Free Women - Clothes
These are relevant references from the Books where Clothes are mentioned as they pertain to Free Women.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
Many of the free women of Gor and almost always those of High Caste wear the Robes of Concealment, though, of course, their garments are seldom as complex or splendidly wrought as those of a Ubar's daughter. The Robes of Concealment, in function, resemble the garments of Muslim women on my own planet, though they are undoubtedly more intricate and cumbersome. Normally, of men, only a father and a husband may look upon the woman unveiled.
I rejoiced that in at least one city on Gor the free women were not expected to wear the Robes of Concealment, confine their activities largely to their own quarters, and speak only to their blood relatives and, eventually, the Free Companion.
Perhaps I was most startled on the silent streets of Tharna by the free women. They walked in this city unattended, with an imperious step, the men of Tharna moving to let them pass in such a way that they never touched. Each of these women wore resplendent Robes of Concealment, rich in color and workmanship, standing out among the drab garments of the men, but instead of the veil common with such robes the features of each were hidden behind a mask of silver. The masks were of identical design, each formed in the semblance of a beautiful, but cold face.
Lara stood beside me, clad as a free woman but not in the Robes of Concealment. She had shortened and trimmed one of the gracious Gorean garments, cutting it to the length of her knees and cutting away the sleeves so that they fell only to her elbows. It was a bright yellow and she had belted it with a scarlet sash. Her feet wore plain sandals of red leather. About her shoulders, at my suggestion, she had wrapped a cloak of heavy wool.
I knew what must now pass, and it was what would have passed in any city or on any road or trail or path in Gor. She was a captive female, and must, naturally, submit to her assessment as prize; she must also be, incidentally, examined for weapons; a dagger or poisoned needle is often concealed in the clothing of free women.
I remember the days in Ko-ro-ba fondly, though there were certain problems.
Or perhaps one should say, simply, there was Elizabeth. Elizabeth, besides speaking boldly out on a large number of delicate civic, social and political issues, usually not regarded as the Province of the fairer sex, categorically refused to wear the cumbersome Robes of Concealment traditionally expected of the free woman. She still wore the brief, exciting leather of a Tuchuk wagon girl and, when striding the high bridges, her hair in the wind, she attracted much attention, not only, obviously, from the men, but from women, both slave and free.
Once a slave girl bumped into her on one of the bridges and struck at her, thinking she was only slave, but Elizabeth, with a swift blow of her small fist, downed the girl, and managed to seize one ankle and prevent her from tumbling from the bridge. "Slave!" cried the girl. At this point Elizabeth hit her again, almost knocking her once more from the bridge. Then, when they had their hands in one another's hair, kicking, the slave girl suddenly stopped, terrified, not seeing the gleaming, narrow band of steel locked on Elizabeth's throat. "Where is your collar?" she stammered.
"What collar?" asked Elizabeth, her fists clenched in the girl's hair.
"The collar," repeated the girl numbly.
"I'm free," said Elizabeth.
Suddenly the girl howled and fell to her knees before Elizabeth, kneeling trembling to the whip. "Forgive me, Mistress," she cried. "Forgive me!"
When one who is slave strikes a free person the penalty is not infrequently death by impalement, preceded by lengthy torture.
"Oh, get up!" said Elizabeth irritably, jerking the poor girl to her feet.
They stood there looking at one another.
"After all," said Elizabeth, "why should it be only slave girls who are comfortable and can move freely?"
"Aren't you slave?" asked one of the men nearby, a Warrior, looking closely.
Elizabeth slapped him rather hard and he staggered back, "No, I am not," she informed him.
He stood there rubbing his face, puzzled. A number of people had gathered about, among them several free women.
"If you are free," said one of them, "you should be ashamed of yourself, being seen on the bridges so clad."
"Well," said Elizabeth, "if you like walking around wrapped up in blankets, you are free to do so."
"Well then," said Elizabeth, "what are you ashamed of?" Then Elizabeth strode to her and, to the girl's horror, on one of the public high bridges, face-stripped her. The girl screamed but no one came to her aid, and Elizabeth spun her about, peeling off layers of Robes of Concealment until, in a heavy pile of silk, brocade, satin and starched muslin the girl stood in a sleeveless, rather brief orange tunic, attractive, of a sort sometimes worn by free women in the privacy of their own quarters.
The girl stood there, wringing her hands and wailing. The slave girl had backed off, looking as though she might topple off the bridge in sheer terror.
Elizabeth regarded the free woman. "Well," she said, "you are rather beautiful, aren't you?"
