SEX AND THE SINGLE SEAMAN

I have always thought it unfair that seamen have such a bad reputation for womanizing. They are supposed to have a girl in every port. Until recently they worked in an exclusively male environment, and are mostly shy and reserved around women. Many of them remain single all their lives. It is difficult to find a suitable partner when you are at sea for 9 to 11 months a year. Few spouses are willing to tolerate this kind of life. Even today, few seamen are able to sustain a happy marriage. I knew one captain whose wife had separate "his" and "hers" condominiums for living arrangements. I could understand separate beds, but that was too much. One electrician I sailed with became unusually grumpy after he married a girl he met in a Texas City waterfront bar. He later found out she was alcoholic, and drove himself crazy worrying about the situation. Some shipmates tried to cheer him up, and purchased an inflatable "playmate" doll from an ad in a men's magazine. It was not quite the advertised life size, and had a disconcerting rubber seam running down the length of the body, from nose to tail. They dressed it in short pajamas, and put it in his bed, but he was not amused.

Everyone deals with this situation in different ways. On one ship we had a cook named Henry. Henry loved to buy X-rated films. He had a large collection of 8 and 16 mm films back in the days before we had video-cassettes. He loved to show them in the mess room at any time he was off duty. He always kept up a running commentary about the "actors", why they were doing what they were doing, and what they might do next. In the mid '70's we were loading in a port somewhere in Indonesia. It was the period of detente, a lessening of cold-war tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. When a Soviet merchant ship was in port with us, it was not uncommon for us to visit each other. One afternoon several Russian officers came to me and asked if we could trade films. I had seen some of the Soviet movies before, they were fairly boring, about things like ballet dancers. The film did not fit our projectors very well, and had to be twisted around to work. I guess they must have solved those problems, because they loved our films, especially crime dramas. Charles Bronson was a favorite actor. I opened our movie locker, and told them they could take two films for the day. I did not check which films they borrowed. I was unaware that Henry had put his films there with the rest.

The following afternoon the Soviet Officers returned, and asked to borrow films. I said fine, I'd open the locker for them. They said they wanted to borrow "Da same ones". Then I noticed that they had borrowed "Debbie does Dallas" and "Behind the Green Door", two of Henry's X-Rated productions. I asked them if they liked them. They had loved them. They stayed up all night showing them over and over. They had always heard how perverted we were in the West, but they never realized just how perverted we were until then. In the interest of peace, I let them borrow Henry's films another night.