|Life on Gor (Page 6 of 6)|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  24 Jun 2008
In 2007, Norman found another publisher called E-Reads, which not only launched a website but reissued the novels. These reissues come in new editions that feature photographs of women in bondage on the covers – all done just tastefully enough to avoid being pornographic. While enticingly artful, the images do seem repetitive and seem to rather openly reduce the series to its female slavery.
On the site, Norman writes about his philosophy and its demonization, particularly by feminists. He does so fairly eloquently, albeit with something of a ranting quality:
In any event, iron ore, and rain, and wind, and lightning are not voted on; they are not forwarded out of committees; they are part of the fabric of things, and intrude, however inexcusably; they seek no permissions, no approvals.
There is such a thing as human nature, the human heart, the human mind, the human body.
At any rate we did not invent the biotruths of human nature, no more than we invented vision, speech, the circulation of blood, the beating of the heart.
We did not invent men and women.
They are what they are, and what they are not is hollow vessels to be filled with whatever sugars and syrups their betters, the anointed cooks of humanity, the intolerant coveters of power and would-be imposers of values, see fit to pour into receptive, neutral containers, containers empty in themselves.
Here, Norman again and again calls upon nature, imploring people to “let men and women be themselves.” He doesn’t explain, outside of some vague references to experience and history, how he’s determined what these selves are.
Nonetheless, he insulates himself by ending with a reference to “the Gorean experiment.” This suggests that, while he’s an iconoclast who thinks what he thinks, he’s not incapable of admitting that he might be wrong or in need of nuance. Who can object to an “experiment,” after all?
A Gorean follows this with an apology for Norman and Goreans in general. It’s quite worthwhile, and in some ways more interesting that Norman’s own words. He successfully defends Norman from charges of misogyny – less because of the citations he chooses than the ridiculousness of the charge, which is vastly overused.
What this apology is really good at doing, however, is contextualizing the novels in the context of feminism. The author chooses a few quotes from mainstream feminists, illustrating their hostility to female submission and male domination – a hostility violent enough to condemn all heterosexual sex as rape. In fact, the author could have chosen a dozen other, sometimes more offensive and egregious citations. To the author, Norman does express a solid philosophy in the novels. But the author, himself a Gorean, is quick to point out that they’re also swashbuckling fantasy novels written to make a buck. What’s most interesting is his claim that the novels should also be read as an attempt to “lampoon” these feminists.
The author also points out the double standard in feminism’s attacks: those deemed politically correct are empowered to speak and write horrendous things, while less horrendous things are condemned as “misogynistic”:
Norman is hardly the only author to use a distasteful metaphor to explore more deeply into the human psyche. Nancy Springer invariably castrates at least one male character in nearly every book she writes, but are there hordes of people claiming that Ms. Springer is “advocating” the castration of men? Of course not, most people understand that she uses castration to explore the nature of manhood. Was there a huge outcry against Sheri S. Tepper for “advocating” eugenics in her book, The Gate to Women’s Country? Or for portraying men as naturally disposed towards violence and war? No – it’s obvious to people that Tepper is exploring the ethical and emotional consequences of selective breeding and secrecy. It’s a shame that Mr. Norman isn’t accorded the same understanding.
This passage effectively demolishes feminist criticism of Norman’s novels. You can think that his philosophy is bunk, but it’s hard to say that he shouldn’t write this kind of work – especially in a supposedly free society. The infamous feminist film Thelma and Louise used rape for social commentary too – only its commentary was far more politically correct, involving a man’s murder and women killing themselves rather than live in a supposed patriarchy.
What the author doesn’t say is what might be the great trump card: romance novels, written overwhelmingly by women for women, are filled with rape. One study found that over half the female protagonists of romance novels are raped – and often fall in love with the rapist. It’s easy to condemn Japanese manga and movies for the trop of having women fall in love with their rapists, for example. These novels are generally read by middle-class women, in some of the most feminist and feminized societies in the world. And they read like one a week. Is it such a big push from the rape common in romance novels to the ritualized slavery of the Gor series?
All responsible studies have found that high percentages, often the majority, of women fantasize about rape – even as their culture condemns it strongly and educates them about its horrors. Even when brainwashed against it, women consistently put family and love over career. Today, biologists and philosophers and sociologists have all come to the same conclusion: that we have massively underestimated the role of nature in favor of nurture – and that men and women have reliably and significantly different mental processes. This is no longer debatable: at this point, we have decades of data, some of it produced by hooking people up to electrodes and monitoring their responses. And we have more solid data than ever from around the world, telling us that women are more submissive in culture after culture. This, indeed, looks like a universal of human nature.
Is it any surprise that some such women, disaffected by their feminist Western societies, have turned to this series of sci-fi novels for some sort of alternative? What does that say about the depth of their disaffection?
So too for men. The Norman apologist on the E-Reads site points out the feminist context, in which men used to be consistently attacked. Men strive to achieve wealth and status, largely to gain access to women. Men are natural risk-takers because evolution rewarded them: a man who succeeded could gain multiple women, increasing his evolutionary chances. Now, those same men are stuffed into cubicles filing paperwork no one is ever going to look at. Movies like Fight Club and American Beauty express this profound dissatisfaction. Again, is it any wonder that some are becoming Goreans?
Of course, none of this is to say that women really want to be kidnapped, raped, and turned into lovingly obedient slaves. A few certainly do, but most don’t. Ironically, given Norman’s historical background, all you have to do is look at the history of slavery, including in ancient times, to see this. Female slaves under Rome were often used sexually – but at least as often and embraced their freedom. Some betrayed their masters. There’s a big difference between slavery and a submissive strain.
Similarly, I don’t doubt that many – if not most – men would like female slaves. But it’s not political correctness that kept men from being strong warrior slavemasters. Even among the most patriarchal of species, where men battle constantly and only a few gain females, while females eagerly have sex with the dominant male, the females aren’t slaves. Men who are too aggressive acquire as many enemies as victories. Evolution is more complex than a constant fistfight. Ironically, Norman himself, given his intellectual training and penchants, should have known this: there are more ways to male status than strength.
There was simply no political correctness to repress men and women’s natures thousands of years ago – and, even if there had been, that too would have been the product of evolution, of nature.
But if Goreans go too far, and if Norman has his history wrong, it’s easy to forgive. After all, he was one of the few people articulating a case against feminism before we understood, as a scientific fact, just how badly it had misunderstood human nature. When Norman started writing, we were decades away from the data that would prove those facts: Norman didn’t have them at his disposal. It’s easy to read depiction of (and belief in) female enjoyment of slavery as a necessary exaggeration, a corrective against the dominant paradigm that was not only wrong but repressive.
It’s easy, and obviously not entirely unjustified, to criticize Norman and the Goreans. They got – and continue to get – a lot of their details wrong. The Marquis de Sade and the libertines went further, even without the sci-fi setting, and got their depiction of human nature a lot closer.
At the same time, they were on the side science proved right – and at a time when few dared to be.
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