The free woman stopped wailing. "Do you think so?" she asked.
"Twenty gold pieces, I'd say," appraised Elizabeth.
"I'd give twenty-three," said one of the men watching, the same fellow whom Elizabeth had slapped.
"Oh, I would not know," she said, "I am only a poor girl of Tyros."
"That is your misfortune," said Elizabeth. "What is your name?"
"Rena," said she, "if it pleases Mistress."
"It will do," said Elizabeth. "Now what do you think?"
"Rena?" asked the girl.
"Yes," snapped Elizabeth. "Perhaps you are a dull-witted slave?"
The girl smiled. "I would say twenty-five gold pieces," she said.
Elizabeth, with the others, inspected the free girl. "Yes," said Elizabeth, "Rena, I think you're right." Then she looked at the free girl. "What is your name, Wench?" she demanded.
The girl blushed. "Relia," she said. Then she looked at the slave girl. "Do you really think I would bring so high a price Rena?"
"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.
"Yes, Relia," corrected Elizabeth.
The girl looked frightened for a moment. "Yes Relia," she said.
Relia laughed with pleasure.
"I don't suppose an exalted free woman like yourself," said Elizabeth, "drinks Ka-la-na?"
"Well," said Elizabeth, turning to me, who had been standing there, as flabbergasted as any on the bridge, "we shall have some." She looked at me. "You there," she said, "a coin for Ka-la-na."
Dumbfounded I reached in my pouch and handed her a coin, a silver Tarsk.
Elizabeth then took Relia by one arm and Rena by the other. "We are off," she announced, "to buy a bottle of wine."
"Wait," I said, "I'll come along."
"No, you will not," she said, with one foot kicking Relia's discarded Robes of Concealment from the bridge. "You," she announced, "are not welcome."
Then, arm in arm, the three girls started off down the bridge.
"What are you going to talk about?" I asked, plaintively.
"Men," said Elizabeth, and went her way, the two girls, much pleased, laughing beside her.
I do not know whether or not Elizabeth's continued presence in Ko-ro-ba would have initiated a revolution among the city's free women or not. Surely there had been scandalized mention of her in circles even as august as that of the High Council of the City. My own father, Administrator of the City, seemed unnerved by her.
Virginia was clad in garments cut from the beautiful, many colored robes of concealment of the free woman. But, proud of her beauty and glorious in her joy, she had boldly shortened the garments almost to the length of slave livery, and a light, diaphanous orange veil loosely held her hair and lay about her throat. She wore the robes of concealment in such a way as not to conceal but enhance her great loveliness. She had discovered herself and her beauty on this harsh world, and was as proud of her body as the most brazen of slave girls, and would not permit its being shut away from the wind and the sunlight. The garments suggested the slave girl and yet insisted, almost demurely, on the reserve, the pride and dignity of the free woman. The combination was devastating, tormentingly attractive, an achievement so tantalizing and astoundingly exciting that I would not be surprised if it were adopted throughout Ar by the city's free women, rebellious, proud of their bodies, at last determined to throw off centuries of restriction, of confinement and sequestration, at last determined to stand forth as individuals, female individuals, sensuous as slave girls but yet rich in their own persons, intelligent, bold, beautiful, free. I mused to myself that slave raids on Ar might grow more frequent.
The women of rence growers, when in their own marshes, do not veil themselves, as is common among Gorean women, particularly of the cities. Moreover, they are quite capable of cutting rence, preparing it, hunting for their own food and, on the whole, of existing, if they wish it, by themselves. There are few tasks of the rence communities which they cannot perform as well as men. Their intelligence, and the work of their hands, is needed by the small communities. Accordingly they suffer little inhibition in the matters of speaking out and expressing themselves.
"The piercing of the ears is far more terrible," said Ute. "Nose rings are nothing. They are even pretty. In the south even the free women of the Wagon Peoples wear nose rings." She held me more closely. "Even free women in the south," she insisted, "the free women of the Wagon Peoples, wear nose rings." She kissed me. "Besides," she said, "it may be removed, and no one will ever know that you wore it. It will not show." Then Ute's eyes clouded with tears. I looked at the tiny steel rods holding open the wounds in her ears. "But only slave girls," she wept, "have their ears pierced." She wept. "How can I ever hope to become a Free Companion," she wept. "What man would want a woman with the pierced ears of a slave girl? And if I were not veiled, anyone might look upon me, and laugh, and scorn me, seeing that my ears had been pierced, as those of a slave girl!"
