From: Santiago, Chile
Gor - What is it?
(disclaimer: I am not starting this thread to initiate debate on the specific points of Gorean trivia. Anyone who wishes to take me head on in Gorean trivia is welcome to do so with me via email.)
In 1982, when I was five years old, I distinctly remember begging my father to take me downtown to see a movie. In the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was based on a series he watched almost fanatically as a teenager. About ten minutes into the movie, there is a scene where slugs called ceti eels are dropped into the ears of three crewmembers. I'll spare the gory details, and only say that I didn't see the rest of the movie until I was nine years old as my father had carried me, kicking and screaming from the theatre.
I can think of few topics of debate in any online forum that raises the hackles and brings out the claws like when the word Gor is mentioned. After some time in this message forum and looking through the ads, I've found a fair number of individuals who identify themselves as Gorean (or practicing Gor in some fashion) and I've seen probably an equal number of individuals who state expressly they have no desire to interact with those who are Gorean. In the various threads, Gor has come up on occasion, and I thought I might offer my own observations on what I have learned of Gor in the past few years. In no way do I claim to be either Gorean, nor an expert, but simply someone who has read some of the books, and has enjoyed Gorean roleplay online for some time, and has met a number of self-professed Goreans in real life. The opinions stated are my own, and I gladly take responsibility for them.
In 1998, I was stationed in the Marines in Washington DC, a rather expensive place to live. My wife and I met a Professional Dominatrix at a dance club who invited us to her house for a 'play party.' We witnessed spanking demonstrations, met cross dressers, and watched a woman being electrocuted with what seemed to be a home made tens unit. My ex-wife and I remained friends with the woman, though we never 'played' in BDSM terms. We'd go dancing, and enjoyed her company as 'vanilla' friends. Not once was a discussion of the lifestyle in relation to power exchange, D/s, or other relationship issues discussed.
About three years ago I wandered into a Yahoo! BDSM chat room. What I found was discussions of elements of the lifestyle I never knew existed, though I had spent over a year as a close friend of a Dominatrix who was very open about her life. I learned through online conversations with others who seemed to know what they were talking about, about the nature of D/s and M/s relationships. Later I would learn more about SAM, though I didn't find I had any real taste for it until recently. One drawback of the BDSM chat rooms, was the myrid of behavior in the rooms that seemed better suited for a day care center. After a few months, someone whom I spoke with casually mentioned I might enjoy the Gor rooms, though she didn't really explain why, other then they were more structured.
My first experience with Gor chat was bizzare indeed, and I will discuss it on a humor thread some day. My second experience, was a bit less unsettling, the room was called 'Katanas of Gor.' Having a familiarity with Japanese culture, I thought "what the heck" and went in, identified myself as a newbie, and was welcomed to observe. It took time and patience, but within a month I learned what 'Gor' actually meant, that the online roleplay was based on science fiction books in the 1960s and 1970s, and that the online roleplay was quite similar to a structured D/s chat room. In the since three years, and a fair bit of time reading the books, I've learned a great deal about Gor.
What is Gor?
Gor is the name of a popular series of science fiction books, twenty six in all, penned by a man using the name John Norman. The word itself refers to a planet in the books that exists in our solar system, in 'opposite orbit' from earth (and sometimes called the counter-urth for this reason.) As with any science fiction book, suspended disbelief is required.
This planet's technology is restricted by higher beings, preventing the development of weapons more advanced then an axe, crossbow, sword, spear, net, and other such weapons of steel hand weapons. Any person attempting to create or make use of projectiles (arquebus, etc, ancient predecessors of handguns) or armor beyond a sheild and helmet is killed instantly by a 'blue flame' (again suspended disbelief.) The cities on this planet are derived in large from ancient Grecian, Roman, Middle Eastern, and Nordic cultures. A common element is that much of the land is desolate and harsh, with the vast majority of civilization concentrated in large 'city states' not unlike Athens or Sparta of Grecian times.
The word Gor, in addition to being the name of this planet, also refers to the concept of a 'home-stone' which can best be understood in terms of the concept of community - that is to say, all individuals who live within a city support their homestone (represented by a physical stone of some sort) by working towards a greater good of the city. Life is ruled by a well established caste system derived from birth including peasants, merchents, herders, metal workers, warriors, scribes, physicians, and many other necessary functions for people to work within.
