"The Free Woman is a riddle, the answer to which is the collar."
December 20, 2006 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Goreans are inspired by the sci-fi works of Gor, by John Norman, whose turgid prose lays out a way of life for male masters and female slaves...but also Free Women. So why not meet one? Or at least say hello. And don't forget their humor! It sure is something. It just isn't BDSM.
posted by Sticherbeast (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, and while none of those links are exactly NSFW, I'd use some common sense and say that the content is NSFW by dint of being what it is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2006

Captain Spock would be proud of this fanatical devotion to a fantastical land far sillier than anything Star Trek can offer...
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 8:01 PM on December 20, 2006

That image on the front page of the first link says it all.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:09 PM on December 20, 2006

I ran across a page of Gorean "humor" back in 2000 or so. It was bad enough to kill any interest I had in either the books or the life-style.
posted by lekvar at 8:12 PM on December 20, 2006

You forgot to link Houseplants Of Gor.

I would also recommend the MST3k episode featuring this movie based on a Gor book, which stars Jack Goddam Palance.
posted by sparkletone at 8:25 PM on December 20, 2006

I'm checking the chart, where do they fit in?
posted by Artw at 8:26 PM on December 20, 2006

If you circle the whole thing, I think it is fairly accurate.
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 8:27 PM on December 20, 2006

Argh. I am sometimes less than literate. The humor link links to Houseplants Of Gor.
posted by sparkletone at 8:28 PM on December 20, 2006

The idea that Norman wrote his book twenty-six times is kind of astonishing. Does that eclipse Crichton, or that guy who keeps writing the law novel?
posted by jet_silver at 8:30 PM on December 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

I am sometimes less than literate. The humor link links to Houseplants Of Gor.

I am going to pretend that "link links" is intentional irony and that you are all laughing with me.

The idea that Norman wrote his book twenty-six times is kind of astonishing. Does that eclipse Crichton, or that guy who keeps writing the law novel?

Yes, but not because he's done it 26 times, but because no subcultures, as far as I know, have grown up around acting out things described in Crichton's or Grisham's novels.
posted by sparkletone at 8:40 PM on December 20, 2006

...no subcultures, as far as I know, have grown up around acting out things described in Crichton's or Grisham's novels.

Just when I was about to entirely dismiss any notion of cultural sanity -- a warm ray of hope appears!
posted by AmberV at 8:47 PM on December 20, 2006

Artw, I'm pretty sure you meant to link to this.
posted by jjg at 8:48 PM on December 20, 2006

Will nerds never run out of ways to be even nerdier?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:16 PM on December 20, 2006

I bet they vote Republican.
posted by uosuaq at 9:18 PM on December 20, 2006

No, indeedy, Astro Zombie, they will not. (How can somebody named "Astro Zombie" ask such a question?)
posted by cgc373 at 9:19 PM on December 20, 2006

Artw, I'm pretty sure you meant to link to this.

Actually what I meat to do was use the IMG tag, but it was not to be...
posted by Artw at 9:28 PM on December 20, 2006

I like the big chart very much.
posted by Artw at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2006

Ha. Geeklove is the purest love. I stumbled on a beat-up paperback of Norman's 1974 domination tutorial a few months ago, and chuckled when it sold online a few days later for $40. We couldn't bear to list it any higher, even after seeing what other folks were asking. Make that *especially* after seeing what other folks were asking.
posted by mediareport at 9:36 PM on December 20, 2006

Wow, I was fascinated (< ---- well considered word choice)/small> by the Gor books when I was 17. At 43, not so much...but if this is their cup of meat, they should enjoy themselves. Just be quiet with the sword play and slave pleasuring after 10PM on school nights.
posted by mosk at 10:10 PM on December 20, 2006

It is the Gorean way of reminding [the "free woman"], should she need to be reminded, that she, too, is a woman, and thus to be dominated, to be subject to men.

