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Free Women in Society


The proper role of Free Women in Gorean society is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Gor. This misunderstanding is perpetuated by several factors. First, the rhetoric in much of the books states that all women should be slaves. Second, a cursory reading of the novels shows that basically all of the major Free Women characters, who are often haughty, end up as slaves. Third, there is a popular myth that male dominance is absolute on Gor. These three matters combine to skew one's view of Free Women on Gor. It is only through a deeper study of the novels do you better understand the actual complexity of the role of Free Women on Gor. They are far more than just potential slaves.

The vast majority of the women on Gor are Free Women. Only 2 to 3% of all the women on Gor are actually slaves. That statistic alone speaks volumes about the place of Free Women in Gorean society. Despite all the rhetoric, Goreans do not follow through on those platitudes and enslave most of their women. They do not even enslave a significant portion of their women. There must be some compelling reasons to support this stance. Free Women must be able to fulfill important roles that slaves cannot. The need for those roles must supersede the need for slaves.

Free Women are commonly treated with respect, courtesy and honor, especially Free Women of high station or caste. Free Women on Gor would be considered to possess a greater status than a typical Earth woman. Free Women, especially those of high station, are often referred to as "Lady." On the other hand, men are not referred to as "Lord" in the books. Free Women may often say what they wish, without anyone's permission, and many men will listen to what they have to say. Part of the key is that those Free Men and Women who share a Home Stone have much in common. Thus, they are more apt to listen to the thoughts and feelings of one another. Free Women may often be bold, within certain limits.

"A free woman is inordinately precious. She is a thousand times, and more, above a mere slave."--Players. pg. 92

"For example, there is no higher person, nor one more respected, than the Gorean free woman."--Hunters, pg. 311

Free Women are rarely raped unless it is leading to direct enslavement. Even a Slaver who enslaves a Free Woman will treat her with courtesy until she has been branded.

Many men find Free Women boring, preferring the company of slave girls. Free Women are seen to be ignorant, arrogant and frigid. Yet, Free Men often will take no action against a Free Woman who annoys them.

"A free woman may often make a man angry with impunity, she being lofty and free, this latitude is seldom extended to the slave."--Blood Brothers, pg. 221

A male relative or a free companion of a Free Woman does have some options to discipline her. The punishment will fit the woman's status and dignity. The books do contradict themselves as to whether Free women may be whipped or not. If so, they are whipped differently from a slave, much easier. A free companion might chain his woman to his couch, like a slave. This may occur even though a Free Woman is much loved. Some men do take risks to get back at a Free Woman who they feel requires punishment. This is a risk because their actions are generally illegal. One extreme example is that sometimes Free Women are captured, bound and gagged and then made to work in a brothel for a night.

One key to the treatment of Free Women is their station and caste. The higher a woman's station or caste, then the more likely she will be treated with courtesy and deference. Her wealth and position are powerful factors that must be considered. A man ignores these factors at his peril. A second key is whether or not one shares a Home Stone with a woman. Those who share Home Stones generally respect and protect each other. Men do not willingly let men of other Home Stones enslave their women. They do not let their women come to harm if they can intervene and protect them. A third key is simply tolerance for the actions of Free Women. I think Tarl Cabot said it best, "It is not difficult, of course, to take insolence from a woman."--Mercenaries, pg. 7) Many Gorean men will just laugh off a woman's insults.

Free Women Roles

Free Women on Gor fulfill a number of different roles, roles that essentially cannot be filled by kajirae. These are important roles, ones that contribute significantly to the effective functioning of Gorean society. These roles include positions of power, caste membership, free companions and mothers. These roles are far more important than the role of a slave. Slaves, in general, contribute little to the operation of Gorean society. Though there are work slaves, the primary purpose of the majority of slaves is for the pleasure of men, a type of luxury. A city could exist without slaves but not without Free Women.

Positions of Power

In general, Gorean men do not prefer to place women in positions of power.

"Women…seldom release the following instinct in men. Men, accordingly, do not on the whole, care to follow them. In doing so they generally feel uncomfortable. It makes them uneasy. They sense the absurdity, the unnaturalness, of the relationship. It is thus that normal men commonly follow women only unwillingly, and only with reservations, usually also only within an artificial context or within the confines of a misguided, choiceless or naïve institution, where their discipline may be relied upon. Their compliance with orders in such a situation cannot help but be more critical, more skeptical. Their activities tend then to be performed with less confidence, and more hesitantly. This often produces serious consequences to the efficiency of their actions. It is interesting to note that even women seldom care to follow women, particularly in critical situations. The male, biologically, for better or for worse, appears to be the natural leader. In the perversion of nature, of course, anything may occur."--Players, pg. 288

This is a generality for which there are a number of exceptions. A Free Woman of superior ability can achieve much, including ruling a city. That is fully supported by the philosophies of Gor.