The free woman was a tall woman, large. She wore a great cape of fur, of white sea-sleen, thrown back to reveal the whiteness of her arms. Her kirtle was of the finest wool of Ar, dyed scarlet, with black trimmings. She wore two broaches, both carved of the horn of a kailiauk, mounted in gold. At her waist she wore a jeweled scabbard, protruding from which I saw the ornamented, twisted blade of a Turian dagger; free women of Torvaldsland commonly carry a knife; at her belt too, hung her scissors, and a ring of many keys, indicating that her hall contained many chests or doors; her hair was worn high, wrapped about a comb, matching the broaches, of the horn of kailiauk ; the fact that her hair was worn dressed indicated that she stood in companionship; the number of her keys, together with the scissors, indicated that she was mistress of a great house. She had gray eyes; her hair was dark; her face was cold and harsh.
The girls, though collared in the manner of Torvaldsland, and serving men, were fully clothed. Their kirtles of white wool, smudged and stained with grease, fell to their ankles; they hurried about; they were barefoot; their arms, too, were bare; their hair was tied with strings behind their heads, to keep it free from sparks; their faces were, on the whole, dirty, smudged with dirt and grease; they were worked hard; Bera, I noted, kept much of an eye upon them; one girl, seized by a warrior, her waist held, his other hand sliding upward from her ankle beneath the single garment permitted her, the long, stained woolen kirtle, making her cry out with pleasure, dared to thrust her lips eagerly, furtively, to his; but she was seen by Bera; orders were given; by male thralls she was bound and, weeping, thrust to the kitchen, there to be stripped and beaten; I presumed that if Bera were not present the feast might have taken a different turn; her frigid, cold presence was, doubtless, not much welcomed by the men. But she was the woman of Svein Blue Tooth. I supposed, in time, normally, she would retire, doubtless taking Svein Blue Tooth with her. It would be then that the men might thrust back the tables and hand the bond-maids about. No Jarl I knew can hold men in his hall unless there are ample women for them. I felt sorry for Svein Blue Tooth. This night, however, it seemed Bera had no intention of retiring early.
"Earrings," I said to her, "by Gorean girls, are regarded as the ultimate degradation of a female, appropriate only in sensual slave girls, brazen, shameless wenches, pleased that men have forced them to wear them, and be beautiful."
"Do free women on Gor not wear earrings?" asked Alyena.
"Never," I said.
"Only slave girls?"
"Only the most degraded of slave girls," I said.
Afterwards, it might be mentioned, they are usually pleased with the piercing of their ears, and grow quite proud of this erotic dimension added to their beauty; not displeased are they either with the lovely adornments which their master may now order them to fix upon their body; free women, it is no secret, in many respects, envy their enslaved sisters, their beauty, their joy, their attractiveness to men; this may explain why free women are often quite cruel to slave girls; most imbonded girls fear greatly that they might be purchased by one of the dreaded free women. I have wondered sometimes if free women on Gor might not be happier if their culture permitted them to be somewhat more like the slave girls they so heartily despise. It seems a small enough thing that a free woman might be culturally permitted to have her ears pierced and, thus, be permitted earrings. Would it make so muck difference? But the bonds of culture are strong. On Earth a free woman would not think of having herself branded, though it might improve her beauty; similarly, on Gor, a free woman would not consider having her ears pierced.
The veil, it might be noted, is not legally imperative for a free woman; it is rather a matter of modesty and custom. Some low-class, uncompanioned, free girls do not wear veils. Similarly certain bold free women neglect the veil. Neglect of the veil is not a crime in Gorean cities, though in some it is deemed a brazen and scandalous omission.
In some cities, and among some groups and tribes, it might be mentioned, though this is not common, veils may be for most practical purposes unknown, even among free women. The cities of Gor are numerous and pluralistic. Each has its own history, customs and traditions. On the whole, however, Gorean culture prescribes the veil for free women.
She wore a full, beige skirt, the hem of which fell to within some six inches of the ground, and slim, high, black-leather boots; a beige blouse, and a beige jacket, belted, which fell to her thighs; too, she wore a loose hood, attached to the jacket by hooks, of matching beige material, and an opaque veil, also of beige material. Such garments, far less formal than the common attire of the Gorean free woman, are sometimes worn by rich women in the supervision and inspection of certain sorts of holdings, such as orchards, fields, ranches and vineyards. They constitute, for such women, so to speak, a habit for work.
It is said on Gor that the garments of a free woman are designed to conceal a woman's slavery, whereas the accouterments and garments of a slave, such as the brand and collar, the tunic or Ta-Teera, are made to reveal it.
