What’s the appeal of pirate women?

What can they do what pirate men can’t? I honestly can’t understand their appeal (and I have 2 pirate men).

I am honestly exasperated. Pirate women existed, indeed. But they were damn rare, and not exactly in command position.

Yes, you’ll say Grace O’Malley, Sayida Al Hurra and Ching Shih But even they were more pirate ship owners than captains, and they had captains to actually command the ship. Pirate men were plenty. Some ships allowed no women aboard, others had 2-3 women and a full complement of men (50, 70, 100 or more). So yes, pirate women were rare.

And since I joined my first RPG, in August 2009, I have seen lots of pirate women characters. On one RPG, there was a full ship with pirate women, led by a lady captain. I know, that was more pirate fantasy than historical fiction.

And this was exactly what I didn’t want to see happening when I made “Before the Mast”. A place for historical fiction, not historical fantasy.

Still I had seen lots of people complaining “why I can’t make a pirate girl my first character? But I want a pirate girl!” As if they desperately wanted a pirate story, a man couldn’t do even more things than a girl could.

Some portrayed correctly or at least acceptably (and accepted as second characters), others so fantastic that they didn’t get approved, asking for changes the writers didn’t want to make, in order to make them more realistic and less special snowflakes.

I still can’t understand what’s the appeal. Yes, I had a sailor girl too for a while (not a pirate, a girl disguised as a boy, with a history which made sense for her – and a sailor girl while having 4 other sailor men aboard the other ships and writing NPCs for all ships too); but she isn’t one anymore for one year and a half of actual writing (and about 7-8 months in the story). And when she’ll go at sea again, probably in 2-3 years of story time and after the timeline of the actual story writing, it will be on her brother’s ship – not a pirate, not a Navy one, just a little merchant family ship on which women weren’t as rare.

Which is my problem now, you may ask, as long as I am sticking to the rule of having people first getting another character, or having a woman start as civilian and working up their story to become a pirate? This ensures dedicated writers whom one can trust, to write realistic characters. But, at the same time, it doesn’t solve the problem of pirate women being rare. :(

Because in this rhythm of having dedicated long-term members who want a pirate girl (who is well written)… I can’t deny them, but at the same time the ship becomes in greater measure exactly what I wanted to avoid: girl-filled. Then where’s the rarity? At the same time, this opens another can of worms – “why there are many pirate girls and I am still denied to make one?” (answer: because you just arrived set to make a pirate girl, without willing to work to earn this.)

My purpose is to bring the 18-th century to our people, to have the opportunity to live our adventures (as males or females, it counts less for me; the story per se counts, and the most appropriate character to make it happen will do it. If it happens this to be more males at sea and females ashore, so be it).

My main reason for keeping them as rare as they actually were in history is “but history says women didn’t fully participate in their setting in real life, so we don’t want them to do so in ours“. We are not trying to write a fantasy society where everything is possible, but to replicate somehow the real life of that time, with its society constraints. And I think here comes my problem: they were rare; when everyone and her mother wants to be one… how come are they rare anymore? And if 50-60% of the ship crew are female… how is it realistic anymore?

I have tried to encourage male seafarers a lot.

If in that setting women didn’t go on adventures, you choose the setting knowing that those were the society expectations, men to go on adventures and women to have land-bound professions. So this is where my understanding fails, because if you know these were the conditions… why do you want something different?

Let’s assume I am talking about a different setting: amazones’society, and I join it. I read the setting and the rules, then I decide what characters I want. If I want a warrior character… would I make a man? No, a woman. If I want also a male character, I would make him a slave to the amazones… but highly skilled slaves existed, so I’d make him a carpenter or stonecarver.

Am I clear enough what I am saying? Why do people make characters which don’t fit the story, instead of trying their best to choose the most appropriate characters for OUR story, not for some other one (colonial or fantastic)? Why so many try challenging the story instead of adapting to it by bringing the most appropriate character to implement that part of the story?

One thought on “What’s the appeal of pirate women?

  1. Sadly, the answer probably lies somewhere in the realm of sexual fantasy and has nothing to do with historical accuracy. Too many people have been trained by Halloween costumes and film, and they want to replicate that in the games they play. Or as women (and men) seeking a more equal world, they want history to go back in time and rewrite that history. You’re not up against rational thinking. 😛


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