"Venus In Furs" is inspired by the novella of the same title, written and published by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in 1870. It tells the story of a man who wishes to be dominated and treated as a slave by the woman he loves. We get the word "masochism" from Sacher-Masoch's last name, and the entire practice of dominance and submission from this and the works of Marquis de Sade, a male author who wrote from the opposite position of dominating women and treating them as slaves.
Today's modern lifestyle knows this song's subject as "BDSM." That's a combined acronym: "B&D" for "Bondage and Discipline," "D&S" for "Dominance and Submission," and "S&M" for "Sadism and Masochism." That last part was originally written "sado-masochism," and in the 1960s was regarded as a mental illness and a deviant behavior, to be treated with electro-shock therapy and abhorred by society.
Even today in the United States, similar to the outdated laws against homosexuality, there are various state laws against practicing any BDSM-associated activity. That is, even using a whip or handcuffs to play with your spouse (even with their full consent!) can land you in jail, or in other states merely selling such paraphernalia (such as a frat paddle or nipple clips) is a heavy offense. This stems from the original association with prostitution - it was thought at the time that no one would be willing to participate in gratifying such "perverted" desires without being paid for it. For this reason, it became yet another consenting-adult, victimless-crime prosecuted by law and thus subsequently embraced by the counter-culture, which explains why it was a popular theme for both underground arthouses and underground bands.
So, with this song and the band's name, was Lou Reed kinky? Probably not, since, as given in The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side, he called the band's namesake book The Velvet Underground "the funniest dirty book he'd ever read." However, it was the association of kink with the sexual revolution and the counter-culture lifestyle that made it an indispensable part of shocking the sensibilities of 1960s audiences.
In the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Punk Magazine co-founder Roderick Edward "Legs" McNeil, an interview with Exploding Plastic Inevitable dancer Ronnie Cutrone has this to say about this song's subject: "S&M sex fascinated me even though I knew nothing about it. I had a natural curiosity, so I asked Lou 'What's Venus In Furs about?' Lou said, 'Ah, you know, it's some trash novel.' I said 'Where can you get a copy?' Lou said, 'Ah yeah, just down the block there's a store.' So I went and bought the book. I was still in high school, so I'd go to class with my Venus In Furs and Story of O and Justine, and sit there reading this stuff."
Perhaps as a result of the influence of this song, punk rock and the BDSM lifestyle have been intertwined ever since. Many punk bands have made alternative sexual practices part of their image or made songs about kink, and even Goth rock, which carries over some influence from punk, has made BDSM elements, such as wearing leather collars, part of its culture.
Lest we think that "Venus In Furs" broke new ground here, legendary singing satirist Tom Lehrer sang "The Masochism Tango" on his 1959 album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer. And for a final hit of surrealism, check out this Dunlop tire commercial using Velvet Underground's "Venus In Furs", created by London director Tony Kaye. Wow.
This song was used to sell tires. In a 1993 commercial for Dunlop that aired in the UK, the song plays as a car drives through a surreal landscape filled with obstacles controlled by a mysterious figure.
In many cases, songs have been misappropriated in commercials that take them out of context by using selective lyrics, but Dunlop wanted this haunting song to convey a sense of unease, which it accomplished in the spot.
This was used in Tom Penny's part in the groundbreaking skateboarding video Sorry.
Tess from Ny, NyThe Kills made an acoustic version of this song, it isn't as great as the original but it sure does makes a really good cover.
Derek from Pittsburgh, PaMake sure to check out the live versions of this song, which can be found on: Caught Between the Twisted Stars (2), The Bootleg Series, La Cave 1968, and Live MCMXCIII.
Jim from Long Beach, CaThe author of the book"Venus In Furs' is the relative of Marrianne Faithfull, go figure!!..LOL!
Sarella from Naples, Fl"VIF" is a killer track. So ambiguous and experimental at the time, as well. I could listen to the Velvet all day. Lou Reed is such a talented songwriter.
Laura from Lakewood, CoAgain, it's based on the book "Venus in Furs" which was written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (hence the term "masochim). This song gets me going every time. :)
Maria from San Francisco, CaI was always convinced it has something to do with the very influential movie Belle Du Jour (Catherine Deneuve, dir. Luis Bunuel), which was considered extremely alternative in the 70's..main character's name was Severine, she was a sort of sexually repressed upper class girl, with aperfect income and a perfect husband, who was missing passion from her life, so she led a secret life of a prostitute...the film has a scene with a masochistic client who expects her to assume a role of a dominatrix and she freaks out...I think the film has probably derived character names/basic ideas from the book.
Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaThis song is amazing. It gives me tingles, its too good.
Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiWhy did hippies hate the Velvet's so much? Guess they weren't as open-minded as they thought.
Sheeberson from Wrightsville Beach, Ncoh lordddddddddddd this song is sooooooooo amazing and id go as far as saying that its the most psychedelic song ever produced
Mark from Byrdstown, TnFrom the Family Guy:Brian and Peter travel back in time and meet 18 year old Lois.Brian asks her, "Can I Wham my Oingo Boingo into your Velvet Underground."
Victoria from Boston, MaFor those of you that are confused by "Severin" in the song. Severin is the main male character in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs. In the novel, Severin becomes obsessed with a woman named Wanda and requests to be her slave, finding the humiliation and degradation pleasing. I strongly recommend this book. It's fascinating in so many ways. It's one big sadomasochistic fantasy, with great underlying themes (Masoch/Masochism...get it?)
Aaron from Sligo, Irelandseverance means...the act or process of severing.seperation;partition.
Jan from Dorking, EnglandThis has to be my all-time favorite! I can play it over and over again and just go into a trance.The most decadent,sexy,sensual,atmospheric listening experience ever!
David from St. Louis, NeI had this song played at my wedding reception (wife wasn't amused)
Jules from Sickelrville, NjLou Reed was supposedly high on acid when he wrote this
Paddy from Adelaide, United Stateshey. this song when used in Gus van sant's movie "Last Days" comes just before a male gay sex scene. Interesting when the Velvet underground guitarist lou reed's latest short film titled "Walk on the Wild Side" is a rampant drugged sex film, again male on male
Zombie from New York, NyThe song is clearly based on the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It was later made into a movie in 1969 by Massimo Dallamano. There is also a horror film entitled "Venus in Furs," directed by Jesus Franco which also involves kinky sex and sadism. Thanks.
Bob from Kelowna, CanadaSeverin is the name of the masochistic male charactor in the novel "Venis In Furs."
Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiJessica - Severin is the name of a character in the song (the girl who is into sadomasochism.)
Jessica from Covina, Caokay . . . i love this song but for a long time the meaning of the word "severin" in the song is baffling me. I can't find it anywhere! This will continue to bug me if I don't find out what it means . . .
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI love that kinkiness the song has too Megan. I think it's sexy. in other words, I agree with you. (I don't have a goot fetish, but I am crazy in other ways.) I just think the song is great.
Megan from Nowhere, InThis is my favoruite VU song EVER! It's so unconventional and lovely. I really love how it mentions kissing shiny boots in the dark (as I have an insane foot fetish) and just the general kinkiness of the whole song is sexy and awesome.
"Taste the whip, now bleeeeeeeed for me"<- one of the best lines in rock music histoury.
Iara from Santiago, Chileskateboarding?? sadomasochism??? Wow,really related topics...
William from Omaha, NeThis song is featured in Gus Van Sants "Last Days," a movie that is reminiscent of and is and isn't about the last days of Kurt Cobain.
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI didn't know the Doors visited the factory, but it makes perfect sense. I've never seen the movie.
Alfonse Delandel from Dover, DeUsed in the movie by Oliver Stone called the 'Doors', not because the music is weird like the Doors music. Rather it was used as appropriate music for the Factory as the Velvet Underground were Andy Warhol's house band during the year that Jim Morrison and the Doors visited.
Bluejay from Space, United StatesThis si the name of the fictional rockband in the movie Velvet Goldmine. I don't like the movie but it's an obvious Velvet Underground reference.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScIt's featured in '"The Doors?" That's awesome, and it probably fits perfectly! Their music was pretty weird too. I like it though. Anyway, that's really cool!
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scweird dark lyrics are what the vFelvet underground's known for. I love this song... it's beat, it's power and raw energy, and just how loud it is. I also like the guiter on it. This song is why I've listened to the velvet underground. My sister likes their music, and she had this one on one of their mixed cd's. I told her that I liked it, and asked her what it was She told me all about it, and on our way back from the trip we had been taking, she bought it for me. I this album is a great one. Does anyone have any other suggestions on other Velvet underground albums I should buy or be on the look out for?
Steve from Toronto, CanadaGood cover by the Carlsonics on their 2001 album, 'MIA In The USA'.
Jordan from Renton, Wathis was featured in the movie "The Doors".
Ethel from Dublin, IrelandThis song is incredible.it's sound is totally revolutionary and whenever anybody comes around to do something experimental it comes right on back to what the velvet underground started.
Janelle from New York City, Nyinteresting lyrics...