Mmmmmm-kay, then. I'd say fucking off and dying should be your next move, there, bub.
posted by squirrel at 10:21 PM on December 20, 2006

Yep, these are a funny bunch.
posted by Frankieist at 10:23 PM on December 20, 2006

The "Buckets of Gor" series was real crap. But I'm not surprised it's developed a following. (So has Naruto, for God's sake.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:05 PM on December 20, 2006

'...no subcultures, as far as I know, have grown up around acting out things described in Crichton's or Grisham's novels.'

except for, of course, the tuchuks of THE SOCIETY FOR CREATIVE ANACHRONISM.

SCA : tuchuks :: furries : otherkin

proof god hates you all
posted by jcterminal at 11:14 PM on December 20, 2006

jcterminal, you reversed the acting-out cultures. We need examples of weird people who act out Crichton- or Grisham-esque scenarios in the same way the tuchuks or whoever act out Gorean ones.
posted by cgc373 at 11:26 PM on December 20, 2006

Oh man, this just needs more Zardoz and then it will be perfect.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:27 PM on December 20, 2006

I poked around a little bit, and the internet let me down. How can there be nobody acting out Yul Brynner's role from Westworld, complete with daring midnight break-ins to abandoned amusement parks for set-dressing? What is wrong with people?
posted by cgc373 at 11:31 PM on December 20, 2006

Psst, kid ichorous. Courtesy of Meatbomb.
posted by cgc373 at 11:34 PM on December 20, 2006

Thanks CGC. A John Norman + John Boorman production.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:34 AM on December 21, 2006

I quite like the Gorean books on the whole - some of them do go on a bit, and JN's writing style often leaves a lot to be desired... but the world is well imagined, and conjours up my memories and dreams of how the Alternate Reality computer games should have turned out. And I think it's the only book that I've ever read where the protagonist is a ginge :)
posted by Chunder at 2:07 AM on December 21, 2006

As a child, I grew up surrounded (literally; they lined the walls of his den from floor to ceiling) by my father's lifetime collection of fantasy and science fiction paperbacks. Now, my father and I were never close, and still aren't--neither of us possesses great interpersonal communications skills--but he influenced my tastes in lots of subtle ways, and genre fiction is one of them. I ransacked his library, reading series after series. I read Discworld (which I still love), Xanth (not so beloved), Spellsinger (WTF?), Dragonlance ('nuff said) and anything else I could get my grubby little hands on. There was one series, though, that I didn't read, even though it filled the better part of a shelf. I suppose I passed it by because it didn't seem to contain the magic-and-monsters formula that appealed most to my boyhood imagination, and maybe the exceedingly old-fashioned '70s cover design was a turn-off as well.

One day, however, I found myself bored and looking for something new. In a rare attempt to engage my father in conversation, I turned to him and asked, "Hey, Dad. Are the Gor books any good?"

I still recall how he paused, just briefly, before answering. "No," he said.

To this day, I haven't read a single Gor novel.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:49 AM on December 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

I had an online friend who was into Gor. She sent me a short essay about it, kind of explaining the scene.

I don't remember the details, but it had a profoundly haughty tone. I found it very repellent. I could probably scare it up if anyone wants to see a pro-Gor propaganda piece.

My single strongest impression was: "insecurity writ large". I don't know if it was representative of the community as a whole, but the writer of the little piece I read had issues.
posted by Malor at 2:50 AM on December 21, 2006

Am I the only one who is deeply disturbed by this series, such that I can't joke about it? It goes beyind just thinking about gender roles and while imbalances might develop (as other authors like MZ Bradley have done) into justifying (and fetishing) extreme power imbalances. It would be like a series talking about how really black people are meant to be servants and slaves, it's natural and it's only due to the corrupting power of civilization that they have equal rights. You wouldn't find those on the shelves of any bookshop except in a back alley, along with the Klan robes.

But maybe this conversation is so light because this is so extreme there is no answer to this kind of insanity.

I have no problem with women wanting to be slaves. Go on, have fun, I don't envy you in the least. Men too. But those novels say that all women want to be slaves. And that makes me want to retch.
posted by jb at 4:59 AM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know about all the novels - but the quotes definitely do.
posted by jb at 5:09 AM on December 21, 2006

posted by localroger at 5:18 AM on December 21, 2006

Metafilter: a riddle, the answer to which is the collar.
posted by wobh at 6:24 AM on December 21, 2006

If the Goreans were anything like the white supremacist groups we've got, I agree they'd be scary.

