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is not a substitute for reality; it is a refreshment for reality." (p.50)
"Imaginative sex is not a substitute for reality; it is a refreshment for reality." (p.50)
Gor was designed as an elaborate scenario for sexual role-playing.A rather provocative statement. The first visceral response of many would be an immediate denial of this statement. Some would say that Gor is about far more than just sex. Some would say that Norman wrote Gor to espouse a certain philosophy. Some would say Norman wrote just to earn money. Some would say that Gor should have nothing to do with role-play. Yet, can the above statement be so easily dismissed? What was the actual intention of Norman when he wrote the Gor series? Was he just trying to entertain or was he also trying to make us think? Were there multiple intentions involved? How do we determine his intentions?
At the present time, John Norman has published thirty novels and two nonfiction books. Additional novels in the Gor series may be published during the next few years. One of Norman's nonfiction books wasThe Cognitivity Paradox which he wrote under his real name of John Lange. This thin book seeks to define the term "philosophy" and ascertain whether philosophy can possess a truth-value or not. Though it is an interesting and thought-provoking book, it deals little, if at all, about Norman's intentions in writing the Gor novels. It has much to say about philosophy in general but essentially nothing directly about the Gorean series. I have previously written an essay on this book and it can be found on my website at: www.geocities.com/delphius2002/ /id111.htm
Norman's other nonfiction work wasImaginative Sex, first published in 1974 and later reissued by Masquerade Books in 1997. It is currently out of print and copies commonly sell for up to $100 on online auction sites. Despite its apparent popularity though, the online Gorean community has written little about this work. I am unaware of any significant essays concerning Imaginative Sex and its connections to Gor. The work receives an occasional brief post on some message boards, maybe the posting of a quote or two, but there has been a definite lack of substantial efforts to analyze this text. This essay hopes to remedy that matter through a more in-depth analysis with the hope that others too will more deeply explore this compelling work.
In its time,Imaginative Sex was a revolutionary book. It was one of only a handful, at best, of books that dealt with this subject matter. Nowadays, books on this topic, as well as magazine articles, videos and more, are very common. Thus, Norman can be seen as a pioneer in this field. From a modern-day point of view, the book in parts can seem dated and the subject matter generally "tame." There is little anymore in this book which we would consider shocking or taboo. But, there is still much within the text that is as relevant now as it was almost thirty years ago when the book was first published. Some parts simply need to be updated to conform to their modern day counterparts. For example, substituting the dangers of syphilis for HIV and AIDs.
In placing this book in perspective with Norman's Gorean series,Imaginative Sex was published in the same year as Hunters of Gor, Book #8. Thus, about a third of the Gorean series had been completed at that point. Much of Gor had thus already been codified and described, detailed and explicated. It would be soon after Hunters of Gor as well that the slavery aspect became much more prominent in the Gor books. Hunters of Gor was also the first of the series to be done by a different publisher, a change from Del Rey to Daw Books, Inc. Imaginative Sex presents some of Norman's own philosophy, his own views on a number of matters, especially in the area of relationships between men and women. In addition, there is evidence within this book that could lead to a conclusion about at least one of the intentions of the creation of Gor. This conclusion is sure to cause controversy, even to lead to a possibly vocal opposition. Yet, the evidence is plainly laid out within Imaginative Sex. Though the conclusion is not absolutely explicit, it is a very logical conclusion based on what is presented. The conclusion presents one intention but does not deny that other intentions existed as well. Humans are complex creatures and we often act of out multiple motives. It is highly probable that Norman had multiple objectives in writing the Gorean series. Imaginative Sex contains 10 chapters (most of them very brief), an Epilogue (also very brief) and 5 Appendices. The Masquerade Press edition also contains a foreword by Pat Califia, a feminist, though I will not discuss her forward in this essay. The 10th chapter of this book is the largest section of the text, the delineation of fifty-three sexual role-play scenarios. We shall explore each section of the book individually, also forming more overall statements as we go along. This approach should allow us to identify Norman's ideas on multiple levels. Please also remember that this essay is but a highlighting of numerous points from the book and that for a deeper understanding you should read the book yourself.
Chapter 1--Imaginative Sex: The New Sexual Revolution
The first two lines of
Norman indicates that " , we are animals with brains, animals with intelligence and imagination, animals with the capacity to fantastically diversify and enhance our sexual experiences." (p.13) We can see how Norman clearly ties in man with nature, considering us animals though with significant differences. This is clearly a Gorean idea, man's integral connection to the natural world. Thus, this is our first glimmer that Norman does believe in at least an aspect of Gorean philosophy, an aspect that is integral to the entire philosophy. Gorean philosophy is based on a foundation that one should live in accordance with nature which entails a belief that man is a part of nature. It is very interesting that we see a correlation to Gor so early on in this book.
Despite imagination being a natural aspect of man, Norman does not believe that everyone possesses an equal ability to use their imagination. Some people possess more of an imaginative ability than others. "The capacity to use the imagination, one of the highest forms of intelligence, that of creative as opposed to dissective intelligence, is not an endowment bestowed in great quantity on human beings." (p.9) This would be the same for any other human ability, that people possess it in varying degrees. Why then are some people lacking in imaginative ability? Norman offers a couple of possible answers to this question. "There will be individuals who are defective in imagination. Whether this incapacity is congenital or the result of an oppressive, crippling conditioning is arguable." (p.9)
In these statements, we
continue to see evidence of Gorean philosophical concepts and ideas. We see the inequality
of people, the hierarchy of abilities where each person is born with different talents and
skills. Not everyone possesses the same degree of imaginative ability. Each person is an
individual who possesses their own unique make-up. The world of Gor is based on the
premise that people are not equal, that each one is different. So again, we see Norman
supporting a principle of Gorean philosophy, another foundational principle that is
integral to the whole.
We also see that part of the reason why some people may lack imaginative ability could be societal conditioning. Such oppressive conditioning is often cited in the Gorean novels as the reason for many of the problems of Earth, for why so many people live in opposition to nature. On Gor, imaginative ability has been given free reign, without such adverse conditioning. Thus, in general, the imaginative ability of Goreans should be higher than those of Earth. More people on Earth should try to cultivate and hone their imaginative abilities. So this chapter has already shown us several aspects of Gorean philosophy embraced by Norman in his own beliefs.
Norman felt that in the generation before him there was a sexual revolution that established that sex was a natural biological process. What people then saw as the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s was simply the large-scale acceptance of this earlier revolution. It did not introduce any radically new ideas. And in this alleged sexual revolution, the concept of imaginative sex was not included. Norman does not consider this to be a true revolution. "To me, the expression 'revolution' is most felicitously applied to the revolutionary conception, the revolutionary act, the publication and defense of the transforming ideas, and their acceptance by the intellectual elite, rather than to the later derivative phenomenon, sociological changes brought about by the percolating downward of these sexual theses and commitments. (p.11) Norman felt that it was time for a true sexual revolution and he had a particular revolutionary act in mind. "The revolutionary act is to speak with clearness and in detail, to enunciate and explain imaginative sex with force and fullness." (p.13)
Norman sought a new
sexual revolution, an embrace of the use of imagination within the sexual realm. His
revolution would not be the mass acceptance of a previously stated idea but "
the creating of
new conceptions of and modes of sex." (p.12) The
idea of imaginative sex was a new one, something that few people had even considered.
Norman felt that sex was something that "
takes place in a human being." (p.12) To
him, this is a critical difference from sex between other animals. The key difference is
that humans have minds, intelligence and imagination. Thus, for humans, sex should be more
than just the engagement of the genitals. It should also engage the mind as well. And
Norman wanted to offer suggestions for engaging the mind.
