Writer in Residence Extra -Venus in Furs, Justine in Tears by Paul Andruss

This week a post from Paul’s archives on a subject that I have seldom seen portrayed well in some of the novels I have read. Very often it was mentioned awkwardly and clearly by someone as ignorant of S&M as I am.  However, as writers we do have a duty to portray the actions of our characters with some authenticity, and short of actually tying up the old man and hitting him with my broomstick, there is no better man than Paul at giving us the facts and background.  Another fascinating look behind the scenes.. it’s okay no viewer discretion required.

Sacher-Masoch with Fanny Pistor (in furs)

Venus in Furs, Justine in Tears

Giving and receiving pain has been part of the human sexual landscape for ever. Yet the words we use: ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ are relatively recent.

While most people are aware the Marquis de Sade lent his name to sadism (deriving sexual pleasure by inflicting pain), the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who gave his name to masochism (receiving sexual pleasure from pain) is relatively obscure.

In 1870, Sacher-Masoch published his novella Venus in Furs; the story of a man’s relationship with a strong mistress. Strong as in dominatrix, not ‘determined’.

The plot, drawn from Masoch’s own life, was written as a story within a story. It begins when the protagonist (the word ‘hero’ is probably inappropriate) dreams he is speaking to Venus while she is… dressed in furs. Hey it’s porn; what do you expect.

He relates the dream to his friend Severin, who tries break him of his fascination with his cruel mistress by describing his relationship with a woman called Wanda. Severin was so obsessed with Wanda he made himself her slave. Wanda exploited the situation to their mutual satisfaction, until she met a man she wanted to be dominated by. At which point Severin broke off the relationship in disgust.

Severin’s tale concludes with a moral tirade about how women can only be slaves or despots to men; never companions….. And here he saves himself for posterity by adding… “until they are given the same education as men and the same rights.”
I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Light masochism in the form of corporal punishment was extensive through the Victorian era. According to writer Christopher Isherwood, between the World Wars Germany cornered the book market in this form of titillation.

In England, spanking continued as the preferred vice of the ruling class. Cynthia Payne an entirely charming woman, christened Madam Sin by the Sunday press, ran a bordello in South West London for the upper echelons during the 1970s and 80s. She believed toffs liked a good paddling on the bottom because of their upbringing: nannies and public schools. Personally I wonder if it is because they feel it is their just-deserts for continually screwing over us, the Great British Public.

With regards to the Marquis De Sade, I have not read any of his work, so I am not in the best position to judge. However, the more I read about his life less I like. To put it bluntly, any man who tortures and rapes women has no redeeming qualities. He certainly was not, as often portrayed, an amiable old eccentric, guilty of no more than holding up a looking glass to the sexual hypocrisies of his age. In contrast Sacher-Masoch’s craving to let his Miss Whiplash girlfriend beat seven bells out of him seems positively endearing: a sort of Christian Grey in reverse.

De Sade’s behaviour towards woman was so extreme, even in a time when the abuse of women was endemic his contemporaries thought he should be locked away in prison or a mental asylum – which is where he spent a large part of his life. I am not saying De Sade would not have made a pleasant dinner companion; if you could keep him off his pet subject. Dare say he could be witty and charmingly persuasive. People like de Sade often are. They have a way of being able to justify their tastes and making you feel naïve, or worse provincial, for not sharing them.

As a young man, De Sade was imprisoned a number of times after local prostitutes complained about his misuse. After De Sade kidnapped a poverty-stricken widow, inflicting sexual and physical abuse on her until her escape, his mother in law obtained a letter de cachet from the French King. This was basically an open arrest warrant for indefinite confinement. De Sade fled Paris.

In 1772 he had to flee Marseilles after being sentenced to death for attempting to poison prostitutes with the aphrodisiac ‘Spanish Fly’ (a toxic chemical causing blistering and bleeding, obtained from the appropriately named blister beetle). He was also accused of buggery with his manservant… maybe I should rephrase that. He continued to abuse young servant girls with, it must be said, the connivance of his wife – the Rose West to his Fred – until he was tricked into returning to Paris where he was arrested and sentenced to death – for buggery… with his manservant.

