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The most conspicuous Gorean departure from mainstream modern norms is that Goreans promote sexual master-slave relationships. Some of this philosophy is concerned with "order of nature" and the relations between men and women, which may or may not take the form of a master-and-slave dynamic.
The majority of Goreans who pursue a "lifestyle" approach often do not consider what they do to be BDSM. However, they are generally considered part of the "kinky" subculture. In that context, they reject the idea of isolated "scenes". Instead, their practices may be described as 24/7, dominance & submission, and/or Total Power Exchange relationships. BDSM concepts of servitude and slavery typically play a key role in Gorean dynamics.
Norman's non-fictional sex manual Imaginative Sex presents a series of elaborate fantasy scenarios to be acted out in isolated scenes. He also recommends the use of symbolic substitutes, such as the sound of claps as a substitute for whippings and other physical punishments. Pat Califia asserts that Norman was critical of the psychological and physical harm that non-stop BDSM slavery and corporal punishment might inflict.
The Gorean identity is founded on home, job, and social order. The 'Three Pillars' of Gorean society are described as "Home Stone, Caste System, and "Order of Nature". Many who study and follow the Gorean morality do not own slaves. Slavery is not required to be Gorean.
A Home Stone is a rock, which can be plain and simple or even a large precious stone, such as a topaz. It is about the size of a person's fist. It is carved with a letter, usually the sign of the family, village, town or city. A Home Stone represents sovereignty, and marks territory. Even peasants were considered a sovereign in their hut, such is the strength of the ideal of the Home Stone. Villages, towns and cities also had Home Stones. Most Goreans would never stand in the way of a Man who carried a Home Stone, out of respect for the ideal of Home Stone, and the fierceness by which it would be defended.
Home Stones were displayed in the center of a hut, village or city. The Home Stone is held sacred by every city and settlement, and is displayed under guard. Any praise or insult to a Home Stone is taken personally by those who live in the city it symbolizes. The theft of a Home Stone is the gravest crime, and paradoxically the most honorable enterprise that any Warrior could undertake.
The home is of prime importance to the Gorean, and this applies as much to the city-state of origin, as to the current residence or camp. "A man's home is his castle" can be translated in Gor as, "Every man is an Ubar within the circle of his sword" (The Ubar is a war-leader, a General who takes power at a time of crisis, and who is tantamount to tyrant until the crisis is resolved.).
Living Goreans, those who follow Gorean Morality here on Earth, hold the ideal of Home Stone very high. Home Stone as embodied on Earth, is considered to be sovereignty over oneself, as well as good citizenship: the two must be well-balanced, so that neither the individual nor the community suffers.
The Goreans' occupations are formed and informed by their caste. The caste system establishes the Gorean identity as strongly as homeland. Castes in Gor also define how the members of the caste are expected to behave. Each caste is associated with a particular color (black for the Assassins, white for the Initiates) or set of colors (White and Gold for the Merchants, Yellow and Blue for the Slavers). One color (purple) is not associated with a particular caste, but with the function of Ubar (dictator elected to rule a City during a time of war). Because of the Gorean's work ethic and pride in caste, all castes are essentially equal. There is little social mobility because of this caste pride and identity; even the Peasant caste uphold their caste codes and firmly believe in their superiority to all other castes. But in actuality, a few castes are more equal than the others.
Gor has a system in which castes are classified as "high" and "low". Those of the "high" castes represent the local city or town council, and their leaders form the basis for the local government. The "low" castes typically are the tradesmen, artisans, craftsmen, and other members of the local labor force in that city or town. Those of High Castes, including in order the Initiates ("holy men", the White Caste), the Scribes (the Blue Caste), the Builders (the Yellow Caste), the Physicians (the Green Caste), and the Warriors (the Red Caste or the Scarlet) have access to privileged education and opportunities to leadership. However, the merchants often claim their caste to be a high one, and rich merchants can be politically influential in some areas.
The social order is further consolidated by social edict: "A man who refuses to practice his livelihood or strives to alter status without consent of the Council of High Castes is by definition an outlaw." A Gorean regards the welfare of their caste higher than their own, but in return, the caste provides welfare and charity when a caste member is in need.
The way in which many living Goreans reflect the Gorean morality, in their professions, is to establish a code for their profession that they follow. This, combined with striving for excellence in their profession, is a small reflection of the caste system presented in the series.
Part of what Norman indicates as natural order, is that males have a predisposition to be more dominant, and females have a predisposition to be submissive. Norman indicates that with changes in society brought on by industrialization and feminism, human instincts have become confused and suppressed.
Typically the Gorean principle of male dominance is this: Males tend to be dominant and females tend to be submissive. Male dominance is seen as part of the natural order, a biological truth. As partial support, the Gor books stated that most mammals and all primates are male dominated.
On Gor, male dominance is a generality, not an absolute. Women on Gor can attain the highest ranks of power on Gor, becoming the absolute rulers of Gorean cities. It is noted that in the Gor novels Norman wrote of at least four Gorean cities that were ruled by women. Gorean women can own property, operate a business, and control family life in a Gorean household. Norman states that in this "natural order" men and women are neither superior or inferior, simply different. In Gorean society it is not believed that males are more intelligent or have more wisdom then females, but are considered physically stronger.
Distinctive Gorean symbols include various artistic renditions of the "kef" symbol (Kef being the initial letter of kajira in the Gorean language), the floral "dina" mark, and to a lesser extent other brands mentioned in Norman's Gor books.
One version of the Kef, the most common kajira brand on Gor
In the original novels, Goreans are simply those humans who live on the planet Gor. The back-story of the setting holds that various humans were transported from Earth to Gor in ancient times, a process which continues at a low volume in the present mostly in the form of Earth women taken to Gor as slaves.
In the books, although most slaves on Gor are female, most females are actually free women. The ratio has been presented as approximately 40 free women to one slave girl (though the various hints about Gorean demographics given in different Gor novels are not entirely consistent and are difficult to reconcile with references in the novels to the cheapness and abundance of female slaves). Male slaves are less common than female, and are usually criminals, debtors or prisoners of war, and are mainly used for manual labor. Female slaves are called kajirae (singular: kajira) and male slaves are called kajiri (singular: kajirus) in the Gorean tongue. Slave ownership in Gor is not necessarily gender-oriented, i.e., a kajira can be owned by a free man or a free woman (or a family, or even a city, then being referred as "city slave"). Similarly, free men or free women can own male slaves.