‘… of Gor’, like ‘in my pants’, is one of those delightful suffixes you can add to any phrase for giggles and fun. ‘Cyclops can never take off his visor… of Gor!’ ‘Superboy Prime broke the continuity… of Gor!’ ‘I’m the goddamn Batman… of Gor!’
‘… of Gor.’ As a pastime, it provides minutes of wholesome delight!
As a puerile fantasy novel series that promotes rigid gender roles, idealises the emotional and sexual slavery of women, and demonises women who assert control over their own sexuality, it’s much less entertaining.
The Gor series, by John Norman, dropped off the reprint lists some years back. Being anti-censorship, I was much enheartened by the natural demise of this despicable work.
Now comics publisher Dark Horse is reprinting them in omnibus form, possibly because they have seen the pot of gold at the foot of the misogyny rainbow, or possibly because our culture just isn’t replete enough with fictional examples of women who really honestly! want to be raped.
Fantasy and comics writer Tamora Pierce ably summarises the series’s repugnant ideology on her journal:
Briefly, [hero] Tarl Cabot travels from our world to its opposite, circling the Sun just across from us, so we never know it’s there! Gor is a fantasy world, where men wear leather harnesses and carry swords, and women wear flimsy outfits. Most women also wear steel collars and steel bracelets, because they are slaves.
You heard me.
Every bed has a slave ring attached to it. If a woman misbehaves, she gets locked to it and spends the night sleeping on the hard stone floor to teach her manners. (Gorean nights are cold, too.) Not all women are slavesthere are Free Companions, free in that they don’t have to wear collars. That status is flexible:
’ … when she has been irritable or otherwise troublesome, even a Free Companion may find herself looking forward to a pleasant night on the stones, stripped, with neither a mat nor a blanket, chained to a slave ring precisely as though she were a lowly slave girl. … A taste of the slave ring is thought to be occasionally beneficial to all women.’ Why do the men do this? ‘It is the Gorean way of reminding her … that she, too, is a woman, and thus to be dominated, to be subject to men.’
(For the curious and strong of stomach, Bellatrys has a plentiful selection of extracts with commentary collected here.)
Some people adore these Gorean ideals of female bondage and male supremacy so much that they try to live them. Oddly, the Gorean community has been plagued with a reputation as cult-like and abusive! Who’da fucking thunk.
However, the allegations of book-inspired abuses, distressing as they are, aren’t so much my concern. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if all Goreans were totally innocent of these accusations, making the adult, fully informed decision to live out repulsive misogyny by choice. Mildly surprised, yes. But I’d still object to the books.
The books are vile. (Also, poorly written and didactic. But mostly, just plain sick-making.) Our hero is meant to be a gentler being than the native Goreans, with a truly touching concern for the rights of women. He thinks they should be better treated! And maybe not branded and enslaved if they really don’t want to be, although sometimes they do secretly want to be enslaved, or they don’t but they’d like it if they just tried, so how can you tell*?
An extract from Outlaw of Gor (the second Gor novel, and thus the middle chunk of the forthcoming omnibus) provides the musings of this noble-minded saviour on Tharna, a city where women (atypically) rule:
[I]n Tharna both the men and the women came eventually to believe the myths or the distortions advantageous to female dominance. …
Yet this situation, socially viable though it might be for generations, is not one truly productive of human happiness. … In a city such as Tharna the men, taught to regard themselves as beasts, as inferior beings, seldom develop the full respect for themselves essential to true manhood. But even more strangely the women of Tharna do not seem content under the gynocracy. Although they despise men and congratulate themselves on their more lofty status it seems to me that they, too, fail to respect themselves. Hating their men they hate themselves.
I have wondered sometimes if a man to be a man must not master a woman and if a woman to be a woman must not know herself mastered. I have wondered how long nature’s laws, if laws they are, can be subverted in Tharna. I have sensed how a man in Tharna longs to take the mask from a woman, and I have suspected how much a woman longs for her mask to be taken.
Indeed, the female ruler of the city secretly dreams of a strong virile man just like our protagonist raping her into happiness.
And how is Dark Horse promoting this anti-feminist claptrap?
Part science fiction, part adventure novel, the stories in the world of Gor would unfold to show Tarl Cabot’s growth from a novice to a man whose fate might determine the course of every man, woman, and child on Gor.
John Norman’s Gor Omnibus 1 collects the first three novels in the series. Prepare to take a journey to a land of passion and sorcery.
Hear that, kids? Passion and sorcery! Not slavery, rape and abuse at all! These are perfectly lovely sci-fi adventure novels with swords and stuff.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain… of Gor.
- In case you thought I was joking about the branding from Tarnsman of Gor, the first in the series:
I have known of several cases in which a proud, insolent woman, even one of great intelligence, who resisted a master to the very touch of the iron, once branded became instantly a passionate and obedient Pleasure Slave.
Even mouthy smart bitches really honestly! want to be raped.