Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Drannin » May 6th, 2012, 8:31 am

I personally see Goriel as being a very unpleasant place to live. On the surface, there's a thin veneer of politeness and formality, but this is a culture that incubates, hell even outright encourages hostility and competition between familial groups. There's a bunch of different clans in direct competition with one another with a handful of rulers (a council? a king with support of the strongest clans?) who are well-aware of the situation and are trying to keep things under control. I see it as a tense place, VERY tense, with authorities constantly scrambling around keeping everyone placated lest the careful balance be upset... whereupon everything goes to hell.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Graybeard » May 7th, 2012, 8:56 am

Drannin wrote:I personally see Goriel as being a very unpleasant place to live. On the surface, there's a thin veneer of politeness and formality, but this is a culture that incubates, hell even outright encourages hostility and competition between familial groups. There's a bunch of different clans in direct competition with one another with a handful of rulers (a council? a king with support of the strongest clans?) who are well-aware of the situation and are trying to keep things under control. I see it as a tense place, VERY tense, with authorities constantly scrambling around keeping everyone placated lest the careful balance be upset... whereupon everything goes to hell.

Well, this seems to be the consensus that's emerging, so let's go with it. A meeting with the "prime minister" has been arranged; he can be either the chief honcho himself, or the mouthpiece for the same. I guess I favor the former, with some kind of council behind him as you describe, but we can work with it.

I don't think we should be trying too hard to make Goriel work like a real-world city-state, but the picture that seems to be emerging is similar to a second-tier (i.e., non-Kabul) city in Afghanistan -- say Kandahar -- minus some of the religious craziness and historic meddling by European powers, and maybe plus a bit of prosperity. (Of course, Kandahar "plus a bit of prosperity" can still be quite an impoverished place, depending on era, and we're definitely not talking about 21st-century, reconstructed Kandahar here, with gazillions of dollars of foreign aid pouring in -- for better or for worse.) We can work with that. It does however pose an interesting question. I certainly wouldn't want to live in Kandahar, and would consider it a "very unpleasant place to live," but do the people who actually live in Kandahar consider it very unpleasant? In particular, do the women of the city, whom we would assess as dumped-on and miserable, feel that their lot in life is a bad one? That part, I think, might have very direct parallels in Goriel, whatever the answer is. Women growing up under a social system that westerners view as oppressive and misogynistic might be perfectly content with their roles, by and large, simply by dint of it being all they have ever experienced, and not feeling pressures to be discontented. Or they might not. Clarifying this would probably be valuable as we move closer to starting to have encounters in Goriel.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Sareth » May 7th, 2012, 9:51 am

You nailed it. Having spent two years in Kandahar, for the locals, male and female alike, it's normal, and what always has been. However, there are exceptions to this. External influence (from the media, for one) is revealing to them that there are other ways. There is a small but growing feminist movement in the country. In addition, there is an uncommon but still used practice of families with no sons, but several daughters raising one or two daughters as sons until they are approaching marriable age. This tends to cause conflict in the young women as they shift from male privilege to female submission.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Graybeard » May 7th, 2012, 11:30 pm

Thanks, and I hope that remembrance of things past wasn't too painful for you. :?

Can anybody think of anything else we need to resolve about the place, or are we good to go? I think things are ready on at least the Veracian airship, and if the Bonny Read lags a bit behind, it's probably not a bad thing, as long as the "bit" is measured in hours, not days.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Graybeard » May 9th, 2012, 8:38 pm

Before declaring victory here, there's one more subject that I'd like to discuss: the role of sex slaves (not the same thing as prostitutes, as will be seen) in Goriel.

Given the way women are going to be treated there, I wonder about the possibility that clans would use their more -- accessible women as, for lack of a better word, "commodities." They might be exchanged as payment for deals struck. They might be sent to a different clan as hostages during negotiations (remember, in the "Godfather" series, there was a Mafia family that specialized in renting themselves out as hostages; in this case, of course, it wouldn't be quite so -- voluntary), or as peace offerings. They might be "given," either temporarily or for keeps, to visiting dignitaries (in which case the male characters in our group may have some interesting encounters coming...), or bestowed on underlings of the clan chief as tokens of esteem. And so on.

I would imagine that the life of these women might not be all that bad. "Breaking" a sex slave while in your possession would be a good way to ignite possibly terminal animosity on the part of the slave's owner. Given the general volatility of the society, which we seem to have agreed exists, that might be powerful incentive for the recipient of such a gift, particularly if it's temporary, to treat the woman decently -- although by what standards of "decently" is not yet obvious. This is a big difference between women in this role and regular whores, who presumably wouldn't be treated any better than they are in our own society, and quite possibly are treated worse. I could even imagine sex slave as a relatively high-status position for a woman in Goriel. Relatively.

