Gor – Science Fiction turns into kinky subculture

Dear kinkster. I have been thinking long and hard about how to do this blogpost. If you have looked at a few other posts, you might have noticed that I choose to not so much review as recommend. Specifically those cultural things that are central to a wide range of kinks within the kink communities as well as quite good (in my opinion, that is). And that’s where the problem lies with the Gor series.

This book series is certainly central to the kink communities: it sparked an entire sub-subculture! The Gorean slave models are based after the ideas presented in these books. Therefore I really, Really, REALLY wanted to like them! I was excited to purchase the first book in this extensive (34 volume) Science Fiction series. And completely expected to be blown away with erotic Master/slave relationships. However, main character Tarl Cabot sets free the two female slaves he comes to own by chance. Not a lot of kinkiness going on in this one. So I did the only thing one can do, and googled in what book the kinkiness starts. As it turns out, that is the sixth book in this series. So, I persisted. And I purchased the sixth book.

The Story of Gor

One day, while out camping and contemplating his rather uneventful life here on Earth, Tarl Cabot receives a self-destructing letter from his estranged father. Shortly thereafter, he is transported to Gor, a different planet where indeed, he meets his father for the first time. With Tarl, we learn many things about this new planet. Along with knowledge, he is also taught skills, and appears to miraculously excel at all of them. No swordsman, bowman, Tarnsman (those who ride giant birds called Tarns), no matter how young they were when they first started training, comes even close to his level of skill. Which of course, makes for a pretty great start of any adventure story. Throughout the series, Tarl learns more and more about the politics and workings of Gor. With it, he increases his power to influence events and make history.

In the first book, Tarnsman of Gor, this already leads him to replace two monarchs and quickly dissolve a potentially devastating war. The premise of these novels is great. And it has all the makings of a great story: bratty princesses, cruel religious leaders and magnificent friendly beasts. I you like scifi and adventure, you could do worse than to pick up this book.

Raiders of Gor

Raiders of Gor

Raiders presents another type of adventure story: pirates! Tarl is on a mission to what is basically the pirate capital, when he is captured. His captors give him a choice between certain death and enslavement, and to everyone’s ridicule he chooses the latter. As he is of the cast of warriors, he made the dishonorable decision and suffers from this choice and the resulting self-hatred for most of the book.

Whereas he was basically against slavery in the previous books, he now chooses to just fuck it all and go full-on evil. However, even in his evil state he keeps setting free the slaves he encounters. Well, all except the pleasure slaves.

As Tarl Cabot has a talent for everything, after his escape from slavery he turns into a powerful pirate. Indeed, he changes the character of his city, sets it up so that the political, financial and legal systems get changed and engineers a war with two neighboring city-states. Meanwhile, he increases his wealth both in monetary value and in the amount of female slaves he owns.

Critical Spankings (I have a few…)

I have read many a kinky book or watched a kinky tv show or movie that I did not recommend on this blog. But with this one, I really tried. I wanted to find a way to write a positive recommendation. However, beyond the significance for the Gorean subculture, I have not much good to say about the novels themselves.

Let me be clear here, in no way is this critical review a critique of either people’s kinks; worldviews; or differing opinions. But, as someone who has read a lot of SF/F and erotica in their life, I can honestly say that I think this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read in either genre (save for maybe Fifty Shades). Though it didn’t get to me that much in the first book, the author’s style hinders any thing he might try to do. He is extremely repetitive, places commas after every four words, and does not allow the narrative to flow.

I mean, I understand that there is a different measuring system on your fictional planet. But if the difference between the weight measurements on Earth (by the way, you do realize there’s different measuring systems on earth and not everyone uses the ounce?) and the weight on Gor, spanning two pages in order to account for the ways different forms of ships are categorized, are not going to be relevant to the story, please just let me find out what happens next?

As for the kinkiness on Gor…

As for the kink: much sexiness in erotica comes from the reader’s identification with the characters. But in order to do that you need to give your characters a little depth. At no point in the story did I start to remotely care about any of the characters. And that says a lot. Their emotions are completely flat, except when they “cry out” in horror/freight/desperation/happiness… Yes, apparently crying out is the only acceptable way to feel things on Gor. All female characters are called “beautiful” (I am serious, someone should count the times the words “she was beautiful” appear in the sixth novel) and are only described in terms of height, build and the color of the eyes and hair. No specificities, nothing that would make them unique. Much the same is true for the descriptions of men, though interestingly, they are never called beautiful.

And you know what, I could forgive all that if what we got in exchange were some meaningful Master-slave relationships. Or at least some steamy scenes. As for the latter, the author skips over every single main event in the novel. Whether they are sexual (things usually end when the woman is kneeling, has her hands on the man’s thighs and asks whether she may serve) or military (really, all those wars and no actual fight scenes?). The former, though, are at some points absolutely disturbing.

Gorean slavery

The philosophy of Master-slave relationships that is continuously reiterated, is that every woman wants to be treated as a slave. And no, this is not just suggested. The claim is literally made that EVERY woman (not just on Gor, but in general) wants to be treated as a slave. When a highborn woman, 15 years of age and recently promised to an oversized rival Ubar (ruler), is treated without respect and called a whore, she will get aroused.

And when a strong, independent woman is in love, she will be willing to spend a year as a lowly and much abused kitchen slave in order to wait for him to love her too. One interesting element is that no pleasure slave is forced: she always needs to submit herself. However, it is suggested that if she does not do so immediately, you can always abuse her into submission.

Many stories online object to the Gorean novels, because of the Master-slave relationships. And honestly, that is exactly why I expected to love them. I appreciate a good Master-slave story. And I love well-executed kinky scenes. Throw in some adventure and a fictional world, and it’s pretty hard to lose me. And really, every single pleasure slave choose her life. However. Every pairing is heterosexual. The one male pleasure slave that we encounter almost gets destroyed by the humiliation of the experience. Though he does feel incredibly attracted to his Mistress, that only makes things worse. And all women would gladly die and lose their lives in service of their Masters. Every single pleasure slave loves their Master. And they are all “beautiful.”

Final attempt at redemption

Again, this is not a judgment of the subculture. The thing the Gorean communities have mostly adopted are the rituals and gestures from the books. Not so much the awful narrating style. And I can think of at least one thing that did impress me in the sixth novel and I would love to see performed: the Dance of the Six Thongs.

In this dance, a pleasure slave has six ropes attached to her: two to her slave bracelets, two to her ankle cuffs and two to her waist. Every piece of rope is held by a man. They allow her to move freely, until at some point, they tighten the rope and restrict her movement for an instant. After, they release the rope again and let her continue her movement. Though this dance only occurs once in the book, and is described for maybe half a page, this idea really left an impression. It would make for a beautiful performance piece. If more of these tiny gems are littered across the books, I could see why someone would try to find them and use them as inspiration for their D/s dynamic. However, I have decided to give up.

I can see a few reasons why people would read this novels. However, do not expect vivid characters or a well-constructed narrative. Read it for the subculture it inspired and maybe for the rather impressive imagination of the author.

And if you try: good luck!

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