Dec 152015
 
Cover mockup of Gorean RPG, showing a hairy humanoid creature about to attack an armed man, with a chained woman behind him

Cover mockup of Gorean RPG, showing a hairy humanoid creature about to attack an armed man, with a chained woman behind him

Postmortem Studios is working on a tabletop roleplaying game based on the Gor series of fantasy novels by John Norman (a.k.a. philosophy professor John Lange). Published since the 1960s, Gor is a modern version of the Orientalist fantasies of savage lands and slave markets and so on. You can read about their ongoing project on their blog. Gor has a long history of being recreated in Second Life and other online roleplaying environments, so it’s not surprising that someone would try to adapt it to the tabletop, dice-and-paper form of roleplaying.

I learned about this from following the Facebook page of Michael Manning, my favourite (living) fetish/BDSM artist. He’s illustrating the entire book. Manning is primarily known as a fetish/BDSM artist, and it makes sense that he would be tapped for this project. Apart from the standard ferocious monsters, sword-wielding warriors, decadent cities and savage fighting, the books are rife with BDSM imagery. So much so, that there is a fringe subset of the BDSM culture based on the books, Goreans, who borrow the iconography and terminology of the books, such as slave positions and so on. Some of these terms have seeped out into the broader BDSM world.

Gor is notorious for its strong emphasis not only on the world’s apparently universal chattel slavery, but the male-dominant/female-submissive philosophy that justifies it, endlessly reiterated in the books.  That’s what made me pause when I thought about Manning illustrating the book. Manning’s work, starting with the graphic novel The Spider Garden, has a strong bi/queer flair, running all over the map of sexuality from conventional, heteronormative pinups to “sacred androgynes”, cross-dressed men, and other, stranger types of sexuality. This also comes in a time when video games and related media like tabletop RPGs are under a lot of flak for #GamerGate. The games designer, James Desborough, reportedly has connections to #GamerGate and some other controversies. It got me wondering: how will Gor be adapted into this medium?

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Anna Freud, spanking fantasies and “nice stories”

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Sep 142011
 

While I’ve already read Sigmund Frued’s essays on sadomasochism, notably “A Child is Being Beaten”, I’ve been putting off reading his daughter, Anna Freud’s 1922 essay, “Beating Fantasies and Daydreams” (possibly based on her own life).

What’s interesting about this essay is its explanation of how sadomasochistic fantasy operates in relation to conscious daydreams and print media. Our subject, an adolescent girl, has both beating fantasies and what she called “nice stories”:

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Jun 162010
 

Jacqueline Carey, author of the Kushiel and Naamah series of erotica/historical fantasy novels, did a reading at the local library Monday night. Though I’m not that familiar with Carey’s works, I decided to attend.

The audience was mostly young women. I have a strong impression that the up-and-coming generation of kinky women will have their “aha!” moments from reading Carey’s books. (Certainly better than from reading Gor.)

Carey did a good reading, featuring a scene of a forthcoming novel in which an alternate Renaissance-era courtesan meets with the emperor of an Aztec empire-analog. She talked a lot about her love of historical research.

Curiously, she said she didn’t consider herself an erotica writer. Her main consideration was how much of the total length of the work was given over to sex, which is a fair criteria. She also said she got in on the ground floor of the historical/fantasy erotica boom (which includes its conjoined twin genre, the paranormal romance/urban fantasy). I had hoped for more discussion on the history of erotica and where Carey’s work fits into that, but she said she didn’t know about that topic.

Dec 262007
 

vallejo_woman_collar

I’m zeroing in on the nexus of slavery, sensibility and the nascent sadomasochistic subculture, sometime around 1800. I think this is when the master-slave terminology and imagery entered the culture. There was flagellation and the like prior to that, but I don’t think the master-slave jargon was a part of it.

I think you need a certain historical and/or geographical distance to enable the fantasy of something like slavery. Munby and Cullwick, I theorize, absorbed slavery images and literature in their childhood and youth, through books, stage plays, minstrel street performances and other media. However, in early 19th century England and other European nations, real slavery was “back then” (i.e. something in the barbaric past, practiced by “primitive” nations) and “over there” (i.e. the tropics, Africa and North America) not in the here and now. Even contemporary texts, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1850), were comfortably “over there” for Europeans.

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May 202006
 

I figured something like this would happen sooner or later. The BBC has a spot on the police raiding a Gorean community.

Durham Police discovered the bizarre sect after raiding a home in the area, after receiving complaints that a woman was being held against her will.

But a spokesman said the Canadian was a willing participant and the other people involved were consenting adults.

The group, called Kaotians, follow the Chronicles of Gor novels which depict a society where women are dominated.

The 29-year-old woman is said to have voluntarily attended the sect after finding out about it over the internet.

“It’s one thing that everyone’s missed out on so far is, even in our organisation, if that’s what you want to call it, women can be free and they can be dominant, we don’t stop that,” [Lee Thompson, age 31] added.

“But the majority of women in our organisation are obviously slaves because women have a submissive streak in them.”

Most of the stories I’ve read on this incident have been pretty even-handed. The police also went away when they didn’t find anything criminal. This is a lot better than some other encounters between the police/legal system and kinksters.

For instance, look at the Mark IV raid in 1976 for how it could have gone. In that case, the police treatment included “handcuffing the defendants, forcing them to kneel or lie face down, then carting them in a crowded bus to jail for processing, denying them the opportunity to use the toilet, and taunting and photographing them at the police station.”

I’m not a Gor fan, although I remember reading some of those books raptly as a young perv. I even had a copy of John Norman’s Imaginative Sex for a while (copies sell for US$50 and up these days), which in hindsight most impressed me with just how narrow Norman’s sexual imagination was. Nearly all of the scenarios are just variations of the same old maledom-femsub theme. Norman’s god-awful prose didn’t help any. I seem to recall a footnote than ran on for three solid pages of a single run-on sentence, divided by dozens of semi-colons.

I think a lot of newbies find those books and imprint on them, attaching themselves to an image that’s really a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and other Orientalist/colonialist 19th/early 20th century story, just with the latent sadomasochism turned up to 11.

Gor will definitely get a mention in the book, to show how the fantasies that drove Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick in the 1850s are still operating today.