Is when he's down in an inland town
With his Nancy on his knees, yo ho,
And his arm around her waist!"
Ah, the sea! The ideal setting for adventure, danger, and...constant sexual longing?
At least, so you'd think from some fiction, where every single crew member on a nautical adventure seems to be in a constant state of hunger for, well, naughty adventure. In such works, sailor types are never shown as being apathetic about romantic horseplay—not even if they're exhausted from overwork, or stranded on an island.
This trope particularly runs rife in a Wooden Ships and Iron Men setting. Pirates are often involved as well, since they have the loot to spend lavishly on drinks, prostitutes, and A Girl in Every Port. But it can be applied to all kinds of seamen (heh heh, "seamen"), and pretty much has been.
For a long time, this was Truth in Television to some extent: historically, women were not allowed on naval ships in many countries, which meant that sailors spent months on end without seeing a member of the opposite sex. Naturally, upon reaching shore, many of them would be starving for female companionship. (Docks were long known as crucibles of prostitution.)
Now that the gender imbalance is less pronounced in most places, the whole concept is largely in Dead Horse Trope territory, but you can still expect to come across it in historical fiction (and, of course, older works). Hello, Sailor! is often the result of this trope plus Situational Sexuality.
- The French comic Les Passagers Du Vent has one story set on board a slave ship, where the sailors regularly go into the hold to rape a female slave whenever the opportunity presents itself. One sailor forgets to remove his knife from his pocket (despite the quartermaster warning everybody about it earlier) and the slaves steal it while he's busy, resulting in the slaves cutting their bonds and revolting.
- In Forbidden Planet, the crew of the spaceship is all-male and stir-crazy from a long flight, and respond energetically when they come across the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter. Two of the ship's officers start a Cock Fight over her. As the phrase goes, Space Is an Ocean.
- In Hail, Caesar!, a bunch of sailors celebrate the night before going onto an 8-month-journey. They mourn the fact that they won't see no dame during that time.
- Operation Petticoat: The whole premise of the film is that a WW2 submarine crew can be thrown into hormonal chaos just by adding a few female nurses. At one point the entire crew complement save the Captain decide to present for sick call in order to have the nurses treat them.
- Exploited in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. After Elizabeth Swann sneaks on board a ship, the captain finds her dress after she disguises herself as a male sailor. He motivates his crew to look for the stowaway by telling them that she's likely naked, making the crew suddenly surge into action.
- The title song of the movie musical The Fleet's In:
Hey there, rookie!
You'd better call your cookie
And your sweets in.
The fleet's in!
They'll take anything if it isn't nailed down.
She may be dark or fair,
But sailors don't care
As long as she's wearing a gown.
So if you love her,
Keep under cover—
The fleet's in town!
- The Malloreon: In a one chapter in the third book, a sailor who had been at sea for months and stealing from his captain after landing, gets relief at the tavern and spends his loot by drinking is ass off and sleeping with a local barmaid. When he wakes up, he finds the girl dead with a Slasher Smile in her face, and, out of fear that he thought he killed her, escapes to Mal Zeth, carrying nothing but the clothes on his back and the deadly plague he caught.
- This trope is one way of reading the Siren scene in The Odyssey - the whole crew can't resist the sight and song of the Sirens, even though it means shipwreck. A less sexualized reading, of course, is that the song itself is magically enchanted to be irresistible.
- In the Gentleman Bastard book Red Seas Under Red Skies, Zamira Drakasha's pirate crew has co-ed membership and a tolerant attitude towards liaisons of all kinds, including when one new recruit turns out to be another's Closet Key. Relationships only become an issue when one crewman realizes he's been tricked into taking a bunk next to a notoriously noisy couple.
- Discussed in The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape josses the idea that exercise is useful for chastity by pointing out this trope...while suggesting that Wormwood should invoke this trope on his patient to trick him.
- How I Met Your Mother references this, alongside the theory that manatees and dugongs were the inspiration for mermaids. Barney thinks the only reason sailors mistook manatees for beautiful women is because it had been so long since they'd last seen a woman, and they were desperate.
- Parodied in Rutland Weekend Television's musical On the Town spoof, featuring three American sailors on shore leave, looking for "exciting, vicious, naughty gals" in the quiet English town of Tunbridge Wells.
- The Two Ronnies: At the end of their parody of The Onedin Line, Baines is captured by pirates who've "been at sea for months without setting eyes on a member of the opposite, as you might say". What he neglects to mention is that the pirates are also young, attractive and female.
- The traditional drinking song "Good Ship Venus" is about a ship whose crew consists entirely of these. Sex Pistols put their own twist on it, called "Friggin' in the Riggin'", in which it's even more obvious.
- The Navy Lark: One of the stock plots is Sub-lieutenant Phillips' romantic pursuit of WRNS Heather Chasen. He's also not opposed to a bit of freelance womanising and innuendo if some other female is around.
- Fancy Free, the ballet that inspired On the Town (see below), has a similar premise that can be summed up in two stage directions: "Enter Three Sailors" and "Enter Two Girls."
- Played with by Gilbert and Sullivan:
- The Pirates of Penzance carry off a whole chorus of picnickers, intending to "marry them on the spot".
- The Mikado includes a rollicking sea shanty about how landlubbers love sailing...and sailors love being inland cuddling girlfriends.
- The Gondoliers has all the boatmen in a Venetian neighborhood sail off to rule a small kingdom (It Makes Sense in Context), and as one of them says, "it is dull without female society." Their lady friends, feeling the same way, make the trip across the sea themselves to rejoin the men.
- Ruddigore: Rose Maybud has several qualms about her betrothed, the dashing sailor Dick Dauntless, but the one she keeps coming back to is the probability that he has A Girl in Every Port:
Rose: I shall be left all alone to moan,
And weep at your cruel deceit, complete;
While you'll be asserting
Your freedom by flirting
With every woman you meet, you cheat!
- Averted and Lampshaded in H.M.S. Pinafore. The sailors demonstrate their hilariously unstereotypical manners by the fact that they "welcome ladies so politely."
- In Les Misérables, the number "Lovely Ladies" begins with a bunch of sailors singing about how much they want to have sex. The song in general is about prostitutes who cater to sailors, told from various perspectives.
- On the Town runs on this premise, with three sailors all seeking to hook up in an Extremely Short Timespan.
- Stephen Sondheim is a multiple offender...Pacific Overtures has a whole song about young prostitutes being trained to appeal to sailors, as well as a trio in which three English sailors hunger for a young Japanese woman they glimpse in a garden ("I've sailed the world for you..."). Anthony in Sweeney Todd seems to be cut from exactly the same (sail)cloth.
- South Pacific's chorus of sailors all agree—in song, no less!—that "There's Nothing Like A Dame". Stephen Sondheim took the musical to task for this, but see above for his own history with the trope.
- The "true stories" section of a Filipino men's magazine told the story of a sea captain who had a blowup doll in his bed, in fear that he might get an STD outside. One day while the captain was out, a janitor walked in, found the doll, had his way with it, and forgetting to clean the doll, walked away. Days later, the captain got gonorrhea and got mad, remarking that even a doll can get it.
- In A Dance with Rogues, the docks of Betancuria is the location with the single highest concentration of Optional Sexual Encounters, and the generic sailor NPCs will actually chase after the Player Character with very indecent proposals. The docks is also the most likely place in the game to catch STDs.