This article has been wandering in my mind for quite some days now, since I’ve been taking recently a lightly interest in so called Gorean role play in second life. I am now over two years in Second Life, but never really paid any attention to it until now, so this is how the state of affairs is so far to me. So, without further preliminary, let’s get started where the meat is.
Why did I take an interest in Gor at all?
There are several reasons about it: first I was curious. Some friends of mine have been playing it actively for quite a while or started playing it in their Second Life some time, and most of them still do. Gor is by far the most popular kind of role play in Second Life. You just have to take a look at either the classifieds in SL only or take a look at a good running SL web forum, which has a section about role play. Expect by far the most questions there are about Gor normally. So Gor is a part of Second Life for many, which cannot denied and it is also quite popular. Then, on the other hand, Gorean role play has not the best image at all. In fact, most people consider it in reality some of the worst kind of role play available in Second Life (I guess, ranking slightly about child play), there are many common images and also prejudices around, like that in Gor all women are only slaves (kajiraes in their own language), needing to serve men at their whim and so on and on. Many consider it a nightmare for feminists, while other women are claiming that only through playing Gor they reached a level of satisfaction, which they would be unable to reach otherwise. Either way, the image the public has about Gor in mind is quite contradictionary, and if you talk with people who play Gor, most are quite fond of the role play and enjoy playing it great lengths. So, after all this time, I finally decided to investigate further and get a grip of the concept — or better underlying concepts of Gor — as a whole to be able at least to make my own opinion about the whole issue.
Where did Gor originally came from?
Gor is the fictional name of a series of fantasy novels by an American author named John Norman. It consists until today of 26 volumes, each running about different kind of matters. The first novel about Gor was released back then in 1966, the last novel so far of the cycle was released about in 2005 with the next one already in writing right now. John Norman is a pseudonym by the way, the real name of the author is John Frederick Lange jr., and he was born back then in 1931 in Chicago. He was a philosophy teacher at an University in the USA and when he published the first novel, he feared that it might harm his job, so he used a pseudonym which is running until today.
If you want to take a look at a list of all released novels so far, please take a look at the accompaniying article in the Wikipedia, thank you.
What’s the main idea behind the novels?
The borderline is that about 2 million years ago a race of space faring insectoids, referring to themselves as the priest kings, have established a kind of second earth on the same track as Earth. But they managed to put this world to be always on the contrary side of the track of Earth around the sun, so that the inhabitants of Earth are unable so tee it at all, because it’s always hiding on the other side of the sun (and probably also using technical devices to hide it further). Ok, hiding might be possible that way if you got the technic to move such an asteroid, but you still cannot beat gravity with it, if there would be really such a thing in real life, the track of Earth around the Sun would be quite different. But, on with the story.
Those aliens are running more or less the whole game behind the scenes. Most inhabtitants of the Counter Earth, they named their world Gor, don’t even know about them at all. They only know that there are the so called Priest Kings, but who they are remains mysterious for all of them their whole lifes and doesn’t really matter to them, either.
The aliens started for their own reasons to capture people from planet Earth, which is called Urth in the novels, to their own planet and settled them in different places. Those people formed a somewhat medieval kind of society, which has quite some very important differences to the society on Earth. More about that later.
They not only captured people from Earth, but still do, mostly females it seems, but also males, using starships. Those people coming from Earth are first getting some crash course into the Gorean lifestyle and then need to adapt to their new roles and life their lives. The first novel actually is about an Earth male named Tarl Cabot, which is captured from Earth somewhere in the 1960s, and can be seen as a good introduction to the main aspects of the Gorean culture. Of course, being an alien world in the solar system, there are great cultural differences, and other animals and plants there like on Earth. But be warned, the novels are not really high literature. Common sense is that the first one or two volumes can be read somewhat nicely, but after this the quality of the novels runs down the hills quite fast and you should only read it if you really want to, because you’re interested into it.
It is today quite easy to get a grisp of the whole series of novels, in some countries not all very freely available all the times because of the very detailed sexual depiction in some of the novels, there’s also much violence in it like crippling slaves, rape, execution of slaves and so on.
So, what does Gor mean actually?
Gor does mean quite many things, namely:
- It’s the name the inhabitants gave the counter earth,
- it’s also the native word for the so called home stone, one of the three fundamental pillars of Gorean culture,
- it also can be used as referral to the culture on this planet and
- some use it in Second Life as label for their kind of role play.