Chapter 2--Love, Hunters and Evolution
This is one of the longer chapters of the book and it touches on several different areas, from marriage to evolution. Norman first indicates that later in the book he will present a series of "love games" and then explicates some of the prerequisites required for participation. Norman then makes it clear that he is an advocate of marriage, of the monogamous relationship. "..,I am rather stick-in-the-muddish, and am sold on the institution of marriage, as it might be if not as it is." (p.15) He is not very supportive of either affairs or prostitution. "The extramarital relation, , is hygienically and emotionally dangerous." (p.14) "Prostitution doesn't seem very rewarding to the customer. It is probably less rewarding to the salesperson." (p.15) Yet, he does sympathize with those who seek extramarital affairs or prostitutes because he understands the shoddy state of many marriages. " the unimaginative, dismal marriages that seem to be the statistical rule in our rather grim and loveless world." (p.15) He strongly believes that a primary reason for these affairs and use of prostitutes is often just sexual boredom within the marital bed that sparks a desire to find sexual passion elsewhere.
But, Norman hopes to reignite the spark within marriages by presenting a series of sexual scenarios to add spice to the boredom, to create a bridge that will lead to increased love and intimacy. "Indeed, rather in this book, I will describe and detail a remarkable variety of delicious love games and love episodes which a husband and wife might not only share, but which, ideally in my opinion, are to be shared by a husband and wife. Other lovers are possibilities, particularly if both are unmarried, but the husband-and-wife relationship, the partnership of long standing, the durable and mutually respecting and understanding relationship, supplies, it seems, a desirable framework for these remarkable exploitations of human sexual capacity." (p.15) Norman wants to give married couples reasons not to stray, reasons to grow closer to each other.
Norman views the pairing of a couple to be part of the natural order. "The human being is both a single organism and a double organism. The human being consists either of a man or a woman, or the two in love. It is natural for the single organism in each of us to fight for its independence, its freedom to be self-seeking and selfish, and self-striving. But it is natural, too, for the single organism to desire its completion in the mated pair." (p.16) Despite the existence of slavery within the Gorean novels, it is the institution of Free Companionship, Gorean marriage, that is far more prevalent. Less than 2% of the people of Gor own slaves yet the percentage of people within Free Companionships, though never explicitly specified, would quite clearly be a very significant number. On Gor, it is the mated pair that is most common.
Norman also lists in this chapter two prerequisites for these games of imaginative sex: affection and trust. " most of these games require authentic affection and trust. One could not so reveal and trust oneself to a stranger." (p.15-6) He does make it clear that he is discussing "affection" and not "love" as a prerequisite. But, Norman believes that love will derive from these games as a natural consequence of the experience. Norman is a true believer in love, a romantic if you will. He respects and adores the power of love. " love is a vast, tender, profound, binding instinct, which makes great differences in those lives it floods." (p.16) Trust is also considered an important factor in imaginative sex. You will open yourself up to another, revealing some of your deepest feelings and desires. That requires a high level of trust. The nature of some of these games also requires trust for the maximum comfort level. If one does not trust one's partner, nervousness and fear could detract from benefits of imaginative sex.
A significant criticism of Norman is that he is a misogynist, a hater of women. This is primarily based upon his depiction of women and the harsh institution of slavery within the Gorean novels. Legal slavery has always been a harsh system, on both male and female slaves. Norman does not shy away from depicting it in its plain truth. But, for Norman, the portrayal of slavery within the Gorean books is simply a fictional device to explain certain concepts. Imaginative Sex helps to shatter the label of misogynist. It is indisputably clear from a reading of this book that he loves women, seeing them as both necessary and wonderful. Norman abhors men who would truly harm women. In the rest of this essay, I will point out some supporting quotes in the further chapters.
Norman also perceives a need for equality between men and women within the framework of his games. Women are not seen as inferior beings, simply as different persons with their own strengths. "These are games in which the woman, all of her, her mind, her imagination, her body, is fully and necessarily the equal of her male partner. If she is passive, if she does not understand, if she is puzzled, if she does not join fully, the games are impossible. Her ideas, her inventions, her imaginations are as needful and as important as those of the man." (p.16-7) Norman does differentiate between "submissive" and "passive," seeing the two as incompatible in imaginative sex. Passivity will only ruin the games, thwart their objectives. Both partners need to take an active role, even if one is the more submissive. This is clearly echoed in the Gor novels in the belief that the bold and imaginative slave girl is the preferred type. "A girl who is bold is likely to think of marvels of pleasure for her master which a more timid girl would not dare to even contemplate." (Slave Girl of Gor, p.172)
Later in this chapter, Norman touches on some matters of psychology and evolution. He states that we all possess elements of both dominance and submissiveness, though in varying ratios. He goes as far as to extend this to even sadism and masochism. "It is that in all human beings there are exploitative elements, and elements of a desire to be the object of exploitation. In the crueler language of psychology in every human being there are certain sadistic elements and certain masochistic elements. They differ in amount and degree among human beings but they exist in all." (p.18-19) These darker aspects are seen as natural, part of our evolutionary past. They cannot be denied, ignored, repressed or forgotten. The key is for each person to find a way to express these feelings in a way that is "sane and healthy."
Norman's beliefs mirror much once said by the ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They all advised that man needed to be in control of his baser instincts, to control those darker aspects which were a part of every man. They then spoke of the higher man who could control these darker aspects, the man who found a road of self-mastery. Norman reiterated their position as his own. "The higher human being, , is probably the deep, fierce, energetic individual, of high intelligence, who controls these powerful elements in himself." (p.19) And like the ancient Greeks, it was the rational mind that allowed one to harness these darker aspects. But, Norman took this a step further, adding love to the equation. "Man's best defense against himself has been love and rationality. It is still the best we have. They are all he has to pit against himself." (p.19) "Love and rationality continue to exist because of their survival value." (p.19)
All of these beliefs are
mirrored within the Gorean series. Gor is about personal fulfillment, of becoming the best
type of person possible. Gorean ethics are virtue ethics, where a person cultivates
certain virtues in order to be a better person. The darker aspects of man are vices, the
opposite of virtues. A man must control those vices, acknowledging their existence, and
use his rationality to prevail. In addition, Norman often discusses the importance of love
on Gor. A primary goal of many people is to find that perfect person to love. Thus, we can
see that more of Norman's beliefs, his philosophical stance, were placed within the Gorean
Chapter 3--Marriage, Sex and Normality
Norman is very pro-marriage, stating that is it a "particularly sexy institution." (p.26) But, he feels that far too many people waste its vast potential. We do not see any indication here of a support for a different type of marriage than the traditional one. The Free Companionship of Gor does not show its face which then raises a number of unanswered questions. Was Free Companionship ever intended to be a valid substitute for marriage? Was it only a fictional tool? Does Norman care only for a committed, monogamous relationship, no matter what the specific legal framework? Was this an area he felt was outside the primary topic of Imaginative Sex and thus not proper to discuss in detail? There are no easy answers to these questions.
After his brief discussion on marriage, Norman then explains what he perceives as the most common types of sex, including normal sex, Platonic sex, and square sex. Normal sex can be defined in two different ways. First, it can refer to what are statistically the most frequent forms of sex. Second, it can refer to the type of sex that is normally "commended" by the majority of people. This type of commendation often denigrates whatever it considers to be "abnormal" sex, labeling it as deviant. Norman clearly states that imaginative sex does not fall into either of these definitions of normal. Platonic sex is sex without the sex. It is where someone is primarily interested in the other person's mind and not their body. Again, imaginative sex, though the mind is important to it, does not fall under this type of sex. Square sex is more a case of "applied mechanics." It may also be referred to as "marriage-manual" sex. It is the type of sex most often recommended by counselors and psychological professionals. It consists more of a variety of positions, a variation of the actual mechanics than anything else. Once again, imaginative sex does not fall under this type of sex.
Imaginative sex is a
different form of sex, its own type, concerned with both the body and mind. In fact,
Norman is very strong in his belief in the need for imaginative sex. "It is my suspicion
that a whole human life requires elements of both reality and fantasy." (p.36) But, he
does not see imaginative sex as appropriate or beneficial for everyone though in the
majority of cases he would recommend it. He recognizes that there is no single sexual
panacea to cure all the ills of marriage. He also recognizes the differences inherent
within all people so that each has their own needs.
