Given my love of sex novels, German novels, short novels and the Velvet Underground, it seems CRAZY that I’d never read Venus In Furs before. But I hadn’t.
Unsurprisingly, I fucking loved it. Rather than being a dirty novel (though (this is true) a bird shat on my copy, literally making it filthy), this was far more of a flirty (italicise) novel. It’s about sexuality rather than sex, what people want to do and have done to them rather than what they ACTUALLY do and have done to them… Its plot is flimsy, it’s a little bit silly, but it’s incredibly readable and full of scenes featuring a red-headed fur-wearer whipping a young self-defined intellectual.
Severin, a name very familiar from when, in my undergraduate days, I’d have Lou Reed’s band on repeat for hours at a time, wants to be a slave, and he finds his mistress, Wanda, his Venus in Furs, and gets her to subjugate him with violence and cruelty. Which he never really enjoys as much as he thinks he will. I’m pretty certain that their consummation is implied, but any contact further than kissing and whipping is not described. That, for me, was the only lack. I wanted bleeding cocks and knotted whips stuffed into and pulled out of anuses. There is a little whisper of homoerotica towards the end, which worked too, but (as I said) this isn’t a dirty novel. It’s not hardcore supersex.* It’s flirty. It made me smile and laugh and – at one point, on the tube – gently bite my own tongue as I felt an unwanted flush of blood leave my stomach. No actual erections caused, though, which is probably a failing on the book’s part.**
But I really enjoyed this. It teases rather than satisfies – though I went in expecting to be whipped to the bone***, I instead had the whip gently slithered down my back. All the promise, but no delivery. But sometimes that’s enough.
If you’re reading this for the sex, you’re reading the wrong book. If you want a short 19th century novel playing with the boundaries of staid repression of that era, I can’t think of anything better than this.
I’d read it again if I read books more than once.
NB: Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of my favourite books, and famously “about sex”, but that (which I DID read three or four times) never gave me erections. But that’s because it’s not about sex, it’s about sexual love, something very different. Also, it made me cry over and over and over again and sometimes – when I’m feeling too happy or optimistic about life – I read Mellors’ closing letter just to bring myself down. But Lawrence wrote literature. Sacher-Masoch (at least here) writes fun.
NB2: I have always envied Sade and Sacher-Masoch for having “perversions” named after them, but have increasingly come to the conclusion that I’ll never have that honour. Mostly because there’s already a catchy word for masturbating and crying at the same time.****
* Alan Partridge quote there. Showing my utter lack of cool.
** I’d comment on it as a failing if a “funny” book didn’t make me laugh, likewise no tears from a tragedy. Surely commenting on whether or not a “sex book” aroused me is utterly, utterly relevant. Though would I have the bravery to describe an erection, rather than the lack of one, on the Internet? Probably not, let’s be honest.
*** Does that work as an erection joke?
**** It’s known as “cranking”.