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Friday, October 08, 2010


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Kudzumai Kinomis

Nice piece. The problem however with the 50k+ people that "play" Gor is that half of them are the type of wannabe-masters that want to see a woman crawl for them just to make themselves feel better. The people who actually "practise" Gor like "it was meant to be..."

Well.. not so many.. at least not in my experience.


D/s is one thing--and something that *can* be fun & exciting to explore within SL and in RL.

But wasting one's SL time wearing ridiculous, slave/master getups in uninspired, ugly sims, "roleplaying" (badly) storylines inspired by cheesy, misogynistic pulp fantasy crap written by a talentless hack? Quite another.

Missy Restless

The credibility of New World Notes just took a serious hit with this puff piece on Gor. I would suggest interested readers start by reading the abridged notecard of Artemis Fate "The Problems of Gor" printed in the Alphaville Herald several years ago: Part One and Part Two.

I cannot cover much of this topic in a comment. Suffice it to say you have done your readers an injustice by portraying Gor in such a misleading light.

brinda allen

Nope...I will never *need* to feel subservient to anyone....

Vivienne Daguerre

I thought this piece was well balanced and was perhaps the first article I have seen written about Gor that tried to explore what the attraction is for many. There is obviously an attraction, as evidenced by the number of Gorean role players and Gorean sims on Second Life.

I agree that John Norman is a hack, a bad writer, and I have always considered myself a feminist.

Gor is not all about sex. One thing John Norman does is go on at great lengths about details, more than you ever would want to know about money, geography, customs, etc. It makes for bad writing, but provides a good basis for constructing a role play world around. His descriptions are so vivid that detailed maps of his world have been made, and we have been able to build almost all of the cities/towns/villages/regions of his books in Second Life Gor. He researched well the cultures transported to Gor--Native Americans, Vikings, Romans, Bedouins, and more.

I play a free woman. Not all women in Gor are slaves. I am a merchant/trader who owns ships and caravans that travel the trade routes of Gor. It gives me valid role play reasons to visit different sims. I am not into sexual role play. I enjoy the give and take, back and forth writing of a story that Nightflower writes about. I have had some great adventures, smuggling and almost getting caught (and the adrenalin flows!) and actually getting caught and put on trial in Thentis for "creatively acquiring" some blackwine beans wanted by a customer.

My point is that the details of the world John Norman created makes for excellent role play. As for slavery, there are also several Roman, Greek and Egyptian role play sims out there that have slavery as part of their role play, and I don't hear much of a ruckus made about them.

I have explored some other role play venues, but mostly they are about pew pew combat, which does not appeal to me. There are some Gorean sims like that too, but there are many of us who want more than that. So far I have not found another role play group in Second Life that appeals to me and has a large enough number of people doing it to make it vital and alive.

Thank you Nightflower for your fair coverage. Now I cringe waiting for the moralists to come out and lecture us as they always do. After that I assume they go back to their escort duties at whatever night club they hang out at.

Vivienne Daguerre

@ Missy: You refer to the Alphaville Herald as more serious and reputable than New World Notes? It is more akin to a tabloid that would run headlines such as "Ghost of Thanksgiving Turkey Haunts Family."

I knew Artemis Fate. She was pretty much a griefer who enjoyed irritating people. Anything she said about Gor should be taken as more such griefing and attempts to irritate others, and not a fair presentation of what Gorean role play is.

Scylla Rhiadra

The issue with regard to Gorean RP in SL is not "why do women want to do this?" They are free agents; what turns them on is between them and their therapists.

The REAL issue with Gor is what it represents: premised upon an indigestible and out-dated corruption of Nietzsche and Social Darwinism, the original books were written in large measure in reaction to the women's movement of the 60s and 70s -- ironically, the very movement that won for women the right to explore their own sexuality. Were the Gorean ethos applied to RL, that right would be among the first things to be erased.

Gor is D/s for troglodytes: unlike true D/s, which is ungendered, Gor is unrelentingly misogynist, and its philosophy built upon an unbelievably outdated foundation of violence and repression. It lacks any of the controls, such as "Safe, Sane, and Consensual," or RACK, that are in place to ensure safety in BDSM, and, most frighteningly, it has spawned "lifestylers" who are quite willing to apply its comic-book vision of the world to real society.

