Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is my favourite book. An influential lover gave it to me as an instruction manual, to educate me, years ago when I was a student. The word masochism derives not just from the author of the book but from the nature of the story itself. Masochism has come to mean the tendency to derive pleasure from one’s own pain and humiliation.
Venus in Furs tells the story of Severin, a man who is so infatuated with a young widow, Wanda von Dunajew, that he requests to be her slave. For Severin, Wanda is Venus-a redhead with green eyes and porcelain white skin. Naturally I identified with her.
The following is an extract from the text:
“She is there-Venus-but without furs-No, this time it is merely the widow-and yet-Venus-oh, what a woman!”
“As she stands there in her light white morning gown, looking at me, her slight figure seems full of poetry and grace. She is neither large, nor small; her head is alluring, piquant-in the sense of the period of the French marquises-rather than formally beautiful. What enchantment and softness, what roguish charm plays about her none too small mouth! Her skin is so infinitely delicate, that the blue veins show through everywhere; even through the muslin covering her arms and bosom. How abundant her red hair-it is red, not blonde or golden-yellow-how diabolically and yet tenderly it plays around her neck! Now her eyes meet mine like green lightnings-they are green, these eyes of hers, whose power is so indescribable-green, but as are precious stones, or deep unfathomable mountain lakes.”
“She observes my confusion, which has even made me discourteous, for I have remained seated and still have my cap on my head.
She smiles roguishly.
Finally I rise and bow to her. She comes closer, and bursts out into a loud, almost childlike laughter. I stammer, as only a little dilettante or great big donkey can do on such an occasion.
Thus our acquaintance began.”
When I wrote Love Me Like You Hate Me, it seemed natural to reference Venus in Furs as a key text in the history of BDSM literature. Now that I’ve become a fetish philosopher with my own distinct ideas, I sometimes wonder what that influential lover would make of my development. That slim book-given to me to further my learning many years ago-has since become my bible.
Photos by Sebas Romero.