Masochists and US
- by Miranda
|It is my biased
observation that while Monsieur De Sade seems universally known, the
proposed psychological yin to his yang, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, is
not . Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch(1836-1895) was best known as a Polish
novelist, for whom the term "Masochism" was coined by German
psychologist, Kraft-Ebbing. I am of the opinion that Ebbing's
understanding of masochism doesn't really apply to the general
application we now use within the community. In fact I am somewhat
offended by it in general.
Masochism: The Association of Passively
Endured Cruelty and Violence with Lust.
"By masochism I understand a particular perversion of the psychical
vita sexualis in which the individual affected, in sexual feeling and
thought, is controlled by the idea of being completely and
unconditionally subject to the will of a person of the opposite sex; of
being treated by this person as a master, humiliated and abused. This
idea is coloured by lusting feeling; the masochist lives in fancies, in
which he creates situations of this kind and often attempts to realize
them. By this perversion his sexual instinct is often made more or less
insensible to the normal charms of the opposite sex, incapable of a
normal vita sexualis, psychically impotent. But this psychical impotence
does not in any way depend upon horror sexus alterius, but upon the fact
that the perverse instinct finds an adequate satisfaction differing from
the normal, in woman, to be sure, but not in coitus." (Translated
from Kraft-Ebbing 1926)
As frustrated as I
find myself with Kraft von Ebbing's definitions, there are certainly many
aspects of Von-Masoch that do fit our subcultural patterns. For example, the
first manifestations of his "different kind of loving" began at a very
young age and involved intimate encounters with his aunt, Countess Zenobia.
"As he tells the story, he was "alone with this beautiful woman"
one afternoon when she asked him to help her take off her furs. She led the boy
into her bedroom. During the undressing he began kissing her feet. She returned
this show of affection by kicking him away with a cruel laugh. Later in the day,
during a game of hide and seek, he was hiding in her clothes rack when the
countess and her lover entered the room. They were soon followed by her husband
and before the count had time to speak, his wife punched him in the nose. She
then picked up a whip and ordered both men to leave the room. At that moment,
the clothes rack toppled over and Masoch was discovered. His aunt grabbed him by
the hair, threw him to the carpet, and administered a vigorous whipping, which
to his surprise produced feelings of excitement and lust" (Kopple).
(Another tidbit worthy of note was that Leopold called his female dominants ,
" Master"). Thus, From the above account, we not only have our
"masochist" presented, but also documentation of his life- long fur
"He was accustomed to say of an attractive woman: "I should like to
see her in furs," and, of an unattractive woman: "I could not imagine
her in furs." His writing- paper at one time was adorned with a figure in
Russian Boyar costume, her cloak lined with ermine, and brandishing a scourge.
On his walls he liked pictures of women in furs, of the kind of which there is
so magnificent an example by Rubens in the gallery at Munich. He would even keep
a woman's fur cloak on an ottoman in his study and stroke it from time to time,
finding that his brain thus received the same kind of stimulation as Schiller
found in the odor of rotten apples." (Havelock Ellis, 1905)
The above excerpt bring
us to the the now classic, "Venus in Furs".
"'Venus in Furs' , first published in 1870, is above all else a
romantic novel of the Nineteenth Century. In addition, it has far more
in common with Goethe's, 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' than with Sade's
'120 Days of Sodom.' As Sacher-Masoch's biographer, James Cleugh,
perceptively points out, "Leopold's mind instinctively rejected
both the indifferent and the scornful attitude to life. He remained all
his days an enthusiast, a builder of utopias". It is in this spirit
that "Venus in Furs" is best understood .Sacher-Masoch's
vision of the utopia- builders, the regal empress and the loyal slave at
her feet, having created for themselves, against the conventions of
their day, a utopia of two" (Cleugh,1967).
While Masoch may be less famed than DeSade, it seems that certainly his
wife, Wanda, is at the bottom of the "pychological celebrity
ladder" in these matters. I find Wanda the most fascinating of
the two , potentially due to my personal femdom mindset. With her
publication of "Confessions of Wanda Von Sacher Masoch"
(1906), we are presented with many BDSM relevant queries.
