When John Norman wrote the 'Gor' books, he envisioned a fantasy world where all women were slaves to male masters. Now, his fans are recreating it.
The cover of 'Mercenaries of Gor,' by John Norman
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
In 1966, the sci-fi author and philosophy professor John Norman published the first of his Gor book series, which is sometimes known as the "Gorean Saga."
The novels draw on a combination of philosophy, science-fiction, and erotica, and are notorious in sci-fi circles for their sexual politics. In the Gor universe, there is a near-ubiquitous master/slave dynamic between men and women, and the ladies—or "kajirae," who are submissive to the point of being physically and sexually brutalized by their masters—learn to love it. In the books, this kind of misogyny-BDSM existence is touted as the "natural order."
Norman's books have been widely criticized for essentially being MRA-porn, but because the world is full of all sorts, they have also directly inspired some readers to adopt a "Gorean" lifestyle, which is exactly what it sounds like. That said, followers interpret the culture in different ways, with many even expressing distaste for the books despite loving certain protocols—and lots of Gorean couples live a happy, consensual, 24/7 master/kajira dynamic in and out of the bedroom.
To find out more about this world, I spoke to a few self-identifying kajirae to find out what it’s like to be a consensual slave living a life inspired by a fantasy book series.
Vivienne, 28, Customer Care Associate
VICE: When did you become a kajira?
Vivienne: I started eleven years ago. I play Second Life, and got sold in a slave auction hall to a Gorean master. He asked if I had ever explored the lifestyle, but I had no idea what it was. I got really into the books and brought it to my BDSM dom [master] at that time. It’s been history from there.
What did you find attractive about the Gorean lifestyle?
The first book I read was Slave Girl of Gor, and the relationship between master and slave was instantly appealing. I craved it. I realized BDSM wasn’t answering my inner needs, as though I still felt empty at the end of a scene. Gor was a way to explore things further. My current master and I have been together for four years now, and I’ve been so blessed to find somebody who saw beyond the sexual gratification. It goes much deeper, especially in the bond between master and kajira.
Would you ever refuse your master?
My master likes to joke that if he ordered me to jump off a roof, I’d argue all the way up the ladder but still ultimately jump. I do have some limits, based on childhood trauma, but I think in all my time in Gor and BDSM, I’ve only used a safe word three times. I don’t like to because I feel like I’m disappointing the partner I’m with.
Do you believe in the "natural order"?
That’s something I’ve been battling with for many years. I’ve served under women and men, but I feel no one can control me like a man can. I don’t judge somebody for their role, but when I meet male submissives, I do find my inner Gorean coming out and being like, "No."
Is being a kajira empowering?
I really started to grow and be more empowered when I found Gor. I feel like I finally have a grip on my emotions, having suffered from depression and anxiety in the past. I still have my moments of high anxiety, but I’m lucky to be with a master who knows how to control it. I can look in the mirror and see my growth, both physically and mentally. I didn’t go into this because someone made me. I went into it to find myself, and repair all the damage that had been done. It gave me an anchor.
Anne, 53, Retired University Professor
How long have you been a kajira?
Anne: Thirty years. I've always been with the same master.
How did you meet him?
The husband I was with at the time traded me for a pair of boots at a medieval reenactment. I think he thought it would just be like a weekend fling, but he ended up keeping me. He was Gorean, but I’d never heard of it, or done BDSM or anything. One of the first things he had me do was read the books, and I concluded I’d been Gorean for a very long time, but didn’t know the terminology. It just fit.
How does your dynamic play out?
Well, the sex is only a very small part. When we go out, we look like an old-fashioned 1950s couple where the guy is in charge, not like crazy sex people. A lot of people associate Gor with being ultra-high protocol, with whips and chains and beating a kajira senseless, but we don’t really do that here. At what point can a kajira do well if she’s been beaten? For us, it’s more about a mindset. We do what he wants to do.
Is there anything you’d refuse to do for your master?
Other than cutting off my arm or shooting someone, no. But he’s not a psychopath and wouldn’t intentionally hurt me; he’s reasonable. I don’t ever really have a reason to say no. Most things I have to ask permission for, like if I’m spending extra money, or I want a dessert or a treat. If I want a certain sexual thing, he’s also pretty open.
Is your relationship romantic?
It is, but he won’t use the word "love" very often. He doesn’t want to seem weak, or like he’s not the one in control of the relationship. It’s very appropriate for me as a kajira to say, "I love you, master." It’s less appropriate for him to say "I love you" back.
Alice, 24, Active Military Duty
How long have you been a kajira?
Alice: I'd say about four months now. I learned about it from talking to friends who are involved in the master/slave BDSM dynamic, but my dom—who's also my husband—and I have a mix of two other dynamics: DDLG [Daddy Dom/Little Girl] and pet play, so we aren't exactly your stereotypical Gorean couple.
What attracted you to it?
This might sound odd, but it helps my anxiety and depression. The rules my husband and I agreed on leave little wiggle room for what's expected of me, and I have daily tasks so my mind isn't left to wander into fields unknown. I also love the honesty and trust it's helped build with my husband. I wouldn't be as open and honest with myself had I not discovered the Gorean subculture and BDSM.
How do you serve your master?
Cleaning the house, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and sexually. I’m basically a traditional housewife with a few punishments tossed in to ensure I follow through.
Are you a full-time kajira?
I am full-time, but that doesn't mean I can't do what I want. I just let my husband know what I’m up to and keep my phone on me if he wants me when I'm out and about. I do have rules which were agreed upon with my husband, but they’re all sex-related. It's like a coloring book where he has all these pictures we’ve created, but to keep me happy, he has to color inside the lines. We use what makes us comfortable.
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Jill, 55, Artist
How long have you been a kajira?
Jill: Around ten years or so. I heard about it a year or two before I got into the lifestyle from a brief mention by a friend who was into BDSM.
Having heard about it, how did you come to practice the lifestyle?
I’m bipolar, and I was in a suicidal depression. I was afraid of what I was going to do at that time, and I knew a friend who was a master. I decided what I needed to do was give up control to save my life. I knew, by having a master, I couldn’t kill myself, and that’s how I knew I was a kajira.
How do you submit to your master?
I am his—it’s as simple as that. It’s hard because he lives in Connecticut and I’m in Ontario, but I’m online almost all the time. I am always a kajira. If he wants company, if he wants to talk, I’m there. I wear a collar, but I don’t regard it as mine. It’s his collar because everything I own I consider to be his, even my money. He has access to my bank account. It’s a very trusting relationship, and that’s one of the things I like the most. He is listed as my next of kin and he has my power of attorney. I love him.
Do you find the lifestyle empowering?
Yes, I do. It’s something that takes a lot of strength, and I’m a strong woman. I’m what’s known as a "first girl," so when it comes to our poly group, master and I are the primary couple. I have people who come to me with all kinds of questions, not only about the lifestyle, but also personal issues. I enjoy being able to give advice—I always have. But part of me wonders how I become this leader.
You call yourself a "progressive kajira." What does that mean for you?
I’m a feminist. There are a lot of people who take the books and act like Bible-bashers. They pounce on them and say it’s how life should be. The books say kajirae are animals. Well, I’m sorry, but my country’s law says I’m human, and Gorean laws are make-believe. I am well aware this is the 21st century, and this is Earth, and Gor is fictional... I’m not a fan of the books.
*All names have been changed to protect identities. Quotes have been altered for length and clarity.
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