Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gorean Girls

Gorean girls are easy to spot.  I’ve often come across one of them while out shopping: an invariably buxom lass, her peaks and valleys barely concealed under wispy silks, kneeling meekly beside a mountain of a man sporting more pointy metal objects than a silverware drawer.  I’ve also learned to spot them by their profile, quick to let me know that they are owned and collared, and that If I have any problem with them I’m to take it up with their master.  With first impressions like these, I must admit wondering whether all Gorean girls were actually men, because surely no woman in their right mind would live like that!

But to turn my back on Gor is to turn my back on one of the largest and most vibrant communities in all of Second Life.  What's more, I had a suspicion that the relationships born of this rigid roleplay structure would likely defy all stereotypes, and prove to be deep, rich, and utterly fascinating.  So, wrapped in silks and on my knees, I spent two weeks alongside sisters in slavery, trying to understand the appeal of the Gorean lifestyle.  

The result of these interviews is up now on my NightMoves column on New World Notes.  However, it was impossible to share everything I learned from them in a single post.  So here on my personal blog, I offer up three conversations I had with these remarkable women.  

Here they are, The Gorean Girls!  Read on, and get the story in their own words.

Marryanne Avro

Sneaking across my first Gorean sim, I saw Marryanne kneeling in a cell with another slave girl.  Despite a RL profile pic that looked like it belonged on the teen grid, she assured me that she was a 26-year-old college student who had been active in SL Gor for five years.  

NIGHTFLOWER: I’m sure you know that a lot of people don't understand what appears to be a very regressive, derogatory view of women…

MARRYANNE: Yes, I am very aware.

NIGHTFLOWER: In response to that...what does it mean to you?

MARRYANNE: Well everybody is different... but for me personally, I am just submissive in nature.  I come from a very strict family in real life, and how you care was always shown as how well you followed the rules.  So it seemed like a natural progression...I originally stumbled upon gor because I have always been interested in learning about different cultures and, though fictional, I found gor to be interesting.

NIGHTFLOWER: Did you know about it before SL?  From the novels?

MARRYANNE: No, I stumbled upon a gorean sim.

NIGHTFLOWER: Wow...what was that like?  Were you shocked, or surprised?

MARRYANNE: Intrigued and a bit overwhelmed. There is a ton of information out there and a lot to learn.  A person has to be willing to really take the time to sit down and read through to really get a grasp of it.

NIGHTFLOWER: Have you actually fallen in love within a gor relationship?

MARRYANNE: I wouldn't say that per say.  I would say I have fallen in love with the world itself ,and my place in it.  Though it is possible for that to happen, I can't say that it has happened for me yet.

NIGHTFLOWER: Since im not using your RL you mind telling me how old you are, and anything about your RL that you think pertains to your attraction to Gor?

MARRYANNE: I am 26 in RL and my attraction to Gor comes from being brought up in a strict family... I wrote a bit about that in a previous message.

NIGHTFLOWER: So in RL relationships...Do you consider yourself submissive?

MARRYANNE: Oh yes I do, being submissive in here actually helped me discover that.

NIGHTFLOWER: So your experiences in Gor have actually influenced your RL relationships?

MARRYANNE: Yes, though none of them have been fellow Goreans, they have all for the most part been dominant in nature.

NIGHTFLOWER: A lot of people who are ignorant - like me! - may think that dominant = abusive.  What’s the difference, or is there one?

MARRYANNE: Dominant def does not mean abusive, though some men may think it gives them license to be that way.  For the most part, if you take the time to feel them out, so to speak, they are actually very kind and caring individuals.  They are just strong willed and have high expectations.  Believe me I have met a few like that, and I have quickly said my goodbyes because they are thinking of the place in a very wrong light.  Think of it this way.  When you were a kid and you did what you were told by your parents, like get good grades in school, didn't you enjoy the feeling there admiration gave you?

NIGHTFLOWER: well, yes :)

MARRYANNE: Its along similar lines of that.  Just because they have expectations, and its within a relationship and not a family, does not make them all bad people. I hope I am saying this right!

NIGHTFLOWER: Yeah...I think that makes sense…

MARRYANNE: I can see how people get the abusive connotation, though it really takes good observation to see past the role play to the heart of it.  Gor has helped you recognize this desire… to please a strong-willed partner
NIGHTFLOWER: and you have brought that into your RL relationships?


NIGHTFLOWER: If I'm not crossing a line...what does that look like?