De Sade successfully appealed his death sentence, but was indefinitely imprisoned under the King’s lettre de cachet (usually reserved for political enemies). He was briefly confined in the Bastille. This gave Citizen De Sade an undeserved reputation with the revolutionary regime. As a matter of fact, he was transferred to an insane asylum few days before the Bastille fell in the opening salvo of the French Revolution. During the Reign of Terror he chose the wrong side and was once more incarcerated.

During confinement he amused himself by writing ‘120 days of Sodom’ about a group of old roués locking themselves in a castle for 4 months with veteran prostitutes as advisors in depravity and well-endowed studs willing to dish out every imaginable outrage on their victims – young teenagers of both sexes. Even a brief synopsis is pretty stomach turning, so let’s swiftly move on.

In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of a pair of novels ‘Justine’ and ‘Juliette’. De Sade was arrested at his publisher’s office and imprisoned without trial. When his family declared him insane, he was moved to an asylum. Here, at the age of 70, he began a sexual relationship with the fourteen year old daughter of one of the asylum’s employees. It lasted until he died 4 years later. After his death, his son burned all his unpublished manuscripts.

Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) and Juliette or the Prosperity of Vice (1801) were about two sisters on very different paths. At the age of 13 Juliette is seduced by a nun. Under her influence she becomes sexually precocious and a murderess. She enjoys associating with sadists and murderers, and indulging in every form of depravity. In true De Sade style she is showered with happiness, position, reputation and wealth.
In contrast, her sister Justine clings to virtue and is subjected to everything you would expect from De Sade. When Justine recounts her tale of woe to a wealthy stranger, the woman reveals herself to be her sister Juliette – now given up her life of vice and living in luxury.

The moral is by embracing vice Juliette has controlled her life. Now she can devote herself to goodness and charity. By resisting vice, Justine is dragged down ever deeper and damaged by her experiences. It is only through Juliette that Justine’s name is cleared and reputation restored. Offered a life of comfort and happiness in her sister’s mansion Justine goes out on to the balcony and is promptly struck by lightning. (Not doubt crying out to heaven: “Do I never get a break!”)

It is said De Sade’s Justine, while admittedly having its moments, is not as pornographic as his other works. This may well be because it was written as a ribald parody of Samuel Richardson’s immensely popular 1740 novel Pamela or Virtue Rewarded.

Pamela, a beautiful 15 year old maid, resists seduction and rape by her aristocratic employer and is rewarded for her virtue by her employer’s sincere offer of marriage. In the second volume, her subservient good nature endears her to her husband’s family, and upper-crust neighbours, who accept her into society. (Well, bully for them!)

It is impossible to overemphasise how important Pamela was. It was turned into sell-out plays in France and Italy, and became the subject of Piccinni’s most successful Italian comic opera ‘La Buona Figliuola’ (The Good Girl). Virtually singlehandedly Pamela created the whole genre of what we now know as romantic novels. Where a girl’s innate goodness is recognised by a worthy man; where beauty is more than skin deep – pick a cliché… any cliché.

Without Pamela’s runaway success it would be hard to know if Jane Austen or the Brontes would have had the opportunity to present their work to the public. Without their influence on the development of the modern novel, there would be no Barbara Cartland; no Jackie Collins or Jilly Cooper; perhaps even (God forbid) no ‘50 Shades of Grey’.

Perhaps Justine did not die in vain after all.

©Paul Andruss 2017
About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Thomas the RhymerFinn Mac Cool

Paul has written four novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download

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You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/

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48 thoughts on “Writer in Residence Extra -Venus in Furs, Justine in Tears by Paul Andruss

    • The subject is unsavoury but not the writing nor the truth behind the words that we bandy about jokingly. Increasingly I see references to it in books, films, TV dramas and over time it has to achieve the status of normality. For some it is an excuse and permission to act out these fantasies and I have seen how that can go horribly wrong. It was a piece that will create discussion but also perhaps an awareness of how powerful the written word is in the wrong hands. Not yours of course..

