The Role of the Free Woman in Gorean Society
Gorean society is populated by many different types of people of different caste and social status, but of all the inhabitants of the counter-earth, few are as fascinating and complex as are those who dwell within the insulae and shops, or behind walls and guards in the secret pleasure gardens and relaxation pools of the city, performing their labors, managing their households, taking their pleasures and seeing to the birth, maintenance and correct training of the children of Gor. I am speaking of the civilized Gorean free woman, the veiled matriarch of the free holdings of the high cities.
It is a difficult and perilous undertaking for a Gorean free woman to maintain her status... in fact, a Gorean free woman is expected to choose the option of free and honorable death rather than accept the fate of living in slavery. In practice, however, this rarely occurs. Few women, even Gorean women of high caste and social position, will willingly choose to suffer a grisly death rather than brave the degradations of bondage. Nevertheless, occasionally they do so, and the honor of such free women is exalted to the skies. It is widely said of such women that they were truly free in their hearts and therefore died free, and it is the actions of such persons which support the ancient Gorean belief that perhaps not ALL women were born to be enslaved.
Most Gorean free women would rarely visit, much less frequent, a public paga tavern, as such places are, in essence, a Gorean cross between a strip-joint and a brothel. The men who visit such places do so because they have come to have sex with the slaves for the price of a cup of paga, or because they wish to take their ease and comfort in such a den of disrepute. Brawls, arguments, and killings are not uncommon in many such places... it is no wonder that in some cities, leagues of concerned free women have banded together in an effort to restrict and prohibit the existence of such establishments within the walls of their respective cities. Such efforts are rarely effective, however, since it is a well-established fact that Gorean males are most insistent upon retaining such places as outlets whereby they can vent their more fierce and primal urges upon the bodies of the serving slaves within. It is through the existence of such outlets that Gorean free women are able to retain their rights and status in Gorean society, for if the urges and needs of randy Gorean males were allowed to become pent up within them, perhaps no free woman upon Gor would be safe from the collar.
There are, however, several recorded instances of free women who visited paga taverns in the Gor books. About half the time they behaved foolishly and wound up enslaved, like the Lady Beverly in Rogue of Gor; the rest of the time they drank their paga and conducted their business relatively safely. It would seem that the outcome of such visits depended greatly upon the general attitude and behavior of the free woman in question. The safety of a free woman within a particular paga tavern also seems to vary according to such factors as the time of the day, the strength of the current batch of paga, and the location of the particular tavern in the city. There are good paga taverns and bad paga taverns, just as there are safe neighborhoods and dangerous ones. Normally free women tend to avoid the more vicious and brutal examples of such establishments, and can instead be found sipping ka-la-na and black wine in the streetside bistros of the city, or even downing kal-da in a well-lit public kal-da house, more often than they can be seen in the dim shadowy recesses of a paga tavern.
It is an unusual fact that the traditional crime of rape seldom if ever occurs upon Gor, at least to those women who retain their status as free women. This is due, no doubt, to the fact that to most Gorean males such measures are unnecessary: it is far easier and quicker to have sex with a collared slavegirl than to risk the wrath of the city or village magistrates, not to mention the male relatives of the free woman involved. Since, however, it is a fairly simple thing for most Gorean males to capture or collar a free woman (particularly one from another city), all free women must take great care to protect themselves from that particular threat. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways, most notably by wearing the traditional veils and robes of concealment.... few men would be foolish enough to collar a woman whose features they have not seen, and once the act of enslavement begins, typically there is no turning back. Another way in which a free woman can protect herself is through the use of hired bodyguards, or by forming and maintaining platonic relationships with skilled Warriors who might protect her should she find herself endangered. The use of trained animals such as guard sleen might also be a good idea, for those moments when a free woman finds herself alone in the streets or upon the high bridges of her city.
The pride of the free women of his city is very important to the typical Gorean warrior... in his mind, though the free women of other cities are open game to be captured for sport or profit, the free women who share his Home Stone are sacrosanct, aloof and virtuous creatures who are worthy of constant respect and protection. These are, after all, the mothers, daughters and sisters of both himself and his comrades, and are therefore to be treasured and respected at all costs.