The thing is, they're not. There's no Gorean political front, no paramilitary organizations, no Gorean gangs or terrorists. They don't hold protests or rallies. They don't attack women in real life. They're fetishists, not fanatics — they don't really want to remake the world in the image of the Gor books, they just want to be left alone while they beat off to their weirdly specific dominance fantasies.

Or look at it the other way: if the KKK had been a social club for shy perverts who thought black men looked sexy in handcuffs, rather than the most successful terrorist organization in American history, we'd think they were kinda funny too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:40 AM on December 21, 2006

jb, Gor isn't a political ideology it's a lifestyle. When the Gors start fielding political candidates that's when you should show up with your PC outrage. And no, they seem quite insistent on the possibility and even necessity of free women.

As for the psychology of the Goreans I can't imagine it's so different from most of the social conservatives. The real innovation here is the abdication of violence while insisting on a master/slave mythology. It makes what they're doing dangerously close to theatre but also somewhat charming. Many of those quotes remind me of the early Christians in their high-school earnestness and disregard.
posted by nixerman at 8:03 AM on December 21, 2006

I'm still undecided on what's more disturbing between Furries and Goreans.
posted by darkripper at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2006

Furries of Gor.
posted by faceonmars at 8:28 AM on December 21, 2006

This is just kind of gross.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2006

posted by sonofsamiam at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2006

I've known a few Goreans.

finch has noticed a clear difference in the use of pain as something to AVOID in the Gorean collar, versus pain-as-play in the BDSM relationship, which of course ascribes a new sensual meaning to pain

No doubt this is true for finch, but for other Goreans it isn't. Some are just as masochistic as any mainstream BDSM pain slut you'll ever meet. But it's still, usually, pretty easy to find an effective physical punishment for them, so I don't agree with finch's assumption that it's either punishment or pleasure. I've seen many, many cases where it was one on one day and the other on the next. And there are people within BDSM who feel pretty much the same about pain as finch does. My previous girlfriend and periodic bottom was not a big fan of pain, for the most part. And I myself have gotten a lot less fond of it over the years (owing, possibly, to health problems).

As far as Gor being somehow fundamentally different than BDSM... well, I’ve never really seen a reason to make that distinction. It’s probably a question where there is no real correct answer.

I can tell you that on a practical, real-world level, the two are pretty closely intertwined. They hang out in a lot of the same places, both on line and in reality. Pick up a book on BDSM and it might well mention Gor. Practices and nomenclature are very similar. A lot of BDSM people I know who aren't the least bit Gorean enjoy reading the Gor books. Personally, I can't stand them. They exude that fantasy novel pretentiousness and I can't get around it. Incidentally, Anne Rice's BDSM porn books have the same problem. But anyway, yeah, I tend to think of gor as sort of a subcategory of BDSM.

But of course, the part of gor that really raises hackles is the ideology. Or anyway, the professed ideology. See, as far as I'm concerned, this is a problem throughout modern culture (and it may go back thousands of years, for all I know); there's always this embarrassingly huge gap between the ideology and the reality. I see it among evangelical Christians, vegetarians, practitioners of various diets and exercise/meditation programs, and political ideologues of every stripe. Basically, they settle on an ideology and they keep espousing it, even when it doesn't work out so hot in practice. Lots of puritan-esque Christians have found that life without non-married, non-procreative sex or R-rated movies is just kind of unlivable and have quietly backed out the church door while no one was looking. I've seen a few vegetarians who, despite eating tofu and potatoes and going on about the evils of the meat industry for a whole decade, discover one day that they just can't do it anymore and eat a fucking chicken sandwich. Similarly, Goreans tend to discover that trying to create an existence in which the woman is truly subordinate to the man at all times just doesn't work.

