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(Essay #88)  

How does the general public perceive the Gorean community? How much does the general public know about the Gorean community? How much do they know about Gorean philosophy or the Gorean lifestyle? Where do they get their information on the various aspects of Gor? How deeply will they delve into the depths of the various facets of Gor seeking answers? How can their perception be altered in a more accurate positive way?

Please note that we are generalizing here concerning the public. There will always be exceptions but we are discussing here the "average person." In addition, by the Gorean community, I am including all types of Goreans, from role-players to lifestylers.

In general, it seems the public is largely unaware of the Gorean community. The average person on the street has never heard of John Norman and the Gor books. Gor is not a major aspect of our pop culture like Star Trek or Star Wars. Among the science-fiction community, where many are at least aware of the Gor novels, the books are often dismissed as mere books about slavery. In addition, contributing to this lack of popularity, is that most of the novels themselves are out of print. There are also no explanatory or scholarly books written about the Gorean series, books that detail and explain its complexities and diversities.

The presence of Gor is largest on the Internet, in scattered communities in many different forums. There are many dozens of Gorean websites and chat rooms. There are probably thousands of participants involved, from all over the world, but there is no accurate census. Some offline group meetings have been arranged but they are most often on a small scale.

The few public magazine articles or television/radio programs that mention Gor often touch on the more sensationalistic and salacious aspects of the Gorean community. It is no surprise that the issue of slavery predominates in these media depictions. And though such references are often criticized by members of the Gorean community for not being fully accurate, there is little organized opposition to this sensationalism. There are few, if any, magazine articles written by Goreans who wish to set the record straight. Gorean writings are largely contained to the Internet, primarily on websites and message boards. And their potential audience is subsequently limited, often to those already familiar with Gor. So there is little to counter the media depictions of the Gorean community.

The average person might first encounter some of the few media references to Gor. This could perk his interest and lead him to view some Gorean websites. Or he might stumble upon these websites while surfing the Internet. He could also be directed to some Gorean sites by a friend or acquaintance who is a member of the Gorean community. Many of these individuals though won't have more than a passing interest in Gor, a desire to gain only a very basic understanding. They are more curious than anything else, and they want a quick fix.

So, the average person will only skim over any information he finds on Gor. He will have little inclination to go so far as to read any of the Gor novels. He will prefer a quick capsule review of the Gorean community. If the information he finds is longer than a magazine article, he may not read it. There is no guarantee that he will even do more than skim a magazine article. His examination of the subject matter is apt to be cursory. He has little motivation or desire to seek a balanced viewpoint. If something catches his eye, he might pay more attention to it, but it is doubtful he will thoroughly read everything.

In this respect, the general public would treat information concerning the Gorean community like any that of any other fringe group, something for a brief diversion but not serious study. How many people have the time to invest in an in-depth study of such matters? Consider as well how many people already within the Gorean community do not take sufficient effort to learn about Gor, to read the novels. Based on the limited information they have acquired, the general public will draw conclusions about the Gorean community.

As such, these conclusions could very well be inaccurate or misleading. This is to be expected when one considers the cursory nature of their examination and the surface presentation they view of Gor. How can we expect a person to properly understand Gor from only a brief skim of the subject matter? There are plenty of people who have read the books and still don't understand Gor. The general public's conclusions will also reflect their own familiarities. In analyzing anything that is different, a person is apt to compare it to something they know or understand. This is the lens through which they would try to understand Gor.

The first conclusion the general public is likely draw is that Gor is primarily about slavery. A sampling of websites, including both role-player and lifestyle websites, will reveal a strong emphasis on slavery. Many of these sites present far more information on slavery than any other aspect of Gor. That will tend to indicate to the average man that slavery is a major aspect of Gor, if not the most important aspect. As such, he may draw one of two conclusions. If he has any knowledge of BDSM, he may assume that Gor is but a sex game, a D/S variant. Otherwise, he may feel that Gor is evil in its support of slavery, a practice he finds abhorrent. Very few people will properly understand the place of consensual slavery within the Gorean community based on a skim reading of a few websites.

The average person will also likely see multiple references on these websites to spaceships, Priest-Kings, an alien world and strange technology. He will probably draw the conclusion that Gor is a science fiction world that people try to emulate. To the average man, he will most likely equate it to the Trekkies, the science fiction community he may be most familiar. He has seen the news articles about people dressing up like Star Trek characters, assembling in large conventions and trying to emulate Star Trek philosophy. Star Trek is firmly ingrained within our pop culture and few people are unaware of it existence. So, the average person will view Gor through this lens, one that conforms to his established preconceptions. Thus, when he combines the slavery aspect as well, the average man may see Goreans as simply Trekkies with T&A.

The average man is not going to carefully scan through the many Gorean websites, seeking some deeper meaning to Gor. He will glance and skim his way through the sites, reading what catches his eye. Appearances are everything to him. What is most visible will be what is remembered. So pictures of naked kajirae will likely be high on the list of remembered matters. It is hard enough to get people interested in Gor to read the books, never mind the average person who does not care one way or another. Why should the average person even care? There is no real reason why he should have to understand Goreans. Their existence does not really affect his life. He will care little about Goreans.