Chapter 4--Sex and the Brain
surprisingly, is primarily centered in the brain." (p.38) This is
a belief widely held now, that sex derives most importantly from the mind. More sexual
problems have been found to have their origins in psychological rather than physical
matters. Thus, if the brain is so important in sexual matters, then obviously our
imaginations should be able to enhance our sexual lives. Norman states that imaginative
sex can potentially relieve psychosexual distress though he obviously will not make any
I would like to claim for imaginative sex is that it is delightful and exciting, that it
can be fun, that it can be, under appropriate circumstances, very pleasurable." (p.39) Norman
is very careful not to promise too much here. Norman will leave the decision on the
therapeutic value of imaginative sex to the professionals. Common sense though should
indicate its valuable potential.
Chapter 5--Marriage and the Ventilation of Emotion
Norman is fully cognizant of the potential hazards of imaginative sex and advises caution. He states that imaginative sex could go as far as to " bring about the termination of certain marriages." (p.40) The reason for this potential peril is that imaginative sex properly requires affection and trust. If those matters are absent, if there is actual animosity and hatred present in a relationship, then that presence may become evident to the other spouse. Thus, feelings that might have been kept hidden, or at least usually below the surface, might emerge in their full disclosure. As such a marriage was likely doomed anyway if such feelings existed, then any termination might be just sooner than later.
Again, in this chapter
we can deal with the allegations of misogyny against Norman. People want to denigrate him
for his portrayals of violence against women, generally slaves, that is depicted in the
Gor novels. They allege that such scenes mirror his own personal feelings yet that is the
furthermost thing from the truth. "Hurting and humiliating human beings, genuinely and with
malice, is morally wrong. This is very different from pretending to hurt and
humiliate." (p.40) Norman clearly differentiates between reality and
fantasy, reality and fiction. His statement could not be any clearer. The Gorean novels
are in no way advocating true violence against anyone, especially not women. But, Norman
is supportive of imaginative sex, with its sexual role-playing in various scenarios that
might include imaginary pain and such, can be considered therapeutic. "Drama can have
cathartic effect, release emotion and enlarge one's energies and self-understanding."
Imaginative sex can be a cathartic "sane and healthy" way to express one's
Norman advocates for
everyone's right to privacy, clearly stating that there is no need to inform the world
that one practices imaginative sex. It is a personal matter between the participants, a
matter they may freely keep behind closed doors. But, if a couple desires to tell others,
to advocate for others to engage in similar behavior, then that is fine as well. "At any rate, imaginative
sex is not a social program which its practitioners are obliged to publicly espouse. They
may do so, or course, at their option." (p.44) Norman
is simply stating that everyone's has the freedom of choice in this matter, to speak or
not to speak.
Norman wrote this book before the advent of HIV and AIDs but his warnings of other venereal diseases applies to these modern day diseases as well. Norman states that one must be aware of the potential for disease and engage in behavior to minimize one's exposure. Extra-marital affairs and prostitution enhance one chance's of contracting a sexual-transmitted disease. Norman sees monogamous marriages as beneficial in part because it tends to reduce the chance of someone catching a disease. Obviously this applies today as much as it did then, maybe even more now that the diseases are more lethal.
Chapter 8--Requirement for Imaginative Sex
Norman brings together three primary requirements for effective imaginative sex: affection, trust, and imagination. He also adds that a few other factors are important as well. First, there needs to be a willingness to engage in imaginative sex. Both partners must willingly agree to engage in such a practice or it will not be effective. If one partner is only doing it to appease the other, then there will be problems. There needs to be a mutuality of desire. Patience is also recommended as one partner may be initially tentative, though willing, about the idea. Imaginative sex can be a new experience for many people and this unfamiliarity can cause some tension and stress. Helping your partner through that may often require patience. In addition, you should begin very simply and work your way up to more complex matters. That is often true of many new endeavors. Finally, we must not forget that humor is also an important element of imaginative sex. "Humor is a tool for survival, as much as the ax and fire." (p.50) "The important thing to remember is that imaginative sex is not a serious business; it is supposed to be fun; it is supposed to be a delight." (p.50) "Life without humor, love and tolerance might not be simply a mistake; it might be impossible." (p.49) The Gorean books do reflect the importance of humor, that life should be enjoyable.
Imaginative sex can be an incredible learning experience. "Entering into the fantasy world of another human being can be a very stimulating and exciting experience. We do not know another person, really, until we know their fantasies." (p.47-48) In part, this is why trust is so important as a person will often reveal their deepest desires, matters they might have been tentative about broaching before. Being this open with a stranger will be difficult for most people. The intimacy that develops when two people share their innermost fantasies can further solidify their relationship. You will learn about each other and probably also learn more about yourself in the process.
At its most basic level, imaginative sex is simply a form of play. But, just because it is play does not mean it is unworthy of attention. "If one believes that all play is silly, or a waste of time, one will probably not understand imaginative sex, or, surely, be much good at it." (p.49) Play can be quite beneficial if the proper perspective is taken. "Play can be taken seriously, of course. We all take our games seriously. Watch people play chess. Or basketball, or water polo. But it is not reality. It is, in the final analysis, only a form of play. Play, of course, can stimulate the mind, increase energies and healthily ventilate, in a love context, bottled emotions and suppressed desires." (p.49)
As an aside, an interesting aspect of this book are the multiple references, including in this chapter, to Nietzsche, the controversial German philosopher. The Nietzsche references are all positive ones. In the Gorean books, we can clearly see the influence of Nietzsche on numerous aspects of the Gorean philosophy. This is further supported by the fact that Nietzsche derived much of his inspirations from the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers which were also an influence on Gor. Norman's use of Nietzsche in Imaginative Sex bolsters the belief that the ideas of Nietzsche within the Gor novels may also be philosophical ideas that Norman holds in his own life. The influence of Nietzsche on Gor is worthy of its own essay.
Chapter 9--Imaginative Techniques
We now reach a very important chapter in this book. First, this chapter deals with the most controversial aspect of this book, one of Norman's intentions for the creation of Gor. Was Gor intended to be an intricate scenario for sexual role-play? Second, it deals with natural inclinations, evolutionary elements within man, and whether such inclinations should be followed through or not. This important point strikes at the heart of the cognitivity of Gorean philosophy, whether we should follow the natural order or not. In this respect, it touches upon the naturalistic fallacy, where proscriptive statements cannot be derived from descriptive ones.
Norman begins this chapter with some general statements on role-playing, not just sexual role-playing. "Role playing is fun. Almost any human being with imagination enjoys role playing." (p.51) He even ends his chapter with a similar quote. "It is common knowledge that role playing is fun. Few people suspect that it is this much fun." (p.63) Based on these statements, it would be evident that Norman would approve of Gorean role-playing as well. He understands the enjoyment one can derive from role-play. Norman does not state that certain matters should not be role-played. After these general comments, Norman then begins to narrow his perspective in the rest of the chapter to just sexual role-playing, imaginative sex.
Everyone fantasizes to one extent or another. For some, the fantasies are rather plain and simple while others compose very elaborate scenarios. Imaginative sex allows you to try to enact your fantasies, to turn them into sexual role-playing scenarios. In these scenarios, you can create certain characters, different from yourself, and then act out some type of scene. You may envision yourself and your partner as different people. Costumes can be created to enhance the effect of being a different character. You can also enhance the scenarios with a variety of props or decorations intended to set the scene. One example that Norman gives is that a red magic marker could be used to draw a slave brand on someone. But these are not a necessity. "It is not important to have elaborate costumes and props. The imagination is important. Much, if not all, may be imagined." (p.62)
Norman's preference is for more complicated and elaborate role-playing. He advocates for very detailed fantasies, richly developed scenarios that draw a person deep into the world. As an example of such, he discusses the science-fiction movie Planet of the Apes, based on the book by Pierre Bouille. In this work, apes are the dominant species and hunt the primitive humans, keeping them as slaves. Norman finds this work particularly compelling. "The Bouille fantasy incorporates a number of elements indicative of the successful fantasy. It is detailed, and deliberate. It is carefully worked out. It gains a reality in virtue of the very multiplicity and obduracy of the detail which defines it. It is a congruent, appropriate, natural series of events in a congruent, appropriate, natural environment. It is a bizarre real happening in a bizarre real world. Furthermore, it incorporates hazard, capture, helplessness and forced sex." (p.52) If we carefully examine these elements, we will find that they all apply equally as well to the Gor books. Thus, the Gor books would clearly represent the type of elaborate fantasy that Norman would recommend for imaginative sex.
