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Gor vs. BDSM

(#83, Version 5.0)

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Is Gor but an aspect of BDSM? What are the similarities and differences between Gor and BDSM? This is a topic that has been addressed numerous times on message boards and in discussions. Yet, there is still confusion on this issue so there is reason to try once again to compare and contrast these two matters. The general public sees Gor as but a subset of BDSM. This is evident from when the media mentions Gor and how they almost inevitably lump it in with BDSM. In addition, there are people involved in BDSM who see Gor as an aspect of it, as well as Goreans who also see Gor as part of BDSM. Please note that I will deal primarily with generalizations for ease of understanding. There may be exceptions to these generalizations but that alone does not invalidate the generalizations themselves.

Let’s start with some basic information about Gor. John Norman, a university philosophy professor, has written 26 novels depicting the fictional world of Gor and more will be published in the future. Norman has also written 5 other novels and 2 non-fiction books. One of those non-fiction works is Imaginative Sex which was published in 1974 and is commonly thought to be one of the first D/S (Dominance/Submission) related books ever published in modern times. In 1974, there were few non-fiction books portraying D/S. The Leatherman’s Bible was one of the only other such books in print at that time. As Imaginative Sex has some strong connections to Gor as well, then initially we can note that there is likely at least some connection between Gor and D/S. But we must be careful not to end our consideration there. 

We should also begin by considering some definitions to help us in our discussion, not just of “BDSM” and “D/S” but also what we mean when we refer to “Gor.” For each of these terms, precise definitions are not easy as each term encompasses a wide variety of aspects. Just think of some of the myriad aspects that often fall under the label of BDSM and D/S, such as bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism, dominance, submission, slaves, switches, blood play, and role-playing. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And each person involved in BDSM and D/S has their own personal preferences of which areas they may practice. In addition, for some this is all just kinky sex. But for others, it is a deeper lifestyle that affects many aspects of their lives, and not just the sexual aspect. Diversity is a key word in defining BDSM and D/S. 

Within the Gorean community, diversity is also the key in defining Gor. For simplicity’s sake, we can separate those actively involved in the Gorean community into three main groups. We are thus excluding those who are more passively involved, those who just enjoy reading the novels and take it no further than that. Our three groups thus include role-players, philosophers and lifestylers. Please understand as well that there is much diversity within each of these three groups. These are broad categories that encompass many differences too. They are useful for a general discussion though please be aware the lines are not always clear. People can belong to more than one of these groups without any conflict.     

At its most basic, Gorean role-playing is a game where people pretend to be on Gor, acting out certain roles. It is a form of entertainment though it can have its educational aspects as well. Role-playing may involve “captures” where people try to enslave others and “combat” where people may duel each other, sometimes to a virtual death. Some who role-play try to remain true to the novels, only permitting types of actions that would be plausible based on the novels. Others prefer a looser form, altering aspects of the books to suit their own preferences. Sometimes these two schools of thought can get combative over their respective preferences. 

Role-played slavery, that follows the Gorean books closely, can resemble historical slavery, especially the type practiced in ancient Rome. Slaves in the Gorean books were mere property with absolutely no rights. Their owner could kill them with impunity. By Earth standards, such slavery could be considered harsh and brutal. Not all choose to adhere this closely to the books though when they role-play slavery. Others take a more gentle approach to it. Yet we must remember that this is only a game. It could easily be compared to any BDSM or D/S role-playing scenario. In Norman’s Imaginative Sex he actually presents over 50 sexual role-play scenarios, often involving domination, bondage and slavery. A number of those scenarios are similar to matters that could occur on Gor.

But it is important to remember that Gorean role-playing does not have to involve only master/slave interactions. Role-playing can cover many different scenarios from mysteries to war stories, from romance to action-adventure. Role-playing is like living a novel and the potential adventures are limited only by your imagination. There are some Gorean role-players who prefer to mainly engage in master/slave interaction but that is simply their choice. It is not indicative of the entire possible scope of role-play. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Gorean philosophy. This constitutes the underlying principles of the world of Gor that have been explicated in the novels. There is much evidence to indicate that this philosophy does exist and is based in large part on ancient Greek philosophy and the works of Nietzsche. Gorean philosophy may be best summarized by the principle “Live in Accordance with Nature.” Essentially, all other Gorean philosophical principles derive from this primary tenet. A complete understanding of Gorean philosophy requires a person not only to read all of the Gor novels but also to engage in outside reading as well to better comprehend some complex philosophical concepts. 

Interestingly enough, slavery is not an aspect of the Gorean philosophy. In fact, it is absolutely unnecessary to the philosophy. Slavery is a societal and cultural institution on Gor and not a philosophical principle. Now, one of the derivative principles of Gorean philosophy is that in general, men are dominant and women are submissive. It is simply considered a biological truth, based on genetics and our evolutionary history. And remember that we are not discussing an absolute here, only a generalization. But this principle does not entail that women should or must be slaves. There is a significant difference between being submissive and being a slave.

