Thursday, July 7, 2016

She's a Very Kinky Gor

Perhaps one of the most unpopular arguments among online Gorean circles is whether or not there is BDSM in Gor. Most Goreans insist that there isn't. Many insist BDSM is wholly separate from Gor, doesn't exist in the books, and are often openly disdainful or mocking toward practitioners of BDSM. Every time I even so much as mention my opinions on the subject in a Gorean lifestyle group, I get attacked from all sides.

I'll say right now, I'm not Gorean. I don't identify with the Gorean lifestyle. What I am is a bibliophile with degrees in writing and English, and enjoy reading, analyzing, and discussing the Gor novels. They are, to me, among the staple tomes of kinky fiction, regardless of how they are viewed by the community or by their followers. When asked about kink fiction, the top three answers are usually Story of O (which I hate), the Marketplace series, and Gor.

The author, John Norman, supposedly denies the incorporation of BDSM themes in Gor. I've not seen the actual interview where he states this, but Goreans have told me that he has said "If it is not beautiful it is not Gorean. BDSM is not beautiful." Or something to that effect.

I would wager that this is largely a misunderstanding of what BDSM is on the whole. It seems to me that there is a confusion of terms, wherein those who practice Gor and openly ridicule BDSM, seem to think that BDSM is synonymous with S&M and that sadomasochism does not exist within the Gorean library.

I would disagree with this notion, but even separating that pairing from the three pairings that comprise the acronym of BDSM, Gor certainly contains enough elements to be considered BDSM literature. Bondage and discipline abound in the books. Norman might spend more time going on about these things than any other plot element in the book. And the main character, Tarl, goes on endlessly about dominance and submission, albeit in a heteronormative patriarchal fashion.

Bondage


Physical bondage is a primary element of Gorean slavery. Upon capture, slaves are kept in "slave bracelets" which appear to be a more elaborate version of handcuffs or manacles. Slaves are kept in coffles of rope or chain through their collars or around their necks. At night, they are kept bound hand and foot, or kept in slave pens (cages). There's even a special ankle cuff attached to the Master's couch to which the slave is tethered when being "used in the furs." Gor, frankly, is a bondage lover's dream with all the chains and bindings going on with these hapless, buxom slaves.

Discipline

Discipline is a very prominent element within the various novels. Tarl the Tautological is ever generous with his descriptions of punishments and mentions them several times throughout the course of a single story. We are regaled with the wonders of the five-tailed Gorean slave whip, which, honestly, sounds to me like a flogger with five belt straps for falls, and admittedly sounds really fucking fun. Slaves are constantly being switched by overseeing slaves for punishment or incentive to do whatever task they might have been assigned more enthusiastically (Assassin, Captive, Hunters).

We are treated with scenes of slave girls being punished, or descriptions of potential punishments, such as one where a slave girl is tied to an oar of a ship and left there to be submerged and lifted for hours until she complies or drowns (Marauders). There is a scene where the main character, a slave named Elinor, is punished by being bound and left in a small box for nearly three weeks after being whipped, only seeing the light of day when she is fed (Captive).

D/s

It seems that in nearly every book (at least up to Marauders - #9, the one I'm currently reading) Tarl manages to sneak (hamfist) in a pages long lecture about the natural dominance of men and the natural submissiveness of the female and her desire to be overpowered and dominated by a true Master. Even after yielding in the collar, he says slave girls enjoy being forced occasionally, to remind them of their submission and their position as a slave (Marauders).

Some cities even have slave houses, where slaves go under elaborate training where they learn how to serve, obey, learn protocols, proper positions, dances, and other services under the instruction of a well-trained slave.

There are protocols to follow, regarding forms of address. A slave is required to address all Free Persons as Master or Mistress or whatever equivalents there might be within other cultures of Gor, such as "my Jarl" or "lady" in the North.

All slaves are collared as a sign of their slavery. Might we not attribute some of the popularity of the collar in regards to BDSM to the prevalence of them within the Gor novels? One of the most popular styles of collar in either BDSM or Gorean circles is that crafted by Vad Farkas of Ring of Steel, which is a Turian collar first mentioned in Nomads of Gor.

Slaves are branded to mark their slavery. A fairly horrific act of domination, yes, but not something we are unfamiliar with in BDSM, although we generally don't accomplish branding with hot branding irons.

Slaves serve in numerous ways, both domestic and sexual. A phrase within the books that indicates is a slave serves both as pleasure and in menial duties is known as "kettle and mat." Domestic and sexual service are often tenets of a power exchange arrangement.

Sadomasochism

No, the dividing issue regarding BDSM's presence in the Gorean literature seems to be the presence of sadism and masochism, two elements which many Goreans vehemently deny the existence of in their chosen philosophies.

Well, Horatio, there are more things in Heaven and Gor than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I would wager sadism abounds among Gorean men and women, both slave and free. Masters revel in the degradation of a new slave. They enjoy the breaking of a new slave, in bringing her to heel. They will happily employ their magic penis to awaken the wanton sexuality and love of a newly conquered kajira. They even play games of sport that involve the punishment of kajirae.

I once brought up a scene in Captive of Gor wherein Elinor and a few other slave girls were given to the service of a few guards of the slave caravan for an evening. One of their entertainments was chasing the girls with their sword belts in hand, laying stinging blows on the laughing girls as they ran. They play another game, where the girls are bound, kneeling, whilst the guards toss morsels of meat at them to catch. This is one of the most glaring examples of S&M within the Gor novels, but when I tried to assert this, I was informed that no, they didn't do it for pleasure. It was to benefit the slaves.

Bosk shit.

One of the principle features of a Gorean Master is that they do what they please with their property. They derive pleasure from their property. Why would a Master do something he finds displeasing to benefit property he regards on the same level as an animal, a beast? Also, why is it, that there must only be one motivation for a thing? Can a Master not do something that he both finds pleasurable and beneficial to the training of a slave? Does he not find pleasure in an act simply because you insist they don't have sadism? I found the argument fairly preposterous, to be honest.

As to masochism, I believe that to be more subtly described. Sure, we don't see women begging for sexy spankings or floggings, or things like that, but kajirae, on the whole, seem well-pleased with their slavery. They vie for the attentions of their masters. They relish their games and strive to please. And, going back, to the example of force from Marauders, they wish to be physically dominated. Olga, a slave in Ivar Forkbeard's camp, begs Tarl to force her to his furs.

"Deep in the belly, too, of every female is a desire, more ancient than the caves, to be forced to yield to the ruthless domination of a magnificent uncompromising male, a master; deep within them they all wish to submit, vulnerably and completely, nude to such a beast." - Marauders of Gor, p. 136

 So, are Gor and BDSM two incompatible entities? Not to my estimation. Many, if not most, Goreans will disagree with me, but I believe Gor is abundant in its BDSM elements. Hell, that's part of the reason I find the series so intriguing. It's the type of kinky fantasy I want to read. I believe the Gor novels, regardless of how you feel about the quality of writing, deserves a place among the cultural works of BDSM alongside the likes of Story of O and the Marketplace series.

Whether we like it or not, Gor has had its influence on BDSM, and sometimes there needs to be a non-Leather option for kinky story time. But, perhaps I'm biased.

What think you?

2 comments:

  1. It all sounds very kinky to me. I guess I could never be a Gorean- I have too much fun.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've never read any of the Gor novels... It all seemed a bit ridiculous to me, but I really enjoyed your breakdown. I may have to give it a look.

    ReplyDelete