These women have every right to engage in Gorean role play: I would actually DEFEND their right to do so, even while decrying what it represents.

And we, too, have the right to underline how unremittingly stupid and backward this kind of role play is whenever even so august a news source as New World Notes decides to run a puff piece on it.

Wouldn't it be nice if, one day, NWN featured a piece on, say, the REAL accomplishments of women in Second Life? Or the function and many successes of feminist activism in-world?

But then, of course, the pictures wouldn't be nearly as lurid.

Simeon Beresford

none of those pictures seemed to be of Gorean women.

Dale Innis

I will admit to liking the early Gor books as a teenager, but once he got obsessed with the whole "natural slaves" thing it really went downhill. I RPed a little in Gor when I was newbier, as a traveler from a distant land who'd heard of the glories of Port Kar and journeyed to see what it was all about; it was interesting, but at least with the particular people who were there those weeks, it was also sort of grim and not alot of fun.

I find the whole "what all women truly want" thing wildly annoying. If a particular person finds that it satisfies her, or lets her explore an aspect of herself that she wouldn't be able to otherwise, great. But the sort of condescending "this is what everyone would do if only they were as enlightened as I am" thing, gets my goat. People are different, in all sorts of ways.

And I do worry, with Scylla, that since Gor is based on a particular set of very limiting gender-role assumptions, rather than a more nuanced and self-aware consideration for actual complicated individuals, it won't have the kind of care and caution that anything approaching RL D/s needs to have if it's going to avoid hurting people. And hurting people is bad...

Cheyenne Palisades

There are more real slaves alive today than at any time in human history. I consider it beyond irresponsible to play at human slavery. See for instance http://www99.epinions.com/review/Disposable_People_New_Slavery_in_the_Global_Economy_by_Kevin_Bales/content_216948182660

Hitomi Tiponi

The author of the book Cheyenne quoted defines slavery as "The total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation."

In SL slavery is an entirely consensual relationship - it is more about the experience of devotion and control without the exploitation, or should be. In a way it is a shame that both have the same name.

ZenRascal Mandelbrot

Night, I do praise your effort to tease sensibility out of this complex & highly-charged topic. Your interviews and the way you present them show skill that you can be proud of.

Your blog and NWN post are interesting but they don't alter the view I have of Gor which is essentially negative. The human capacity for creating & inventing rationales seems limitless whether fiction or not, virtual or not. I'm awestruck by so much of our wondrous human potential. Gor, to me, is a black mark on that potential.

Your interviews and articles focus on some submissive women. Except for a few wisecracks about how men like their women "easy" and some references to the womens' "Masters," there's relatively little here about the male role. Kinda leaves me wondering if there's any more to be said.

Again, my compliments on dealing with this tricky & challenging subject.

Silverfox Rainbow

i have never been fond of gor, it actually does scare me a bit, just the idea of 'this is what every woman wants'
i for one do not want to be a part of this, but each to their own, as long as others enjoy it thats fine.


I have 10 or 11 female gorean alts personally. What I love to do is allow some guy to "master" me, and then watch the inevitable meltdown when I reveal I'm actually a middle aged man.


Adeon Writer

Call my old-fashioned, but fantasizing about non-consensual slavery, sex-charged at that, is never healthy in my book.

Adeon Writer

"it actually does scare me a bit, just the idea of 'this is what every woman wants"

You should defiantly ask some feminists what the think of it. I can't speak for them, of course.

Vax Sirnah

Not matter what you feel about Gor, I'm not sure I quite get the hate towards the article itself. It pretty much does what it says: gives three perspectives from actual Gorean women. They have a right to their opinions, and to have a right to have their opinion heard. Just as much as the (pretty valid, IMHO) criticism of Gor.

Honestly, I like to hear all sides. It would be interesting to hear from other sides of this in future NWN posts though - men in Gor, women who used to be Gorean that stopped, 'free women' in Gor, etc.

The 'this is what every woman wants' is a bit silly, however. Sure, some women want it. But some don't. I've met women (and men) of both types. Seems reality has a bias towards diversity.