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Wow, wow, wow. What a fascinating story Paul. You are a wonderful historian. I really never knew where the term sade-masochism originated from, although knowing what it represented, and having heard of Marque de Sade. Your well done, albeit ‘sick story’ was enlightening to say the least. Thanks for the history with the twist of commentary humor asides. Good to know despite ‘TMI’ lol. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “It is said De Sade’s Justine, while admittedly having its moments, is not as pornographic as his other works. This may well be because it was written as a ribald parody of Samuel Richardson’s immensely popular 1740 novel Pamela or Virtue Rewarded.”
    If his other books are worse that is truly disgusting.
    I was required to read Justine long ago in graduate school and write a paper on it as part of my mental health training. I skewered the book and the completely perverse professor who made it required reading and to this day I am so glad I did, and so glad he had to give me an A. He said to me, “I wish you could look at it on a different level.”
    I said, ” Why would I want to? Why do you?”
    I won’t get specific about Justine, because it is truly horrible, generally sexual torture involving extreme genital and anal mutilation, humiliation and extreme pain.
    Human beings need to be better than this.
    I just read about two seven year old females in the US being infibulated (genital mutilation which Sade prominently adores in Justine) and the two physicians and woman who did this being indicted. I also read that 500,000 young girls have genital mutilation surgery illegally in the US each year for religious and sexual control purposes.
    Personally, I am glad Sade was imprisoned. It is where he belonged and where anyone who does this to females belongs. It was not fun reading for me and it is not harmless either.
    I am with you Sally, give me Austen and the Brontes! Those women would turn Sade into toast he was!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for your terrific response Cindy.. it is a difficult subject and I would only trust Paul to write about it. I feel that we are too flippant with both violence and the portrayal of S&M in the movies and in books. One of the reasons I have not read the Shades of Grey or seen the movies is because I find it dreadful that it can be touted as normal or sensual. Many include references without knowing about the real darkness behind the origins of the practice, it encourages some who read popular and sensationalised books and films to use it as an excuse for what amounts to domestic violence. As to mutilation of females, that is abhorrent when undertaken as a cultural requirement and even more so when conducted by so called professional and ‘civilised’ professionals. I am glad you gave your professor your views on the matter.. and for sharing them here too. I knew this post would result in discussion.. there is a darker side to life and whilst I do not often share here, I hope it will make people think a little more carefully about what they write. thanks again Sally

      Liked by 3 people

      • You know Sally, you are spot on about Fifty Shades and unfortunately it opened a flood gate where we are being assaulted at every turn by books that tout this as sensual and normal. You really have to wonder how many of those who write these books really know what they are writing about, because it strikes me (oops no pun intended that half the world has jumped on that bandwagon. Publishers, ones who were previously doing quite well, gone the way of all flesh ( again no pun intended) by following suit, evidently not grasping the fact that James was a sharp operator when it came to publicising that book.

        Liked by 3 people

      • It is not just in books Shehanne.. I love Game of Thrones but there have been some vile scenes that could have been implied rather than in our faces (pardon the pun).. This latest BBC 2 outing for Versailles is typical of the shock and shock again approach by scriptwriters and producers. I have not watched, nor do I wish to see orgies, full frontal nudity and people being abused as entertainment. I am definitely not a prude but I don’t believe that a public broadcaster who extorts money from the taxpayer to fund “high quality drama and entertainment” should be showing it. Parents are not likely to block BBC2 so this is also open viewing despite being after the so called watershed that most 11 year olds consider teatime. Most empires expired after a period of rampant debauchery… I wonder sometimes where all this will lead. Rant over.. better go and peel the carrots for lunch….. hugs

        Liked by 3 people

      • Sally, I totally agree. We don’t watch either of these things. Not cos we are prudes. (Hell I would have a neck being that.) But the first episode of Versailles was so awful, it wasn’t even funny By that I mean sometimes Mr and I watch things for a giggle and we sit and cast it up the whole way. It was beyond believe appalling, acting, writing, the lot. I am fed up of the staple diet that’s everywhere. I’m saying that as someone who writes sex but this stuff isn’t about sex. Lol, now here’s me ranting! I was ranting the other week on facebook, I felt with just cause about this hard core porn author–a man – who kept adding me to his ghastly book facebook groups. Eventually I blocked him. I didn’t want people thinking I was in to all that rubbish and I thought, I have a wee grandson who sometimes likes to see pics of himself on his mum’s facebook when he’s here. I don’t want that rubbish coming up in my timeline as if it’s stuff I slaver over. Oops…Another rant. A fulminating one x

        Liked by 3 people

      • Sorry, laughing at the twitter bit. It would be nowt you had not seen before, that is what makes me think…get a life. Re the follow up to 50 Shades, I don’t think those who appeared in that film have exactly furthered their careers… Poisoned chalice that rubbish x

