This is an incomplete and early version of the essay in the book on this topic which is still being updated as I read people’s concerns, wishes and thoughts.
The weighty question for many in more adult role-playing settings is ‘how do we handle sex’. For people who are happy to slaughter hundreds of enemies and trample their bodies underfoot, to torture for information and to commit genocide on tribes and tribes of goblins on their PlayStations, the question of sex – or even ‘nipples’ – seems to cause a huge amount of vexation, upset and outrage. That’s just regular sex too, not the kind of dominance/submission that characterises many – even most – sexual relationships on Gor.
It can be unsettling to cover sexual topics around the table, especially with friends who you may feel will be judging you. Playing online is, perhaps, an easier venue to explore these areas of role-play and even more so in a venue that preserves anonymity and creates distance (such as text chat).
Different groups will have different comfort levels. Some will wish to be explicit, others will seek to avoid the topic altogether, others will find a middle path that suits them. The golden rule here is that everyone at the table should be comfortable with what’s going on, should feel free to speak up if they’re uncomfortable and that they shouldn’t feel judged for doing so.
The Gorean novels themselves vary from coy, to suggestive to almost-but-not-quite explicit, so if you’re looking to recreate the feel of the novels in your games then even a small and terse description will be adequate.
So there’s naked people around and some of them are in chains. So what? The focus of the game is still going to be sword-fighting, intrigue, flying around on giant birds and exploring exotic locales. So who cares? The slaves and the sexual dynamic are just set dressing and shouldn’t come up at all. It’s just silently assumed that the characters do sexy stuff but it’s not described, just as its not – usually – described when characters go to the toilet.
“I’ll leave a copper tarsk on the table and carry the paga slave off to the alcoves.”
“Refreshed and relieved you emerge again, after a time, having slaked all your thirsts.”
With a coy approach you acknowledge that the sexual world exists but you do not go into any detail. It’s there as and when people want to access it but it doesn’t intrude. No detail is really gone into, but everyone knows what’s going on. It just doesn’t need to be said. The actual sex part ‘fades to black’.
“Buy me Master!” The slave girl writhes in her chains and presses her body against the bars of cage, wild eyed, flushed and needy. “Try me! Only a tarsk bit, one taste and you will want to buy me!” The slaver smacks the cage with the butt of his whip, but the grin on his face says he’s pleased with the girl’s display.
With the suggestive approach the sex can and will intrude but there’s a limit to how graphic and involved it gets. Sexual characteristics might be described and, perhaps, a couple of sentences on the performance but that’s about it. This is probably the best sort of level to play around tables.
I grasp hold of the silk slave’s leash and pull him down between my legs, tugging my intimate robe up around my waist as I do so. “Perhaps, slave, if you do a good enough job you can remain here in my chambers, rather than breaking rocks in the quarry.”
His broad back stiffens slightly and a scowl flashes across his face but, after a meek sounding: “Yes Mistress,” he lowers his head and begins to attend to your pleasure with an eager and fervent tongue.”
Blow-by-blow sexual encounters probably aren’t a good idea around a table as they’re the most intimate and personal and the most likely to cause people discomfort. They’re also going to take up time and cast the spotlight on a single player, preventing the others from getting their time to shine and eating up a lot of your game time. Explicit encounters are probably only worthwhile in one-on-one games or when playing online in environments were people can do their own thing.
A Word About BDSM
BDSM encapsulates bondage, domination, discipline, submission, sadism and masochism, even more broadly you could use the term ‘kink’. For a lot of people those terms are going to bring up thoughts of 50 Shades of Grey or ‘Bring out the gimp’. The term might even make you giggle or think of furry handcuffs, spanking and so on. I’ve mentioned 50 Shades simply because it’s a point of cultural reference that kink has become somewhat mainstream, even The Simpsons has had its ‘snuggle dungeon’ episode, which is another cultural touchstone.
50 Shades, of course, was awful as a representation of the BDSM scene and should in no way be taken as any sort of reflection of how that world really is. Similarly, even though there are ‘Gorean lifestyle’ people within the kink community, Gor should not be taken as any sort of guide to BDSM or any sort of reflection on how things really are.
Consent is hugely important in BDSM circles, as is obvious given the existence of the ‘safe word’, a word of phrase that when uttered unquestionably and absolutely means “No, stop!” Role-playing, similarly, needs to be a safe, sane and consensual activity and whether its that spiders creep you out or that you don’t want to know what your character is being put through at the hands of the slaver or torturer you also get a ‘safe word’ and can demand a ‘fade to black’ at any point.
If you want to know more about BDSM, kink and so on, there are better places to learn about it – and to explore it – than within a game.