The key trait a Gorean warrior expects to find in the free women of his city is "virtuous." To the Gorean mind, any woman who possesses the raw lust and submissive desire openly displayed by collared slavegirls deserves to be one, and if a free woman's actions seem to suggest that she either secretly or openly wishes to be enslaved, sooner or later she will be called forth to disprove such accusations. Nevertheless, the honor in which a true free woman is held is so great that normally several such offenses must be committed before she is stripped and collared.
A free woman will first be warned to abstain from slave-like behavior... if she continues to behave so, then to the mind of the Gorean male, and according to the rules of Gorean society, she is actively seeking enslavement.
Enslavement can occur for several reasons, not the least of which is "slave-like" behavior. Typical examples of such behavior are openly admiring the bodies of male freemen, commenting upon such things in a sexually suggestive way, flirting lewdly or lasciviously, or repeatedly seeking sexual union with another who is not one's free companion. A Gorean free woman is expected to behave in a ladylike fashion at all times... she is an object to be admired and pursued, not the pursuer in such relationships (at least not openly). The free woman is graceful, mysterious and untouchable. The very right to look upon the delicate expressions and soft features of her face is a goal to be much sought after by others of her caste and social class. Any free woman who willingly face-strips herself before the eyes of men who are not her personal servants or close relatives is immediately castigated by Gorean society as behaving in a "sluttish" fashion. Upon Gor, such "sluts" are immediately collared for the use and service of males. Therefore, the term "slut" and the term "free woman" must be considered mutually exclusive of one another at all times.
Similarly a free woman who willingly places herself into a perilous situation in which enslavement might be the outcome is assumed by most Gorean males to be "courting the collar." In such instances it is generally accepted practice to bestow upon the free woman the very thing which she so seems to want, a brand and collar of her very own.
If at any time a free woman loses all means of self-protection and falls prey to a Warrior or one who is stronger than she, she is said to be within the boundaries of "capture rites." If she is to be held for ransom, then she retains her free status... she is not branded or collared, though depending upon the whim of her captor she might be facestripped or put to sexual use. During the period of her captivity she does not refer to freemen as Master, but rather as "Captor." In some cases she is simply chained in the holding of her captor and ignored until she can be exchanged for ransom. Since free women of high caste typically fetch a ransom equal to or in excess of their bride price, the richer and more powerful her family the greater her chance of being ransomed. For a poor free woman, perhaps of the peasants or a similar low caste, she can usually not expect such treatment. In such a case the free woman in question typically may expect nothing better than either her enslavement, if she proves to be pleasing, or her execution if she is not. It is important to remember that when a Gorean city or settlement is conquered, typically all male survivors of that city are immediately put to death... in short, Goreans rarely take prisoners of war. When all things are considered, therefore, if her Home Stone is conquered, at least a free woman has a better chance of surviving, even as a slave, than do the freemen of her city.
Perhaps the worse offense which can be performed against a free woman is that of public facestripping, i.e. when the veils of a free woman are removed from her by force. This is the equivalent of stripping her naked, though even the loss of her robes of concealment is not as great an insult as the loss of her veils. It is regarded as the right, duty and priviledge of Gorean free women of the high cities to remain veiled... even when captured by the Warriors of an enemy city, the free woman will commonly be allowed to retain her veils at least until her final fate has been decided. The friends, bodyguards, and male relatives of a facestripped woman are quite willing to slay any offender who so degrades one of the ladies of their city... unless, of course, through her own actions she has indicated that she is, in the depths of her belly, a slave. In such a case she may expect her veils to be taken from her at once, and if she is fortunate she will be allowed to keep her life, though forevermore she will be a slave. The penalty for any slave caught impersonating a freeperson varies from city to city, though it is typically death. Not death by execution with the sword or impaling spear... such a death is considered an honorable one, reserved for freepersons only. When a slave is caught impersonating a freeperson he or she is typically subjected to the lowly "garbage death," wherein the offending slave is bound hand and foot and cast amongst the city carnarii (trash pits) to be devoured by urts and other carrion feeders at their leisure. Needless to say, a public facestripping is too be avoided by a Gorean free woman at all costs.