        Liked by 2 people

    • Just thinking there that the last time, we were in Glencoe we ended up on tow at the music on the Sat night, at the bar with this young couple and her friend was James’s nephew and she went on at great length about how shocked and appalled this young man was that she’d written a book like that and what it depicted. This young woman was too. She made the same points you have x

      Liked by 3 people

    • I am 100% with you on that Cindy. My stomach turned reading the synopsis for 120 Days of Sodom…I felt like weeping. But equally I remember as a youngster reading De Sade’s biography because he was trendy- it was all excused as if he was a mirror to hyprocrisy. In the end he is just another torturer no better than the Gastapo or KGB or a million other organisations we would throw up our hands in horror at. And I cannot see any grounds of why female circumcision should be allowed. Human beings are capable of so much good and yet we also… well… are monsters!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This will not be a post that results in middle of the road comments, I suspect, Sally, but i found it exceptionally well-written and interesting – personally fitting for a blog that touts smorgasbord as its topic.

    I must admit to knowing more about S&M than most people I run into anymore – not from personal experience, but because I lived in NYC for almost 20 years, where many such clubs could be found. Each specialized in a particular type of “perversion” which became the subject of much discussion by fashionable, well-educated New Yorkers who were distantly and oddly fascinated, though many claimed to be personally repulsed.

    I’m with Cindy – not interested in this type of reading because I find it psychologically disturbing – but I am well acquainted from my acting days with a fascinating play within a play known as Marat/Sade (The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade). Glenda Jackson was critically acclaimed for her role as Charlotte Corday in the Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by the always exciting though sometimes controversial Peter Brook. Serious actors love usually love the play because the roles are meaty. The score is wonderful, and a film of the production is available.

    Wikipedia has a fairly good article about it, introducing the play with the following words:
    “Incorporating dramatic elements characteristic of both Artaud and Brecht, it is a bloody and unrelenting depiction of class struggle and human suffering that asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself.”
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks Madelyn.. and no not easy reading but I also take the view that it is treated too flippantly in the media with dreadful parodies in the form of 50 shades of grey making it into a game. Also some writers include references to it without having done the research into its very dark side. I admit to avoiding both films or plays about the subject as for me it is far too close to domestic violence when interpreted by those who take it as permission to be deviant. Paul is the only person I would trust with the subject. hugs xx

      Liked by 5 people

    • You are right Madelyn and Marat Sade was one of the things that got me interested in the subject all those years ago. The problem is the more you ignore people like De Sade they more of an underground appeal they gain. It is best not to be to graphic but tell it like it is. And as I said people like him can be very persuasive making you feel provincial for disapproving of their choices.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. An excellent post. Further proof that Paul can indeed be trusted to deliver a post on a dark subject with the usual integrity, knowledge, context and humor. Well done Paul. A very difficult subject you totally delivered on. Sally, I am 100 percent behind you here in everything you say and why you wanted it to be said.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What smart women are here and thank you Sally for starting this discussion! I am proud of women who speak up here about 50 shades. I had thought, before the success of the book and movie, that as a gender, we were making progress towards rejecting sensationalized depictions of the sexual and emotional abuse of females.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Not as long as people can make money from it.. I was looking at the online headlines today down the side is where they put all the ‘important’ social gossip and 90% of the women were either topless, braless, in a bikini, showing their rather large derriere in a thong or complaining about being pregnant and their ex’s not standing by them. The roles models for many young women who seem to be devoid of them in real life, are wannabees such as the Kardashians a family that makes the word dysfunctional sound redundant. I do not envy parents trying to keep their teenagers focused on school and college when it seems that all you have to do is flash and twerk your way to the top. We as writers across books and blogs have a responsibility to try and change that perception but somedays it seems a futile pursuit. Anyway Cindy.. I am preaching to the choir here so will sing off.. lovely talking to you.. xx

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I have not read any of the books you mentioned Paul and am glad that I have not . Rape and torture should never be considered normal and as for genital mutilation, it just makes me sick.
    On a lighter note, I have heard off Madame Sin and personally saw nothing wrong with her spanking a few judges and MP if that is what floats their boat, especially as it is all consensual which is the operative word!
    I have read 50 shades, it didn’t cut it with me, I thought it was going to be erotic but it was far from it, and to be honest, the only banging that I would be intersted in after reading this would be Christian and Anna’s heads together!

    Liked by 2 people

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