"This," she said, moving to the next girl, "is an upswept fashion. It appears sophisticated. It is a hairdo favored by some free women, but it is not outlawed for slaves.
I did not doubt but what these garments were genuine. The last garment, for example, was undoubtedly really that which had been taken from me in the throne room of Corcyrus, before the very throne itself, before I had been taken naked and in chains outside, into the courtyard, to be placed in a golden cage. These garments, Ligurious had informed me in the throne room of Argentum, before placing me in the golden sack, from which I had been rescued by Drusus Rencius, had been smuggled out of Corcyrus. He had probably paid much to obtain them. The last pieces were all items of intimate feminine apparel, which had been worn next to my body.
I was embarrassed to see them. Now that I was a slave, of course, I would have been grateful to have even so much to wear publicly. But when I had worn them they had been the garments of a free woman. Thus, when I saw them now it was as one who had once been a free woman that I was embarrassed. Few free women care to have their intimate garments exhibited publicly before men.
In the oasis towns of the Tahari, and in the vicinity of the great desert, sometimes even free women are belled, and wear ankle chains, as well, that the length of their stride may be measured and made beautiful, and perhaps, too, to remind them, even though they be free, that they are but women.
had left some slaves beads in recompense, of course, pretty beads of cheap wood, such as are cast about in festivals and carnivals, sometimes even being seized up secretly by free women who put them on before their mirrors, in secret, as though they might be slaves. In many cities, incidentally, a woman who is discovered doing such a thing may be remanded to magistrates for impressment into bondage.
She was veiled, as is common for Gorean women in the high cities, particularly those of station. In some cities the veil is prescribed by law for free women, as well as by custom and etiquette; and in most cities it is prohibited, by law, to slaves.
Remember that they have never seen the face of the Lady Ina, not fully, for she was always veiled when in their vicinity. Too, as you have been under discipline, and will continue to be kept under discipline, I do not think you are likely to be betrayed by the arrogance or mannerisms of a free woman. For example, you may not be aware of this but you now carry yourself, and move, differently from what you did before. Everything about you now is much softer and more beautiful than it was. Indeed, frankly, I do not know if you could go back to being a free woman, at least of the sort you were. That I fear, for better or for worse, is now behind you."
"But as a free woman of high caste," she exclaimed, "to be put in the garment of a free woman of low caste is unthinkable!"
She flung the garment angrily down.
"You are going to be lashed as you never believed a woman could be lashed," I said.
She sank to her knees. "No," she said, "please."
"Then pick up the garment in your teeth," I said, "and bring it to me, on all fours."
Frightened, she did so.
I was looking at her feet. Her feet were small, her ankles lovely. She was now in sandals, as befitted a free woman.
"Have you ever worn slave silk before?" I asked.
"No!" she said. "Of course not!"
"Some free women," I said, "purchase it secretly, and wear it in the privacy of their own compartments, sometimes weeping with need and sleeping at the foot of their own bed."
"Fellows as handsome as he," complained the merchant, "should be forced to go veiled in public."
It is interesting, I thought, how much such a small thing can mean to a girl. It was a mere slave tunic, a cheap, tiny thing, little more than a Ta Teera or camisk, and yet it delighted her, boundlessly. It was the sort of garment which free women profess to despise, to find unspeakably shocking, unutterably scandalous, the sort of garment which they profess to regard with horror, the sort of garment which they seem almost ready to faint at the sight of, and yet to Phoebe, and to others like her, in bondage, it was precious, meaning more to her doubtless than the richest garments in the wardrobes of the free women. To be sure, I suspect that free women are not always completely candid in what they tell us about their feelings toward such garments. The same free woman, captured, who is cast such a garment, and regarding it cries out with rage and frustration, and dismay, and hastens to don it only when she sees the hand of her captor tighten on his whip, is likely, in a matter of moments, to be wearing it quite well, and with talent, moving gracefully, excitingly and provocatively within it. Such garments, and their meaning, tend to excite women, inordinately. Too, they are often not such strangers to such garments as they might have you believe. Such garments, and such things, are often found among the belongings of women in captured cities. It is presumed that many women wear them privately, and pose in them, before mirrors, and such. Sometimes it is in the course of such activities that they first feel the slaver's noose upon them, they surprised, and taken, in the privacy of their own compartments. On Gor it is said that free women are slaves who have not yet been collared
I wondered how many were women such as I and how many might, perhaps only days ago, have worn the heavy, complex, gorgeous, ornate robes and veils of the free women of this world.
