The new year seems like a good time for some serious topics and this is a deep one because it’s about slavery. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to write for a few months now but it took a while to get the words together.
There’s a series of books I love called the Marketplace. It’s by Laura Antoniou and she’s actually familiar with the scene and that really shows even though the series set-up pure fantasy. They are intense and wonderful BDSM novels about people who sell themselves into slave contracts. The characters and scenes are real and gritty, and powerful. They feature relationships of all types, genders, sexualities, and pairings which makes them stand out from the crowd. You can find the first one here if you’re interested: The Marketplace book one
I had loved and read and reread every single book in the series except the last one that came out, The Inheritor. I avoided it because I knew it was going to bring up a ton of emotions in me that would be hard to deal with. There had been a gap of several years before that it came out and just around the time it was finally released my Master died.
I told people a bunch of excuses about why I hadn’t read it even though I loved the series and was clearly a fan. At the time I was dead broke, and I prefer paperback to e-books so those were both valid excuses, but really the main reason was that I was afraid of being reminded of my Master’s death and also of getting sucked back into that desire to submit to the deepest levels again.
Years passed, and I would consider grabbing the book, but I would always stop for some reason. Sometimes it wasn’t available on Amazon, sometimes I didn’t really have the money to spare. Sometimes I didn’t have the time to read. But the excuses were kind of hollow by this point and after so long I was thinking I was being silly, and it wouldn’t really affect me. I bought the book in September and devoured it over three days.
It was just as good as I expected. The storyline was rich and emotionally devastating and yep, it stirred up a lot of stuff. I would have read the whole thing in one day because it was honestly hard to put down, except I kept having to stop because I was getting overwhelmed emotionally.
I’m not a slave, not anymore, but I was once. Slavery, and by this I obviously mean consensual slavery, is about as deep into submission as you can go. It can be intense, it can be wonderful, and it can be dehumanizing. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who find slavery a wonderful experience and while I was deep deep inside that role, I would have told you how fantastic it was to let someone else take charge completely.
But it wasn’t healthy for me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t for some people or that it can’t be done in a safe way. The thing about D/s relationships and terms is that each person has their own definitions for the words. For some ‘slave’ is just another word for submissive and the relationship isn’t any different than any Dom/sub relationship except for the titles.
But in at least one BDSM subculture, Gorean, things are very different. Gor for those of you who aren’t aware, is from a series of Science-Fiction books by John Norman. The planet Gor is a copy of Earth, in the same solar system but hidden from sight. Many things are identical, except when it comes to technology where the planet has been held far back. So, while the regions match ours it’s like they are living way in the past. Men use swords not guns. Women are property, all women, even those who aren’t slaves.
Slaves are reminded that they aren’t really human, but beasts. And are often named things that are meant to dehumanize, nicknames are things like ‘She-beast’ or ‘Dung’. There are no safewords in Gor, though people playing it in real life may allow their slaves to have one. I didn’t have one and was never asked if I wanted one.
Girls aren’t allowed to call their Master (or Mistress) by name, at least not where anyone can hear them. All free people, in our context that would be all Dominant people, are too high to be called their name by a lowly slave. They are all Master and Mistress, and you differentiate your own owner simply by adding ‘My’ to the title: “Yes, My Master.”
You are expected to obey all Masters and Mistresses and you aren’t allowed to say no. Which is why your owner would keep you by their side so that you aren’t put in a position of disobeying if a stranger tells you to do something you shouldn’t or can’t. Again, when playing this out in rl the owner might do things differently, but I’ve been at Gorean get-togethers and slaves often weren’t asked if they wanted to do something, their Masters were asked and answered for them as was protocol.
My Master was a good man, who I still love deeply, even though he died years ago. His death was sudden, without warning, and it hit me hard. It wasn’t until after he died that I began to realize how completely dependent I had become and how much of myself I had locked away to make him happy.
I had been interested in the idea of slavery since reading the Marketplace books, but before I met him I really couldn’t see myself in that role. I knew he was a Master in Gor when we met, and I think I found him more appealing than I did the lifestyle of Gorean slave. There was something magnetic about his personality that drew me in, and I loved the idea of kneeling at his feet.
I had read a couple of the Gor books a few years before out of curiosity, but I didn’t really find them that appealing so I knew almost nothing about the world. I had no idea at the time that people were playing it out online or trying to live it offline. But for him I jumped in with both feet and for a while we had a great time rping Gor together online. He owned a Gorean sim on Secondlife that was breathtakingly beautiful and roleplaying in that setting was amazing.
But eventually he got tired of playing in Gor and left, taking me with him, which was fine since I’d only gone there for him to begin with. My slavery, while it had the trappings of this weird sci-fi world, was also deeply grounded in real life. What he did online, in rp, wasn’t very different from what we did in the real world.