Norman also gives advice on how someone can construct their own such complex fantasies. And his descriptions again apply to the Gor books. "Time, and care, and detail, as well as imagination, will tend to produce excellent, coherent, reliably stimulatory fantasies. They may be retained indefinitely, used from time to time, and, on a continuing basis, elaborated or altered. A given couple may maintain several such fantasies. Supplementing each fantasy, of course, should be an entire civilization and background, an entire reality. Such realities might be our own world, supposed with certain changes, such as the institution of slavery, or they might be worlds of the past, such as that of ancient Rome, or exotic worlds of the present or future, for example, on distant planets. Do planets outside our solar system, for example, currently make slave raids on the planet Earth? Is the intelligence of the raiders so much above that of human beings that human females could only be sex slaves to them?" (p.61) How does one keep track and remember all of these complex details of one's fantasy world? "It is not a bad idea to keep notes. When a good idea occurs to the husband or wife, it should be added to the background of the world or the analysis of the characters they play. A book on each fantasy may be prepared. History is important, economics, social institutions, coinage, architecture, weaponry, cosmetics, customs, laws, ornaments, etc." (p.61-62)
If we carefully examine the above quotes, we can see their obvious applicability to Gor. This is further supported by how much space is given in the latter parts of this book, especially the appendices, on master/slave fantasies. Gor is an elaborately developed world where slavery exists. It is a fully detailed setting, containing all of the diverse elements listed above. The various barbarian cultures of Gor fit a number of the settings of the role-play scenarios that will be later given in Chapter 10. So, did Gor originate as a sexual fantasy of Norman and his wife that was put down onto paper?
Norman does not explicitly state here that is what he did but it is certainly a definite possibility when we consider this chapter and the whole of Imaginative Sex. It does not seem likely that Norman would be advocating for imaginative sex if he was not a practitioner as well. And if he is a practitioner, then there is no reason why he would not have used Gor for used purposes. Or even if that was not one of his original intentions, it may have later become useful in that regard. Thus, one of Norman's intentions in writing the Gor books could very well be its use in sexual role-playing. Or he could also just be very supportive of its use in that manner.
Many might want to deny this possibility. They may state that since it is not explicitly stated within the book that it is not true. But evidence does not really support a firm denial. A denial is not even necessary though as it adds nothing to the mix. For even if is true that one of Norman's intentions was to provide a scenario for sexual role-play, it still does not diminish the value of Gorean philosophy. Throughout Imaginative Sex, Norman clearly provides philosophical ideas and concepts along side his love games. The sexual aspect of Imaginative Sex is melded with the philosophy. All it does is to add an additional dimension to Gor overall. In addition, Gor could very easily have been born of multiple intentions. Most authors would agree that their works derive from multiple inspirations.
In another significant section of this chapter, Norman states that for both men and woman, "rape" fantasies are very common. For the man, he fantasizes about stalking and capturing a woman, finally raping her once she has been taken. For the woman, she fantasizes about being stalked and captured, finally ending with a forceful taking. Norman sees nothing wrong with these fantasies and considers them remnants from our evolutionary past. They are considered natural feelings, part of our genetic heritage. But again, Norman clearly sees a difference between fantasy and reality for he abhors the reality of rape. "Rape, as a sociological reality, is commonly an ugly, brutal, unpleasant, sickening, horrifying, vicious act." (p.52) This once again supports the conclusion that Norman is not a misogynist. He does not support, in any way, actual violence against women.
Despite the fact that these rape desires may be natural, Norman does not believe they should be acted upon. "Rape, real rape, even if we are naturally inclined to do it, is not to be done." (p.53) This is a clear denial of following through on each and every natural inclination we possess. So why should a man refrain from actual rape? It is because " , he would not want to hurt or intimidate a woman. He might desire to do so, but, on the genuine level of his humanity, he just would refuse to do so. It is not a humanly good or worthy thing to do." (p.53-54) True rape is an abhorrent act.
These comments on rape have deeper ramifications than just this single issue. They strike to the heart of the natural order, of what natural inclinations man should adopt and which he should avoid. Norman is clearly stating that not everything that is natural should be adopted. We actually first saw this in Chapter 2 when the discussion revolved around sadistic and masochistic tendencies. Despite their natural origins, they were matters that needed to be channeled into healthier aspects. They should not be allowed free reign. Norman will later in this book discuss homosexuality and the natural inclinations toward it possessed by both men and women. But, he will also state that acting on this inclination is not beneficial. Norman's statements here are supported by the naturalistic fallacy. That fallacy roughly states that just because something may exist in nature does not mean it translates into a moral mandate. This is a fallacy that more people studying the Gorean philosophy should be aware of due to its relevance to the issue.
Gorean philosophy is based upon a principle of living in accordance with nature. Many may consider that to mean following the natural order. Yet it is clear from Norman's words in Imaginative Sex that he does not advocate following every aspect of man that is natural. Just because something is part of the natural order does not mean it is the proper way to act. Thus, we must then carefully decide on which natural ways are appropriate to follow and which are not. We cannot just accept everything natural as being good. We must question and analyze every aspect of the natural order to ensure that it is worthy of emulation. We must look for the cognitivity of each principle of Gorean philosophy. That will entail much work, more than many are willing to invest. It goes far beyond proving just that something is a natural inclination. We cannot just state that we follow the natural order.
As discussed in Chapter 2 on the sadism/masochism issue, these natural inclinations, though they are not to be acted upon, cannot simply by denied or suppressed. Proper outlets need to be found to purge ourselves of this negative aspects in a manner which will be "sane and healthy." For Norman, many of these desires can be properly exercised within imaginative sex. Rape can be simulated as part of these love games. But one must never forget that it is but a game. This is not real rape and should not ever reach that point. It is meant to be a catharsis. As was also discussed above in Chapter 2, self-mastery is the key to controlling these darker aspects of our natures.
Chapter 10--Sensuous Fantasies: Recipes for Pleasure
This is the largest chapter of Imaginative Sex and consists of fifty-three scenarios for sexual role-playing. These scenarios all generally involve some degree of bondage, capture, slavery and dominance. All of these scenarios only require two people, preferably a married couple. Some of the scenarios are very simple while others are much more complex. The majority of these scenarios involve a woman being kidnapped by someone (pirate, Indian, Arab slave trader, alien, etc.) and then enslaved. Interestingly enough, Norman often indicates that one variant of many of these scenarios is to reverse the roles so that the man is the one who is captured by the woman. He thus becomes the slave.
Each scenario is numbered and forms its own mini-chapter. This mini-chapter gives description, often brief, of the scenario and then adds a lengthier Comments section. Numerous variants for the scenario may be given as well, to slightly vary the basic scenario. The comments section usually describes how to enact the scenario and/or explains some of the psychological rationale behind the fantasy. Sometimes the scenario or the comments section will also contain a fictional scene that illustrates the scenario. A number of those scenes will seem very familiar to those who have read the Gor books as they are often similar to some of the master/slave interactions scenes.
Listing or explaining all of the different scenarios delineated by Norman is beyond the scope and objective of this essay. If you wish more information about the scenarios, it would be best to pick up a copy of Imaginative Sex. But, interspersed throughout these scenarios, especially in the comments section, are more of Norman's personal beliefs and philosophy. There are a number of fascinating quotes mixed into these scenarios and their comments. And these statements are often of direct interest and relevance to this essay.
I shall now highlight some of those quotes, though not all of them, showing their relevance to Gor and Norman's viewpoints. This shall provide some snapshots of Norman's beliefs. To address each and every relevant quote within this chapter would be a voluminous task and is not necessary for this type of survey essay.