Jeebus. What utter drivel. 'submissive nature'? 'what women really want?'
So we pop out of the womb genetically predisposed to put out our hands out and invite the literal and metaphorical chains?
This is the cult of bdsm talking, dressed up in gor wear, and both are bullshit of the highest order.

Women can be as susceptible to the dominant cultural messages as men and this is clearly shown to be the case here in the stories of the women - if indeed they are women - highlighted. If we're constantly drip fed ideas about women being objects, about the dominance/submission binary of men/women being sexy, about sex and violence being conflated, about the myths that we're asking for it or like it anyway then some of those messages eventually begin to shape who we are. Now we get the added angle that somehow these acts are transgressive or empowering or feminist choices when actually they are nothing more than the absolute embodiment of hideous stone age misogyny laid bare. Who was it that said men hate women and women hate themselves? We're becoming complicit in our own oppression by adopting the unquestioning but it's my choice mantra.

What's also missing from the equation is that for some of us who have experiences of abuse and trauma, our sexuality and worldview can sometimes be shaped by those experiences. As can our self-esteem where we can often internalise the messages that we deserve to be subject to abusive or violent acts. This stuff is enacted in SL all the time and some would say that the rp is therapeutic. But what is the motivation of the rp dude who has a virtual house full of torture equipment and wants to see you - and gets off on seeing you - on your knees in his thrall? Why aren't we asking why there is such a huge demand from men for images and videos and rp items for the sexualised abuse, violation, enslavement and torture of women?

Agree with most of your points as ever Scylla but I don't think it's true to say that bdsm is not gendered. Gor is just more overtly so. There are offshoots where the subordination of men is fetishized in bdsm but largely it is centred on sexualising the abuses of women. Follow the money. The pornography industry in first life, the plethora of stores and sims in SL drowning in items for sale and images of every type of abuse of women imaginable as masturbatory aids.

Scylla Rhiadra

@Missy - I agree that this article damages the credibility of NWN because it is frankly so unbalanced. The adulatory drivel at the conclusion of the piece, when the writer runs off to find the name of that really "hot" Gorean "studmuffin," verged on sickening. An analytical and critical analysis of Gor this emphatically is NOT.

@Dale - Nice points. I wish I had expressed mine so eloquently.

@Cheyenne - The prevalence of modern human trafficking is entirely germane, as you note: slave RP may be consensual, but it trivializes and desensitizes us to the very REAL tragedy of the women and children being bought and sold in the sex trade in RL NOW.

@Led - Excellent post. Your point about the "reality" of gendered BDSM is well-taken, although there is certainly a profitable and vibrant subculture of male-on-male BDSM. I've recently been exploring the availability of sims, RP, and merchandise devoted to simulations of violence against men in SL. It certainly exists, but it is rarer than materials relating to violence against women by a factor of something like 20 to 1.

To follow up on Adeon's point, I'd very much like to see an article here about the "men" of Gor, explaining why it is that they are so enamoured of a kind of roleplay that unapologetically reifies, degrades, and abuses women. I'd like to hear the justifications. And no, "the women like it" won't cut it: I want to hear why THEY choose to engage in something so inherently violent and hateful.

Rawst Berry

Let's put the words "men" and "women" in quotations as if to imply that males and females that don't live up to MY standards aren't really "men" and "women."

These comments are so filled with idiocy. I agree that Goreans should not try to imply that all women are naturally submissive, but on the flip side, is it THAT hard to believe some women are very submissive or have a fetish for being dominated? Oh, obviously they are all in abusive relationships with manipulating men, or they have low self esteem, or its the media's fault.... You can say that, but you. don't. know. Stop trying to judge others and make assumptions about them because YOU feel uncomfortable with what they do in their private life.

Scylla Rhiadra

Rawst, I agree: let's not judge individuals. I have NO idea, nor can I ever know, why these women enjoy Gor: the reasons for submissive behaviour can be enormously complex, and can relate to cultural attitudes, the after effects of real abuse, and conditioning via the media, to name but a few possible factors. It is dangerous and unfair to leap to judgment about their individual motivations. That's precisely why I have not commented directly on their own contributions.

Judging Gor itself, however, is a rather different matter, and is no different than making judgments about any philosophy, ideology, religion, or political persuasion. And Gor makes its position on things like violence, equality, and misogyny abundantly clear: subtle it is not.