What the heck does any of this have to do with BDSM?
The bulk of the books follow a character named Tarl, who was taken from Earth, and chronicals his 'transition' from being a man of earth, to a Gorean warrior. During Tarl's travels and adventures, a heavy focus is on his interaction with female slaves. On Gor, part of the accepted society values is that roughly 3% of the female population, and a tiny fraction of the male population is enslaved. The books, on the other hand, focus nearly 50% of their time on slaves, with example after example of 'free women' finding joy in submitting totally as slaves.
A heavy theme in Gorean philosophy is rooted in 'natural order' of male dominance. The concept of female dominants is almost alien, as all women - free or slave - are beholden to free men, much as submissive women are beholden to men in D/s terms. The difference between a free woman and slave, is a cultural and legal (in terms of this fictional planets many different city laws) is that any slave may be beaten, whipped, or killed by any free man, while a free woman is culturally and legally protected within her city, usually by her brothers, father, sons, and other relatives. In a fashion remniscent of Middle Eastern culture, most cities require that free women wear veils to hide their face, robes, gloves, and other concealing garb. A free woman who so much as shows an ankle might be seen as scandelous, and might very well find herself stripped naked on the street and a collar placed on her neck forcibly by any free man who wanders down the street. This social implication reflects this Gorean philosophy that all women are at the mercy of men.
The books describe in intimate detail the obligations and duties of a slave, should she wish to remain alive another day. In the books, it's written that a slave who isn't found pleasing may be beaten, sold, or even killed at the whim of her owner or any other man who she fails to please. Interestingly enough, in twenty six books, not a single slave is killed for disbehavior or disobedience - though many 'come close.'
The focus of the books and the Gorean philosophy as it may apply in a persons real life, has nothing to do with brutality, threats of violence, or men trying to live on Gor-on-earth. The books themselves spend enormous amounts of time discussing the psychological ramifications of 'romantic' slavery. Every prominant free woman in the books, save for one, eventually finds 'joy' in being forced into slavery. Tarl himself finds peace within himself, at accepting his place as a dominant male, and everyone lives happily ever after. A great deal of time is also invested in the beauty of the female slaves, with more time spent embracing the wonder and mystique that is woman, then on bloodshed and intrigue of the different cities.
Online verses book Gorean interaction is a little tricky. Online, with the exception of AOL's Gor chats, the various Gorean chat rooms are in one way or another, roleplay (play acting if you will) of life on Gor. Slaves in these chat rooms are not always slaves in real life, or even submissives. Many enjoy online interaction the same way others might enjoy a chat room based on Gardening (even if I don't have a garden) or about autos (even if I own a 1992 Honda Civic with the bumper falling off) or any other topic of interest. The difference between Gorean and BDSM interaction, is the generally accepted protocols that evolved when Internet Relay Chat emerged some 10 years (or more) ago, and the bullatin board systems that cropped up before then. Not unlike Star Trek fanatics, those who fell in love with the idea of being 'Goreans' could interact with one another, virtually sharing ideas and thoughts on what amounts to a subculture of BDSM lifestyles. A whole Gorean language even evolved, the same way many Lord of the Ring fanatics developed Elvish, and Trekkies developed the Klingon language. A (very, very bad I've been told) movie was even shot in the mid 80s based on Norman's Gor.
Most real life Goreans I've met will openly state they do not believe themselves to be living on Gor. They acknowlege that they are born on earth, and are accountable to their local laws and customs. Many of these men are married to their slaves, have children with them (a BIG by the book no-no, as the children of slaves are slaves as well), and spend their whole lives enjoying Gor as a hobby as much as an interest. Online, they may assume any number of roles, and offline they work normal jobs. The only 'Goreans' I've ever spoken to who advocated the right to kill their slave, the right to sell her, or the right to enslave their children were in chat room environments. Many Goreans are also active in the Society for Creative Anachronism (http://sca.org for more information.)
When I first started chatting in D/s rooms, I quickly grasped the concept of 'why' I felt dominant, and why I dated submissive women. What I didn't grasp so quickly, and what few people were able to explain, was 'how' to express my role. If I have a slave sitting next to me, and we're talking, how do I know what to do with her? How do I know if I should use a belt on her ass, or if I should silence her, or if I should just listen to her ramble? How did I know if I was dealing with a 'brat' and how would I know when I am simply being overbearing? I knew I always wanted to be in control and dominate my lovers and girlfriends, because I found pleasure when I could make their lives 'content' though I had a hard time seeing how this was different from co-dependency. These aren't such simple questions to answer, for many people embrace BDSM lifestyles for many different reasons.