MARRYANNE: I actually didn't date much until I got to college, not seriously anyway, so Gor and rl dating started around same time.  And it was something I just brought up early, so far the guys seem to like it.

NIGHTFLOWER: And you haven't felt that men have taken advantage of that?

MARRYANNE: Yes, a few... but being as I tell them early enough that there is not much attachment, I can get a good read on them and kick them to the curb if they have the wrong idea :P

NIGHTFLOWER: Alright, I'm TOTALLY ignorant...what does being submissive in a RL relationship look like?

MARRYANNE: Its like most other relationships,  just the dominant partner makes most of the decisions both regular and of a... well, you know....nature.  No collars or anything like that....though I did wear a necklace for one that had an acronym that meant I was theirs, but it was only known to him and I.  Never lived with one though… I’m sure it goes further, such as cooking duties and the like at that point.

NIGHTFLOWER: Oh wow, harsh :)

MARRYANNE: Most times is more because they’d want to not, not because they have to.  Like if I were to live with someone, I would WANT to cook for them, as it's my way of showing I care, and making them happy makes me happy.

NIGHTFLOWER: Alright...I’m not intending to psychoanalyze you or anything…

MARRYANNE: Haha no that's ok.

NIGHTFLOWER: But many people would argue that your desire to please others through service and submission is coming from a low view of yourself....that this strict upbringing you have referred to somehow made you believe that you weren't loved unconditionally, for who you are, but conditionally, for how you performed…And if that's the case, that your desire to please and submit is ultimately unhealthy.

MARRYANNE: Oh I know I am very loved, its just a different way of showing it.  And I actually am a pretty strong person.  Yes I have my moments, but we all do.  One actually has to be strong to do this as it can be intimidating.  But once you know what you're doing it can be fun.

NIGHTFLOWER: If you had a chance to address the preconceptions you know are out there about Gor...what would you have to say to those who condemn it as regressive and harmful to women?

MARRYANNE: That they should take the time to observe a sim in action or read parts of the books.  Many sims allow you to wear an observer tag where you can watch quietly, as long as you don't interact.

NIGHTFLOWER: What if you hadn’t found Gor....what would be missing, both in SL and your RL?

MARRYANNE: Maybe I would have found out about my submissive nature some other way. But for me, I would be missing the sense of fulfillment I get from this.  My life is great, I have good friends,  a caring family... but it always felt like before there was a little something missing.

NIGHTFLOWER: Thank you so much, you've been awesome!

MARRYANNE: No problem:)

Cortez Brandriss

When I started snooping around in the world of Gor, several names kept popping up as people I needed to talk to.  Cortez was one of those names.  Active in the community for years, writer of many diverse characters, and at one time leader of her own sim, she sure has a great tale to tell.

NIGHTFLOWER: Why did you get involved in gor in the first place?

CORTEZ: I found Gorean RP in an AOL chatroom years ago--I didn't write very often then, but it did interest me enough to go out and buy a few of the novels. I read them, shelved them, didn't think much upon them-- until I got to graduate school, when I was taking a Utopian literature class and Norman's name came up in a conversation. I discovered Sl at about the same time as that class, and I remembered the chat room Rp in AOL-- so I opened my search, and found a gorean sim, went in as a total newbie-- and was hooked. I like the idea of Gor, and the fantasy of writing it. I liked the idea of role play in general--It's like watching a movie, and getting to play the character you want, without having to create the whole thing yourself. You get to feed off someone---and in terms of Gor specifically, I think the idea of being dominated was my initial draw.

NIGHTFLOWER: Yes...I’ve heard that a lot...that draw to the art and craft of roleplaying that is likely common to all genres, but a draw specifically to Gor because of an attraction to either the Dom or Sub roles within the genre.  Is this something you already knew about yourself, or discovered through Gor?

CORTEZ: The internet is a safe place for people to explore the d/s aspect. It's not real-- its the internet,  or at least that is the attitude. You can shut down your computer and go back to your real life at any point you want. There's no ultimately commitment, if that makes sense. I always knew that I thought d/s was hot. I've known it since I started reading and would find scenes in books where one person dominated the other-- be it mentally, physically, sexually, etc. I think when I started rping Gor in Sl, I was young and hoping to explore a bit of that side of me, through the writing of it with other people. I am a writer. I love writing, I wanted the chance to write out my fantasy stories with other people whose writing really got to me.

NIGHTFLOWER: So this was something within you that you didnt feel safe exploring in RL, and SL gave you the outlet?