I think the Gorean lifestyle appealed to him because it connected with his religious beliefs in certain ways. He didn’t even really think of himself as being into BDSM. He punished me if I disobeyed or broke a rule because that’s what you do with slaves, but he never really thought of himself as being ‘into’ the scene. He considered me a real slave, as opposed to a pretend one.
His religion made our relationship complicated. He was a deeply religious man—more I’d rather not get into for privacy reasons, but part of the rules of his religion were that his contact with women who weren’t close family, or his wife was proscribed.
But as a slave I wasn’t human. I didn’t count. His religion had rules regarding the treatment of slaves and what was allowed. When Gor rules conflicted with his religion he went by the laws of his religion, of course. Despite the fact that those laws were made thousands of years ago and are rarely used anymore, they did still allow for him to own slaves, and do with them whatever he chose within certain boundaries.
I expect people would have been shocked to know he owned me. You never think about someone who is religious having anything to do with BDSM at all. But he was a scholar and his understanding of the rules told him that he could have me and still keep the laws he followed and that was all that mattered.
He could have me because I was property and not a person.
I wasn’t his only slave, but I was his love slave, which has a particular meaning in Gor. I was the one he looked forward to seeing because I molded myself to be what he needed. I was a comfort.
A slave’s job is to be pleasing and perfect and I worked to be that for him always because when I wasn’t, he punished me by not speaking with me. A displeasing slave doesn’t deserve attention. He was cold when he was angry which I’ve long since learned is unhealthy for me. I don’t deal well when someone withdraws their affections as a punishment.
Trying to be perfect feeds into my OCD and failing to reach an unattainable level would start a cycle of self-hate that could be devastating. He was a good man, and I don’t regret our time together, but from this angle I can see how it had begun to be unhealthy for me. I learned a lot from him some of it was good and some of it wasn’t and over the years since his death I’ve had to untangle those threads and see what I need to let go of.
In order to be what he needed I had to suppress my own personality and needs. Slaves in Gor don’t have needs, you see. They are only allowed to need what their owners let them. Again, people may not play this out to that extreme outside of roleplay, but I have seen some who do. I had to become a different person to be what he wanted and that’s something you can only manage for a short time before it damages you.
I will never go back to the Gorean lifestyle, and I’ll be honest with you sometimes even reading about it now turns my stomach. While my Master did his best to take care of me and was in general kind and nurturing, I saw a lot of negative and gross stuff, especially in the online Gor forums and roleplay sites.
The extent to which people take this completely fictional sci-fi world and apply it to their lives with complete seriousness is astounding, but there is something seductive about the lifestyle and it can and does pull you in.
Gor has heavily influenced M/s relationships in the BDSM scene and you’ll see references to it all over the web. When you see slave position charts listing ‘tower’, ‘nadu’, or ‘bara’ you may not realize it but all of that comes from Gor. If you see a picture of a slavegirl wearing see-through ‘silks’ that are slit up the side and held together with a rope at the waist, that’s inspired by Gor too.
So even though you may never have heard the word Gorean before, if you are into BDSM it has probably touched on you in some way. From my time in that lifestyle I learned a lot about myself. About what I could handle safely and what was too much for me.
Like all of my past experiences it’s shaped who I am today and not always in a good way. I still get locked in a cycle of trying to be perfect and hating myself when I can’t be. If I disagree with G sometimes, I will simply shut down and revert to just agreeing verbally even though I don’t actually agree.
G hates when I do that. He doesn’t want fake agreement and he wants to know my thoughts even when they don’t match his. When I break a rule, I wait for them to leave, to stop answering me, to act cold and distant—it never happens, but I keep thinking it will.
That’s baggage I’ve struggled to get rid of for years, but it’s still there and a lot of that came from my time as a slave. There is something wonderfully freeing about having someone else make all of your decisions, but it comes at a cost of co-dependency. When you add the complete suppression of your natural personality to that it quickly becomes a damaging situation.
Is there a way to be a slave and still be healthy and happy? Of course, I’m sure many people manage it, even people in Gor which I still think is on the extreme end of M/s relationships. But it’s not the life for me.
I was a slave, but I’m much happier as a submissive with Doms who focuse on my needs and allow me to serve them in whatever ways I want to. They don’t expect perfection and they discourage me from attempting it, and I really think that’s the best situation for me.
But reading The Inheritor did remind me of how wonderful it could be to submit completely and let someone else take over. To live in service first and foremost. It took me a few weeks to work through all the feelings that came up from reading it. Memories, both good and bad, desires I thought I’d buried a long time ago.
For a couple of weeks my mood was all over the place, wanting to kneel and be strictly controlled one minute, and then rebelling against any rules at all in the next. It was exhausting for all three of us, but we worked through it. I think some of the grief and loss I had locked away years ago have finally been released, along with my feelings about being a slave and I’ve been able to pull them all apart and really look at them.
I think at this point when I go to reread The Inheritor, I’ll finally be able to do so without my own emotional entanglements, so I can just live in the characters’ issues and I’m looking forward to that.