Norman often uses the term "rape" in Imaginative Sex, as he often did in the Gorean series as well. In general, when we hear the term "rape" it comes with harsh connotations. It is most often seen as a brutal and violent act, not acceptable for any rational being. But, Norman's use of this term differs from its most common usage. He co-opts the term to refer more to a desirable taking. Its intent is not to harm but to please. Norman's use of this term was also previously mentioned in our discussion on chapter 9. In the context of the scenarios of Imaginative Sex, Norman does not want anyone to be injured. He envisions a fantasy rape, one devoid of the brutality of the actuality. "Obviously, in a love rape, a fantasy between husband and wife, he neither wishes to intimidate her nor, obviously, to injure her or make her miserable. The love rapes must be delicious for both; otherwise they are without point." (p.64) To understand Norman, one must understand the context of his language and not assume that his vocabulary usage conforms to the norm.
In one of the presented role-playing scenarios, a frigid woman is supposed to drink an aphrodisiac and then eventually beg for sex. But, Norman stresses that the aphrodisiac should not be real. "Incidentally, actual aphrodisiacs are to be avoided. They are either useless or dangerous." (p.71) Norman is not referring here to certain foodstuffs, like oysters and chocolate, that supposedly possess aphrodisiacal properties. He is referring more to chemicals and drugs such as the infamous Spanish Fly. In a number of other scenarios, Norman will indicate that it is often better to pretend than to try to really emulate a scenario. The key is not to perform any action that is potentially harmful to either participant.
In another part of the comments on this scenario, Norman also points out that all of these scenarios, not just this one, are likely to arouse the parties involved. Just because there are fantasy scenarios does not mean they are unable to arouse someone. "It is hard to pretend you are sexually excited, particularly in a sexually exciting situation, without becoming sexually excited." (p.70) This elevates the scenarios from mere acting as the intent is to garner a definite response, in this case a sexual one. This also once again shows the power of the mind where sex is involved.
In another of the
scenarios, the husband is supposed to treat his wife as a prostitute, giving her money for
sex. Norman is quick to mention that one must be careful in this scenario to not truly
abuse your wife by treating her as if she were actually worthless. Her emotional
well-being must be protected. "First, you must not be, truly, callous with her, nor hurt her
feelings. You are both playing." (p.77) Norman is fearful that some men would
treat a prostitute very poorly and that this might be then done to the wife who plays that
role. Norman wants to clearly differentiate fantasy from reality. But, Norman goes
further, as he does not feel that even a real prostitute deserves such callous behavior. "Second, if she were a
real whore, there is no excuse in the world for treating her callously. The real whore,
not the wife playing a role, is a human being and deserves the same consideration and
affection, accorded to any other person." (p.77) Norman
definitely shows his compassionate side here, that all people deserve basic respect and
There is a scenario where a woman becomes a belly dancer. The comments section of this scenario indicates how much Norman is enamored of belly dancing. "Next to making love or engaging in intercourse itself the belly dance is one of the most sexually stimulating acts a human female can perform." (p.80) We do see this preference reflected in the Gorean novels. Slave dancing, a close relative of belly dancing, is a valued art on Gor and slave dancers command very high prices at auction. Such dancing is thought to truly release the woman inside a slave. "It is impossible for a female to learn belly dance and still not know what being a female is all about." (p.80) The Gor novels also discuss how some people believe that slave dancing is genetic, a part of all women that simply needs to be drawn out. Norman does believe this as evidenced in Imaginative Sex. "My suspicion is that most women have belly dancing bred into their glands." (p.81)
As mentioned previously, Norman believes that all people contain elements of sadism and masochism within them. But, Norman does feel these feelings must be controlled and directed to socially acceptable and healthier outlets. In one scenario, he describes how a slave might be whipped before she is sold on the auction block. But, this is meant to be only pretend and Norman strongly advises that a real whip not to be used. "Obviously, in the fantasy, the woman may not be struck with a whip. It would hurt her to do so. Acting, however, as though she is being beaten can be sexually stimulating to her." (p.84) Norman does not believe that a healthy individual would enjoy being actually whipped, that they would derive pleasure from that degree of pain. He makes quite plain his disdain for such people. "Pain is not pleasure. If she should really desire you to hurt her, you should get her to a doctor." (p.84) This belief though primarily refers to the more serious infliction of pain and not just a minor touch of pain. "Many women find a bit of pain, psychic or physical, sexually stimulating." (p.113) A hand spanking might qualify as such while a caning or whipping would certainly cross Norman's line.
As many of the scenarios given involve a woman being enslaved, Norman indicates how common a fantasy this is for women. "There is something in a woman that wants to surrender itself to a strong, desirable male. In a sense, sexually, a woman does frequently want to be dominated. The I-am-his-slave fantasy, so to speak, is a common one for the female." (p.91) Not only does he indicate its popularity, but he also emphasizes how erotic such a fantasy can be. "In its thousands of variations, this is perhaps the most provocative sexual fantasy that a man and woman can share." (p.145) We have seen similar comments made by Norman earlier in this essay.
This gives a rationale for why so many women are drawn to the Gorean books, as such books fuel their inner fantasies. Within the books, similar feelings exist within the women portrayed there, though the books actually go so far as to say that not only do all women dream about being slaves but that they all should be slaves in actuality. Despite this rhetoric, which many people online often repeat, the actual amount of women on Gor who were enslaved is very low, less than 3% of the female population. So why doesn't the rhetoric match the reality? Why aren't more Gorean women enslaved?
In Imaginative Sex we may see an explanation for this seeming contradiction between the rhetoric and the actuality. Though Norman states women do fantasize about being a slave, that is but one aspect of their desires. "It is, of course, only one side of the complex, marvelous creatures that are women. There is also a side that desires and deserves independence. Women are gloriously complicated. They are part companion, part slave girl. A man is very lucky to have both. If he has only one, I think he has been shortchanged." (p.91) Thus, a man who only has a slave does not have everything that he could. He would be lacking a companion. "Love women, and free them; but in the hour of their heat do not be too kind to them; when their heat is on them do not be reluctant to enslave them; they will love you for it; in their heat they wish to be held, to be dominated, to be penetrated and mastered; in each woman there is a companion and slave. Give each, effectively and mercifully, her due. Treat the companion as a companion; treat the slave as a slave." (p.207) A woman should thus be treated differently at different times, according to the situation.
Obviously, the percentage of slave and companion within each woman is not exactly equal. Some women will tend more toward the slave while others will tend more to the companion. A woman needs to assess herself, to determine her own percentages. Once she understands herself, she should accept her nature and not seek to change it. "At any rate, let each woman be true to her own self. Let each not pretend to be the other. " (p.146) This is a common Gorean belief, that one should know one's self and then be true to their inner nature.
Based on this, it appears that the role of the Free Woman on Gor may most closely reflects Norman's own personal beliefs. Though slaves are in touch with their slave nature, they do fail to address their companion nature. They are too one-sided, ignoring a significant aspect of their nature. The Free Woman is in touch with her role as a companion but has some lacking in getting in touch with he slave side. Yet, Norman allows them the ability to do so, an ability basically denied to slaves. But in private, with a Free Companion, a Free Woman can be more submissive, more slave-like. Physicians on Gor often tell Free Women to learn slave dance so that they will not be frigid any longer.
This may thus explain why the number of slaves on Gor is so low compared to the rhetoric of how all women should be enslaved. Free Women are better able to get in touch with all aspects of their inner nature. And consider as well that the primary reason most slaves are freed on Gor is thought to be so that they can become the Free Companion of their master. There will obviously be Free Women who remain frigid, who stand back from expressing any type of slave-like behavior, but there may be many more who take that challenge. This is likely most true with the Low Castes who are not as concerned about social reputation as the High Castes.
Though the Gorean books present a more primitive society in many ways, it is still a form of civilization. And Norman is very supportive of civilization, especially when the alternative is closer to the anarchy of the jungle, the wilds of our more primitive past. "Civilization is fragile, and depends on restraint, and, to a certain extent, on genuine frustration. It is, however, preferable to the jungle. We, on the other hand, retain something of the jungle in our blood." (p.92) Again we also see how Norman shows our intimate connection to nature, how we retain a certain more primitive aspect to ourselves. This is an aspect that we cannot deny and must find a way to control. This is very much a Gorean idea, a basic principle of Gorean philosophy.