Women have ruled on Gor as administrator, ubara and tatrix. An administrator is an elected position, so a woman would have to win either the vote of the high council of the city or the vote of the high castes. Tharna was led by a woman administrator until she chose to step down. An ubara is a female ruler of the Warrior Caste. She may rule as the free companion of an ubar or on her own. As the free companion of an ubar, an ubara possesses great power, second only to the ubar. There is nearly nothing she cannot accomplish with her power.

An ubara, with no ubar, can rule on her own if the city supports her. Talena was made the sole ubara of Ar when Marlenus was thought dead and the Regent had been deposed. She would thus possess ultimate power within Ar. A tatrix is similar to a civil ubara. It is a female dictator who does not belong to the Warrior Caste. She remains in power only through the support of the people though she was not elected into her position. Tharna, Port Olni and Corcyrus were all ruled at one time by a tatrix.

If a woman can attain the highest position in a city, its ruler, then there is no logical reason why a woman could not fill other positions of leadership within a city such as a member of the high council of castes or caste leader. There are no specific prohibitions in the books that prevent Free Women from attaining such positions. It simply takes a woman of superior ability to be found worthy of such a position. On Gor, it may be rare but it is definitely within the realm of possibility.

Women may also possess power in other ways. They may own and operate their own houses, often merchant houses. Their business skills and wealth allow them to possess various degrees of power. There are a number of examples in the books of women who own houses by themselves and wield power through their wealth and status. There are no laws prohibiting their ownership of property or real estate. It is often said that merchants are power brokers within many cities. Female merchants enter into that equation as well as men.

Caste

Free Women belong to almost all of the castes on Gor except the Initiates, Players and Assassins. The books specifically state that women may not belong to the Initiate Caste. Though there is no specific prohibition in the books against women belonging to the Player and Assassin Castes, the evidence supports their exclusion. Both are castes you must actively petition to join. Mere birth does not grant one membership in those castes. The books state that generally women do not or may not play kaissa. The books also state that the Assassin Caste seeks men of a particular caliber. There is no indication that either caste permits women or has female members.

Free Women are either born into their caste, assume the caste of their free companion, or petition to join a caste. Children take on the caste of their father. This permits a woman to become a member of the Warrior Caste if her father is a member. Normally, free companions share the same caste though it is permitted for people to free companion people outside of their caste. When a woman joins in free companionship, she has the option to assume the caste of her mate. She can choose to retain her caste. It is unknown if the woman retains the option to change caste throughout the length of the free companionship or if there is a time limit on her choice. Even if she retains her caste, her children will still assume the caste of their father. Women can petition to join a caste and they follow the same rules as a man would in such a petition. The high council of the city would need to approve of the change as well as the intended new caste.

When you become a member of a caste, you will receive all of the normal benefits of that caste, such as caste sanctuary and charity. You generally cannot work in your caste until you complete an apprenticeship or accepted training program. You may be permitted to engage in some limited caste activities without such training but your role would always remain limited. Many women choose not to perform the work of their caste but there are numerous exceptions. In general, women do not engage in work requiring a lot of physical strength such as working at a forge, woodcutting and such. Women often work as scribes and merchants. There are even female slavers, some who engage in field captures though the majority just manage slave houses within the cities.

Women also engage in work in the Physician Caste. There is a common limitation on such women. They cannot engage in the full practice of medicine until they have first given birth to two children. It is likely their function before birthing the requisite children might be akin to being a nurse. In many cities, at age fifteen, a woman of the Physician Caste will be given two bracelets to wear. She can remove one bracelet each time she has a child. When she has removed both bracelets, she may then practice medicine as a full physician. The rationale behind this prerequisite is that professional women tend not to have children. If this were allowed to occur, it would serve over time to diminish the quality and size of the caste. Thus, the rule helps to preserve the future of the caste. The welfare of the caste takes priority over the ambitions and desires of specific individuals. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Caste is vitally important to Goreans so this logic is accepted as valid and is not questioned.

Women may become members of the Warrior Caste by birth or Free Companionship. Yet, women are never trained by the caste to become warriors. There is no instance in any of the novels where a woman was ever trained as a warrior in the Warrior Caste. The books do not explicitly state that women are never trained as warriors, but the evidence supporting that conclusion is very compelling. Probably the most compelling argument is the same logic used by the Physician Caste. Female warriors would be less likely to reproduce and their deaths in combat would also serve to decrease the birth rate. Combined, these would tend to destroy the Warrior Caste over time, and this would never be permitted to occur.




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