I confine myself to those which are designed to net slaves. To be sure, they function quite effectively with free women, as well, who, it must be noted, unless surprised in the boudoir or bath, are often impeded by the cumbersome robes of concealment. Interestingly the very robes which are supposed to discourage predation upon them render them more vulnerable to it.
I think, incidentally, that the robes of concealment must be terribly uncomfortable in the summer. In hot weather free women often wear sliplike garments in the privacy of their own quarters.
Most of the hairpieces, and wigs, and such, affected by free women are certified as being from the hair of free women. Most on the other hand, I am reasonably confident, are from the hair of slaves.
She saw, occasionally, among the crowds, a free woman, robed and veiled. How proudly, how serenely, they moved. How she envied them their freedom! They were free! They could come and go as they pleased.
Whereas in the laundry she and the others had often washed garments of free women, those garments had seldom been the cumbersome Robes of Concealment. Usually they had been house garments, garden robes, veils, hose, subrobes, and such. She had washed street himations frequently enough, however, of the sort which were sometimes worn by free women, particularly those of the lower-castes. The street himation is far less bulky and protective than the usual Robes of Concealment, less stiffness, less brocade, less embroidery and such. It is, of course, almost always combined with the veil. Gorean free women, at least in the high cities, almost always wear veils in public, although some women of the lower castes are occasionally careless in this particular, permitting lax arrangements, and such, especially the maidens. Too, some omit the veil altogether. Veils can be used, if handled and arranged in certain ways, for flirting, much as were fans, once on Earth, in less androgynous times.
Ellen could hear, too, now and then, the clack of high, wooden, platformlike, cloglike footwear, such as is sometimes worn by free women, particularly of high caste, which lift the hems of their gowns a bit from the ground, and serve to protect delicately slippered or sandaled feet from dust and mud. Ellen did not look at them, for she feared free women, and, as most slave girls, avoided meeting their eyes directly, lest they be thought insolent and be punished.
She paused for a moment to look back once more at the free woman. The woman had lifted her veil with her left hand, just a little, to drink from the goblet. Ellen could see the impression of the upper rim of the goblet through the veil. Lower-class women sometimes drink through the veil, and their veils, subsequently, may be severally stained. Ellen saw that the woman's body was very straight as she drank. As the veil was lifted somewhat, as she drank, one could see a bit of her throat, white and lovely, where a collar might be nicely locked. Her ankles could be seen, above her slippered feet, as the robes were lifted a bit, seemingly having been inadvertently disarranged as she sat. Her legs were turned to one side, and placed side by side, apparently demurely closed beneath her robes. Slave girls, when permitted tunics and permitted to sit, as on a log, a rock, a shelf, commonly sit thusly. This is not only congenial to a certain modesty, but men find it provocative. Ellen wondered if the woman had seen slaves sit in that fashion. She had now lowered the veil, and was chatting with some of the men sitting about cross-legged, near the fire. Watching her, some yards from the firelight, were two tall, darkly robed men. Their robes were cut in the pattern of Cos. Ellen doubted that the woman was aware of them. At the sash of one of them there was a narrow, coiled rope of black braided leather.
"The wrists of a free woman, as I understand it," said Ellen, "as generally the rest of her body, are not to be publicly exposed, to prevent that being the function of gloves and sleeves."
Gorean free women, incidentally, will seldom encircle their throats with jewelry of any sort, even in the privacy of their quarters, I suspect, as such things in their culture, speak to them of bondage.
Earrings, on Gor, interestingly, are placed on only the lowest of slaves. Nose rings, incidentally, for whatever reason, do not carry the same connotation of degradation, and such. Indeed, Ellen has been informed that in the southern hemisphere such rings are worn by even free women amongst certain nomadic tribes. Complex veiling and the Robes of Concealment are most common, of course, in urban areas, and particularly so amongst women of the higher castes. To be sure, even peasant women may veil themselves before strangers, and, one supposes, wisely.
The cosmetics of slaves are not that different, interestingly, from those of free women on Earth. Gorean free women do not use cosmetics, or supposedly do not use them, though ankle bells, concealed by their robes, and perfumes are permitted to them.
Cosmetics, on Gor, are regarded as salacious, improper, offensive and scandalous in the case of a free woman; such things are associated with slaves.
I wonder, she thought, if, in the privacy of their compartments, even free women, with their companions, might resort to cosmetics, perhaps even serving their companions as though they might be no more than slaves, but they would not be, of course, true slaves. Ellen wondered if free women might do such, to keep their companions out of the markets, where they might buy an actual slave, a woman over whom they would genuinely have absolute power, as her master had over her.