CORTEZ: It's something that I wasn't in a place to explore in my real life.  I had a boyfriend, I was in my early twenties, I didn't know much about actual d/s relationships, only that I thought they were hot.  And I am a writer, so what better way to get my d/s fix than through writing it through a character that wasn't me.

NIGHTFLOWER: So it sounds like your exploration of Gor was from the submissive side...tell me a bit about that.  you had thought it was hot when you read that sort of thing.  Did it have the kind of payoff you had thought when you were actually participating in it?

CORTEZ: Yes and no. Not at first.  Let me try to explain this heh-- I am sure you have been engaging in Gor-- when I started in Gor, two years ago, in was very different then it is right now. I am about to get very opinionated and perhaps off topic, so I apologize heh....

NIGHTFLOWER: No, please go where you think the conversation needs to go!

CORTEZ: When I started rping Gor two years ago, there was such little divide between the players-- the people sitting at their computers, and the characters they were writing. If you were playing a slave, anything that should have been out of character, was still controlled by the 'free people on that sim'. If you wanted to go AFK, you had to ask permission. Many sims would be angry if you left the sim at all-- to go to totally ooc functions, like shopping malls. You had to greet in three lines, "Greetings Masters, Greetings Mistresses, Greetings slaves"-- on three separate lines, and if you put them all on the same line-- which has nothing to do with the character speaking, and everything to do with the typist hitting enter on their computer, your character could be punished. You could be punished in story for things that had nothing to do with the story, if that makes sense.....It was, in my opinion, very silly. Gor in SL is a complicated thing. What you have is a number of women looking for the d/s fix, and a number of men who really know nothing about dominance or about role play or even about Gor. What they do know, is they, the player, likes the idea of having women do what they want and say, and so they come to Gor-- where anyone from anywhere can put the title "Master' over their head, and assume that role.

NIGHTFLOWER: So the roleplay was ongoing....even within times that could have been considered OOC.  More of an all-encompassing online lifestyle than a RP that you turn on and off…

CORTEZ: Absolutely.  At that point in SL gorean history--- most sims, if not all, were 'lifestyler' to some extent.  Alting would have gotten you banned.  If your avatar wasn't kneeling, no matter what you were writing her doing, you would be punished-- if some person approached and saw a slave standing across the square, rather than kneeling I mean.  And in all honesty, most of those people really knew nothing of Gor, of the books, of the world Norman created. They would take book quotes out of context and try to apply them to their role play.  Its like being in a history class with people who read somewhere that the earth is flat, and haven't realized that it's not yet.  That sounds harsh, but it was absolutely my experience.

NIGHTFLOWER:  You say 'was'...has it substantially changed since then?

CORTEZ: Yes, to some extent, absolutely.  There were a handful of us that said, fuck this, honestly.  We wanted to write these deep and developed Gorean characters, without all the ooc asshattery.  We wanted a chance to write with people who would understand that the characters we created were not the people behind the keyboard. If our characters got mad in story, it didn't mean we, the players were, etc.

NIGHTFLOWER jots 'asshattery' down in her growing vocabulary notebook...

CORTEZ: Hahaha


CORTEZ: I was one of the first people publicly, at least in the gorean community I existed in-- that alted, that had two slave characters going at the same time, on different sims, belonging to different men.  That was a a few years ago, and at the time, it was unheard of.  People refused to write with me because of it, they didn't understand how I could belong to two people.  But my point was that "I" didn't belong to anyone, my characters did.  Now, you see people writing multiple characters all the time like that

NIGHTFLOWER: I think thats a good point because, well, I assume you know that the response of so many people about Gor is 'why on earth would women subject themselves to that?!?'  That kind of detachment is part of an explanation.

CORTEZ: Gor is a hard thing for people outside Gor to grasp-- its involuntary slavery, at least in terms of the books.  Its weird, and it makes people uncomfortable and when you have a bunch of stupid people running around claiming themselves to be Gorean-- it doesn't help the reputation heh.  Sims used to pass out note cards of their expectations of slaves, there was no role playing it out. There was no IC training, there was just "here is a note card with book quotes taken out of context, you must follow them".  There was no story development. But most people didn't want to write. They just wanted to interact, if that makes sense.

NIGHTFLOWER: And I’ve seen that wide range of interaction...from people who are clearly writing a story together, to people who are just roleplaying at each other.

CORTEZ: It's really come a long way. If you don't fear that you are ooc going to be punished or that you are going to upset other players, it gives you more freedom to write what you want, and to push role play.