I still want to hear from the men of Gor. What is it about simulating the degradation and abuse of women that you find such a turn on?



Scylla Rhiadra

Thanks Del. Interesting article.

Vivienne Daguerre

There are different ways that people "do Gor." Some are lifestylers, and they buy Norman's philosophy and try to apply it to their real lives. I am horrified by this to be honest. The potential for harm and abuse is huge.

I, like many, are simply role players. We see the books as badly written, pulp science fiction, but which provides enough detailed descriptions of places and culture to make for a complete role play opportunity.

I read the books, so I knew what I was doing in role play, but skipped all the drivel about natural order and such, rolling my eyes and flipping pages to find the action again.

I disagree totally with Norman's writing, and see the potential for harm among the fringe element who takes his "philosophy" to heart.

Those of us who call ourselves are just here for the role play, no worse or no better than other role players--vampires, prostitute/escorts, yiffing furries, erotic dancers.

I have to ask, is there much involved in Second Life that does not involve sex or shooting? Seriously, I would love to hear of it.

Silverfox Rainbow

There is alot that can be done in sl that doesnt really involve sex or shooting, dancing, exploring, hud games and other roleplaying types that are more PG type.
it all comes down to personal taste, but so many tend to only look for the sexual side of things, they never really get to experiance what else SL has to offer.


Vivienne: tons of education and research sims out there. Or at least there were, until LL decided educators were persona non grata.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

"In SL slavery is an entirely consensual relationship - it is more about the experience of devotion and control without the exploitation, or should be."

Oh, try to explain that to anyone funding an educational build.

I don't care what folks do with their avatars, because they are consenting adults (I hope). But Gor is one of the biggest reasons that I'm glad more educators are moving away from SL.

Thanks, Night, for a well written post. I'll have to riff on it with an "Iggy/Dept. Chair" conversation at my blog.

Ajax Manatiso

The first time I saw Goreans, a guy had a woman on a leash and I thought WTF. I have no desire to dominate or enslave anybody and it is just plain odd. Goreans have to admit they are "out there" and as a guy, we always would like to be the "boss" in a relationship, but slavery goes way too far, and down deep guys are usually very much more satisfied with something close to a 50-50 relationship. I will just continue to think of them as "weirdos" far stranger than the vampire thing or even furries.

Scylla Rhiadra

Vivienne, first . . . thanks for your thoughtful posts here. And it is reassuring to know that you aren't buying into either Norman's writing, or his so-called "philosophy." I think you are not alone: a great many people -- to the chagrin of "true" Goreans -- similarly see Gor as a fun RP, and not much else.

Others have responded to your question about what SL has to offer other than sex and violence, so I needn't say much about that other than that I am in SL for neither of these, and yet have no problem finding things to do and see. The art and creativity on display in many builds is alone enough to keep me pretty busy.

I guess, however, I do want to ask one question: given that you *DON'T* buy into the Gorean ethos, why RP Gor, instead of countless other RP sims out there that feature combat, sex, and (as you have noted) even slavery, without the deep-rooted misogyny of Gor? There are plenty of explicitly non-Gorean fantasy and medieval RP places out there, not to mention all of the other themes available to you. Why choose to participate in a game that you admit represents things with which you disagree?

Arcadia Codesmith

Truly strong men, secure in their sense of self, have no time nor interest in weak, passive women any more than strong women have any interest in weak, passive men.

Norman's defense of gender inequity is indefensible as any sort of "natural" order. Evolution pushes towards two fit individuals coming together in the mating process, not one domineering individual and one parasite.

Power exchanges and the surrender of control, with appropriate safeguards, can make for some powerfully erotic roleplay. But to think either gender is "naturally" superior or subordinate is purile pablum.

Not only are gender differences not a determinant of dominance or submission, they haven't been since we became social primates. The winners in such an order aren't necessarily the strongest, they're the most agile, the smartest, and the most empathetic.

Really, people can live their lives as they choose, but if you're looking for a male figure to exert his "natural" authority over you, maybe you ought to postpone seeking an adult relationship until you resolve your daddy issues.