The general pervasiveness of the conjunction of the lips amongst humans suggests that something more than simple cultural idiosyncrasy may be involved, presumably on a level not immediately accessible to consciousness, a level in which the act is understood as symbolic, and analogous to, and suggestive of, and preliminary to, more intimate conjunctions. This is perhaps why certain human cultures object to the meeting of the lips in the fashion in question. For example, Gorean free women are commonly veiled in public, at least in part, presumably, that their provocative lips not be publicly exposed. Indeed, one of the things most dreaded by a Gorean free woman, particularly of high caste, is that they will be face-stripped and their lips exposed to public view, as though they might be those of a slave.
"You do not have gloves," said Cabot. "Commonly free women, or certainly those of high caste, wear gloves with the Robes of Concealment. I might have caught a glimpse of your wrist, and noted that it might look well enclosed within a slave bracelet."
"You are not veiled," said Cabot. "Are you not afraid that your lips might be discerned, and their nature mistaken for that appropriate for a slave?"
In the full Gorean Robes of Concealment little of the free woman can be seen saving her eyes, over the veiling, and beneath the hood. In the Tahari region the veiling is often so complete that even the eyes cannot be seen, but must be surmised, as peering outward though a dark gauze. Certainly the body is to be muchly concealed. And the robes, with their length, and the nature of the sleeves, and the gloving, are designed to conceal as well as possible the speculative treasures which might be hidden within them.
To the Gorean the sight of a free woman's wrist, or ankle, can be powerfully stimulatory.
Gorean free women commonly conceal their throat, which, of course, is easily done with the robes of concealment, the veils, and such. If a woman's throat is bared, how does she know that a fellow, say, that one, sitting across from her, in a public cart, or such, is not idly fancying what it might look like in a collar. Indeed, it is natural for a Gorean male, seeing the bared throat of a woman, to think "collar."
By their own hand they had face-stripped themselves," said one of the fellows.
At this moment three or four of the girls on the chain burst into tears.
This is perhaps difficult for those unfamiliar with Gor to understand, one supposes, but the matter is cultural, certainly in the high cities. The face of a free woman, particularly one of high caste, of station, and such, is secret to herself, and to those to whom she might choose to bare it.
How precious is the veil to the free woman; she is not a slave.
Sometimes the binding fiber, in its double loop, is looser, that it may ride low on the hips. The point of this is to exhibit the navel of the slave, which, in Gorean, is known as "the slave belly." The Gorean free woman, as I understand it, who often mates while gowned, commonly refuses to reveal her "slave belly" to her companion, because of the shame of it. What if he should become excited, tear off her gown, and put her to use with the same audacity, aggression, exhilaration, and exultation with which he might use a vulnerable, meaningless animal, say, a chain-slut or paga girl?
Veiling was common amongst free women in public. In private. veiling would be an encumbrance. Few women would veil themselves in their own household, unless in the presence of strangers. In public dining the woman might feed herself discreetly, delicately, beneath the veil. Some lower-caste women, on the street, will literally drink through the veil.
Goreans, incidentally, accept nose rings without any particular ado. Indeed, amongst the Wagon Peoples, where veiling is unknown, such rings are common even with free women.
The human body, on Gor, is not regarded as shameful. Even Gorean women of high caste, who are commonly robed and veiled in public, do not regard bodies as shameful. That would be absurd for a Gorean. They do, however, usually, regard their bodies as special and provocative, and exquisitely private, and certainly not for public viewing. The Gorean free woman then does not think of her body as something to be hidden for reasons of shame but as something to be hidden for reasons of propriety. As is well known the usual Gorean free woman is more concerned with the concealment of her facial features than her body. Her face is much more revealing of herself than her body.
The silks of tavern girls, of course, are quite unlike the silks of free women, which are cumbersome and concealing, even to veils.
The barefootedness of the slave also tends to draw a further distinction between her and the free woman, for the free woman, even of low caste, almost always has footwear of one sort or another, even if it is only a wrapping of cloth.
Denial of the veil is one of the things, as noted, insisted upon by free women for the slave, this marking another dramatic difference between them, at least between those of high caste and the slave. Low-caste women, in their work, not unoften do without veiling. Good-looking girls of low-caste sometimes go about unveiled deliberately, hoping that they may catch the eye of a slaver, and perhaps be sold into a high household, or come into the chains of a handsome, well-to-do master.