In the context of Second Life Gor referrs normally to a certain kind of role play, which is more or less based on the fictional Gorean culture being depicted in Norman’s novels. Of course you are not able, due to technical limitations of Second Life and other things to really play it to the fullest according to the novels, but some still try.
Who is playing Gor mainly in Second Life?
There are in my humble opinion there are three main archetypes of players groups in Second Life which are playing Gor, namely:
- Hardcore role players, which also often referr to themselves as life stylers. This is the kind of people which is not only reading Gor, but preaching it, and the most extreme of them take it up to the level of seriousness of a religion. You know them if you see them, they are often putting into their profiles stuff like “Living gorean life style since 1996 and proud of it”, and most don’t mean Second Life alone with that. They’ve read every novel at least three times, they know every aspect of Gorean culture or at least think so, often mourn about the — at least in their opinion — way too cuddly Gorean sims in SL, which they like to call Disney-Gor. Those people are frequently discussing the means of real Gor, what real Gor is and what not.
Typical stuff they just are able to laugh about is, for example, female fighters on Gorean sims. John Norman himself said that there are no female fighters on Gor, whatsoever, so god has spoken himself, so be it. Other stuff, about which they are able to mourn, is for example, Gorean women wearing high heels in the desert, which I do understand, but also the role play limits of various people. Most are of the opinion that Gor is a men’s world, where man are dominant and women are not, and if kajira (the Gorean word for a female slave) has e.g. as role play limits stuff like “no crippling, no forced sex or rape, no cutting of hair, only to be punished by her master” they find this somewhat ridiculous since in the books every free man is allowed to punish a kajira is he wants to, and only needs to pay a somewhat moderate compensation to her owner, if she’s permanently damaged and also only then, if her master is able to track you down.
- Normal role players and curious people. This is a more moderate group in my opinion. They are playing Gor, too, but have a quite more relaxed stance on it, they just want to play it to have fun, like any other role play is there for, too. For them, the Gorean culture depicted in the novels, is the ground they play on, but they don’t take it up to religous levels, and are also quite tolerant to role play, that’s not being really depicted in the books, but could still happen. Keep in mind, that Gor is a whole culture and own world, so the things depicted in the books are merely the surface and a small glimpse of what’s going on in this own world. For example, most of them would tolerate female fighters and other stuff, they see Gor mainly as a kind of role play with benefits and shortcomings, they want to have fun playing it, but don’t want to be too fanatic about it.
- People coming out of the BDSM scene or which just think they have an easy lay there. Though most Gorean role players don’t like to hear this and would surely deny it and criticize someone telling this, calling it a prejudice, this is something that cannot be denied really in my humble opinion. The Gorean lifestyle has quite many elements in common with BDSM (though some important things for BDSM like “Safe, Sane, Consensual” are missing in Gor completely, so for people who practice BDSM seriously Gor is considered to be quite a no-go), and of course this draws this type of people into Gor. Again, in my opinion, this is by far the biggest group populating Gor in Second Life, but your mileage may very, of course. I guess it also depends on which sims you are visiting and which not. Fact is, that in the Gorean novels on 40–50 women comes one kajira. Just walk around on a Gorean sim in Second Life and you will see that kajiraes seem to be everywhere while free women are somewhat less common.
Of course, there can be also many other different forms besides those archetypes, and, also mixing forms. This is just my opinion so far I build upon my own observations, nothing more, nothing less, take it or leave it.
Some important basics about the Gorean culture
Talking about Gorean role play would not be whole without describing some of the fundamentals of this role play, because it’s the foundation of it which you should know before you start playing there at all, otherwise you’ll be looked at like a Martian on planet Earth if you start up playing there with no knowledge at all, wandering around with all your nicely bling bling, high heels and such.
Keep always in mind, that Gor is a men’s world. Men are ruling this world, the female are only playing a neglecting role on this. Also keep in mind, that it’s an alien world playing in a mostly medieval setup. While the people there are humans captured from Earth and mostly their descendants, it is a culture on its own right, there is beauty in it, but also quite some dark stuff. Whichever appeals to you is your own choice.
Gorean culture is based upon those three fundamental pillars:
- the home stone (one of the meanings of Gor),
- the caste system and
- the natural order.
So this leave us some questions, first of course: what’s the home stone? According to the books in former times, each hut was built originally aorund a flat stone which was placed in the center of a circular dwelling, was carved with the family sign and called Home Stone. It was a symbol of sovereignty, or territory, and in his hut each peasant was a sovereign. Later, they were used for villages and cities after that. In a village, the home stone is places on the market, in a city on top of the highest tower. They can be of different size, colors and shapes, stealing the home stone of a city is one of the biggest crimes at all on Gor. To cite the book “Tarnsman of Gor”: “Where a man sets his Home Stone, he claims, by law, that land for himself. Good land is protected only by the swords of the strongest owners in the vicinity.”