The existence of anti-Gorean websites and message boards will also negatively impact the public's view if those sites happen to be the ones they visit. These sites often fail to properly understand Gor and engage in vociferous, caustic and fallacious arguments against Goreans. Sometimes the attacks against certain individuals may be justified, though it is actually a personal issue, and not one particular to Gor. But, the general public is not going to get embroiled in trying to cut through the controversy to properly understand Gor. Some might simply accept the criticisms as valid or at least potentially valid.

The general public will also tend to encounter far more Gorean role-players than Gorean lifestylers. It is a simple matter of numbers as there are far more role-players online than lifestylers. Exact numbers may be impossible to derive but actual lifestylers constitute only a small fraction of Goreans online. Some lifestylers wish to blame role-players for giving them a bad reputation, for confusing the public, for harming their credibility. Yet their tirades against role-play accomplish little, if anything. It does present to the general public the picture of a divided community, and once again, the general public is unlikely to delve to the roots of the issue. They will not understand or care about the reasons for the division.

But, it is certainly not the fault of any one group of online Goreans how the general public perceives the community. Each group shoulders some responsibility in this matter. Maybe people simply overestimate the interest level of the general public, assuming they will take sufficient time to investigate Gor before passing judgment. They won't. They will skim the surface and create an opinion based on very limited information. But, we do have some control over that limited information. We can do more than simply point a finger of blame at each other. We can act more positively to alter the public perceptions of Gor.

Concerned individuals can write articles about Gor and try to submit them to various magazines or newspapers. There are some excellent writers within the Gorean community and I am sure that someone could get such an article published. These articles could more accurately describe the complexities of the Gorean community. Such articles could also serve to counter the anti-Gorean sites that exist. Instead of dreading each sensationalistic article that is published, take a more proactive role and get your own articles in print. It does little good to just complain about the bad articles. Write complaint letters to the media if they publish misinformation about Gor. Work together to counter such matters. A united front would certainly be beneficial and more effective than a singular effort. If you do nothing, then how can you expect matters will change?

People should also review their own websites and analyze if they truly provide the message about Gor you wish the general public to see. As an example, if you desire to have a Gorean lifestyle website then carefully consider what impression the graphics and text on your site will present. If the first page of your website contained a picture of a spaceship and mentioned the Priest-Kings what conclusion do you think someone would draw from that first page? Would they think they had reached a serious website? Would they think the website dealt with role-play or the lifestyle? The average person, seeing only that page, would not assume that website dealt with anything serious. He would tend to assume that Gor was something like Star Trek, just another science fiction world. He may not even go any further than that first page so he would be left with a very skewed image of that website.

Other sites, with pictures of naked or near-naked kajirae, may present the image to the average person that Gor is but a sex game. The voluminous articles on slavery in these websites also help solidify that mindset in the general public. The general public is not going to look deeper into the issue of consensual slavery. They will prejudge Gor based simply on its existence within the community. They will make assumptions based on their own knowledge of such matters, tying it into kinky sex games they have heard about. Or they will be horrified about slavery, equating it with many evils. Do you truly wish to emphasize slavery on your Gorean website? Do you want the majority of articles and essays on your site to concentrate on slavery? Do you need pictures of scantily clad women on your website?

How we deal with newcomers to Gor will also affect public perceptions. If someone asks about Gor, their questions can be handled in a myriad of ways. But that handling can have repercussions, in either a positive or negative way. If a newcomer encounters hostility, arrogance, disdain, ignorance, or rudeness, he obviously will not come away with a positive outlook. But, if his questions are answered, if your manner is pleasant, and if you do not make him feel inferior, then he is more likely to come away with a positive view. A newcomer who has a bad experience may never return and it will forever color his perceptions of Goreans. And he may tell others of his experiences, turning those people away as well.

How newcomers and the curious are treated by the Gorean community will also affect public perceptions. If such a person inquires about Gor, we should do our best to answer their questions, even if only briefly. Though we probably should add a few caveats, explaining how the subject is far more complex than our brief answers make it seem. And even if your answers are brief, try to make them as accurate as possible. Simply telling these individuals to read the archives of a message board or the information on a website is not always beneficial. Such people are often looking just for a quick answer and don't want to take the time to do a lot of reading. These people may never read the archives or message board. Or they might skim the information briefly, and possibly gain a misconception about Gor.

The general public is likely to share their limited information about Gor with their family, friends and acquaintances. And if that information is inaccurate, then that inaccuracy will spread to other people too. So, if one person is alienated from Gor, if one person has a bad experience, that person can spread their story around to others. And that negativity will disseminate to more people. In the converse, if a person has a positive experience, if they gain accurate information, that too could spread to others, serving to defuse or negate bad impressions.

The Gorean community is diverse so there is no one picture that will encompass each particular group. There are fans, scholars, role-players, lifestylers, philosophers and much more. The general public is unlikely to ever truly understand the diversity of Gor. They will form opinions based on the limited information they receive. We can but only try to give them better information, concise and accurate. And that responsibility falls upon all of us even though few are likely to accept it. Don't blame others but rather ask yourself what you can do to address the problem.