So does this idea make sense? And if so, what kind of social conventions might it spawn? With the airship getting close to its destination, we should probably decide on this one fairly quickly.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Alberich » May 9th, 2012, 11:35 pm

I wouldn't expect actual female members of the clan to be used as sex slaves - the whole point of a clan is the strong family instict, with the dishonor of one being the dishonor of all, to be washed away with blood. I'd think slaves, sexual or otherwise, would be drawn from foreigners, outsiders, and outcasts (i.e., persons who lose their clan affiliation as punishment - so a girl who has a premarital affair might be cast out from her original clan and enslaved by strangers, while the boy she had the affair with gets killed by her outraged brothers, and the clan elders then get together and settle their remaining differences with talk, wergild, whatever). But I have no problem with what you say about how these slaves would be used -- they'd also be handy for the higher-status young unmarried men, who could then prove their virility without resorting to man-love thurs....other means.

A childbearing concubine could also be very handy for someone whose "official" wife brought a good-sized dowry or helped to keep the peace, but is infertile. (A second wife would reduce the status of the first, unacceptably to her male relatives - a concubine would make a good compromise. Women can't expect real fidelity in a place like this, but the outward show might matter to their relatives...)
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Sareth » May 10th, 2012, 1:47 am

I'd love to agree, Alberich, but sadly reality has shown that family members in tribal/clanish societies won't necessarily be protected. Just last month, a 16 year old Moroccan girl not only was not protected by her family, but in fact her family forced her to marry the 26 year old man who had raped the child at knife point. Rather than protecting the family honor by seeking justice (or, as is more likely, retribution) the family honor was "protected" by further victimizing the girl by making an 'honest' woman of her. (Sadly, she exercised the only control she had in the situation and took her own life to escape.) During the uprising in Libya, a number of women were raped by one side or the other, and then killed by their own families to restore the family honor. (Both of these situations were reported in multiple reputable sources such as the BBC.) Just last year there were almost 1,000 honor killings of women by their own families in Pakistan. While the majority of those were not cases of rape, a quite sizable minority were. (These are the Pakistan government's own numbers.)

Of course, this isn't exactly an alien problem for this side of the world either. While we won't actually kill a rape victim, there is an unpleasantly strong minority who will state that rape victims are at least in part to blame. "She was asking for it. Look at how she dressed!" Just last year a female representative in the Florida House of Representatives stated that the reason an 11 year old Texan girl was raped by 18 older male teens was because she had "dressed like a 21 year old prostitute". (Sadly, a town hall meeting in the Texas town where she had been raped showed that a significant portion of the town populace would agree with this fantastic legislator from Florida, and in fact wanted all charges against the young men who had committed the crime dropped.)

Certainly, if Goriel is a powder keg waiting for an excuse, one could see the argument that a woman's honor could be that excuse. But that assumes that women are viewed as people with honor. Given real world experience, and combined with the lack of respect women have in Goriel, I'd find it far more believable if the response to this sort of thing was "You broke it, you bought it" than "You molested my sister, now you have to die." Remember, we're not talking about a powerful and valued family member, we're talking about an expensive mouth to feed that is only one step better than cattle. If someone with clout rapes your daughter don't attack him, give her to him to tie your family to his. If he's got clout and you go for blood you're quite liable to be on the wrong end of a bloodfest. But if you give her away as a bride to her attacker, or even just a concubine, you tie your fortunes to this powerful fellow. Ditch the bitch. Trade up for a son-in-law that's got connections.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a very, very stiff drink.
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Alberich » May 10th, 2012, 8:09 am

I don't plan to argue contemporary political/social issues in this place. But even in the examples you cite, the girls, having lost their virginity, are no longer family members "in good standing" unless they marry - which is basically in keeping with what I said (i.e, they aren't put into "slavery" until they lose their "protected" status, regardless of whether they're really at fault for the loss).

And if the idea is to have slavery be overwhelmingly female, which is how I understand Graybeard's proposal, it makes sense to have "outcasting," likely followed by prostitution or slavery, as the female punishment for grave offenses, whereas serious male offenders are simply killed. It makes more sense than simply having the clan enslave some of its own members and share them out with strangers, which is how I read his original idea. If not one of these, this slave population has to come from somewhere. Where?
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Graybeard » May 10th, 2012, 9:01 am

Alberich wrote:And if the idea is to have slavery be overwhelmingly female, which is how I understand Graybeard's proposal, it makes sense to have "outcasting," likely followed by prostitution or slavery, as the female punishment for grave offenses, whereas serious male offenders are simply killed. It makes more sense than simply having the clan enslave some of its own members and share them out with strangers, which is how I read his original idea. If not one of these, this slave population has to come from somewhere. Where?