Adeon Writer

To even question if SecondLife has more to offer than sex or combat means you haven't scratched the surface of things available. But yes, you need to look past all the drivel.

I'm personally into virtual competitive sports. If that's an interest I can tell you a lot about it. :)

Scylla Rhiadra

Oh, and I still REALLY want to hear from the Gorean men out there. Let's get the flip side of the coin.

Why do you enjoy RPing the abuse and subjugation of women? What is it about this that attracts you?

This is a serious question. Some of you must be reading this; I think many of us would be interested in the male perspective on this.


A few things. To start, I've read "The Problem of Gor". It's lengthy, deeply researched, uses actual quotes, lists a glossary of terms, and cites sources. To write it off simply by saying "oh the person who wrote it is a griefer" is infantile.

I agree with Scylla's comments to Cheyenne regarding human trafficking. Yes, it's very true, people willingly logging on to play like they're currency to be bought, sold, and traded is not the same as adolescent and pre-adolescent girls the world over being bought, sold, and traded as currency. But when you go to a website such as http://love146.org and read about the origin of their name and the work they do, it's damned hard to see the appeal of willingly wanting to make a pretendy fun-time game of it. For me, personally, it makes about as much sense as wanting to RP Auschwitz, or the Amistad.

I appreciate Night's willingness to try and find an answer to the burning question of "What woman in her right mind would want to do this, and why?" but reading the responses (especially the third one) does little to change my suspicion of emotional damage or self-esteem issues.

Scylla Rhiadra

I guess that at this point, we aren't going to hear from any Gorean men here.

Speaking personally, I find it rather ironic that we have here three female subs/slaves who have had the courage to talk publicly about their feelings and thoughts on a subject which, we can most of us concede, does NOT cast them in a particularly positive light . . . while the Gorean males remain hiding in the bushes.

And yes, Gorean men, your suspicions are well-founded: I, a Free Woman of Earth, *AM* taunting you.


What people are into will be determined by a complex mix of their individual influences, but I think it is possible to make some generalisations:

For men, the attraction of Gorean role-play lies in the counterbalance it provides to the soul-sapping reality of life in capitalist society, a chance for the powerless to feel powerful. One might argue that it's harmless enough, but the idea that the way to compensate for feeling marginalised is to dominate someone else is quite dysfunctional, and in the long run actually disempowering, since it deflects attention from the real solution, which is to change the structure of real-life society.

For women the appeal is somewhat more complicated; it stems from utilising sexualisation as a psychological defence against gender oppression. By incorporating male violence into their own sexual fantasies women can to some extent neutralise it, by paradoxically using their submissiveness to exert control over the sexual encounter. This is a dangerous game though, since there is always the chance of running into someone who is going to take things beyond consensual role-play (a big chance, given the sort of men the scene is likely to attract). There may be no risk of physical violence in a virtual environment, but psychological violence can be damaging too.

Obviously different people will be into the whole Gor thing to different degrees, and I guess for the majority it will just be a harmless diversion, but it is a bit messed up, and they should think about their motivations, what they are getting out of the experience, and whether or not they could meet those needs in a more progressive way.

Arcadian Vanalten

I find that trying to discuss Gor is like discussing religion or politics. You're always gonna find proponents and a few fanatics on BOTH sides of the issue, but seldom will the discussion settle anything. People who like it will continue to meet their needs there, people who dont, won't. Which may be as it should be.

I personally don't find submissive women very interesting, but that's me. I'm a native of the US, and the Southwest at that. Cowgirl culture is big here; try to collar a cowgirl and you'll find yourself missing body parts. But I also think it's a pretty big error to paint all, or even most, adherents of any RP community with one big broad brush.

I did briefly do a limited guest-star kinda role for a friend who does Gor and asked me to play a temp role as her visiting adult son in a storyline they had going, but I can't claim to speak for "Men of Gor." I wasn't a regular cast member and wasn't interested in becoming one as it didn't suit my tastes and I was already up to my eyeballs in stuff elsewhere anyway.

I loathe Norman, whose godawful tripe-scribbling is only slightly less odious than his scholarship, which is downright egregious. He used shamelessly incomplete and misleading cherry-picking of old evolutionary psych concepts, ripped out of proper context and clumsily misapplied (don't get me started on that lecture). I tried to quick-read the books for background source material, but gave up and cheated w/ one of the several online encyclopedias to get the cultural references right instead.