NIGHTFLOWER: So, one thing I’m really focusing on for this article is what motivates women to get involved, what is their motivation to stay, and how it impacts them personally...

CORTEZ: I think most women will tell you they come to Gor because they like the fantasy of it, and they want a chance to explore that fantasy.  I think most women stay because they either find what they are looking for, or refuse to give up looking for it-- which is usually, a role play partner whose writing excites them, or whose ooc interaction with them makes them want to continue that rp relationship

NIGHTFLOWER: And I assume you’ve found that?

CORTEZ: I did.

NOTE - Cortez’ story goes on from here, and it’s incredible.  So incredible, in fact, that I’ll return to in an upcoming post.  Sorry to make you wait :)

Sasi Rhapsody

While Sasi is relatively new to the world of SL Gor, she is undoubtedly the most experienced Goren roleplayer I met, with more than nine years of experience in the genre.  She speaks with the calm authority of one who has made her peace with some profound central truths to live by.  Controversial as those truths may be, I can attest that they give her a compelling strength.

NIGHTFLOWER: Well first of all, how long have you been involved in Gor, and how big a part of your SL experience is it?

SASI: For 9 years, but SL is pretty new to me.

NIGHTFLOWER: Oh, so youve been in Gor far longer than SL?

SASI: Yes.  Gor online began on the irc chat program, back when it was boards and not a even chat program yet.

NIGHTFLOWER: So how did you make the switch to SL gor?

SASI: I recently came here and saw that the gorean community here was very active and decided to check it out..

NIGHTFLOWER: You probably know that many people have a real problem accepting the Gor community.  They see it as really belittling and derogatory towards women.  As a woman, how do you respond to that?

SASI: I can see why they would feel that way.. I felt that way much when I first began in the lifestyle as well and yet something still drew me to it and had me wanting to learn more. I found that after a spell, the many things I felt were derogatory, such as, a man speaking strongly to the woman or demanding things of her.. weren't derogatory at all but in essence over time it was her mastery over herself.  And I find in vanilla relationships.. the majority of the reason why women cheat on their men is because they feel their men are too weak and they can manipulate them. They look for stronger men,  instinctively.  That's just human nature and natural instinct.  Innately, women will always look for the stronger man to breed with.  It doesn't mean all of the men in Gor actually know what it really is to be a Master.  First a Master must master themselves, and be all they need to be, in order for a woman to be all He needs her to be.  Then she will fall naturally upon her knees in surrender.. she couldn't help not to.  It doesn't mean you always find that here.. but women hope to find that here.

NIGHTFLOWER: Well, you relate the appeal of gor to a lot of RL things.  Has your years spent in Gorean roleplay had any impact on how you experience relationships in RL?

SASI: Certainly.. in more than just relationships.. in how I view and relate to myself in everything.  Many view the serves we do as hogwash.  But in reality, we still place our character.. our thoughts of how we would react.. what we would say or do in that circumstance into what we write.  We explore ourselves through that writing, and sometimes we find there are areas we can write easily about and others, we can't, where we get sort of a writers block.  But it is more of a self acceptance block.  Writing through it, you learn your mind and how to accept many things you couldn't before.  It offers yourself growth in many ways.  It teaches you to think before doing.  So instead of grabbing a beer from the fridge and tossing it at your husband or bf and saying HERE’S YOUR BEER DUDE, we think more about what a relationship should be about, nurturing the relationship, doing the special things we know they enjoy.  And they work on nurturing us, being the wall we hit when we do try to get away with things, manipulation of them.  People are like kids. If you let them push at your walls and get away with things, eventually you lose their respect and they feel unprotected and unloved, like no one cares or is paying attention.  When a man is the wall you hit and he is paying attention, and doesn't let you begin to become lazy or sway in your efforts to nurture the relationship or yourself, you feel safe,  like someone is looking out for you even when you don't realize you are slipping.

NIGHTFLOWER: So you feel like Gor has in large part taught you what a healthy male/female relationship looks like?

SASI: Most definitely... Im not referring to people who are involved in Gor and haven't grasped it and just utilize it to get an easy chic to boss around.  Im talking about the philosophy and the people who do grasp the philosophy.. not the fiction.  It is a very valid philosophy, when you remove all of the fiction from it.  And when the men and women really practice what they preach, which is rare.

NIGHTFLOWER: So...what does that look like in RL?  Have you experienced it, a relationship built upon that philosophy?  What does that look like?