Which brings me to another point about BDSM in general. Namely, that power exchange isn't negotiated; it just happens. Yes, of course, when I agree to play with someone I tell them my hard limits. They're not using a single tail (bullwhip or horsewhip) on me, there will be no sharp cutty things, no roleplay, etc. These limits are respected, sure. But that's not what I'm talking about. These are just details. The real power is far more difficult to measure out. We may have perfectly rational discussions in which I say something like "Okay, I want to be submissive to you, but I don't want to be owned." And I mean what I say and when my partner agrees to the terms, she means what she says. But we both know, even if we won't admit it, that the degree of my submission to her and the amount of power she ends up having over me will be determined by factors that neither of us can control. Call it personality, psychology, or even sanity; there are things that make us act in certain ways and feel certain things. Nature, nurture, whatever. All I know is that it's there and I can't change it. Well, maybe over the course of years I could, but even then the changes probably won't be what I intended (though they might still be good). Just like your relationship with your boy/girlfriend /fuckbuddy or wife/husband develops in a sometimes unpredictable, usually uncontrollable manner, so does the BDSM power exchange relationship. I've seen plenty of relationships where a male top wanted to have a high degree of control over a female sub - and she wanted the same - but it just wasn't there. There was nothing either of them could really do about it. They could accept it as reality. Or leave.

So the truth is that we can't really negotiate the degree of surrender of power. It just kinda happens.

And as fantasies of power surrender get more extreme, they tend to get further and further away from what these unseen forces will tolerate. Which brings us to Gor. Gorean fantasies of power surrender tend to be the most extreme, complex, and just downright artificial-feeling of all BDSM fantasies. (In my humble, biased opinion based on contact with just a half dozen or so Goreans and a bit of reading on the subject.) For this reason, people tend to find that they just don't work. Like the couple I described above, the goreans want an intense power exchange but discover that they can't make it happen. I don't think this lack of functionality means that the relationship is harmful (except in the sense that it's harmful to be in a relationship where you're not getting what you want). Nor do I think it's an indication that the relationship is immoral; there's as much consent here as there is anywhere else and it's extremely rare to see any real physical injury occur, so I don't see how one's going to oject to it on moral grounds.

All that said, I would never want to judge a gorean book by its cover. If there are people out there having working gorean relationships, then great. But I'll believe it when I see it.

Am I the only one who is deeply disturbed by this series, such that I can't joke about it? It goes beyind just thinking about gender roles and while imbalances might develop (as other authors like MZ Bradley have done) into justifying (and fetishing) extreme power imbalances.

As someone else pointed out, they're not out there doing this to people against their will.

But to deal with what you're saying directly...

You're disturbed that they're justifying a power imbalance. Well, I am a bit worried that they feel compelled to justify it. I mean, usually justification is an excuse you make up after the fact to put a nicer face on something bad that you've done. So I think it's sensible to be wary when you hear people justifying their actions. My feeling with regards to Gor is that their professed ideology is, like a lot of ideologies, there to make some messy, poorly understood, and very human desires seem less so on all three counts.

But you say they're justifying (and fetishizing) "a power imbalance." Is a power imbalance necessarily a bad thing? I think power imbalances exist in every two-person relationship. If they're a bad thing, then they're a bad thing that afflicts just about everyone and it doesn't look like there's a way to get around them.

Human relationships are extremely complex and it's tough to make judgments about them sitting on the sidelines, especially if the couples in question are engaged in something with which we, the observers, haven't any personal experience. If you want to make a case that a particular set of behavior is bad, I think you have to meet one (or both) of two criteria. (1.) You've got to show that it's immoral. For example, if it occurs without consent, then it's probably immoral. (Despite what some may say, there is such a thing as consensual nonconsensuality, but that's a whole post all by itself.) (2.) You've got to show that it's harmful. That is, it has to result in identifiable harm, be it physical, psychological, financial, political, etc. For example, if one of the participants is depressed or anxious or withdrawn and there's reason to think it's caused by the behavior in question, then that's evidence that the behavior is harmful.

In cases where we can't meet either of these criteria, we may still find the behavior troubling, but it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about it.
posted by Clay201 at 9:10 AM on December 21, 2006 [6 favorites]

no subcultures, as far as I know, have grown up around acting out things described in Crichton's or Grisham's novels.