The more primitive aspect of man must be restrained and controlled in a civilized society. This is beneficial to all involved. People understand the undesirability of the jungle, of anarchy. Norman even feels that most people would choose even a bad civilization over none at all. "Rational human beings, statistically, will choose even a terrible civilization to the law of the knife." (p.93) This explains why some people have embraced fascist and totalitarian governments. Even though such governments may be oppressive, they are still preferable to simple anarchy. The jungle is where the belief might makes right takes its strongest hold. Norman's support for civilization then is a repudiation of this belief, a support more for the law of civilization rather than the law of the jungle.
Norman's scenarios do engage in some role-reversal, where the woman plays the more dominant role and enslaves the man. One reason for these types of scenarios is to give the woman an outlet to vent her frustrations. "Although they are not as much oppressed in our society as many of them enjoy believing, there is little doubt that they have more than their fair share of frustrations. The main frustration is doubtless a very basic biological one. The woman is, statistically, smaller and weaker than the man." (p.109) Allowing a woman to play a more dominant role can be beneficial to her in additional ways as well. "From time to time it is good for them to be dominant. It helps them think better of themselves. It releases suppressed emotions and ventilates often-bottled hostility and aggression. It gives them more self-respect and helps them to be freer, happier human beings. There are pleasures in being the leader, the commander. These pleasures should be open to the woman as well as the man." (p.97)
How does this impact upon Norman's belief in the general dominance of men? It surely indicates that male dominance is not meant to be absolute. Though it still supports that male dominance is the general norm, there will be exceptions. And there will also be times when it is good to allow a woman to feel dominant for a time. Such dominance could be expressed in a variety of ways. And obviously not all women will need even this temporary expression of dominance. Thus, again we see Norman calling for people to tend to their inner nature and not to deny it. It is also indicative of the belief that there are no absolutes.
In a caveman scenario, Norman describes some of his historical and evolutionary beliefs. "The capture, rape and enslavement of women was one of the great historical pastimes of man." (p.115-6) To anyone familiar with history, this is absolutely true. Many ancient cultures engaged in slavery and it continues to exist to this present throughout the world. In historical Islamic slavery, far more women were enslaved than men. It has long been believed that the ancient Greeks and Roman enslaved more men than women. But, new research is starting to cast some doubt on this belief, raising the number of women believed to have been slaves.
Norman then goes on to discuss the natural existence and history of hierarchical structures. "It would seem likely that the brain, morality and civilization all developed simultaneously. It seems further likely that, given primate societies, there was always order and structure in human groupings, leadership by an elite of strong, dominant males, and, thence, downward through a social hierarchy ending up with smaller, weak males, sons of females not mated to dominant males, on the periphery of the group for the leopards." (p.114-5) This is some of the foundation of Gorean society, the hierarchies that exist in its society. It shows the naturalness of such structure and how such structures are often led by the most dominant individuals.
It is common knowledge that on Gor, the word for stranger is the same as that for enemy. But why should that be the case? Actually, such a belief has a natural origin, a historical and evolutionary basis. "Outsiders, even of our own species, have usually been regarded as fair game for about anything." (p.115) "The stranger, too many times, has meant danger." (p.115) "Those groups which were suspicious of strangers, we note, tended to survive." (p.115) Thus, treating strangers initially as potential enemies is a survival mechanism, an evolutionary trait that supported the continued existence of a group.
A city-state of Gor is a tight-knit community, united by its Home Stone and Caste structure. People know they generally can rely on each other, especially against an external threat. A stranger, someone who does not share such loyalties, cannot be immediately trusted. Immediate trust would be potentially perilous. There is little reason to trust a stranger. We can even see this in our own world. How many of us are suspicious when a stranger is nosing around our neighborhood? Do we normally immediately embrace a stranger or are we more tentative with that person? Though we may not call a stranger an enemy, we do not automatically treat them as a friend upon a first meeting.
On Gor, a kajira who is kneeling may place her hands upon her thighs with the palms upward. This is meant to indicate that the girl is in need, desirous of her master. There are more subtle meanings as well, possibly even subconscious reasons, that Norman outlines. "The palm of a girl's hand is a very delicate, sexy area. For example, it will make a girl nervous to trace, with a fingernail, a design in her palm. The palm, subconsciously, I suspect, represents to her the sweet vulnerability of her cunt. She will even use the palm, subconsciously, from time to time, to signal sexual desire, holding it open, subtly, as though inadvertently, toward a sexually desirable male." (p.130) Norman finds the entire body to be sexy, even something as innocuous as the palm. The genitals alone should not be the only erogenous zone on a person. The whole body, especially the brain, should be considered a sexual organ.
Amidst all this discussion of sexual role-playing, Norman even delves a bit into the area of law and morality. Norman is generally supportive of the rule of law and democracy. "Since law, and respect for it, constitutes about the only fragile shield between us and the jungle, there is a general presumption that it is not morally permissible to break laws, even when the law is, in effect, morally neutral. Indeed, even if the law prescribes something contrary to morality, the question must be weighed whether or not the violation of the law is not more morally improper than the acceptance of the moral impropriety advised by the law. For example, it may in certain cases be more moral to obey an unjust law than to violate it." (p.141) So what should be done if a law is unjust? "The usual thing to do with bad laws is not to break them but get them changed." (p.142) But this is not always possible to effectuate. The majority of people may support a law, even if it is unjust, and thus the law may never get changed.
But, Norman still supports such a system, even if certain laws cannot always be changed. "If it seems impossible to change the laws then a common democratic rule of thumb, coming out of centuries of military and political conflict, is that majority rules. This may not be a great rule, but the alternative, that a minority rules, doesn't seem obviously superior." (p.142) The key problem is that it may be impossible to derive any absolute laws of morality to govern a society. Thus, something like majority rule becomes a best option, though not optimal. An optimal rule will remain elusive. "Optimum moral action is as subtle and difficult as life itself; circumstances may well alter cases. Even a rule like, 'Everyone should follow his own conscience and be prepared to take the consequences' isn't plausible, if understood as a universal prescription." (p.142)
This belief would also be a refutation of certain action-centered moralities such as Kant's categorical imperative. Norman does not feel that any single universal law of morality would always be appropriate. Morality cannot be so easily pigeon-holed as such. It is a more intricate matter, one wrapped up in a myriad of possibilities. "Morality is not simple. Beware the man who, in a complex situation, clearly sees the right. He is probably either very young or very simple, or perhaps both. Further, it is one thing to see a wrong, and another to figure out how to make it right without producing a great deal more wrong. It is one thing to be able to tell the car is running improperly and another to be able to fix it. Driving it off a cliff will probably not effect the necessary adjustment." (p.142) As mentioned in a previous essay on Virtue Ethics, Gorean philosophy does not include an action-centered morality. Its philosophy does not provide set rules for moral actions. Gorean ethics are more agent-centered, worried more about the person than his actions.
Norman does later go on more about the nature of the government. He feels that the United States possesses an aristocracy, despite the belief of many that such does not exist here. "As a matter of fact we now have something of this sort in our country. Power, in its economic form, is transmitted usually along familial lines and among limited sets of families. A child born into one of these families may be the heir to power which would have been the envy of kings of simpler ages. The 'words,' of course, of aristocracy, etc., are not used. The lower orders might not like them. We no longer call our kings kings. It is not to their advantage to be recognized as royalty. The aristocracy can be much more effective when diffused and concealed. There is no essential connection between aristocracy and naivety." (p.194) Yet this is not necessarily a bad thing. "Incidentally, philologically the word 'aristocracy' suggests rule by the best. Accordingly, at least semantically, there is something to be said for the notion." (p.194) In Plato's The Republic, the aristocracy was seen as a beneficial form of government and Gorean governments are often seen as such as well.
