Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creepoid of Gor?

You might remember a few months back when I posted about how a hyped-out sadomasochism scandal sunk Runequest IV—and the life of its designer. Recently my Seattle friend Scott (aka Scalydemon) pointed out in a Dragonsfoot thread discussing whether John Norman's Gor books would make for a good fantasy rpg setting (or not) another alleged sex torture and assault case.

Cover art from Tarnsmen of Gor
Personally I have found the Gor stuff to be profoundly silly—and harmless—geek wish fulfillment, more offensive if anything for the quasi-fascist jawing about natural order than the soft-core BDSM. 

Much of the writing and lifestyle cries out for satire, like the tone-perfect and hilarious Houseplants of Gor. The setting itself with its ancient-world trappings and clearly-written REH-like undertones had some potential (I hear, I could never get past the first even as an undersexed teen). 

Still, to each their own. 

The facts though of this particular case are troubling (but as always people have a right to a presumption of innocence). According to the Seattle popo, the accused man allegedly picked up a 24-year old streetwalker for “sexual role playing” took her back to his creepy bondage trailer and did a number of unsavory acts to her for over eight hours. Yuck.

What's interesting to me is only in passing does the Seattle local daily pick up on what just a 15 years ago would likely have been a front and center bait fest: the fact that the defendant was self-professedly into a lifestyle based on the Gor books. It's mentioned in brief way down in the order of the inverted pyramid as a passing and related fact. I breathed a sigh of relief for one.

In the former case the defendant was ultimately cleared, yet the prosecutors and press went to town on him—and front and center in that hype was the lurid tie-on to fantasy role-playing games. Clearly the recent case is head shoulders higher on the creepometer than the one in the 90s, so its curious to me how little grist is made of the Gorean connection other than as a factual side angle.

Has society finally moved on from fantasy role-playing as a whipping boy (no pun intended)?


  1. Yeah, I'd say so. Frankly, everything is a bit less shocking today. Also, between the successes of the LotR movies and WoW, and the comic book films, "nerd" is looking more and more mainstream.

  2. No doubt some would consider the value of Gor to be defined by the satire of same books - just as the value of any movie is determined by its Mad Magazine depiction, or the value of cultural identity by its depiction on Saturday Night Live.

    Verily, the proof is in. Once the satirists have satirized, the measure has been made.

    I laughed through the Gor plant thing, as it happens. But I have to see, if you haven't read the brilliant sequence of plot conclusions that stack up at the end of Assassin of Gor - the one that spins out over a hundred pages - all the satirization of the world cannot help you.

    Oh, yes, the later books became silly, and then flatly unreadable. But books 4 & 5? Simply brilliant.

  3. ... have to say, not see. I hate that you can't edit comments.

  4. @Trollsmyth
    If that is indeed a by-product of the mainstreaming of geek culture (and I think I have to agree with you) than it is very welcome and long overdue.

    The Seattle Weekly even ran a rather decently balanced article about the Gorean lifestyle as a result of this whole business:

    I always get a bit uneasy about criticizing things I haven't read, thus the parenthetical admission. I actually filched a few copies of early Gor novels out of the dollar bin of a used bookstore a year back, so maybe I will give them a fairer shake and read them.

  5. Okay, but they do have power-oriented sexual material in them. It does not please the powers that be, but in fact Mr. Norman had done his homework, and what's there does correspond closely to Krafft-Ebling's investigations ... and Norman's own, I'm sure. In a completely fictional world of Norman's imagination - very different from the one we actually exist in - the 'silliness' is not as 'silly' as the average individual would think.

    This is not to say that it isn't silly when people on this planet try to live it. Oh, yes, it is silly. Very, very silly.

    Illegal, too.

  6. Isn't "creepy bondage trailer" redundnant? ;)

    I'd agree with Alexis sentiment to a point--the early sequence of Gor books does have some good adventure writing in it (and some bad writing, as well), and I think Norman remains a good worldbuilder throughout, whatever fetishes he wishs to express and gender politic axe he has to grind endless.

  7. It looks like Washington State does not have any sex crime laws that pertain to consensual behaviours: rape/force is the sole legal issue here. So, any references to a "torture room" etc are really beside the point: he may well have all that for perfectly legal purposes, and that's none of our business.

    I make this point because of something I might be reading into your post. If it's not really there and I'm imagining things, then I apologise wholeheartedly, and I'm sorry even for bringing it up, because I can't this minute think how to do so tactfully. But I get the sense that you might be saying "thank goodness role-playing didn't get dragged into this ugly business of BDSM" rather than merely "thank goodness RPGs didn't get dragged into a serious violent crime report, as though somehow it was related to criminal behaviour patterns." If all you're saying is the latter, then I'm with you 100%. But if you're saying the former then my response would be "first they came for the BDSM people." Because you know, it's a hobby. Unless it's rape.

    ...and no, I'm not into that myself, just tired of seeing segments of the population demonised, is all.

    Captcha word: mingsm. I swear, this server is taunting me.

  8. @Trey
    Ok so now I will definitely have to check out the first few books with more of an open mind.

    Forgive me for not being more precise in how I worded the post. The post should very much be taken in the spirit of "thank goodness RPGs didn't get dragged into a serious violent crime report".

    I thought by contrasting it to the Oliver Jovanovic case, which I think was an example of both consensual BDSM and fantasy gaming being demonized, that it would be clearer where I stood.

    Just to be exact, I have nothing at all against ANY kind of consensual sexual activity.

    Do as thou's jollies wilt.

  9. "Just to be exact, I have nothing at all against ANY kind of consensual sexual activity."

    EXCEPT for gerbilling, that's just plain gross.

  10. I think that sensationalist media has moved past the beloved roleplaying game and on to the scourge of violent video games as their scapegoat of the moment.

  11. AFAIK, no rodent has ever wanted to be shoved up someone else's poop chute, so 'gerbilling' fails the consent test.