Venus in Furs – Sunai Institute

Sunai Institute

Venus in Furs

Having touched upon the workings of Venus elsewhere, we caught inspiration to have closer look at Her and one of Her more famous contemporary emanations – one that is problematic in the sense, that it uses the fur of sentient beings (obviously taken from them in a nonconsensual way to say the least) to depict the aspect of splendor in Her. But let’s have a closer look at said representation before offering our visual, unproblematic and maybe even inspiring approach to it.

The Venus in furs…

…what an instantly evocative notion. Sumptuous, expensive and deeply sexual. This image has been coopted by popular culture time and again to illustrate the ultimate in luxury and desire.

The flow of sexual current, though evident- is deeply nuanced when one looks back upon the original work by a possibly familiar name.

Venus in Furs conceptually and literally originated with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a journalist, writer and nobleman for whom the term Masochism is (unwillingly) derived.During his life, he was known as a utopian thinker- one who espoused humanist and socialist ideals.

One of his only works to see English translation is Venus in Furs. This novella, is part of an epic series Sacher-Masoch envisaged and is situated in the first volume. Interestingly, one could say there is a feminist tone to the summation of the story. I won’t give too much away- but essentially we are diving in to a descriptive tale of man submitting to woman, until she too succumbs to the desire to submit and serve. Not to spoil it, but in the end the protagonist looses he desire to submit to his dominant (Wanda) when she decides to submit to another, saying of her this;

“That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.”

One could argue that this sentiment is rather an attempt at equalizing. Women are still fighting for the equality aforementioned. Until then we are either Madonna or whore [1]see our recommendation of Assaulting Sophia, Protecting Sophia by Cindy Dawson for more on that subject, slave or master each binary serving the men who created them- and not the women who suffer through them.

I digress- the study of masochism and suprasensuality (as Masoch puts it himself) has appeared in popular culture a remarkable number of times:

  • The Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut album included the song “Venus in Furs” Including the central themes of sadomasochism, bondage and submission: “Strike dear Mistress and cure his heart”
  • The novel has been adapted for film numerous times with various aplomb.
  • It has been adapted for stage by Steve Tanner in 2004
  • It inspired the off-broadway play “Venus in Fur” in 2010 by David Ives (review by The New York Times)
  • In 2013 Roman Polanski directed the film “Venus in Fur” (originally in French) based on Ives play.
  • Even the main characters name (Severin) was adopted by the co-founder of the band Siouxsie and the Banshees: Steven Severin.

Amidst all this beautiful inspiration- as always- fact is beyond fiction in every sense of the word. The delicious dealings told of in Venus in Furs are inspired by Masoch’s own life and experiences with an emerging female writer by the name of Fanny Pistor – allegedly at least.

To say the topics of dominance and submission are never far from our minds at Sunai is an understatement. As such, we feel this is the perfect catalyst to introduce you to, what we hope, will be an expanding collection of curated artistic works here at Sunai.

So here’s our interpretation of Venus in Furs, an all-vegan collaboration of model Csillag Sulyok makeup artist Melinda Taylor and photographer Krisztián Bokor.

We invite you to examine the themes of our piece and find your own inspiration there in.


1 see our recommendation of Assaulting Sophia, Protecting Sophia by Cindy Dawson for more on that subject