Venus in Furs

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The Titian painting Venus with a Mirror, from which Severin gets the idea of Venus in furs.

Venus in Furs, translated from the original German Venus im Pelz, is one of the better-known BDSM novels, written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in 1869 and first published in German in 1870. This is the book credited with getting the word "masochism" - derived from the author's name - into the psychiatric (and eventually general) language.

The novel describes the sexual obsessions of Severin von Kusiemski, a European nobleman with the desire to be enslaved by a woman. Severin finds his ideal of voluptuous cruelty in the merciless Wanda von Dunajew (based on a real-life 6-month contracted owner of Sader-Masoch). At the end of the book, Severin ceases to desire to submit, stating that men should dominate women until the time when women are equal to men in education and rights: an ending that can be viewed as both misogynist and feminist.

The book was meant to form part of a series but stands well on its own, and is probably the most enduring because it is closely modelled on part of the author's own life. Sacher-Masoch was not only a pervert but also a writer who could romanticise perversion; and in many ways Venus in Furs is the beginning of the genre of romantic pornography, with more in common with the writings of Goethe than those of de Sade. This is a passionate and powerful portrayal of one man's struggle to enlighten and instruct himself and his world in the realm of desire.

The lyrics of The Velvet Underground song "Venus in Furs" refer to this book.

A 1995 black and white film called "Venus in Furs" is based on the classic novel, but is set in modern times. The film was directed by Maartje Seyferth and Victor E. Nieuwenhuijs.

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