We should note that this group is the smallest of all the three Gorean groups we have mentioned. We can only speculate as to the reasons for this. Part of the reason is that when most people think of the term “philosophy” they think of a more cerebral activity, and not a way of life. They think of musty old academics arguing over esoteric points about the nature of the universe. Yet, if we delve back to ancient Greece and Rome, we can see that philosophy to them was integrally tied to a way of life. A philosopher lived his philosophy and did not just talk about it. And as Gor is largely based on such ancient sources, it seems especially appropriate to handle its philosophy as such. 

Now we come to the final group, the Gorean lifestylers. This is the area that most often is compared to the world of BDSM and D/S. In general, a lifestyler is someone who follows the Gorean philosophy BUT who also emulates some of the societal institutions of Gor. That emulation is an important aspect of their lifestyle. A lifestyler essentially takes certain matters that some role-play and tries to make them real in their lives. It should be mentioned briefly here that there are a number of lifestylers who take great offense at role-players. They feel that it hurts their credibility and also that it is offensive to make a game out of what they live. But, by emulating some of the fictional aspects of the fictional world of Gor, it can be argued that lifestylers are actually engaged in a form of role-play. 

Some of the most common societal institutions that are emulated by lifestylers include the Home Stone, the Caste system and slavery. Now, there is no standard for which institutions must be emulated to be a lifestyler. You might choose to have a Home Stone but no Caste. You might choose to have a slave but no Home Stone. It is all a matter of personal preference though slavery is probably the most commonly emulated institution. Out of all aspects of Gor, slavery still attracts the most people. Yet this popularity is misrepresentative of the entirety of Gor. One can still be a Gorean lifestyler and not own a slave or even support slavery. 

When these Gorean institutions are emulated, lifestylers modify them for the realities of Earth and their own personal preferences. Slavery, though legal on Gor, is not legal on Earth so there must necessarily be some differences. Overall, lifestyler slavery becomes much less harsh than it would be on Gor. There are no forced enslavements for lifestylers. It is often called “consensual slavery” as the slave consents to her condition. She also has the power to end the slavery at any point. Such real-time (RT) slavery most closely resembles what would be known in BDSM and D/S as TPE, Total Power Exchange, though I prefer the less commonly used term “Internal Enslavement” as I feel it is a more accurate description of the nature of the relationship. At its most basic, RT slavery is a more extreme form of submission. And thus, there will be many similarities between BDSM and D/S and this RT slavery though there will be some significant differences as well.

Let us examine some of these similarities and differences. Gorean slavery, as can BDSM, may involve bondage, including collars, chains, manacles, rope, ties, and more. Gorean slavery and BDSM may involve the infliction of pain upon a submissive or slave. In general though, Goreans only do so as punishment and their slaves do not enjoy the pain. There are exceptions though. In BDSM, it is far more common for the submissive or slave to enjoy receiving the pain. Both Gor and BDSM obviously involve dominance and submission, though in Gor, it is usually the men who are dominant. In BDSM, many women are dominant, far more than would be in Gor. We could also discuss the differences between submissives and slaves but that is not too relevant to this current discussion. 

What is most important to note is that such RT Gorean slavery is but a single aspect of a much larger realm. If you feel that Gor is only about slavery, then you are missing out on a vast world of other Gorean ideas and concepts. Gorean philosophy touches on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and so much more. It draws its inspiration from such sources as Plato’s The Republic, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. It deals with more than just personal relationships, encompassing also how man interacts with government, society and nature. In these respects, it is vastly more encompassing than BDSM or D/S. BDSM and D/S are most often a matter of personal relationships, the interaction of two people. 

Who then is responsible for setting forth the mistaken belief that Gor is primarily about slavery? Ultimately, much of that responsibility does fall upon the Gorean community. It falls upon those individuals who come to Gor just because of the slavery aspect. It falls upon those individuals who create websites that deal primarily with aspects of slavery. It falls upon those individuals who endlessly discuss slavery issues on the message boards, ignoring other topics. And as these individuals are the majority online, the message gets skewed. So people who know little of Gor receive a distorted picture that Gor is primarily about slavery when it is so much more diverse. 

Luckily, there are some who try to combat this distorted image. They help teach the realities of Gor. They post message and articles discussing many other aspects of Gor. They create websites that touch upon these myriad matters, relegating slavery to a far lesser role. It is not an easy task, but some are ready to face that challenge. The ultimate objective is to show that Gor is about far more than just slavery. Gor is not simply a subset of BDSM or D/S. Though there are some similarities between BDSM, D/S and Gorean RT consensual slavery, the differences far outweigh. Gor encompasses a vast array of additional matters that have nothing to do with BDSM or D/S. 

 


                        

 

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