No More Mr. Nice Guy: Thoughts on Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch’s “Venus In Furs”

I quite enjoy knowing the origins of language–our words, and where we came from. The obvious connection here being that of “masochism”–the lesser known namesake of the other side of De Sade’s bloody penny. So in reading about Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, I was overjoyed to hear of his progressive views–how he was well known for being tolerant, cosmopolitan, and…

…Egads, did he just say that men and women can never be equal companions?

There’s an almost Ayn Randian quality to “Venus In Furs”–not only in the protagonist’s fetishistic desire to be dominated and broken by a stronger willed person, but also in its blocks of philosophic, self-congratulatory dialogue. This can be forgiven due to the fact that this style of erotica was fairly groundbreaking for its time (one must assume). These moral and sexual quandaries had to be explained on a very basic level. It wasn’t as simple as writing some dirty fanfiction and tagging it with hashtag “S&M”. There wasn’t an S&M to hashtag. I also believe that there weren’t hashtags–I’ll have to do the research on that and get back to you. Herr Masoch’s dialogue-heavy parallel to Ayn Rand can also be forgiven due to the fact that he apparently knows when to shut the fuck up, leaving us with just over a hundred pages–a feat the founder of Objectivism would likely balk at.

Charlotte Rampling as Venus In Furs, 2002.

Charlotte Rampling as Venus In Furs, 2002.

The protagonist’s attitude is just too petulant for words. He desires his woman to be cruel and despotic to him, but the moment she finally gives over to this attitude, he just can’t handle it any more. It’s the “I’ll worship you on my terms” attitude that anyone who’s ever owned a tabby knows all too well.

He wants to worship her–put her on a pedestal–be the broken bug beneath her boot. But he doesn’t, at the same time. Her cruelty must be on his terms, and not her own. And therefore his ultimate goal is not to worship her, but to worship an ideal for her that he has created. He wants to control her under the guise of making an empress of her.

“I just wanna love you,” Mr. Nice Guy mutters weakly. “But not like THAT.”

"Milady."

“Milady.”

Here are his basic movements throughout the story: Man demands that woman treat him horribly. To torture him physically and psychologically for his own pleasure. Woman does this very thing. Man is incredulous and agape. “What curious creatures these women are!” he muses.

It’s like this in your neighborhood, too. You have a friend at work who went on a blind date, slept with said date within hours of meeting her, and then judged her for being “too easy”–not recognizing his own part in the wango tango of Outback Steakhouse trysts.

It’s enough to make one want to vomit on every Trilby in existence.

Pieces of literature like these are necessary reading for those of us who appreciate a bit of the seedier side of life–and there is no downplaying the foundational importance of “Venus In Furs”. However, we must also recognize its flaws in attitude and mindset. But even more importantly, we need to remember that, dude: if you pay someone to kick you in the balls, you’re not allowed to get mad at them for doing it.

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