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(#84, Version 5.0)
What is a “Gorean” slave? In this essay, I am concentrating on real-time consensual slavery so the answer to this question will be based on that context. Such consensual slavery is a common aspect of the Gorean lifestyle, though it is not an absolute necessity to that lifestyle. There has been much discussion and disagreement over the use of the term “slave” for such real-time consensual relationships. As these relationships are consensual, then the common definition of “slave” is not truly appropriate. It is certainly not a legal slavery where a person is truly and legally owned. It is more akin to an extreme form of submission. The term “slave” is generally considered more appropriate than the term “submissive.” Yet the Gorean lifestyle is not the only one to use the term “slave” to refer to such a relationship. Within BDSM, the term is used as well, and often refers to those who practice Total Power Exchange or Internal Enslavement.
In the Gorean lifestyle, consensual slavery reflects the slavery depicted within the books but there are modifications as well, to conform to the realities of Earth. But there is no single standard of which modifications are necessary and/or permissible. Each Gorean Master/slave relationship will differ, dependent upon the personal preferences of the individuals involved in that relationship. Though some generalities may be accepted concerning such relationships, they are certainly not absolute standards. Thus, it can be very difficult to define the parameters of a slave as so many different standards are in effect. But, a definition of “slave” is not the objective of this essay. What is of concern here is the adjective “Gorean” as applied to this phrase. What makes this type of slavery “Gorean?”
Does it simply
reflect the customs, rituals and traditions of slavery portrayed within the
Gorean books such as the positions, commands, dances and serves? Does it simply
reflect the status of a slave’s Master, that he is Gorean? Can a slave be
Gorean but be owned by a man who is not Gorean? Can a Gorean man own a slave who
is not Gorean? Does the adjective “Gorean” reflect the philosophy as well?
Can a consensual slave practice the Gorean philosophy? Or is the philosophy only
applicable to free people? Do slaves need to concern themselves at all with the
It is important to gain a sense of the definition of “Gorean” before further exploring the answers to these questions. This first step is fraught with some difficulty, as different people will define “Gorean” in many different ways. But, the context of the inquiry is very significant in determining which definition is most appropriate. For example, a simple definition of “Gorean” would be “a person born on the planet Gor.” Such a definition would not be helpful in many varied contexts. It certainly would not be appropriate for a context where we are concentrating on the real-time emulation of Gor. Thus, as we are dealing with real-time consensual slavery, we should confine our context to real-time, narrowing the possible definitions we need to address. This will lessen our burden some.
When we are discussing real-time Gor, there are two basic options, the philosophy and the lifestyle. Within each option, there will be various opinions of what makes up that option, but we can use these two choices as a convenient separation. They at least give us a good starting foundation. So, let us try to better define these two options. The philosophy is the basic, underlying principles of Gor that delineate what people are to believe, how they are to live and what they should seek to attain out of life. The lifestyle includes the philosophy but takes it one step further, embracing some of the societal and cultural institutions of Gor as well. There will be a dispute over exactly what principles make up the philosophy. There will be a dispute over what societal institutions to emulate in the lifestyle, as well as how to emulate them and what modifications to make. The disputes are basically irrelevant to our current discussion. All we need to be concerned with is that basic options, philosophy and lifestyle.
Now, as both of these options include the philosophy then it would seem very important to defining real-time Gor. If a person emulated the societal institutions of Gor without following the Gorean philosophy, I doubt many would consider that person to be Gorean. Simply claiming to have a Home Stone certainly does not automatically make someone Gorean. Simply being in a Free Companionship certainly does not automatically make someone Gorean. Unless you also follow the philosophy, you are simply going through the motions of some custom, convention or ritual. In a different context, would simply attending Sunday mass make one a Christian? No. Would simply voting Republican in one election make you a Republican? No. There must be a deeper belief system involved.
In addition, there is no agreement over which societal and cultural institutions must be followed within the lifestyle. Two people, following a different list of societal and cultural institutions could both be considered Gorean. One man may have a Home Stone and the other may not. The existence or lack of existence of that Home Stone does not mean someone is or is not Gorean. The ownership of a slave, or the lack of such ownership, does not make one Gorean. In addition, if someone emulated the culture of Torvaldsland, the Gorean equivalent of the Vikings, and someone us emulated the society of the cities like Ar and Ko-ro-ba they might both be considered Gorean. What would bind all of these different people, and their different choices, together would be the Gorean philosophy, the underlying belief structure of Gor.
Slavery is a societal and cultural institution on Gor. Slavery may be based on certain philosophical principles, are as many of the Gorean societal and cultural institutions, but it is not in of itself a tenet of Gorean philosophy. The absence of the institution of slavery would not affect the Gorean philosophy in the slightest. Consider the fact that over 98% of the free population of the world of Gor did not own a slave. It was clearly more a luxury than anything else on Gor. Though work slaves existed on Gor, their existence was not vital to production. In an agrarian society such as Gor, production essentially refers to agriculture and it is the free Peasants who are the key to agricultural production on Gor. In addition, a person can follow a Gorean philosophy and not own a slave. A person can even follow a Gorean philosophy and not support the institution of slavery. If you practice real-time consensual slavery, you are simply emulating a societal and cultural institution of Gor. Such emulation is modified to conform to the realities of Earth. But such emulation is not essential to being Gorean.