From the back cover:
"A feminist classic, this is the story of a woman living in an era
when dependence on the husband could force one to face literal
starvation and poverty. Blackmailed by Leopold, who insisted that he
could not write and earn their living unless she "cooperated,"
she was forced to play "sadistic" roles in his exotic sexual
fantasies to ensure the survival of herself and her three
children--games which called into serious question who was the Master
and who was the Slave. Besides being a compelling study of a woman's
search for her own identity, strength and, ultimately, complete
independence, this is a true-life adventure story--an odyssey through
many lands people by amazing characters, ranging from the famous (Ludwig
II; Liszt) to the unsung great (the totally fearless adventuress-skeptic
Catherine Strebinger). Underneath its unforgettable poetic imagery and
almost unbearable emotional cataclysms reigns a woman's consistent
unblinking investigation of the limits of morality and the deepest
meaning of love."
"Confessions",( Marie is a young maid in the household):
The evenings were already long. To pass the time, Leopold made us play at
"brigands".(14th century : one who lives by plunder usually as a
member of a band : BANDIT)"
The brigands were myself and Marie, and we had to chase him. I had to lend Marie
one of my furs and put on one myself, for without them we were not
"convincing." Then commenced a mad chase throughout the house until we
had laid hands on our victim. Then it was necessary to tie him to a tree with
ropes, and to decide his fate. He would be condemned to death, of course; we
ignored his cries for mercy.
Up to that time it had only been a game, but one day Leopold gave it a more
serious turn: he truly wanted to receive a punishment that would make him
suffer. Since we could not murder him, he at least wanted to be beaten, and that
with the help of ropes which he had prepared.
I refused to do this, but he did not yield. He found my refusal childish, and
declared that if I would not beat him, he would have Marie beat him, because he
could see in her eyes that she wanted to do it.
To avoid this, I gave him some light blows. This was not enough for him, and as
I assured him that I was not able to hit harder, he said that he absolutely
wanted to be beaten with the greatest possible force, and that Marie could
probably do this better than I.
I left the room in order to put an end to the matter. But I was wrong. Marie
beat him as he wanted to be beaten, with all her might, even in the next room I
heard the sound of the blows on his back.
The minutes seemed like centuries to me. Finally the punishment stopped. He came
in as if nothing had happened and said, "Well! She beat me magnificently!
My back must be lashed and scarred , you have no idea of the strength that girl
has in her arms. At each blow, I thought my flesh was going to be torn
Was this book simply to save
face in Victorian society? Was Wanda really Leopold's slave, being topped from
the bottom through instruction to top? I know that perhaps sounds ludicrous, but
I will intimate that given my own intricate relationships, I personally can
relate to this complex web of power exchange... utterly and completely. I think
that her book is probably a little of both. A way to appear as an innocent
"victim", an endeavor to gain the very independence and dominance that
she seemingly denied enjoying. Finally, I can't help but wonder if the term
"masochism" really and truly has a "mother" (Wanda) as
opposed to a father (Leopold).
In conclusion, I ask that we ,as a sub-culture be aware of the history of our
terminology. The definitions of sadist and masochist seems to vary from medical
community to legal community to the BDSM community. For example:
Medical dictionaries define "sadism" as:
"A condition in which there is a derivation of pleasure from inflicting
pain, discomfort or humiliation on another person or persons. The sexual
significance of sadistic wishes or behaviour may be conscious or
unconscious." (Condition meaning to imply an abnormality.)
and "masochistic personality" as: "A personality disorder in
which the individual accepts exploitation and sacrifices self-interest while at
the same time feeling morally superior or feigning moral superiority, attempting
to elicit sympathy, and inducing guilt in others."
HOWEVER "sadomasochistic relationship" is defined as:
"A relationship characterized by the complementary enjoyment of inflicting
and suffering cruelty."
Therein may lie a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings. Know your
history. Read the books written by these fascinating people. Understand them as
they are. INDIVIDUALS. Just as each one of us are individuals. Yes,
"catchy" acronyms like BDSM helps to assemble us under one umbrella and
give us strength in number. Finally, we need ask, is this term "SM"
truly applicable to us? Perhaps the phrase as a whole, however the separate
components may need be reconsidered.
"Victim of Love, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch";
Kathryn A. Kopple, Naked Brunch, Libido
"Psychopathia Sexualis" by
Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing (pp. 131- 134, U.S. edition of 1926
translated by F.J. Rebman)
"Love and Pain"; Havelock
Ellis, Originally published in 1905 Random House edition, 1942
"The First Masochist: A Biography of Leopold von
Sacher-Masoch (1836-95)";Cleugh, James, London:
Anthony Blond, 1967.
further information about Leopold Von Sacher Masoch, visit: http://homepage.newschool.edu/~schlemoj/imptopia/sacher-masoch.html