This leads us to the next pillar, the caste system. There are five high castes, namely the Caste of Initiates, which are represantatives of the priest kings, the color of them is white. Then the Caste the caste of Scribes, which are the scholars, writers and historians, their color is blue. Third caste are the builders, their color is yellow, after that comes the caste of Physicians, color is green and last high caste are the Warriors, their color is red. Some castes also have subcastes, but this would also lead too far for an introductionary right now.
Aside the high castes there are many different, lower castes, all with their own colors, which are too many to list up here. Though it’s not required for caste members to wear their colors in everyday life, most do it, because they are proud of it, either wearing clothes only consisting of the caste color at all or where the color of the caste is dominant.
All Goreans belong to a caste, the only exemptions are the Priest-Kings and outlaws. Castes are hereditary, but you are able to change it if you possess an ability or aptitude that allows you to raise or lower your stand.
This gets us to the last pillar, the natural order. Part of what Norman means with that, is that males have a predisposition to be more dominant while women have a predisposition to be submissive. He thinks, that starting with the changes brought on by the industrialization, that this has caused a confusion among modern people, especially in their inter-personal relationships.
A few words upon slavery
Also, please note, that slavery is quite common in Gor. Most slaves are female, one female slave is called kajira, plural of it is kajira. There are also male slaves on Gor, but they are less common, mainly for economic reasons and normally they are not really worth anything at all. They are called kajirus for one slave or kajirii for many slaves.
Most just think that being a kajira mean just to be cherished, have sex a lots and get outfitted a lot. That’s untrue. First, there are quite many uses for kajiraes, and not all include having sex at all, also many different outfits and such. Also, of course, they need to talk and act different to free women. A slave is something that’s a thing. It doesn’t even have a name if her master decides against it. It’s something that’s there to be used as seen fitted, that can be punished in many forms, starting from mild violence up to crippling or cutting of body pieces to death, without fearing any consequences at all. Every free man is allowed, according to the books, to punish any slave seen as fit, and if he damages it, he only needs to pay small compensation to the master, and also only then, if the master is able to find the free man. Many slaves in Second Life, though, state that they should be only be punished by their masters. This is something that the lifestylers cannot agree on, and in fact, many won’t honor at all.
In the books there comes a kajira on every 40–50 free women. In Second Life there are much more around.
Is Gor right for me?
Well, this is a question everyone should answer for him– or herself. Keep in mind, that Gor is quite a complex world of role play, and it takes quite some time to get started, and it can also be quite time consuming. You’ll often hear that Gor is a men’s world, and yes, it is, and is can be quite brute on occassion.
Some people are making alts just for playing at Gorean sims at all, often neglecting in the process quite often their friendships they made with other avatars because it can be quite time consuming if you take it seriously enough. There are quite some reasons for playing Gor with an alt that no one or only few selected know, the main ones are those:
- they don’t want their friends to know that they play Gor at all, because they know about the bad reputation it has in the general public, and just want to play in peace and quiet and don’t want to defend themselves frequently for playing it,
- they don’t want to have 20 windows with IMs happening right then when a nice role play is happening. Gorean roleplay happens in open chat, and having many conversations happening at the same time in IMs can be quite distracting and can destroy the role play.
- mainly they want to keep it separate from their other characters.
Others again are using one and the same character for playing in Gorean sims. Whichever you choose, this of course your decision.
How to make up my mind up or: How to get started in Gor?
Well, first of all, it cannot hurt if you know already someone well versed in that kind of role play, who can tell you a little about it so you can already get to know it a little bit better out of his or her tellings. Having a mentor like that can be a valuable asset.
Second, don’t start there without doing some basic research before, meaning getting to know the underlying basic principles of Gor and how to behave their. This should be your main task, reading, reading, reading and building yourself a nice fundament of knowledge upon which you can act. Do it first before starting observing, otherwise you will not be able to understand much of the role play there, trust me. Common opinion is, that you should read the first novel of the Gor cycle if you got the time, since this is basically about how the captured Earth man Tarl Cabot settles down on Gor, so all main principiles are being explained there, beside it’s quite a short novel. Also if you ask people in Second Life, many are able to provide you with further links or note cards with infos written down on them. Also get a grasp of the basic food there, animals and basic language like the word “Tal” and such to be able to follow open conversation.