Now, using my prior arguments concerning the emulation of societal institutions, if simply having a Home Stone or a Free Companion does not make one Gorean, then simply practicing the institution of slavery would also not make someone Gorean. A man who simply owned a slave does not automatically become Gorean. Thus, a real-time slave who is owned by a Gorean man, absent any other conditions, is not Gorean herself. She is simply emulating a Gorean institution, and that alone does not make her Gorean. Even the fact a Gorean man owns her does not automatically provide her with “Gorean” status. She might be referred to as a Gorean’s slave, indicating that she is owned by a Gorean, but she would not be a “Gorean” slave.
So, by this logic, what would make such a slave “Gorean?” She would become “Gorean” if she followed the Gorean philosophy. If she does not follow the philosophy, then she is not really Gorean. She is simply following Gorean customs and institutions without the acceptance and practice of the underlying belief structure. She would just be a slave owned by a Gorean man. Would we accept a free person as being Gorean if they did not follow a Gorean philosophy? No, we would not. So why would we accept a slave as Gorean if she did not follow the philosophy? Does her status as a slave absolve her of that requirement? And if so, why would her status so absolve her?
At this point I know that many will raise an immediate objection to my analysis. They will feel that because a slave must be obedient to her Master in all ways then she cannot follow a philosophy. They will feel that she must follow whatever her Master commands her to do. They will feel that a slave has absolutely no control so she would thus be unable to follow any philosophy. Interestingly enough, this objection is not new and it is not specific to Gorean consensual slavery. In fact, this objection was voiced in ancient times as well, at least during the days of the ancient Stoics and early Christians. And both of these groups concluded that a slave could follow a philosophy. We cannot forget that they were dealing with legal slaves, slaves who could be killed with impunity for their disobedience. Such legal slaves were under far stricter controls than any consensual slave will be. A consensual slavery cannot be legally killed or maimed by their Master.
The reasoning of the Stoics and Christians was that though a Master may own a slave’s body and can control many of the slave’s actions, the Master does not control the slave’s mind, heart and soul. A slave still possesses free will though their body may be in chains. They always possess the ability to disobey. They always possess the ability to think whatever thoughts they wish. They always possess the ability to embrace any philosophical or religious thoughts they wish. Thus, a slave could often hold true to the principles of a philosophy or religion because of the freedom the slave possessed in their mind, heart and soul. Legal slave owners throughout history have realized this about fact about their slaves.
This is also the reality of consensual slavery, if not more so than for a legal slave. A consensual slave always has the power to end the relationship by walking away. And she has full legal protection to do so. She can willingly disobey her Master’s orders. She might be punished for it, but she does have the free will to disobey if she so desires. A Master does not possess any special power to suddenly change a girl’s thoughts. He may try to convince and persuade her to think certain matters, but that can be done to anyone, slave or not. And still, that person must willingly accept the change of thought. A Master can tell a girl to commit certain actions, but that is control of her body not her mind. And I am sure no real time slave would commit any action that she considered a serious violation of her own morality, her own ethical principles. If a slave was ordered to kill someone, or sever her own arm, I seriously doubt she would do so. And if she did, she would probably need serious psychological help. Even the Gor novels indicate the truth of this matter. How many slaves, who are considered excellent slaves with many years of training, show willful disobedience at times? They retain their minds no matter how long their bondage. They may accept certain matters about their slavery, but it is their own voluntary acceptance. It is not an idea that their Master has forcefully changed.
Thus, a “Gorean” slave would be in a similar situation to a “Gorean” free man or free woman. To be “Gorean,” they would all have to follow the Gorean philosophy. And I fully believe that a slave can do so, can follow a Gorean philosophy. I do not believe the tenets of Gorean philosophy would conflict with her slavery. In fact, they are likely to support such a condition. I have never heard anyone argue that any tenet of Gorean philosophy would conflict with someone who is a Gorean slave. Though to be honest, I have heard few people state that slaves also follow a Gorean philosophy. Most people do not seem to believe that it is possible for them to do so. They feel that the Master has the power to prevent them from doing so.
Now, a Gorean slave would tend to be owned by a Gorean Master. They could be owned by a nonGorean Master but that would be a rarity. Now, if she were owned by a Gorean Master, then by definition her Master would also follow a Gorean philosophy. And if both of them, Master and slave, followed a Gorean philosophy, then there would be far less chance there would be any conflicts. Logically, why would a Gorean man want his slave to oppose the Gorean philosophy? Why would he ever command her to commit acts against the philosophy? It makes far more sense that a Gorean Master would encourage his slave’s acceptance and adherence to the Gorean philosophy.
Now, technically a Gorean Master could order his slave to commit an act against the philosophy. But why would he? And if he did, would that not indicate that his own adherence to the Gorean philosophy was lacking in some respect? I don’t think this would be a common occurrence, and if it were, I would seriously question the Master’s beliefs in the philosophy. A man who values the Gorean philosophy certainly would not be encouraging others not to follow it. What should a slave do if confronted with such a dilemma, of being ordered to violate the philosophy? Obviously this would be best answered on a case-by-case basis. A girl could always disobey her Master and accept her punishment rather than violate the philosophy. That might be her best option in some situations. But, such dilemma should be a rarity, if at all. It might occur more if a Gorean slave had a non-Gorean Master.
Now, if one thus accepts that a Gorean slave does follow the Gorean philosophy, then the next important question arises, “What is the Gorean philosophy?” Obviously this is an extremely important question for all, not just slaves. But, the answers are not simple or short. And they should be addressed in their essays. The scope of this essay was only to define what is meant by a “Gorean” slave. And that answer is simple, though possessing much depth. Essentially, what defines a “Gorean” slave, as it defines any “Gorean,” is that she follows a Gorean philosophy.