One might note in passing how the slave tunic, or the scandalous camisk or ta-teera, are viewed by free women, slaves, and masters. The free woman regards such garments as a degradation, an unspeakable humiliation, a badge of shame, fit for natural slaves, say, women of alien or enemy cities. But, too, they often seethe with envy that it is not they who are exposed so blatantly, and desirably, to the eyes of males.
Free women occasionally use hooded serving slaves on all fours, in crawling races, in which, walking behind them, they incite them to greater speed by the frequent monitions of a switch. Free women often delight in this game, as it gives them an opportunity to show what they think of female slaves.
What a difference between the unquestioned prerogatives of the free woman who may speak if and when, and as, she pleases, and the helplessness of the slave who may be silenced with a word or gesture, and may not speak without permission.
Her regalia had been complex and sumptuous, rich and colorful, the envy of every free woman in the city, each pleat and fold carefully arranged by slaves; her slippers had been laced with pearls, her veils had shimmered with jewels.
The face of the slave, by law, must be naked. Free women insist on that. They are not to be confused with animals, with collared beasts. The features of free women, presumably so exquisite, precious, and marvelous, are not to be exhibited to common view. Accordingly, given the depth of their veiling, and the opacity of the common street veil, they cannot well prevail upon, or influence, the peddler or merchant, the fellow sitting behind his goods, spread upon a rug or cloth, or the stallsman, behind his counter, with the loveliness of a woman's smile. To be sure, they do their best to smile with their voices, banter pleasantly, and hint with a deft word or two how astute is the tradesman, and how attractive he is, and how grateful they would be, mere weak, defenseless women, and possible beauties, should he unbend a bit and relax his adamancy by a tarsk-bit or so.
Many free women, for example, and some men, concerned with respect to their appearance, do not care to limit their wardrobes as narrowly as their castes might seem to recommend.
Gorean free women of high caste almost invariably veil themselves in public. Gorean free women of the lower castes tend to be less fastidious, or strict, in such matters. Whereas some will emulate the high-caste women, others will veil themselves more casually, or loosely, exposing more of their features. This is sometimes referred to as half-veiling. In privacy, of course, free women seldom veil themselves. In public, it is easy to eat and drink behind the veil. It may be done with delicacy and grace. It is commonly done in the eating houses. I have seen low-caste free women drink through the veil, but this is rare. It is regarded as barbarous. I have seen some free women, of low caste, on hot days, who will eschew the veil altogether. This is, however, rare. As is well known the female slave may not veil herself even should she wish to do so. That would be an insult to free women.
There was nothing here of layered, shimmering veils, of golden sandals, of cloaks, hoods and scarves, of jeweled purses, of the rich, flowing, colorful, intricately draped robes of concealment, common to the Gorean free woman. Too, there was nothing here of the grace, and beauty, and femininity, of the provocative softness, of the promise of secret delights, of the implicit, whispered needs, of the typical Gorean free woman, obvious even in, and perhaps even enhanced by, the robes of concealment.
There are some free women of the upper castes, wealthy women, who from childhood have never dressed themselves, who do not even know the intricate clasps and closures of the robes of concealment they wear, let alone their blendings and drapings, the best colors for the time of day and the season, the arrangements ideally in order for receivings, visitings, promenades, attendance at the readings, the theater, the song drama and so on.
How different were the women of Earth from them, those of Earth lacking Home Stones, with their brazenly unveiled features, their openly displayed ankles, the pleading silk of their secret lingerie, so fit for slaves. They were not Gorean free women.
Slave garments, incidentally, are almost always extremely comfortable, surely more so than the cumbersome robes of concealment prescribed for the free woman of the continent. In the typical slave garment a woman may move quite freely, doubtless because there is so little of it.
On the continent, free women, in public, particularly those of the upper castes, are muchly concealed.
On the continent, free women, in public, particularly those of the upper castes, are muchly concealed. There are the robes of concealment, the veils, the gloves, the slippers, and such. If a free woman had been as much exposed as Sumomo, she might in her humiliation, repudiate her compromised, outraged freedom, and seek the collar, regarding herself as now worthy of no more. In the high cities, free women are not permitted in paga taverns. If one is found within the precincts, she is often stripped and put out, into the street. Then, commonly, she begs to be admitted once more, then to know the iron and be fastened in the collar. It is difficult to know about women. Why do some undertake perilous journeys, wander outside guarded walls, frequent lonely streets in poor districts, insult strangers, as though it might be done with impunity, walk the high bridges unescorted in the moonlight and such? This is sometimes spoken of as "courting the collar." It is almost as though they wished to find themselves at the feet of a master.