Don't bet too much money on that. I suspect that there's more than one global warming denier out there who regards Chrichton's stuff as inspirational. And that denier probably has a website or even a book and a number of readers. Similarly, I think law students and young lawyers are probably just as susceptible to the mythology created by Grisham as anyone else. I knew a guy who went to Harvard in the late eighties/early nineties; he said all the pre-law students would meet every Thursday night in front of a big screen TV to watch L.A. Law and that when they did there was "rapt silence."

I bet they vote Republican.

From what I've seen, you're mostly correct about this.
posted by Clay201 at 9:10 AM on December 21, 2006

I bet they vote Republican.

Clay201: From what I've seen, you're mostly correct about this.

That's funny, because wasn't it Gonzales who started an FBI task force to track BDSM fetishism? The Republican party is as against these sorts of people as the most rabid Dworkin-school feminist.

Where are all the "Gorians for Gore?"
posted by kid ichorous at 9:47 AM on December 21, 2006

The Republican party is as against these sorts of people as the most rabid Dworkin-school feminist.

Yeah, right. Publically, maybe.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:55 AM on December 21, 2006

kid ichorous;

Yeah, it's funny, but it's not unusual. A majority of the American population is in favor of the Kyoto protocols, but the people they elected don't want to sign them. The majority of Americans favor a pull out from Iraq but there's virtually no movement in congress on a bill to that effect. And the list just goes on and on: social security, NAFTA, education, health care, etc. And not just liberals or democrats; this is everyone. Most republicans who aren't on corporate boards and don't hold elected office - you know, the ones who live in the real world - favor immigration enforcement and aren't wild about our relationship with Saudi Arabia (just to pick two examples). Almost no elected official in the Republican party seems interested in changing our policies in either area.

This is standard practice in politics. The elites are not there to represent the people who voted for them. They're there to represent the people who put them into office; which is to say, those with large amounts of money.

I have, unfortunately, met many a sexual pervert who voted for Bush. They either say that Bush isn't trying to come after them, that he just wants them to stay in the closet (which they often regard as reasonable) or they argue that it's the local and state governments that control that sort of thing and they needn't worry about Bush. I disagree with them on this most strenuously, but, then, I tend to disagree with them on a wide range of topics and it's never slowed them down.
posted by Clay201 at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2006

SonofSam - Yes, publicly, and inasmuch as it shapes their policy. Just like, you know, they can make anti-homosexual legislation a campaign priority whilst having a number of closeted homosexuals in their ranks. The effect on the proverbial "gay man on the street" is what I'd measure by.

Clay - I'd have to agree. The BDSM folks I've happened across have been libertarian or simply liberal, but I can't rightly say that only Republicans interfere with consenting adults. Is "pervert hunting" something you can get perverts to vote for? Perversely, yes.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2006

One of the first things I stumbled on in Second Life was one of these folks' enclaves. The ideology strikes way too close to home to be blown off as "what people do behind closed doors," or "Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is Okay." The whole "free women" narrative is asinine. The "free women" are just as oppressed, but in the virgin direction of the virgin-whore dichotomy.

So, yeah, I'm glad they're not out rallying in the streets for Gorean rights, but anyone who invests thousands of hours and thousands of dollars in a fetish that is diametrically opposite to the gender struggles that I hold close? I can't help but view that person as an annoyance at best and an enemy at worst until proven otherwise.

I think we need a new word that's stronger than distasteful but only a little less strong than immoral. I propose: ickmoral.
posted by Skwirl at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Am I the only one who is deeply disturbed by this series?