Norman even goes further in showing that a democratic form of government may entail aristocracy. "Indeed, traditional American democracy, not war-democracy or quota-democracy, might be regarded as an instrument for achieving aristocracy. The theory, of course, is that the electorate will attempt to elect the best individuals possible to govern them." (p.194) Who can argue that a government should not be made up of the best people? Norman also tries to distill a myth about democracy. "The essence of democracy is not rule by the people, which is politically impractical, but responsibility to the people. In a democracy, the electorate can change rulers and thus can exert important pressures and influences on policy decisions." (p.194)
Norman is also disdainful of the younger generation, those who denigrate the U.S. democracy. "In our own country we find totalitarian governments praised by idiotic young people and a true democracy, our own, depreciated as a fascism." (p.194) We must remember that at the time of the writing of Imaginative Sex, the Vietnam War was winding down and there were many protests against the U.S. There were many young people praising Communist regimes and denigrating the U.S. Norman is indicating here his own patriotic support of the U.S. Norman's statement would apply now as it did then. There are still many young people today who praise such foreign governments, denigrating the U.S.
Much of this section, Norman's views of the American government, may be dated. Norman is now a self-professed Libertarian. We are unsure as to when he choose this path and whether his current beliefs on government still reflect his words written almost thirty years before. It is likely that at the very least his views on morality that were given above may still be valid.
"Truth need be no stranger to art; where but in art can truth be clearly spoken; in what other context could we face it? In what other context could we dare speak it so openly? In art, truth may be spoken, while we pretend to look elsewhere; it may be spoken, and we may hear it while we pretend to not listen." (p.207) This intriguing statement delineates Norman's feelings on art, which would include his own fiction, and the "truth." It indicates that he believes that fiction can do more than merely entertain. It can also be bold and present ideas and concepts that may not be socially acceptable without the guise of art.
This supports the belief that the Gorean novels contain a deeper philosophy, one guised in fiction, but containing a greater reality. It is obvious from the comments within Imaginative Sex that many of Norman's personal beliefs do form a foundation for Gor. So, it seems equally as obvious then that Gor is more than a series of novels. They are also a place where Norman has placed certain principles and ideas he believes to be truths. This has also been supported by Norman in other writings as well, especially some that have been posted online. The Gor series is a complex work, encompassing a range of different objectives and ideas.
One of the truths given by Norman deals with the nature of dominance. "The master/slave fantasy, accordingly, presents the act of sexual congress in its most basic and searing realities. In a sense it is far from being a fantasy; in a sense it is one, perhaps, of the rare moments in which the truth is spoken." (p.207) Norman has stated repeatedly how such dominance has its natural basis, a long evolutionary history. Thus, its portrayal in the Gorean books simply emulates this natural aspect. But that is not the only truth of Gor. There are many others as well. Far too many people concentrate on this single aspect of Gor, the master/dynamic, ignoring many other important aspects. Gor must be seen in its entirely, as a whole and not dissected into desirable and undesirable parts. Male dominance is but a single piece of a much greater puzzle.
And near the end of this
chapter, we once again see evidence that Gor may have originated, at least in part, as a
sexual fantasy. The readers are once again advised to write down their fantasies, to
create detailed books about them. This mirrors the statements previously mentioned from
Chapter 9. "It
is not a bad idea to prepare 'books' on the fantasies you develop, with notes, reminders,
etc. The prototype here, though more extensive and developed, would be the 'director's
play book,' in which the director has not only the script, but his notes, stage
directions, sketches of scenery, costumes, etc." (p.221) Gor
may be Norman's "director's play book."
This is a very brief
section, less than one page long. Though not very important, it does end with an
"Sex, like love and music and chess, and coin collecting and gardening, and poetry
and painting, can be a source of intricate delight. All that is required is the determined
intrusion of intelligence and imagination into its sphere. Let those who can break their
chains, break them. Let those who cannot, keep them." (p.230)
This appendix basically deals with women's clothes and the psychological reasons behind some of the choices that are made in selecting such clothes. The three primary items that are considered are pants, long dresses and miniskirts. This is a discussion of the actual clothes worn by women and not a discussion of clothes for role-playing. Clothes and costumes for role-playing purposes are discussed in Appendix #3.
This appendix begins on a startling note. Who would think that a discussion of pants could lead to a discussion of homosexuality? "Pants, pants suits, etc. on a woman can be very sexy. They appeal to the homosexual in a man, and each male has certain homosexual elements. For some men, doubtless a woman in pants combines the best of two worlds. Also, of course, pants, from the woman's point of view, appeal to the Lesbian in her. Every female, of course, possesses some Lesbian inclinations. It is natural, to some extent, for a woman to occasionally feel attraction toward other women, and for a man to feel it toward another man." (p.230) Thus, Norman is saying that homosexual feelings in both men and women have a basis in nature. This is an idea that a number of people online have denied. They have stated homosexuality is not part of the natural order. And they have even tried to use the Gor novels for support of their denial, stating that homosexuality on Gor was not considered natural.
References to homosexuality are rare within the Gorean series. The primary references are in Savages of Gor, Blood Brothers of Gor and Magicians of Gor. In the two Red Savage novels, the major reference is to the society of the Sames where homosexual relationships sometimes occur. The Sames are considered an aberrant society and they eventually break out from their conditioning by the Red Savages. In Magicians of Gor, there is evidence of a gay Master and his male slave. Norman says nothing here though concerning the general feelings of Goreans toward homosexuality. Nothing indicates that it is a crime on Gor and nothing indicates that it is actively suppressed. The books are essentially silent on the common view of the Gorean towards homosexuality. How does all of this correlate with Norman's belief that homosexual feelings have some basis in nature?
We must accept that Norman does believe such inclinations have a basis in nature. But, Norman does continue to explain his feelings on the matter, placing it in a certain perspective. "Indulging these inclinations, of course, is quite a different matter, one likely to lead to frustration and incompleteness. It is no accident that there are two sexes, which have been, by sexual selection, designing one another for hundreds of generations for the mutual pleasure of the other." (p.230) Thus, Norman indicates that though the feelings may exist, though they are natural inclinations, it is often better not to act on those feelings. "Men and women are for one another; anything else is second best." (p.231) Thus, Norman sees homosexual relationships as less than optimal, and plagued with potential problems. He is not adamantly opposed to such relationships but simply feels that a male/female relationship is better, more fulfilling. This would correlate to Gor as well, that though such feelings may exist, they are not considered the best way to fulfill oneself.
After this discourse, Norman then begins to concern himself with the long dress which he considers, " predominantly a female garment." (p.231) And yet again, Norman makes a rather startling statement. He considers the long dress to be a symbol of subjugation. "The dress is a hobbling device, which reflects the bondage of the female. It is as useful as chaining her ankles together. She cannot run. She is confined. She is captive. She is owned." (p.231) Please remember that Norman is discussing here the more traditional long dress and not some of the less confining styles that do exist. We can compare this belief quite well to the Robes of Concealment of Gor. The Robes are often quite confining and bulky. This would reflect the Gorean saying that all women are slaves though not all have collars. The Free Women of Gor are simply bound by different matters, by their Robes. Thus, even Free Women are not completely free.
But, in another fashion, Norman feels that dresses are sexy as well because they do not cover the genital region. "The dress, historically, is a tantalizing garment. It also makes the woman more available." (p.231) The miniskirt on the other hand rejects the idea that a woman should be dressed as a captive or prisoner. The miniskirt is not confining and allows much more freedom than the long dress. ".., it exhibits an admirable pagan acceptance and pride of a girl in her body. In this sense it is very healthy and very feminine. She is female, and she shamelessly and joyously exhibits her beauty." (p.232) It also makes a woman extremely vulnerable and available.
Norman would rather that women were free and proud of their bodies. He is much more a fan of the miniskirt than the long dress. He thus prefers that women be in touch with their femininity rather than be confined and repressed. But, he does realize as well that some women can look wonderful and feminine in a long dress, such as an evening gown. He gladly notes that the modern woman often now owns both miniskirts and long dresses. The modern woman is not afraid to be more feminine.
The final part of this
appendix touches on more beliefs that counter any allegation that Norman is a misogynist.