Third, many sims are observer friendly. The state of an observer is somewhat that of a ghost, meaning you are wearing a tag depicting you as “OOC entity” (OOC means Out of character) or “observer”. You are free to wander around there, but an observer is not part of the role play. It is normally forbidden to interact with him in terms of role play. This means, just do first that — observe — and stay out of the way of the people, seek open places, but don’t invade their homes. Roleplay always takes place by actions and in open chat. Many sims require you later to wear some kind of meter, when you start playing a role. Don’t go to empty sims. Go to populated sims, where many people hang around, to get a basic grasp about how it’s working there. For example, the sim of Port Kar would be a good start for Americans and the sim of Aretai for Germans, German spoking only there.
When you enter a Gorean sim, you normally are landing either on a sky platform with some stuff or a safe zone, like a tent, which is normally considered OOC. In most sims you are able to get the rules, there, also the meter the sim uses and perhaps some clothings. Don’t worry about harm, after all all normal SL technical stuff applies to your avatar there, too, those sims are technically not different of others.
Being an observer, it’s normally tolerated to say something little OOC in open chat, normally marking it with ((text I speak)), but it’s better to use instant messages to ask the people directly and for longer conversations, since otherwise it would be disruptive for their role play. Honor that. If they are not unfriendly, most of them are going to tell them quite much about them.
Do that for a while, observe and wander around, to make yourself a picture then and to get to know some people, this gives you a real good idea already, what Gor could be for you or not and if you like it or not at all. Also try to find the rules of the sim. Each sim has it’s own rule set, based more or less loosely on Gor. Some allow for example female warriors, other’s don’t, some allow forced capture and rape, other’s not. This is very important, because those are the boundaries you are going to play within later!
Keep in mind, as nice as the inhabitants of a sim are to you while talking with you as an observer, that this is strictly happening OOC (out of character). Getting to know them in character can be quite a different kind of matter with some unpleasant surprises if you haven’t read the rules before!
If you later want to apply for the citizenship of a city, you normally need to made your mind up on the role you want to play (most cities have way too many kajiraes and warriors, by the way, so playing another kind of role is for sure quite welcome), you normally need to be able to name two inhabitants of the city as warrantors for your application. Also better make up a little story about your character, meaning where
it comes from and so on, it is better this way. And, if you want to
play a kajira, don’t come directly from Urth and that’s it, many seem
to tend to do that and this gets kinda standard and boring. If your application is approved, it’s done, then you can really start playing in a Gorean sim which you can officially call your home then. Of course, aside that there are also other ways of playing in Gor, which can happen almost instantly.
But Gor is still bad, isn’t it?
Well, Gor is like a knife. You can use a knife to slice bread or to kill someone. Gor itself is not really bad on its own, it’s just a different culture (though some dearly argue the right of Gor being called an own culture). If it’s bad or not, depends on you and your comrades, it’s what you make out of it, just with every other kind of role play. So this is a common place.
Of course, since Gor has quite many brute elements in it and also stuff, which is highly illegal in RL if practiced, it’s never going to loose it’s bad reputation in the general public at all. But then again, there are so many ego shooters around with the main target to kill other people, which is also highly illegal in real life, so it’s all made up in your mind, of course.
One word, though: you should have a stable mindset in my opinion if you start playing some of the aspects of Gor which deal with slavery, and always don’t forget: it’s all about having fun, it’s a role playing game and not some type of religion, though some celebrate it like such. Whether you like it or not depends on you.
Also keep in mind, that good role play is always consensual, no matter what some die hard role players are telling you. If they want to rape you, and this is one of your limits stated explicitly, don’t give a care about what they want and tell — just go instantly and leave them alone, and don’t give a shit about their complaints later on.
Some don’t like it at the surface, first, but start to like or even love it one they get deeper in the matter. Other’s aren’t going to like it their whole life, some again like it from the start. All those opinions are ok.
Of course I still don’t know yet many things about Gor, therefore some stuff here might be seen otherwise by some people, or not. Keep in mind, that I merely scratched the surface with this article, so far, Gorean roleplay is quite more complex than what I stated in this article, I merely gave you an introductional glimpse about what it is all about and, of course, also not. For example, I didn’t cover the topic of weapons and fights in it, yet, although this also is a very important chapter of Gor. I am no expert and don’t want to pretend to be one, I am just stating my expressions and experiences until now, so it might happen in the future that some of my stances are going to change.