I love the band The Velvet Underground, they capture that 1960s Warhol Factory-centric highbrow weirdo art and music scene well. Having grown up in New York City, I must admit that any subculture there always feels like the place to be— like it’s really happening. But there is no doubt that the scene from which The Velvet Underground emerged was iconoclastic. Max’s Kansas City, where those pre-punks used to hang out, may have been a bunch of misfits and freaks but the scene consisted of the crème de la crème of society’s rejects like Patti Smith and Jim Carroll.
Nico, who was roaming around at the time, was a Warhol muse. Warhol, the center of that creative community, managed The Velvet Underground for a bit and introduced Nico into their mix. When “Venus in Furs” was recorded it was recorded as The Velvet Underground & Nico. The Velvet Underground had a penchant for taking titles from books. Venus in Furs is a famous BDSM themed book and The Velvet Underground’s name comes from another book about alternative sex culture in post-WWII America called The Velvet Underground.
The book The Velvet Underground was published in 1963 and the band formed around 1964/65. Lou Reed, the singer and guitarist, found a copy of the book lying in the streets of New York City with a friend who liked the title as a band name. Hence, The Velvet Underground as we know it got its name from a book about, according to the dust jacket, “sadists, masochists, and sexual mavericks of every persuasion.” If you’ve ever been in a band then you know how hard it is to come up with a band name! Nico didn’t need a name as she was a name in and of herself. I hope I’m not confusing you but I assure you all roads lead back to perversion and kink with me! This will all come together in the end.
Lou had already written the song “Venus in Furs” by that time in the band’s early history. The song’s title was inspired by the book under the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. You may recognize masoch from the word masochism. The book Venus in Furs is about a man, Severin, obsessed with cruel women, (after a terrifying but arousing childhood experience involving an aunt, restraint, fur, and a serious beating) who begs a woman, Wanda, to take him on as her slave. She resists at first but then embraces him as her submissive. The D/s (Dominant/submissive) archetypes and the visual and tactile fetishes conveyed in Venus in Furs are immortalized by Lou Reed in the song almost 100 years after the book’s first publication.
Reading the book Venus in Furs seared that archetype in my brain of a dominant woman adorned in fur. The lyrics of The Velvet Underground captures the basic themes of this dynamic relationship and turns it into an almost Dominatrix cliché which I have channeled in some photo shoots over the years.
Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me
— The Velvet Underground
The book captured the craving to submit and the song captured the fetishism and aesthetics of the dominant Mistress. Not to fall down an etymology rabbit hole, but I must elaborate on what I pointed out earlier that masochism is a word derivative of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s last name. In a similar vein, Sadism was derived from the name of the Maquis de Sade, another scandalous author from the same era. Literature has played a crucial role in influencing our terminology in kink. The German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing introduced the terms "Sadism" and "Masochism"' into medical terminology in his work Neue Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Psychopathia sexualis ("New research in the area of Psychopathology of Sex") in 1890.
I could go on and on. I love losing myself in books and history as much as I love losing myself in a hot kink scene in session. For those of you new to kink, masochism means one who enjoys pain. Pain can take many forms and pain can be pleasurable or fun such as teasing taunts or playful spankings. My favorite torture to inflict is tease and denial and edge play where you so desperately want relief but I refuse to give it to you. Sadism involves enjoying inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. I only enjoy sadism when I have a masochistic bottom to receive my hard slaps, playful berating, firm commands, or brutal sensual tease and denial. Maybe you’re a masochist? Maybe you’re just curious? Maybe you’re just a fellow fur and boot fetishist like myself. I invite you to step into my world and quell your curiosity to the tunes of the Velvet Underground. Let me be your Muse.
Your Mistress and Venus in Furs,
xx Ramona Ryder