No. You're not. I stumbled across them in my teens, when I first started haunting used bookstores and snapping up every luridly covered sf novel I could find. Gor freaked me right the hell out; the whole thing was repellent and the thought that guys, about whom I knew little, were reading this stuff and maybe getting turned on by it bothered me a lot. So I don't like them, not one little bit. However, I've grown up a lot since then and I do think they're (both the books & the Goreans) hilariously funny. That Houseplants of Gor link is brilliant.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:47 AM on December 21, 2006

Any man who wishes may have access to slaves on Gor, including full sexual use. There is no lack of sexual availability, no Puritanical or religious convictions against enjoying it, and men are not constantly surrounded by images of sexuality and then required to perform a great deal of work to have a chance to have access to a woman. Therefore, the conflicts that create sexual obsession, addiction and psychosis are absent on Gor.

I think everything that I need to know about Gor is summed up right there. I'm guessing Norman was less than a hit with the ladies and he subsequently spent his writing life spinning revenge fantasies.
posted by jokeefe at 11:31 AM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

“It would be like a series talking about how really black people are meant to be servants and slaves, it's natural and it's only due to the corrupting power of civilization that they have equal rights.”

Actually, there are people who role play that from both sides. To add to nebulawindphone’s comments.
Not a lot of course. Probably the same number and kind of women lining up for this.

“The real innovation here is the abdication of violence while insisting on a master/slave mythology.”

Groo does not use a whip.
*sigh of relief*
Groo uses a SWORD!

Yeah, I’m a Groorean. It’s an odd fetish involving mindless violence, adorning oneself with videotapes as buckles on swordbelts, eating lots of cheese dip, being confused about “mulch” and lusting after amazonian women.

I’m going to have to go with Faint of Butt’s dad’s advice and go ahead and not read some Gor.

Metafilter: eat a fucking chicken sandwich

(well sed btw Clay201)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:39 AM on December 21, 2006

Smedlyman, you truely are a gourmand.
posted by lekvar at 12:18 PM on December 21, 2006

I don't think the first books in the series were all that bad; my eighth grade teacher loaned me a few and I enjoyed them for the Burroughs/Howard knock-offs they were.
A few years later, however, I came across this one (#11) and was just blown away with how freaking creepy it was.
Maybe I was just a lot more oblivious in the eighth grade.

wandering around Second Life I found (much to my chagrin) that there are a BUNCH of Gor types

Those people ruined MSN chat. Well, it was pretty horrible to start with, but they definitely did not help matters.

*Runs after Smedleyman, screaming "A fray! A fray!"*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2006

I read the first Gor book. What I find stunning is that anyone reads more. It was terrible. Horrible writing, cliche-riddled plot, terrible deus ex machina devices... it just goes on and on.

And not even much juicy slave woman nonsense for me to get all offended over!

I mean, really... how did he ever write more than one?
posted by InnocentBystander at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2006

I have had two encounters with the Gor series. The first, I brought on myself I purchased a copy of the first book from a used bookstore and actually forced myself to read it because I figured that a series with that many books couldn't be all bad (I was young and dumb back then).

Gawd it was awful. The combination of horrible writing, florid prose, patheticly stupid "social commentary", and truly bad plots and pacing resulted in an almost trancendent state of badness. The books that were unfortunate enough to be stored near the Gor book on my shelf actually became worse simply due to the proximity of such awful tipe.

My second encounter with Gor was less voluntary, but more disturbing in many way. At one of the crap jobs I worked on my first trip through college one of my co-workers was a Gorite. He was, in fact, the head IT guy where I worked, and a more lothesome individual it'd be hard to find. Nevermind that he was physically ugly (his teeth alone would have made him utterly repellant to any woman, and as head tech guy he had a great dental plan and made more than enough to get them fixed). He was the single most patriarchy ridden mysognyst I've ever had the misfortune to meet. He made no attempt whatsoever to hide his disdain for women, and was fond of telling every woman he met that he thought, and this is a direct quote "a woman's place is on her knees".

He was also into BDSM, I've always figured its becuase he knew that the only way he'd ever get laid was if the woman was tied up...
posted by sotonohito at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2006

Clay201 - I'm sorry, you misunderstood me. I was not disturbed by the power imbalance between individuals (that's their cup of tea). I was disturbed by the justification of power imbalances between men and women (as classes of people) on the grounds of their gender.

The idea of women as "naturally submissive" is an, unfortunately, seductive idea to many people, and one that causes harm directly to the society in which I have to live and function.