SASI: Yes, I have, not only have I experienced it myself but knew others who have.  And the relationships were very intense.  Not in a bad way.  Intense as in close, like clockwork synchronicity when both people nurture each other.  Very caring, and very focused on each other as a couple.  And i've seen the other side of it where the man did not work on himself first, was more into bdsm and fetish and his own needs than his slaves, and I watched her deteriorate from it.  In this lifestyle.. you have the same people you have in every lifestyle.  You go anywhere and you have your extremists, those who are balanced or tip to one side of the scale or the other, and those who are just completely oblivious, no?

NIGHTFLOWER: Yeah, that makes sense.

SASI: It's the same here.  The people who are extremists make religion look bad, make everything look bad, make gor look bad.  People hear of gor or bdsm and instantly think of the jerry springer tv show with grown men in diapers, or they hear stories about women who were mistreated by some man who knows nothing about Gor, and they slay Gor over it.  Really sit and read the books, look at the philosophy beneath and remove the silly fiction.  The philosophy is sound.  You just have to find the healthy individuals within it.  If you compare that to regular relationships.. is that not the same as well?  How many women get involved in bad relationships over and over and over again, instead of waiting for the healthy man?

NIGHTFLOWER: if you had to sum up that underlying philosophy in a nutshell - a small nutshell :) - what would it be?

SASI: I would say the philosophy in a nutshell is… once a Man has mastered himself, and is all he needs to be, then a woman will surrender and be all he needs her to be innately.

NIGHTFLOWER: so really, the burden is primarily on the man?

SASI: Certainly.  I mean she must try as well...but she will try if she sees in him the strength, morality and honesty that comes with mastering yourself.  There is an inner calm and peace.  And it calls to you

NIGHTFLOWER: :)  Well said.  I don’t know that I have any more questions...but what about you?  is there anything else about gor or living out the lifestyle that you think is important to mention, but haven't yet?

SASI: I think many see or read about Gor, and come to it thinking they can learn about it in a day.. a week.. a month.. and the very same day they think they are ready for a slave.  Yes its just rp, but to really reap it's rewards, delve into it, apply the parts to your life that are realistic, allow the self growth and awareness you can take from it.  Because even in roleplay, every person carries a responsibility towards another person’s well being.  If you aren't going to influence that other person's life positively, then what are doing there at all?

NIGHTFLOWER: Again, well said!
*                              *                              *

And there you have it, directly from the women of Gor.  For my part, these women have enabled me to see past the stereotypes, and appreciate the very real lives that make up this oft-maligned roleplay genre.  But what do you think?  Do their words leave you ready to put on the collar, don some scanty silks, and see it for yourself?  Or do you feel a compulsion to grab these women and shake them till they come to their senses?  That's what the comments section is for, so get typing!


  1. Love this kind of open, first-person reporting! (And I will only note in passing that the posting starts "Gorean girls are easy", hahahaha.)

    A long time ago, still rather newbie, I sat in a Gorean pub late into the night, having a conversation with a Gorean woman who was Queen of Thieves or something like that. She'd been in SL Gor for quite awhile, and talked about how various things she'd been in had broken up due to drama and people moving on and such. And we were amused by a slavegirl (I suspect drunk in RL) who told us we were Doing It Wrong, and how she had read all of the books, and so on. As if a slave would be allowed to read! The same sort of fascinating contrast between different ways of thinking about the fantasy, the narratives, the virtual and the real worlds.

    (The books, by the way, start out as pretty okay fantasy-opera, but eventually Norman gets obsessed with the whole "how much women love being slaves" thing, and it really goes downhill.)

  2. 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.

  3. About to post a response to your story (with a linkback to here) at my blog. Good work and brave work, even if it convinces me that educators should have been leaving SL for grids that ban Gor, even without the edu-price hike.

    I say that not because I'm offended by what roleplayers do. Goreans are quite good about segregating their sims. In fact, I never really believed Meadows' story of the Gorean "fisherman" in his book I, Avatar.

    But administrators won't feel that way. It's time to leave SL if you are not there to RP or sell stuff.

  4. @IggyO: if your use-case for virtual worlds precludes anything "adult" or otherwise controversial, it was time to leave SL a long, long time ago (in fact it was probably never time to be in SL in the first place).

    But your last sentence doesn't really make sense; there are lots of reasons to be / stay in SL that aren't RP, or selling stuff, and that are lucky enough not to have administrators looking over their shoulders... :)

  5. 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.