inevitable early death.
Also in contrast to such pirate myths, they were super ahead of their time. They embraced gay marriage and had female leaders, and even their fashion had a function. (You can't say the same for this athleisure trend.) Here are some pirate myths and what life was really like for real-life pirates.
Pirates Didn't Bury Treasure
Real-life pirates didn't bury their treasure with cartoonish maps. They used their money the same way modern people use much of theirs: to party. Even William Kidd---who claimed he buried the gold, silk, spices, and other riches he looted from the 500-ton American ship The Quedagh Merchant in the Caribbean---had to be kidding. Generations of treasure hunters tried to find his booty, but nothing has been discovered. Pirate life was hard.
Pirates Accepted Gay Marriage
Often, pirates had relationships with other male pirates for protection and companionship. They called it "matelotage," which comes from the French word for "sailor" or "seaman." It's where "mate" (as in "Ahoy, matey!") also comes from. Pirates enmeshed in matelotage shared everything from affection and other sexual partners to possessions. This included inheritance: When one-half of the couple died, the other got his mate's possessions and plunder.