To be more clear: when MZ Bradley wrote about Darkover, it was a similar story to Gor: civilized humans on a wild planet, struggling to survive, become a warrior society in which men hold an imbalance of power over women. But the difference is that Bradley explored the dark side of power imbalances (in the social, not sexual or personal, sense) between men and women. Whereas Norman simply celebrated the idea of enslaving an entire class of people, without their consent, on the basis of their gender (not their choice). This is what disturbed and disgusted me.
posted by jb at 4:56 PM on December 21, 2006


> power exchange isn't negotiated... We may have perfectly rational discussions in which I say something like "Okay, I want to be submissive to you, but I don't want to be owned."

I'm afraid I don't understand this at all. If submissiveness is negotiated, then it isn't submission, period. Assuming that I get my kicks from being submissive, how would simulated submission be erotic? That would be like simulating the eating of chocolate. If I'm not really eating chocolate, with all of the attendant sweet stickiness and calories, where lies the pleasure? Besides, how is this role-play possible to maintain? I'm not a huge man, but very few women would be able to dominate me physically without a gun or a knife, and then it wouldn't be role-play any longer. And if you can't dominate me physically, you can't dominate me psychologically. Maybe for some people it's different. I dunno. I used to date a girl who was slightly under 5 feet tall, and weighed 100 pounds approximately. We argued once or twice when she was driving, and she had a pretty violent temper. She would suddenly pull the car over and scream: "Do you want me to throw you out of the car?!?" The funny thing is, it was MY car; she usually drove because I have never especially enjoyed driving. When she would misbehave in this manner, I would just giggle, which made her madder. I guess the point is, the power balance is always in the hands of the more physically powerful (or the one equipped with weapons, who will use them), and this knowledge has to be in the back of the participant's minds during their role-play. I don't see how it couldn't break the spell. Of course, if the top requires "real" dominance to get his or her kicks, then I would say that they were dangerous, and should be avoided. I don't care what people do for kicks, as long as it is consensual, but REAL submission doesn't include the option of changing one's mind. Legally and ethically, I feel that one should always have the option of changing one's mind, which seems, to me, to make the entire BDSM experience a very puzzling phenomenon indeed.
posted by Chasuk at 10:26 PM on December 21, 2006

I'm not a huge man, but very few women would be able to dominate me physically without a gun or a knife, and then it wouldn't be role-play any longer. And if you can't dominate me physically, you can't dominate me psychologically.

This is indeed an issue that male submissives encounter. Or anyway, that I, as a male sub, have encountered. I've just never played with a woman who I found genuinely physically intimidating. So yeah, I've never really been controlled in that way. But there are other methods of control. A good top (particularly a female one) knows what her sub wants, likes, doesn't like, etc. She can use these things like a guitarist uses different fingering techniques, to produce the desired responses from the instrument (that is, the sub). She can make him pant, she can make him grovel, she can make him regret certain behavior... the list goes on. Sure, I might be able to physically overpower her, but there are lot of things you can't get from a person by wrestling them to the ground. You can't get approval, for example. And there are a dozen more things, a lot of them pretty NSFW, I could add to this list. As long as she has the power to dispense or deny any of these things, she has some degree of power. And of course, none of this works at all unless the sub wants to give up control.

REAL submission doesn't include the option of changing one's mind.

I'm quite mystified here: how did you draw this conclusion? Even some of the most dramatic examples of submission in our culture - for example, enlistment in the military, where you come really close to signing your life away - often have some sort of escape clause. In the case of the military, you might have to wait a few years, but you can usually get out if you want to. The only situation I can think of that doesn't include an out is pre-Civil War chattel slavery. But in that case, the slave never made a decision to enter into slavery, so I'm not sure it really qualifies as "submission."

So to say that you can't submit unless you surrender all rights... I'm sorry, but that's just not true. Very few things in this world - especially in regards to human relationships - are ever that complete. That said, there are plenty of two person relationships - both BDSM and not - where individuals put their lives in one anothers hands. If you go mountain climbing with your best friend, if you drop acid with your wife, if you're recovering from surgery and you trust that your boyfriend will drive you to the hospital should you begin bleeding profusely from underneath your bandages... all cases where the other person may decide whether you live or die. Are these situations "real" submission? I would argue that they are.