Well, that fate might await misbehaving women (and not just slaves, but also wives, as in that rescue Therese was introduced doing). However, my vision of the sex slaves is for something quite different: it would be a positive role for the women, in its own weird, Gorielian way. As I think about it, nothing in "contemporary" society fits well with the model that I suspect would develop in Goriel. Rather, I was thinking of something closer to the ancient Greek Hetaerae -- who don't exist in any of the contemporary societies we've been trying to use as analogues. Or maybe the pre-WWII form of the Geisha -- which has little to do with the form existing today. (The Geisha article has particularly, ah, penetrating commentary on the virginity part of things.)

The Hetaerae were an interesting crew. They had a sort of half-slave, half-free way of life that corresponds roughly to what I'm imagining for them here, although their Gorielian equivalent would be heavier on the "slave" side. Wikipedia says:
Wikipedia wrote:Hetaerae appear to have been regarded as distinct from prostitutes (pόrne) and also distinguished from mistresses (pallakide) or wives (gynaekes). In the oration Against Neaera, Demosthenes said:
Demosthenes wrote:“We have hetaerae for pleasure, pallakae to care for our daily body’s needs and gynaekes to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.”

In this same oration, Demosthenes mentions that Neaira's purchase price (both at her original purchase by Timanoridas of Corinth and Eucrates of Leucas and her own subsequent purchase of her freedom) was 30 minas. Since the mina was equal to 100 drachmae and the drachma can be thought of as equivalent to the daily wage of a skilled worker, this would make her purchase price over 8 years salary—obviously beyond the means of the average person.

Note here that this particular hetaera was originally purchased, then freed, which appears to have been a common trajectory. With the society we're imagining here, only the first of those steps would normally occur, but my point is that the women fitting into this category in Goriel wouldn't be the downtrodden, pass-'em-around unfortunates who result from losing their "protected" status; rather, they would be highly regarded and their career paths considered desirable, if maybe not as honorable as that of wife. (Or maybe more honorable than wife in certain ways.) Yet they would still "belong to" a clan chief, because every woman belongs to a clan chief, unless they are abandoned -- in which case their life span, or at least their freedom, might be measurable in days if not hours. For women in that latter class, life would likely be utterly miserable. For those in the Hetaera-like part of the "kept" class, it could be pretty durn good. Never the twain would meet.

The only thing that might argue against Goriel having such women is that its overall society would lack the sophistication of Periclean Greece or 19th-century Japan to have them around, protect them, and get value out of them. If that is perceived as a problem, I'd prefer to solve it by slightly increasing the level of Gorielian sophistication compared to what we've been thinking about, because there are all sorts of fascinating opportunities for role play with a class like this encountering our characters -- not to mention the likelihood that unsuspecting Gorielites would interpret Desiree as being part of that class if Argus permitted it...
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Re: Goriel's culture: let's collaborate

Postby Alberich » May 10th, 2012, 10:48 am

Graybeard wrote:Well, that fate might await misbehaving women (and not just slaves, but also wives, as in that rescue Therese was introduced doing). However, my vision of the sex slaves is for something quite different: it would be a positive role for the women, in its own weird, Gorielian way.


It still feels strange to have a clan full of old-fashioned machismo and family pride willingly put its own daughters into any kind of prostitution role, even an elevated one.

I can well believe that, humans being what they are, a subset of enslaved "kept women" originally from outside the clan could rise in status to something like what you describe, by pleasing the right men. Or do you think she should start her career in the "elevated" status, based on some attribute she had when she entered that position?

Having the higher status be a promotion (granted by the chief or his designees - or, if you prefer, by an official of the PM's who is naturally influenced by the chieftains) would create a dramatically interesting tension related to the Sisterhood's work - since some of the women they'd approach for recruitment or rescue then must decide between trying to get out of the whole degrading business, or staying around to try to elevate their status within it.

(In one of Tanith Lee's "Flat Earth" fantasies, a minor demon is punished by the demon lord Azhrarn by being transformed into a worm in the garden. Later on, Azhrarn for some reason decides to pardon him...the demon requests, not to be turned back into his original form, but to be made into a much bigger worm...)

...also, I don't know if this would even come up in the game, but I could picture some relation between this higher-class mistress role and that of a childbearing concubine (e.g., getting promotion to the one role by being especially pleasing while performing successfully in the other).
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