Slavery, bondage and science-fiction seem far removed from a pebble-dashed North-East house. But an investigation by The Northern Echo has revealed a secretive sub-culture inspired by fantasy novels. OLIVIA RICHWALD and DAVID ROBERTS report
Lee Thompson has been banned from his favourite butcher’s shop for dropping by with a girl on a leash.
He’s upset because it serves the best bacon in Darlington and his friend on the lead had volunteered to be his slave.
It all sounds very strange and Mr Thompson insists he is doing nothing wrong – a view the police are compelled to agree with – but the group’s antics have provoked complaints from parents, friends and neighbours.
Police raided the house after they received a complaint that one woman was being held against her will. An investigation found that was not the case.
Durham Police say they can do nothing because the Kaotians are merely consenting adults with unusual beliefs.
This comes as cold comfort to the parents of one young man who is now Mr Thompson’s understudy.
They only want their son back home.
Mr Thompson, originally from Manchester, lives in an ordinary pebble-dashed terraced house near the centre of Darlington.
Dressed in black, with a black beard and ponytail down his neck, many of his neighbours in Forster Street regard him as slightly strange, but they have no idea of the quasi-medieval world he has embraced.
Estimates suggest that there are up to 25,000 Goreans nationwide.
Numbers of participating members have swelled since the advent of the Internet.
For many, it is a bit of harmless fun played out through their computer.
However, other members live by the idea that men are naturally dominant and women submissive. They actively engage in slave-master relationships, frequently of a sexual nature.
Now, Mr Thompson has broken his silence and revealed to The Northern Echo a world most people can barely imagine.
Up to three times a week, 350 members of the Kaotians, from Berwick in the north to York in the south, meet in clubs and pubs around the region.
Mr Thompson became hooked on cult novel Tarnsman of Gor aged 13. By 15, he had read all the books in the series and by 16, he decided it was a lifestyle he wanted to pursue.
He met Goreans at alternative nightclub Rockshots, in Newcastle, became an “apprentice” at 16 and a “master”, eligible for slaves, at 21.
He says that by then, he was disillusioned with the Gorean lifestyle because he felt they were too tough on their slaves.
On more than one occasion, he said he had to step in when he felt another master was overstepping acceptable boundaries.
He says Kaotians are more gentle and says he does not believe in hurting “his girls”.
He says: “A sad slave is no good at all. I treat them like diamonds.
“I want to see a girl’s eyes sparkle and her mouth turn up at the corners. I don’t want to see them with their eyes downcast.”
Although there is some sado-masochism, he says he does not hurt or hit people in anger or violence.
However, he uses leather crops, cat-o-nine-tails and chains as part of the rituals, but purely for titillation.
“There’s a difference between making people squeal and hurting them.
Pain isn’t my cup of tea, ” he says.
He has been a Kaotian for 15 years and, during this time, has enjoyed relationships with eight slaves – or girls as he prefer to call them.
Although the role play differs between individuals, for Mr Thompson it is a “total lifestyle” in which his girls wear collars, wrist cuffs and leashes, fulfilling his every whim and kneeling at his feet.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his living room, Mr Thompson explains: “It works on the system that some women have a desire to serve. Most people think it is a very sexual thing, but it is about every action that they make they do it for their master.
“Saying that, the girls will do everything they are told when it comes to sex, but it is all voluntary and all safe.
“I use Internet chatrooms to meet people; the girls are quite willing.”
He says his slaves carry out tasks such as housework, accompanying him to the shops and fulfilling his sexual desires.
But as we interview Mr Thompson and his 18-yearold friend [name removed — RNB], it doesn’t look like the living room has seen any kind of cleaning for quite some time.
According to Mr Thompson, slavery bears similarities to marriage: “No one is ever equal in marriage; this is a very deep extension of that. For me, it is slipping into a natural role “A lot of girls want to come and try slavery. People think it is easy, but it is hard work.”
Girls who become slaves lose their identity and become chattel to their master. But not all women are slaves, and there are some “free women”.
Occasionally in Kaotian and Gorean circles, there are male slaves, something Mr Thompson finds “unnatural”.
Mr Thompson’s last slave was a 29-year-old girl from Canada. He met her on the Internet a few weeks ago, she flew to Britain, then burnt her passport and return ticket to live a life of slavery in Darlington.
The fantasy didn’t last long and about five weeks ago she sent an urgent e-mail to a friend in Texas, in the US, saying she was “trapped” in his home.
Mr Thompson still feels hurt by her departure.
Although he is reluctant to discuss the details, he says she could have left at any time had she shared her feelings.
Mr Thompson says he is always open about his lifestyle, which has attracted attention when he has been seen leading his slaves around Darlington.
However, he does lead a separate life with a longterm partner who, he says, is aware of his tendencies.
She is not a Kaotian, but is happy with him having sex with his slaves.
He says: “I am what I am, I have never lied about what I am.
“My girlfriend is my partner. I will never love anyone as much as I love her and we have been together for eight years.”
Kaotian chic consists of chains and leather straps for the slaves and Mr Thompson proudly shows us the collar he fits around his slaves’ necks.
He says: “They can take their chains off if they want, but it is a link to their masters – it is like holding hands.”
According to Mr Thompson, there is a “high council” that oversees there is no abuse.
He trains male and female recruits he meets on Internet websites in the Kaotian way of life, which is how he met his apprentice [name removed — RNB].
Mr Thompson says: “They come here to learn the proper postures and how to serve. We train them in meditation, in the Gorean philosophy and we instil a lot of values.
“It’s about being calm and in control.
“If you can’t control yourself, how can you control somebody else?
“My trainer wasn’t as nice to me as I am. He thought that I didn’t understand what being a slave was, so he made me be one for a whole year. I had a very strict mistress and she liked a very clean house.”
[name removed — RNB] left his job and family in the south of England to follow the Kaotian lifestyle, something he says his parents disapproved of.
In fact, they are so concerned they have appealed to the police for help. But, unless there is evidence of [name removed — RNB] being held against his will, there is nothing the police can do.
[name removed — RNB] says: “My parents aren’t on good speaking terms with me at the moment. They typed Gorean into Google and then had a knee- jerk reaction.”
His family see things rather differently.
A friend said: “On 20 March, the family received a communication from their son that he was never coming back home to Essex after he went for a visit to the Kaotian’s Darlington headquarters. Apparently, he had been recruited.
“The family became frantic with worry. After all, their son was a model teenager until that time.
Very intelligent, he was on a college course placement in computers. He had almost completed the course and was in line for some major career advancement.
“And just like that, he decided to leave home and disappear off to Darlington.
The college dropped him. His career and future lay in ruins.”
Mr Thompson is unconcerned. He says: “I have met some really wonderful people and have been to some wonderful places. I am proud of what I have become. It has been a long journey to get here.
“Being a Kaotian has shown me a different side to human nature. It is wonderful.”