For some reason, many free women actively seem to dislike slavegirls, even going so far as to torment them when their Masters are not around, or to behave toward them in a rather cold and callous manner. This is of course their right as free persons, and they may in effect behave toward slaves in any manner that they see fit. Understand, though, that not only is such behavior perceived as mere jealousy on the part of the free woman involved, it is also thought to suggest that the free woman herself envies the position of the slave in question. As long as such behavior does not insult a freeperson it will be grudgingly tolerated by free Gorean males, unless any damage or long-term harm is inflicted upon the slavegirl so treated. Apart from that, slavegirls are expected to treat free women humbly at all times, as they would any other freeperson.
Many Gorean free women possess kajiri, or male slaves. These serve many purposes... often they are servants and retainers, they may be utilized as pack bearers or manual laborers. Often a free woman will be borne through the streets of her city in a curtained palanquin carried upon the backs of such male slaves. In addition, the wealthier and more free-thinking Gorean free woman will also have within her household one or more "silk slaves," male slaves chosen for their handsomeness and sexual vigor, who have been trained to serve a Mistress sexually. This is quite acceptable, unless there is a law on the city scrolls which prohibits such sexual congress by free females. At the present time there is such a law in the city codes of Ar, though most wealthy women in the city act in secret and circumvent it fairly easily.
In order to assure the continuance of the family line as well as the financial security and well-being of her household, every Gorean free woman is expected to be willing to subject herself to the rigors of a politically motivated free companionship. In such a case, the family of the would-be female companion is typically presented with a pre-arranged "bride price" upon conclusion of such a union. Often the dowries of such wealthy females can be quite high, and the bride price which is required to attain such a companionship reflects that fact: before her enslavement, Talena, the daughter of the Ubar Marlenus of Ar, was said to be worth a thousand tarns... many high-born ladies can expect to bring as much as even one hundred tarns, which is a substantial addition to any city's tarn cavalry.
It is commonly believed that the goal of every free woman upon Gor is to arrange and maintain a lasting free companionship with a freeman of her choice, to dwell with him in honor and dignity, to bear his children and propagate their combined family line. A free companionship is typically contracted only after much legal wrangling and dedicated pursuit on the part of the male, after which a simple ceremony is held in which both parties interlink arms and drink the wine of free companionship from the same chalice, signifying that they pledge themselves solely to one another for the period of one year. Every year this ceremony must be repeated, and the companionship repledged by both parties; otherwise it is considered to have lapsed. This seems a wise practice when one considers that due to the stabilization serums, the typical Gorean lifespan can last several centuries or more. During the period of this companionship, neither party may willingly engage in sexual activity with another free person who is not their sworn free companion. This monogomy, however, does not preclude the sexual use of slaves by either party, provided of course such things are acceptable to both parties. Gorean free companionship is therefore a rather practical institution. A free companionship is immediately considered legally dissolved if either party is enslaved.
"Chain Luck" is the terror of every free woman upon Gor. It is a practice whereby Warriors (typically young men in search of a thrill or some sport) will decide on a whim to attack a city not their own, hopefully evading the Warriors and guardsmen of that place, and capture one or more free women to add to their chain as slaves. The name "chain luck" refers to the fact that due to the veils and robes of concealment worn by such free women, it is usually impossible for the Warrior in question to ascertain the personal attractiveness of his would-be target before he makes his strike. Therefore he must trust in his luck, hoping that his new acquisition is young and beautiful beneath her robes. Many a warrior has risked his life to skillfully lasso a free woman from the high bridges of an enemy city only to discover that his catch has a face like a tharlarion and a temperment to match. It is not entirely unknown for Warriors to be foolish enough, or drunk enough, to practice Chain Luck within the environs of their own city, though typically in such cases either they already have a target in mind or are seeking a slave not for personal use but to sell her out of the city for a quick profit. The Warriors and bodyguards of a free woman's household are constantly on the lookout for such attempts on the persons of their ladies. Woe be it to one who is caught practicing chain luck in his own city... if the lady in question is discovered by the magistrates to be free and not a slave, yet is taken and collared by a warrior of her own city, then it is considered an offense against one's Home Stone, typically punishable by death. The free women of an enemy city, however, are considered fair game for such activity.
