How Gorean Subculture Influenced BDSM

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

The world of alternative subcultures and lifestyles is more complex than it seems. Here’s how the controversial book series of Gor made an impact on today’s BDSM.

Gorean Subculture: The Origins of BDSM and Collars?

There were a lot of controversies that followed John Norman’s Gorean book series. These science fiction novels tell us a long story about a man Tarl Cabot and his adventures in a primitive, imaginary world. However, the books also give us an insight into the philosophy, theories, and ideas of the author.

Some people think that John Norman and his work made a significant impact on BDSM we know today. Furthermore, the Gorean saga has its fans and followers who created a whole, independent subculture of their own.

Here’s what makes Gorean concepts and philosophy so fascinating.

The Books of Gor

The Gorean book series takes us to the imaginary world that’s quite similar to the Earth. It has an atmosphere, gravity, water, and everything necessary for the existence of life. Because of that, it’s a home of many different creatures, including human beings.

However, in some aspects, the world of Gor is more advanced than Earth. For instance, its medicine is much more developed. But, when it comes to weaponry, culture, and the ways of living, the world of Gor is primitive and even brutal.

The most savage (and at the same time the most fascinating) aspect of Gorean culture is the institution of slavery. The books give us a lengthy description of this particular piece of cruelty. And there’s a whole philosophy that stands behind it, especially when it comes to female enslavement.

The Gorean Philosophy of Order of Nature

The humans of Gor revere nature. They take great care of their environment and living creatures in their world. Also, they live according to their own nature. That is, Goreans don’t ignore their primal instincts, desires, and needs. On the contrary, they even appreciate the animalistic aspects of being human.

So, Gorean culture is quite supportive of the basic order of nature. It’s mostly about a strong hierarchy system that puts everyone in their rightful and natural place. And wealth and money don’t play a significant role in this system.

In this primitive world, people appreciate both physical strength and intelligence. The city of origin and the caste people belong to matter a lot too. Also, Gorean culture cherishes the distinction between sexes. The society sees men and women in entirely different lights and treats them accordingly.

However, there’s also a huge distinction between free women and female slaves. In books, the author often compares them, and he always comes to the same conclusion — slave women are much happier than those who are free. The reason for that is that an enslaved woman is forced to be what she really is — a woman.

According to Norman’s philosophy, the submissive role is natural for women. So, when a woman is enslaved, she finds herself in a place that’s in harmony with her nature. For that reason, being dominated makes her feel fulfilled and free.

And there’s one more important thing — male domination also awakens female sexuality. The author certainly sees female sexuality as something truly powerful and meaningful. And it is the institution of slavery that allows a woman to reach her full sexual potential. It also allows her to do what she’s meant to do and what she does best — obey, please, and love men.

The Gorean Concept of Slave and Master

So, one of the main topics of the books is female submission and slavery. There are many details surrounding this specific cultural and social aspect of Gor. One of them is the master and slave relationship dynamic, which has an absolute exchange of power at its core.

The main protagonist encounters many women, free or in bondage, during his adventures. Usually, he takes them as his slaves, and they develop a power-exchange relationship. In these parts of the story, the author introduces us to the Gorean concept of master and slave.

In general, men of Gor are hard and strict with their slave girls. They expect them to be fully pleasing and won’t take anything less than that. In case they’re not satisfying, they have the right to sell them, or even kill them without consequences. Moreover, slave girls are expected to perform all sorts of tasks. Other than sexually pleasing their masters, they should know how to cook, clean, dance, as well as talk and move properly.

The Gorean master takes his time to make his captive understand and accept her position. He does this in various ways. For instance, when he whips her, he often adds one more lash to remind her that she’s a slave. Or, he may feed her out of his hand on occasion, to show her that she’s dependent on him even when it comes to food.

Female slaves are simply men’s property — they can’t own anything because they are treated as property. They don’t have any rights. They aren’t even allowed to conceal anything from their masters. In other words, they are supposed to be completely will-less, vulnerable, and helpless.

The Contradictory Position of a Slave Girl in a Gorean Society

Legally, a Gorean slave is a domestic animal. She even has a brand on her thigh that marks her as such. Also, she wears a collar that indicates who her owner is. And female slaves are also very easy and cheap to buy.

So, being regarded as a domestic animal, a female slave is worthless. In some cases, they even perform the tasks reserved for cattle. Also, Gorean masters usually treat them and keep them as pets. They put them in chains, lock them in pens, train them, and beat them for discipline.

Even though men of Gor don’t respect their slave girls, they still cherish, admire, and even love them. They find them extremely exciting and desirable. There’s even a holiday that celebrates female slavery.

While women are seen only as a property of men, Gorean masters want to own only intelligent girls. They find it very pleasing to talk to them and to learn all about their inner lives. Men of Gor aren’t interested only in their slaves’ bodies but also in every aspect of their characters.

So, only the most beautiful and intelligent women get to be slaves. It’s a terror and a privilege at the same time. There’s even a Gorean saying: “Beautiful enough to be collared.” And even though men keep them in chains and under strict discipline, slave girls find their true freedom only in submission.

The Gorean Community and BDSM

There’s no wonder why these sci-fi novels faced severe criticism and even disdain among some groups, such as feminists. Also, John Norman had difficulties publishing his work. He especially had problems with censorship.

But, despite the controversies surrounding the book series, it had and still has its fans. A lot of people found the setting and philosophy of the books to be fascinating. So, they created a whole new subculture based on the Gorean world.

Some of the followers are called “literalists” or “lifestylers.” These people brought some aspects of Gorean culture into their everyday lives. In some cases, they even celebrate Gorean holidays or measure the time by the Gorean parameters.

However, “lifestylers” sometimes had issues with incorporating female slavery into their lives. In the real world, leading a naked woman on a leash in public isn’t precisely socially acceptable. There were even some cases of people who live a Gorean lifestyle having trouble with the law.

But not all of them adopted the Gorean concepts and ideas. Some people just enjoy BDSM role-playing. And luckily, the internet is a perfect place for that. It all started in the 1990s in online chat rooms, and later it spread over various websites. Today, you can find a whole virtual Gorean community on the internet.

Relation to BDSM

Gorean lifestylers are not a part of the traditional BDSM community. Many regard them as an independent group, more like a sex cult. And they are most interested in the master and slave dynamic, not BDSM as a type of sexual play.

But, the Gorean subculture made an impact on modern BDSM, and many enjoy real-life Gorean role-playing. Also, some details of the book series found their way to the world of BDSM.

For example, the books describe various slave positions that are common in today’s BDSM practices. One of the most popular is the pleasure slave position in which a woman kneels with her legs spread, her arms placed on her tights, and her palms turned up.

One more thing that’s common in modern BDSM and that is related to the books of Gor is the use of collars. The Gorean slaves always wear a collar that has more than one purpose. First, it’s useful for putting a leash on; second, it makes a woman more beautiful; and third, it marks a slave as a piece of property.

For the same reasons, people who practice BDSM often use collars. It has a symbolic meaning and significance. Both submissives and dominants enjoy using collar during their play. And performing collaring ceremonies is something that became quite common in BDSM.

And one more thing — in 1974, John Norman also wrote a non-fictional book called “Imaginative sex.” It describes not Gorean BDSM sexual scenarios per se but regular, everyday BDSM play. The author offers advice on how to practice BDSM safely. He doesn’t encourage readers to adopt his ideas, but rather to explore their fantasies and the mental aspect of sexual experience. So, Norman’s work, even though often rejected and despised, made quite an impact on various alternative subcultures and lifestyles.


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