First, Norman explains some additional rationale behind the rape fantasy that is so common
among women. "It
is her nature to be hunted, and she knows it, and loves it. She wishes to be pursued, and
then caught and, by the man of her choice, and no other, raped." (p.232) By
"raped," Norman is not using the term in its most common usage. He is implying
more of a fantasy rape, a forceful taking that is permitted by the women. It is not a
nonconsensual act. And Norman clearly specifies that the object of this fantasy is not
just any man, but actually a particular man. The woman's choice of a partner is very
relevant to her. Second, Norman simply praises women. "Woman is superb. She
requires and deserves a man who can give her a hundred lives, a thousand personalities.
She is fortunate indeed if she finds a man who can understand, and satisfy and love the
many of her." (p.234) Those are most definitely not the words of a
This appendix deals with bondage and provides a number of specific ways to tie up your mate. The start of this section though addresses some generalizations about men and women. Bondage implies a sense of power, of domination over another. One person is the bound victim, helpless before the other. It is obvious that this concept appeals to many men. "Every man, from time to time, fantasizes complete power over a woman. In his blood he wants it. This doubtless goes back to the caves. Those who were less possessive, less commanding and lustful failed, in large numbers, to propagate their kind." (p.234) Norman then goes on to give an advisory warning to women about this aspect of men. "It is important for a woman, too, to realize that there is a predator in any male. This either worries her or scandalizes her, or stimulates her sexually. Perhaps it does all three." (p.234) These matters are part of the reason why the Gor books appeal to so many people, catering to these hidden thoughts. Both men and women can find the Gor books appealing because they share a common fantasy.
Mention is also made of the desirability of intelligence in women. "Intelligence is extremely sexy in a woman. Stupid women are bores, not worth the trouble of capturing." (p.235) This belief is mirrored multiple times within the Gor series. The best slaves are often said to be intelligent and imaginative. "As a matter of fact intelligence is one of the major criteria used by Gorean slavers when scouting an Earth girl for capture and abduction to the chains of Gor.." (Beasts of Gor, p.151) "High intelligence is highly valued in a female slave." (Guardsman of Gor, p.183) Though there are some on Gor who prefer to keep their women "slave ignorant" there are far more who desire an intelligent kajira.
The appendix then reaches the heart of the topic in question, bondage. "There are hundreds of ways to tie women. Many are obvious. It is interesting that the sight of a naked, bound woman is extremely sexually provocative to a male. This probably has to do with evolution, with captures and rape, etc." (p.234) The appendix lists at least 26 different ties and some of them reflect ties that exist within the Gorean novels as well. For example, the "mind-control tie" is the same type of tie as the "will bond" on Gor. Couples will decide on which ties are best for themselves, or for different situations. "Experimentation and mutual discussion is helpful in deciding on ties." (p.235)
As the first appendix
did as well, this appendix ends with additional evidence showing that Norman is by no
means a misogynist. He begins by showing the importance of love in this form of sexual
"It is perhaps important to remind ourselves, though it should be unnecessary, that
love games are meant to be performed only between lovers, usually men and their wives.
Without love there is not even fantasy, there is only exploitation and degradation. One
objective of this book is to bring some of the less common but authentic pleasures of sex
within the ambit of love." (p.248) He then proceeds to discuss how to
properly handle women. "The important thing is to care for women, and love them."
(p.248) And he also shows his open disgust at those who would are harm women. "The
man who truly abuses a woman is not a man. He is no more than the freak who abuses animals
or children. Fantasy can be delicious; but reality must, on the whole, be where we
These three quotes are very clear in their stances. It is without doubt that the depiction
of slavery within the Gorean series was intended as fantasy, not reality. Norman does not
advocate the actual abuse of any women.
3. Apparel in Fantasy
This appendix deals with
using costumes, mostly for women, within the role-playing scenarios of imaginative sex. It
discusses how to adapt commercially available items and also what you can make on your
own. Two of the garments described are referred to simply as slave garments but they fit
the physical description of the camisk and Turian camisk from the Gor novels. Besides
costumes, cosmetics and hairstyles are also discussed, including placing a "bondage
knot" in one's hair to indicate that the woman is a slave. There is even a brief
mention that women should make up some slave dances. This appendix presents some possible
enhancements to the role-play scenarios presented in Chapter 10 though none of these
enhancements are absolute necessities. A couple can always substitute their imagination
for any of these matters.
4. Notes on How to Buy a Slave Girl
"You always buy a
woman naked, of course. Only a fool buys a clothed woman." (p.259) These
words are echoed within the Gorean novels as well. In fact, this entire appendix could
have been placed within the Gorean books with little, if any, revisions. This appendix
gives advice on buying a slave and is written from a role-playing point of view. There is
a discussion of the slave auction, examining the slave before bidding, slave displays,
etc. The information is presented so that it can easily be adopted into many of the
role-playing scenarios presented within Imaginative Sex. It is additional detail to help
immerse a couple deeper into such a fantasy.
5. Notes on Investments, Documents and Conception
This appendix is similar
in many ways to Appendix #4. It is also written from the point of view of role-playing and
the information presented is intended for use in imaginative sex scenarios. It details the
type of documents that might be used in slave transactions and also includes information
on slave breeding. Again, this entire chapter could be inserted into the Gorean novels
with little, if any, revision. It is simply additional detail to help immerse a couple
deeper into such a fantasy.
We have now completed our examination of Norman's Imaginative Sex, a compelling work that offers us a look into the mind of John Norman. We have learned that is it far more than just a sex manual, though those aspects are intriguing as well. The book also presents many of Norman's personal beliefs and philosophies on a diverse variety of topics. It also offers us an effective instrument to examine both the Gorean series and Gorean philosophy. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in a deeper comprehension of Gor. It might be worthy as well to recap a few key points raised in this essay.
First, and maybe the most controversial, we have seen that one of the intentions of the creation of Gor may have been for use in sexual role-playing. The books fit well within Norman's ideas for imaginative sex and many of the role-playing sections deal directly with slavery matters applicable to Gor. Norman advocates that people create intricate and complex fantasies, writing all of the myriad details in books. Gor could easily fit within these parameters. Even if this is true though, it does not mean there were not other motivations as well for the creation of Gor.
Second, we also have seen how many of Norman's philosophical beliefs that are explicated in Imaginative Sex are mirrored within the Gor series. We have also seen how Norman believes that art can conceal the truth. This indicates that an additional intention of the Gorean series was also likely to serve as a showcase for Norman's philosophy. This lends more credence to those of us who claim there is a defined philosophy within the Gorean series. Based on these two points, Norman clearly had multiple intentions for the Gorean series, which is not unusual for an author.
Third, we have clearly seen that Norman is by no stretch of the imagination a misogynist. Slavery within the Gorean series is simply a fictional portrayal, a fantasy. It was never meant to be taken as an actual reality. Norman often praises women within Imaginative Sex and has only disgust and disdain for men who truly abuse women. The only slavery he advocates in this book is that done through role-playing. Any violence toward women is intended to be pretend violence, just part of a game, and is not meant to actually harm anyone. No one can read Imaginative Sex, hear his praises of women, and still believe that Norman is a misogynist.
Fourth, we have seen that Norman does not support engaging in every natural inclination we possess. The natural order must not be accepted as is but must be carefully analyzed to accept only what portions are deemed proper. This actually supports the naturalistic fallacy. Just because something is natural does not mean that it is right. Human choice must intervene over natural inclination. Self-mastery is our best defense against our darker aspects. This may actually be the most important part of Imaginative Sex, the point of greatest relevance for those who want to live according to a Gorean philosophy. It is also not a point made very clear within the Gorean series. This points out the value in seeking beyond the Gorean books to better understand Gorean philosophy.
There are a number of
other points that could be recapped here as well but there is little need to touch on all
of them here. I would like to finish though by once again strongly recommending that
everyone attempt to obtain a copy of Imaginative Sex and read it. It contains so
much of value, especially for anyone who wishes to follow a Gorean philosophy in their
life. The book contains the thoughts and beliefs of John Norman, absent all of the fiction
of Gor. Thus, there is much more clarity and that obviously promotes comprehension. This
essay only highlighted Imaginative Sex so that by reading the book
you will learn much more.