Watch: 'No Dames!' Male Same-Sex Love at Sea Explored in Barcelona Exhibit

Wednesday June 30, 2021

Channing Tatum and chorus members from "No Dames," from the Coen Brothers film "Hail Caesar"
Channing Tatum and chorus members from "No Dames," from the Coen Brothers film "Hail Caesar"  (Source:YouTube still)

Those traveling to Barcelona between now and November can catch a new exhibition at the Maritime Museum of Barcelona that tells "the story of the romantic and sexual reality of men who spend their lives at sea," reports The Guardian.

"'El desig és tan fluid com la mar' ('Desire Flows Like the Sea') aims to evoke the lives of men living in isolation but at close quarters and whose intimate lives were once clandestine out of necessity because homosexuality was and, and in many places still is, considered both a sin and a capital offence."

Brad Davis in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Querelle"  

The exhibit opened on June 28, International LGTBI Pride Day, and runs until November 14. Mireia Mayolas, the museum's exhibition director, said that the exhibit marks a "change the institution's narrative and make it more inclusive from the point of view of gender and sexual diversity," according to the Spanish news site 20 Minutos.

"Matthew's Island" by Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland  

The exhibit explores the social reality of same-sex relationships at sea over centuries, with much of the history seen through court and criminal records.

"These court records in which men of all ages are sentenced for nefarious sin and sodomy are the only documentary evidence of the existence of homoerotic pleasures, beyond the engravings of the time of scenes of convictions," writes 20 Minutos. It also looks at the exploitative practice of children, some as young as eight years old, being recruited as cabin boys by older officers. Among the found documentation is an expression of same-sex affection and calls for freedom that echo those expressed today, said the exhibitor curator Víctor Ramírez to 20 Minutos.

Self portrait by Pierre et Gilles  

A section of the exhibit brings the theme up to the present day, looking at the way such LGBTQ artists have interpreted same-sex attraction amongst sailors, including composer Benjamin Britten, novelist Jean Genet, and artists Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard (Pierre et Gilles), Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who filmed Genet's "Querelle," and, most significantly, Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland.

"If there is homosexual love at sea it's because it also exists on land," the exhibition curator and historian Víctor Ramírez Tur said at the launch. "But the covering up, secrecy and hostility that surrounds the life of homosexual mariners hasn't disappeared."

We don't know at EDGE if the exhibit contains a reference to "No Dames," the iconic musical number from the Coen Brothers' "Hail Caesar," but it should because it hilariously sums up the exhibit's theme in Hollywood musical terms.