If at any time, or for any reason, a free woman decides that it is in her best interests either to become a slave or to openly submit herself to a male for his protection and use, this is accomplished by the performance of a formal gesture of submission by which she invokes the ancient Gorean "rite of submission." Many free women would rather die than perform such a subserviant act. It is important that a free woman understand that when this rite is invoked, there is no going back. Typically there are only two possible outcomes when a free woman submits so; either she is enslaved and becomes the personal chattel of the male, his to do with as he sees fit, or she is found lacking in desirability by the male in question and is driven from him in disgrace. In the case of a Warrior, the consequences are even more dire, since a Warrior is not permitted by his codes to abandon the female while she is still alive. Therefore, most Warriors have no qualms whatsoever against putting the submitting female to death on the spot. Indeed, to a Warrior's mind, it is better by far to take the supplicant's life than to abandon her to be randomly enslaved by the first person who comes along. Believe it or not, in such a situation a Warrior is acting to preserve the honor of the former free woman and her caste and family.
The way the rite is invoked is this: the free woman typically facestrips herself, publicly announces that she willingly submits to the individual she has chosen, and then assumes "the Position of Female Submission," wherein the free woman kneels at her captor's feet and leans her body back, sitting upon her heels, with her arms extended upward, crossed at the wrists, and her head beneath them lowered in supplication.
If the male accepts her, she becomes his slave and forfeits all titles, rank and property immediately. If he does not, she accepts the consequences of her actions, even if it means her death.
It should be obvious that a free woman does not invoke the Rite of Submission hastily or without much consideration, as the very act can cost her her life.
While in the privacy of her own home, in the company of those of her family, a free woman will often affect a fairly relaxed and comfortable mode of clothing herself; indeed, under such conditions and behind the closed doors of her household it would be not only difficult for a free woman to wear the strictly moderated and highly ornate garments of her caste, it would be simply ludicrous. She is, after all, a Gorean woman, well accustomed to the scanty fashions and brief garments worn by both the men and women of that savage planet. In the pleasure gardens of her home a free woman dresses for attractiveness, comfort and functionality, and some of her outfits can be revealing to say the least. However, once beyond the safety and protection of her house walls she wisely dons garments which are more suited for platonic interaction with the dangerous men of the cities: the infamous Gorean Robes of Concealment.
The Robes of Concealment worn by free women in the high cities are elaborate affairs, and are subject to the dictates of the current fashion in her city. They can be highly personal modes of garb, cut and fashioned in countless ways and in numerous styles, according to the whims and desires of the wearer and the restrictions imposed by local sumptuary laws. Nevertheless, they universally have these things in common:
They consist of several layers of thick, opaque cloth. Normally opaque hose are worn beneath them, and gloves, to insure that no part of the wearer's body is visible. The typical garments worn by a free woman of the high cities includes a shaped and fitted brocade gown with an ankle-length hem and a high collar which reaches to just below the chin. Atop that is worn a loose fitting robe to further conceal the lines and shape of her body. A quilted or brocade headpiece, similar to the arab kafiyeh, is worn pinned or buttoned in place to cover her head, and drapes to the shoulders. The various veils are then attached over the wearer's face through the use of pins and ties, completing the ensemble. A free woman may wear slippers or even close-fitting boots beneath her robes, and it is also the custom for women of extremely high rank to wear ornate platform shoes which increase her height by as much as ten inches. Such adornments as those are normally worn only within doors, however, since they are exceedingly difficult to walk in over uneven surfaces. A wealthy free woman typically wears much jewelry, consisting of brooches, medallions and chains of office and rank, rings and armlets. Many free women are very careful about wearing wristlets and bangles of precious metal, however, or even close fitting necklaces and especially ornamental "chokers." Such jewelry is thought by many to be an ornamental derivative of the collar and slave-bracelets of a kajira, therefore it is almost never worn by the suitably cautious free woman, and under no circumstances will a free woman wear any sort of jewelry or even a tied scarf about her left ankle, since the left ankle is universally acknowledged by Goreans as the "slave ankle," and any sort of adornment there by a free woman is unthinkable. Her avoidance of such jewelry is part of her ongoing effort to distance herself from women who have fallen to bondage.