It was on the wharf that I saw my first Gorean free women. How well they moved, so gracefully! There was no mistaking those movements, those of graceful forms, within those colorful, layered, beautifully draped robes, so flowing, so feminine, and it was easy to conjecture the exquisite features that, doubtless in many cases, might be concealed behind those colorful, silken, matched veils, or, if it were worn, the lengthier, heavier street veil.
Occasionally I saw slippers, not sandals, beneath the hem of those robes.
"Why do you think they are veiled, and hidden inside robes?" he said. "And why do you think, on the other hand, veils are forbidden to slaves and slaves are scarcely clad, if clad at all?"
"I do not know, Master," I said.
"Do you think the only reason slaves are slave-clad, in brief tunics, and such, is because men enjoy seeing them so?"
"I do not know, Master," I said.
"Too," he said, "to distract attention from free women. Why should a raider or slaver risk his life to carry off a free woman, who might turn out to be more ugly than a tharlarion, when he might steal a slave, where he can see what his capture rope encircles?"
"It is not unknown for some women of the lower castes to slacken, or omit, veils," said Lita.
Lastly, it might be noted that the shorn hair of slaves, commonly marketed as the hair of free women, may be used by free women for various cosmetic purposes, such as wigs and falls.
I could easily outrun Dorna, encumbered as she was in the voluminous splendor of the multicolored robes of concealment. Such garmenture attests to importance, dignity, station, honor, and display; too, it may intrigue the curious, appraising male to speculate about the wonders and treasures it may conceal; but it does little for freedom of movement, say, on occasions in which a fleet departure might be advisable. Indeed, a ribald joke heard in the taverns, where no free woman is present, is to the effect that the point of the robes of concealment is not only to pique male curiosity but to render their occupant easier to apprehend. If this is the case then an interesting covert parallelism would exist between the concealment of the free woman and the exposure of the slave.
I was unfamiliar with the number and layering of robes, the arrangement of veils, even the mysterious hooks and fastenings which somehow managed to bring together and secure the often-sumptuous ensemble of the Gorean free woman. In some of the more extreme cases, the free woman cannot even dress herself, but requires the assistance of a skilled "woman's slave." Such "woman's slaves" tend to be expensive.
"Surely you noted, instantly, that her hands were bare," said Florian.
"I did not think about such things," I said.
"Stupid barbarian," he said.
"Many free woman," I said, "do not wear clothing on their hands."
"Particularly amongst the less affluent," he said. "But she was in street robes, and consider their sumptuous nature. In such regalia to be without clothing for the hands is much the same as being barefoot. Her master did not want her to forget she was a slave."
Veiling is common with Gorean free women in public. The removal of a veil or veils without the owner's consent is referred to as "face stripping." In some cities this is a crime punishable by death, particularly if the woman shares one's Home Stone. Bodies tend to be similar, but features tend to be individual, personal, and unique. Many Gorean free women, interestingly, if forced to choose, would prefer body stripping to face stripping. In a sense, to them, body stripping is more impersonal and less revealing than face stripping. Doubtless this is a cultural matter. One of the reasons that Gorean men tend to think of the women of my former world as at best uncollared slaves is the blatant and brazen way in which so many of them allow their features to be looked upon. Is not a face, with its delicacies and subtleties, its myriad expressions, a thousand times more revealing than a body?
On Gor, few free women exhibit their ankles. The raider or capturing slaver, of course, always hopes for the best. In the case of many Gorean women their ankles are never really exhibited until they are sold from the block.
The daily garmenture of a free woman might clothe a dozen slaves.
"Your recent experiences have been unpleasant," I said. "You have been, if not wholly immersed, much drenched in the waves and spray of Thassa. You are soaked. As a consequence, your robes and veils cling muchly to your bodies and features. Thus it is hinted that you, beneath all, though free women, are females. Accordingly, I suggest that you readjust your veils and pull your garments away from your bodies. I think you can understand the reason for this. There are men aboard."
Glancing at one another, the three women swiftly, apprehensively, complied with my suggestion.
"Captain Glycon, if I may use the name," said Melete, "we are grateful for the courtesy and honor with which we have been treated."
I had even managed, given the sorry condition of their original clothing, following their experiences at sea, to supply them with a fresh, ample wardrobe, footwear, robes and veils, purchased locally.
"It is our due, of course," she said, "as we are free women."
"Certainly," I said.