Some enjoy the fact that Gor isn't strictly about kinks. In fact, the vast majority of the books focus on psychological issues, with barely a hint of actual BDSM activities. Most who claim to be Gorean actively refute that they do not engage in BDSM lifestyles, that Gor is an entirely seperate form of lifestyle. I lend this a little weight as I pen this, as the concepts discussed in Gor also deal with Machiavellian philosophy with a healthy dose of common sense. Essentially, in reading through the books, a gradual illustration of domination and submission lifestyles is illustrated, over and over. The reader becomes desensetized to scenerios that would ordinarily shock and appall the average vanilla person. In reading three or four of the novels, it becomes clear what the writer believes interaction between men and women should consist of in terms of male dominance and female submission. I occasionally refer to it as a 'beginners guide to D/s' though the instruction manual is very...very boring to read. The books themselves are poorly written, use shoddy descriptions, with only the occasional flash of brilliance for every two hundred pages or so. For someone who has always felt that they were 'missing' something when it came to D/s, Gor does offer a pretty clear step by step rulebook for how a Master and slave should interact.
My own personal answer, is that Gor offered me answers that I didn't find in my real life BDSM, and later online D/s chat experiences. In learning about Gor, and interacting with others who took their lifestyles seriously, I was able to grasp things about myself that I had always felt. In the end, self-awareness is always a high price, and never without work. The tools we use to achieve this awareness is neither good nor bad, but simply a tool. I do not actively consider myself Gorean, for I believe that to be a limiting term - though if you were to ask others who have grown to know me, they might tell you I was as Gorean as they come in their eyes, through virtue of my words and actions over the months and years they grew to know me.
In the end, I am happy with who I am, I enjoy Master/slave relationships, I am a Sadist, and a whole host of other labels and terms that cannot be found in a book of Gor. Others who claim to be real life Gorean, in my eyes, have as much right to enjoy their lives as Goreans as I do to call myself a Sadist, a Wiccan, or a liberal Republican. When I say any of those terms, others can understand what it means, though any or all of those labels could very well land me in jail, depending on the county I am visiting (chuckles.)
My Father enjoyed the Star Trek shows, and has a christmas ornament of the USS Enterprise on the tree every year. He did not change his name to James Tiberous Kirk, he doesn't say live long and prosper, and he doesn't carry a Star Trek replica cell phone. I enjoyed the concepts of Gor, I enjoy debating them even - but no, I do live on earth.
What Gor is NOT
Again, I include the caveat, that these are MY opinions only - but I hold them VERY strongly.
- Gor is NOT real life sex slave trade or a valid excuse for real life prostitution where illegal
- Gor is NOT an excuse for a mental or physical torture outsdide of SSC or RACK parameters, even his own slave, for Goreans love their lives, and the lives of others around them, and especially love beauty.
- Gor DOES NOT relieve a person of responsibility to their family or children
- Gor DOES NOT relieve a person of responsibility to their communities - in fact, one of the strongest tenents of Gorean philosophy is a deep committment to furthering one's home and community; this includes obeying all laws of that community
- Gor is NOT a cult, anymore then people who loved the Rocky Horror Picture Show were cultists.
- Gor is NOT a religion, being Gorean does not affect one's ability to practice or enjoy the faith of their choice, but rather is simply a philosoph - a way of seeing the world
- Gor is NOT a real planet
- Gor is NOT a secret tradition, and anyone who claims to have secret, hidden Gorean wisdom or knowlege is either selling you something or has something sharp and deadly in that brown paper bag.
- Goreans are NOT necessarily polyarmorous, though the books expressly state that a man may own more then one slave, this does not mean he must in order to be Gorean.
- Gor DOES not replace common sense. If it feels wrong - DONT DO IT.
I hope this is found useful to any who have curiousity, and if anyone wishes to reproduce it, I only ask it be reproduced in full, including my name and email so that all hate mail might find it's way to the proper villan.
< Message edited by Voltare -- 8/6/2005 12:49:27 PM >
"There is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness." - F. Nietzsche