A free woman will, depending upon the customs of her household and city, wear up to five separate veils simultaneously, each with a different purpose of concealment. These veils range in function from thin, gauzy ones worn close to the skin, all the way up to the heavily brocaded street veils worn by free women upon the streets and in the public gathering places of her city. The five basic veils worn by free women are, in the order they are donned: the last veil, the veil of the citizeness, the pride veil, the house veil, and the street veil.
The Last Veil: the innermost of the five veils worn by free women; it is worn under the veil of the citizeness, and is often very sheer. Also known as the "privacy veil" or "modesty veil," it is worn in all places except within the private chambers of the free woman.
The Veil of the Citizeness: the second of the veils worn by free women; worn under the pride veil and over the last veil; it is worn by a free woman when she leaves her chambers for any reason. The right to wear this veil at all times is guaranteed to all free women upon attaining their majority and pledging citizenship. To strip this veil from a citizen of your own Home Stone is considered a violation of basic Gorean law.
The Pride Veil: the third veil worn by free women; worn under the house veil and over the veil of the citizeness, it is worn when a free woman is in her house. Unlike the last veil and veil of the citizeness, this veil is completely opaque, and provides true concealment of her features.
The House Veil: the next-to-last veil worn by free women, especially when in the company of men not of her own family; worn over the pride veil, and under the street veil upon leaving the house; when guests are within the walls of her house or when the free woman is in the company of anyone who is not of her household, she wears this veil at all times.
The Street Veil: the outermost veil worn by free women; worn over the house veil when leaving the house; typically a heavy, fitted face-covering of thick brocaded or quilted cloth, equipped with numerous pins and fastening devices.
There are no restrictions upon the weaponry owned and used by free women, apart from the general prohibition of technological items sanctioned by the Priest Kings. Nevertheless, the free women of the larger and more civilized cities of Gor seldom carry weaponry which cannot easily be concealed. The two primary weapons in use by such women are the dagger and the poisoned needle, both of which can be secreted among the many folds of her robes and drawn forth for use at a moment's notice. In fact, most Gorean free women spend many hours practicing such movements, knowing that a moment's hesitation may one day make the difference for them between a life of ease and honor or a life of imbonditude. Bladed hair combs and the long, razor sharp pins which hold her many veils in place are often used by the free woman in such an instance. In general, the typical Gorean free woman doesn't carry a weapon large enough to be perceived beneath her robes... she knows that there is little chance she will prevail in open combat against a trained Warrior. Her weapons are of stealth and surprise, combined with the desperate desire to remain free at all costs.
The free women born into the Caste of Warriors on Gor are quite similar in most respects to those of other castes, except perhaps they are fiercer and more handy with their weapons. This is an understandable by-product caused by residing in a house that is constantly full of warriors in training. It should be remembered that in order for a Warrior to actually don the scarlet of his caste, he must first be affirmed by the high council of his city. Few, if any, women are ever accorded that honor, though that circumstance is possibly caused more by tradition that by lack of potential or ability. Female combatants are not unknown upon Gor, especially among the more open-minded denizens of the southern hemisphere, but they are still rare enough to be considered a social aberration when they do come into being. In general, Gorean females can do pretty much anything male Goreans can, though most Gorean women don't bother. The sheer difficulty of maintaining her freedom amidst a clashing army of warriors is more than enough incentive for most Gorean women to abandon any such personal thoughts of bloodlust and single combat and retreat within the walls of her home city, where her precarious social status is more easily safeguarded. The free women of the Wagon Peoples and Red Savages are occasionally known to take up arms and fight beside their male brethren; there have been recorded instances of Turian women who have fought in combat upon kaillaback, and of course if severely pressed every free woman is expected to pitch in to defend her Home Stone. Nevertheless, the concept of an actual female Warrior wearing the scarlet in one of the major city-states of Gor (Ar, Ko-ro-ba, Tharna, Thentis, Treve, Port Kar, Cos, Tyros, Lydius, Laura) is almost completely unknown.