But that's my problem w/ Norman and Gor the Unreadable Literary Product. Gor in SL is not necessarily quite the same thing. Even among the full-time Gorean guys, I noticed a lot of variation (and some inter-party tension) in interpretation, attitude, and adherence to the books. On the whole, they were just people and if anything, tended to be pretty polite in OOC sub-chat, checking w/ the girl to make sure she was OK w/ different possible directions for the scene. There were guys that I thought were kinda jerks, too, but in no greater proportion than I see at the average Infohub or shopping mall.

I doubt Scylla's demand for dialogue from a full-tilt dedicated Gorean man will catch many here for the simple reason that they probably aren't reading this blog at all. The Goreans I met all followed their own blogs and forums, and for many of them, they were logging into Gor first and SL as an incidental avenue to their Gorean home. NWN is a blog dedicated to all the diverse experiences out there in greater SL. Most Gorean men don't much seem to care about that and probably aren't hitting this blog. You'd probably get a much broader response and range of perspectives at the Gor forums than you'll get here.

Scylla Rhiadra

@Johnny - Interesting analysis of motivations and causes. I'm not sure I agree entirely -- but as you yourself say, these are generalizations. The reality is, of course, that anyone brings a very complex mix of motives to the table. One thing I certainly agree with is the danger of psychological damage; this sort of thing can happen easily enough in "vanilla" relationships. The danger is, one imagines, that much more acute when "abuse" is a built-in part of the game.

@Arcadian: Excellent insights, I think. Your point about Gorean men being mostly "just people" and generally polite is well taken ... but still doesn't really address my central question. What do these otherwise "ordinary" and "polite" individuals find in the deeply misogynist culture of Gor that makes it so attractive to them?

You are also right that not many Gorean males -- or Goreans of any stripe, for that matter -- are likely to be reading here. Which may, in fact, be part of the problem: it's also struck me as an unhealthily insular culture. I have "visited" the Gor forums before, but I'll confess to being a bit wary about posting this kind of question there. I have a suspicion it would be a little like wandering into the lions' cage at the zoo, and politely inquiring why they are carnivores ...

Adam Zadeh

Nice article and well written.

I would like to point out however that Gorean men and woman do communicate with each other via IM and OOC. Relationships between Master and slave are morethan "Man rule and women drool"

Like any good relationship their is humor, love, caring and yes good sex. Fights and disagreements do occur. It's just that the Master is right at the end (sometimes).

People come to Gor for a variety of reasons but those only looking for sex, to dominate another or battle don't last.

Merit Coba


I am always a bit late. Would be fun to do a follow up on the people who play masters (someone mentioned it elsewhere.)
I never heard of Gor before I dropped into SL, but then I learned a lot in SL about things I thankfully(in hindsight) didn't know and probably be better of forgetting. Yes, it is me! I belong to the naieve people who like books about little men with furry feet who end a big evil by dropping a ring into a volcano. Or something like that.
Silly me.
From time to time I wander into those places where people happily practice their fetishes: slavery, torture, abuse, rape, killing and cannibalism. And so much of it too. And with mutual consent to: because we wouldn't want to do this to you without your consent wouldn't we? Great. 50.000 people doing Gor? Wow.
An undertermined feeling haunts me. I type in words in the search bar. Fragile? 3 hits. Tenderness? 2 hits. Dignity? 5 hits. Gentle? 17. Rape? More than 100. Abuse? 27 hits.Torture? More than 100. What happened to love and respect? Hight hits, but on a closer look these words have been hijacked and warped into something else, usually the opposite of their meaning. Should I laugh? Should I be angry? Should I cry?
I often wondered why Linden turned a blind eye on these practices. Why is gambling banned but extreme fantasy not? Now I know: the bulk of the online peeps are into it and that is big money for Linden. If they act against it they would commit financial suicide. Oh, is that not a new form of slavery? How ironic.
Now I done it of course. I said something on the internet: cream and bastards rise!

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Home for the Homeless: Creating a virtual mansion despite the most challenging circumstances (2003)

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