But to return to BDSM specificially...

There are plenty of cases where submissives have given a degree of control large enough to cause them to have second thoughts. I mean, we've all had that moment; "oh... shit. Have I gotten in over my head?" And then there are those times when you feel incredibly vulnerable, like you're going to need someone to hide you and take care of you.

This is the sort of stuff that, honestly, I'm having trouble writing about in a public forum. I don't think I could give you an accurate picture of it without spilling a bunch of personal stuff that probably ought to remain private. I wish I could talk about it; I think it'd be better for me in a number of ways. But right now I don't feel comfortable doing it.

In any case, would we say that experiences like this are not "real?" Well, it depends entirely on how you define your terms, of course. To me they're very real. They're some of the more important moments in my life, in fact. But if we use your definition, then I'm not sure much of anything qualifies as "real submission." In which case, the term becomes kind of useless out in the everyday world.
posted by Clay201 at 7:02 AM on December 22, 2006

I guess that we have different definitions of submission. When I rely on a friend or a loved one to drive me to the hospital because I, in my injured state, am not capable of doing it myself, I am trusting them, not submitting to them. I don't think the different is merely semantic, either.

Let's suppose that I agree to be someone's slave. This concept is rife with contradiction and ambiguity. A slave in the modern sense (as in, relatively recent history) had no say in the matter at all. They were forcibly removed from Africa and transported to the Americas, and sometimes benevolent "owners" would allow them some level of personal freedom. But their captivity was still complete and unconditional. If conditions and contracts are involved, then we are talking about indentured servitude, or bonded labor, not slavery.
posted by Chasuk at 2:23 PM on December 22, 2006


There are obviously huge differences between BDSM slavery and chattel slavery (just as there are huge differences between wage slavery and chattel slavery). I guess you could make a case that bdsmers chose the wrong word for their practice, but it's been too long now and the term has stuck. We've created a new definition for it.

As for trust vs. submission... well, that's a bit stickier. You certainly have a point; just because you trust someone doesn't mean you submit to them. They're not necessarily the same thing. On the other hand, a trust is an enormous part of submission.

Let's try another anology and see if it works a bit better:

You join the military and turn a big chunk of your life over to your superior officers to do with as they see fit. That's definitely submission. And there are certainly some limits on it. If the drill seargant doesn't think you're running fast enough, he can make you do pushups or put you on KP, but he can't shoot you in the head. And you can even get out of the "relationship," given enough time.
posted by Clay201 at 6:19 PM on December 22, 2006

Speaking only for myself, since I feel I am qualified to answer: I vote Democrat, but I lean Libertarian. Very Libertarian. I'm a card carrying member of the ACLU and I support Planned Parenthood with donations every year because they help women.

Furries are way scarier than Goreans IMO.

FWIW I wear a stainless steel collar locked around my throat 24/7. Have been Owned (as Goreans describe it) for over two decades. So what? I qualify for MENSA.. went to one meeting, they bored me to pieces. Gah. At least my kinks are ones *I* enjoy. ;)
posted by keptwench at 7:11 PM on December 22, 2006

I don't understand the furry bashing in this thread. You do realise that there are some furries who have erotic fixations (and they are the ones everyone talks about), and there there is a huge furry community who have fun drawing or making anthropomophic animals. These are the type of people who illustrate kid's books, become animators, design cool flash games. Are you say Walt Disney is scary? He liked anthropomophic animals.

But furries are easy to bash - they are such geeks, right?

I'm not actually a furry - but some of my friends are/were when younger, and they are the only people I know who have made money from their art (and I went to an arts school). One has illustrated kid's books, and the other used to make a really cool comic book about with skunks and rats and aliens and stigmata. Now he's gone to the dark side and makes kickass anime/gangsta characters for cell phone games.

posted by jb at 5:38 AM on December 23, 2006

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