On March 22, a developer, Larry Garfield, was ousted from the development team for the free and open source content-management company Drupal, for his private proclivities. The ban was confirmed by the technical and community leaders of Drupal, but left many people curious as to what could cause such a prompt termination.
Drupal creator, Dries Buytaert, remained vague about the reasons for the decision to dissociate with Mr. Garfield. However, according to several sources, Mr. Garfield was terminated for his interest in a fantasy genre entitled the “Chronicles of Gor.”
The series began in the 1960s and is known for its fictional community – a community that abides by a strict code which encompasses notions of honor and integrity.
The “Chronicles of Gor” series has a budding subculture where fans role play the more fetishized aspects of the fictional world. In the world of Gor, there is a class of slaves called Kajira that are entirely comprised of women. These Kajira are dressed in particular items of clothing that demonstrate their status.
Gor fans have been known to create chatrooms where they role play sexual fetishes with certain players playing the part of master while others play the part of slaves. Interestingly enough, this sort of role playing is not confined to the online world, but finds a way of crossing over into real life where participants engage in extreme forms of BDSM.
Adherents to this sub-culture claim that it is all pretend and anything that is done is consensual; nevertheless, the overarching narrative within the Gor chronicles is that these Kajira are in fact slaves.
Given that Mr. Garfield participated in the subculture of the Gor, some members of the developer community began asserting that, given his hobby, it was impossible for him not to hold some misogynistic views. It was argued that he could not hold progressive views of women in his public life while partaking in such regressive attitudes of women in his private life. This is fundamentally what led to Mr. Garfield’s dismissal from Drupal.
Ultimately, the development group has every right to disassociate with a member that they believe is not adhering to their agreed upon code or ethics. Nevertheless, the question does arise over whether it’s fair to judge someone based on their private proclivities? In all honesty, I must admit that this does create some sort of ethical dilemma. Does a person have complete freedom to behave in ways that society would find obscene in private without any sort of repercussions?
If we are going to be honest, we have to admit that there will be some sort of limit on the ability of person to indulge in fantasies that offend without being judged for it. For instance, let’s say someone liked to play “white slave master and black slaves” on the weekends with their buddies. Despite everyone being willing participants, it would hardly go unnoticed that there are some obvious racist sentiments being conveyed in such an act. Could a participant in this movement claim that they personally find racism or slavery offensive but just enjoy playing around with the fantasy of it?
Again, this situation does not lend itself to being easily resolvable. The world of kink is notorious for its various forms of “play” that are embraced by members of the community. Does the fact that someone enjoys humiliating others or causing them pain mean something about their personal values? Truly, I do not know.
I believe I would need to interview people in this community to truly understand this perspective. Nevertheless, I do believe that the private space and lives of people should be protected and that it would not be fair to judge someone based on their fantasies alone.
Gary St. Fleur
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