|Life on Gor (Page 1 of 6)|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  18 Jun 2008
It’s well-known that Scientology derives from the work of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, though not directly from his novels. We all know about Trekkies and Star Wars geeks in costume being mocked by Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. A recent news article revealed a church, with about 12 members, based on the Jedi philosophy.
Other nerds prefer fantasy, dressing up as characters from Lord of the Rings. Some graduate to this status from Harry Potter role-playing, which some parents and schools even encourage.
But there’s another series that has spawned a whole lifestyle: the Gor series of novels by John Norman. Those practicing the lifestyle inspired by these books are called “Goreans.” Exactly how Goreans there are depends on who’s counting, but it’s in the thousands.
It’s pretty amazing that a series with this kind of popularity hasn’t been turned into a blockbuster series of movies and toys. But there’s a reason for that: the series, while featuring fantasy warriors with swords, is most noted for its ritual slavery.
Primarily of women.
Which they enjoy.
And it’s this trait that the Goreans are most famous for mimicking.
It’s kind of like people obsessed with the Dune series, some of them using jargon from the books. Except, you know, with real-life slaves.
The Gor Series
Gor is a counter-Earth – a planet rotating opposite of ours and therefore blocked from view by our sun. The idea goes back to the Ancient Greeks and has modified over time. It has been used many times in science fiction over the years. Often, as the Ancient Greeks themselves suggested, the counter-Earth has customs and rituals that are somehow the opposite of our own.
Gor is run by the rational Priest-Kings, insectoid in appearance and possessing sophisticated technology. They have populated Gor by transplanting people from Earth. Having done so for millennia, Gor has conclaves clearly based on Rome and other recognizable societies, such as the Vikings. Gor has lesser gravity than Earth, leading to large flying creatures and tall towers connected by elevated bridges.
That said, the Priest-Kings keep technology on Gor at a primitive level, but mostly leave the humans there to themselves. In fact, early Gor novels borrow liberally from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Conan.
The Kurii are another extraterrestrial species, rivaling the Priest-Kings. While they possess advanced technology, they remain technologically inferior to the Priest-Kings. In contrast to the distant, calculating Priest-Kings, the Kurii are aggressively violent – so that the two species represent two sides to human nature.
The original protagonist and narrator was one Tarl Cabot, and British professor and probably an alter-ego of sorts for the author, as he is plunked onto Gor. Norman populated Gor with detailed descriptions of plant life on Gor. A classical historian, the writer seemingly delighted in describing Gor’s transplanted societies. Ar is the Gorean equivalent of Rome; its Viktel Aria is the equivalent of Rome’s famous road, the Appian Way. Gorean society is largely dominated by city-states, after the classical model. The details of military battles between them, using ancient technology, are typically drawn from historical battles on Earth. Gorean, usually shown only in a word here and there, serves as the lingua franca of the world – or the area of it where the novels are set.
But that’s not what’s made the series famous. That honor belongs to the slave-girls. And the novels’ philosophy about male and female nature.
Given the books’ reception (and how central female slaves are to it), it’s amazing how timid the descriptions really are. Yes, men kidnap women and enslave them. Women are raped. Slave-girls are punished by being whipped. But it’s hard to find a physical description of sex. The situations are erotic, but this is not pornography.
While many Gorean women are “free women,” who raise children and stay indoors, others are literally slaves. Slavery, particularly fetishized slavery of women, is utterly normal on Gor. A female slave is known as a “kajira,” the plural of which follows Latin rules (“kajirae”). Slaves wear collars and are branded by their masters.
What’s perhaps more important is that they enjoy being slaves of strong, powerful men. If Gorean women are subjugated, the men exist within a Nietzschean meritocracy based almost exclusively on strength. Women in the novels not only get hot for such men, but consistently find themselves enjoying their slavery.
The underlying philosophy behind this is quasi-evolutionary: strong men survive and women have evolved to enjoy submission. In blind obedience, these women find a sort of freedom that gives them pleasure – a deep pleasure greater than physical sex. The men, meanwhile, enjoy dominating women.
The novels’ clear implication is that political correctness and social repression have suppressed human nature. Male and female nature, liberated from Earth’s contemporary setting and thrown into the primitive society of Gor, rediscover their natural states. Gor is the testing ground for the male and female psyche.
Lest you dismiss this all out of hand as utter nonsense, it’s worth mentioning that John Norman holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University (1963) and teaches at Queens College of the City University of New York.
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