Panther Girls are the fabled wild girls of the northern forests, such bands being comprised of runaway slaves and the occasional free woman who has fled from the dictates of Gorean society and taken up residence amidst the primitive camps of the unexplored woodlands. The Panther Girls are fierce fighters when encountered, since they can expect only enslavement or death upon capture. Their weapons of choice are slim spears, shortbows and hunting knives, and they make do by trading with outlaws and the inhabitants of certain outlying settlements for metal and other difficult to obtain supplies, and by hunting and trapping game in the wild. They are free-women in the technical sense of the term, since they are not enslaved and have little or no discourse with civilized Gorean society. They are a rare breed and are cautious about accepting newcomers to their ranks... those who seek them out and are found lacking in necessary survival skills are commonly captured by them and sold as slaves in trade for civilized foodstuffs and items of equipment. In the jungle regions of the far south they also exist, living in amidst the jungle rainforests much as their sisters do in the Northern Forests. Members of this southern version are referred to as "Talunas." There are no Panther Girls or Talunas in any of the major city-states, including Ar. If a Panther Girl ventured that far into civilized territory, she would undoubtedly be enslaved upon sight.
"`In most paga taverns,' he said, `free women are not permitted. In some they are.'"
"I have never been in one of these places before," she said..."I now understand why it is that free women never enter Paga taverns."
"`If you may pleasure yourself in taverns,' she said, `surely so, too, may I.'
Remember your status! A free woman is proud, but she does not challenge or insult. To do so is to invite a face-stripping. A tavern is typically full of Warriors, and one of the things that Warriors do is collar and enslave free women. To draw attention to yourself by making yourself a nuisance to such men is foolhardy to say the least. Be attractive, witty, graceful, and behave with honor, and you will be treated with the respect due to one your station.
Some Gorean males may take action to protect you from overzealous Masters in search of a slave, as long as you do not actively provoke such unwanted attention. This tendency, as well as others, depends entirely upon the customs of the particular tavern and the laws of the city you are in. The laws of the city of Ar, for instance, are quite specific regarding the disposition of free women who invite enslavement.
Act like a slave, and you will wind up as one. Behave like the lady you are, and perhaps earn the respect and honor of Gorean males. Your choice.
A Gorean free woman does not draw a weapon against another individual unless she is under attack. Beware! According to his codes, to draw a weapon against a member of the Warrior Caste is to place yourself within his capture rights. This includes drawing weapons and placing them on a table or displaying such objects in a threatening manner to others in the room, without suitable provocation.
There are no panther girls or talunas in the High Cities of Gor, which include Ar, Ko-ro-ba, Tharna, Thentis, Turia, Treve, and many other major settlements. All free women in these cities are expected to wear the robes of concealment and veil themselves in public at all times. The only exceptions to this practice tend to be in Tharna, where few if any free women are allowed, and in Ko-ro-ba, where the customs regarding free women's fashion are somewhat lax.
A Gorean free woman may own and use slaves, both male and female, as she sees fit. However, at the present time there is a city ordinance in Ar which prohibits the sexual use of male slaves by free women of that city, on penalty of enslavement. Of course, if you are not of Ar, then you are perhaps exempt from this particular law. Remember however that those free women not of Ar might fall prey to chain luck while visiting that city if they are not careful. Extreme caution is advised.
It would probably not be a wise course of action to get drunk while visiting a Gorean drinking establishment. If you do allow yourself to become too inebriated to defend yourself, then all bets are off.
Tal, free woman, and welcome! Guard yourself well and drink with us to the honor of all who would remain free upon Gor!
Special Thanks to the collection of sites I had to visit to obtain this information.