Venus in Fur: Piled High

In the most recent AARP newsletter, the author Nicholson Baker inferred his indifference to the hubbub regarding the naughty aspects of 50 Shades of Gray and I have to agree. Meaning, sex is extremely enjoyable in its basic form which is also why I’m pretty naïve to sexual fetishes. So I was surprised and intrigued by the psychological theories surrounding Dominatrix roles, specifically those of heterosexual women in the premise of Roman Polanski’s latest Venus in Fur.

Venus in Fur was originally a French novel from the late 1800’s that American David Ives adapted into a play. The basic plot is a play within a play, where an exasperated drama director reluctantly auditions a woman who ends up questioning the motivations of his story.

The ultimate hypothesis is that women who dominate are still ultimately submissive to men because they are fulfilling the role a man desires.

This had me thinking about women and feminism in general. Women have worked so hard to be equals of men, yet may have inadvertently allowed men to stop striving and caring about work and relationships . In relationships for instance, men may still ‘win’, when women control all aspects of that dynamic, especially because as a rule, men care less about the details of life.

I do not have statistics on this next thought, just experiential accounts, but my guess is that more women initiate divorce than men because men are more likely to go with the flow and realize the grass might not be greener on the opposite side. Marriages I have observed where the man is mistreated (verbally abused), may tolerate the situation due to any combo of the following: conditioning (meaning his mom was mean to his dad, too), the shame and disgrace of ‘quitting’, protection of financial status, or perhaps knowing the benefits of stability outweigh the risks of finding yet another cuckolding situation.

In the film Venus in Fur, Mathieu Almaric (a wonderful actor I first saw in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays Thomas, the writer and drama director. While I don’t personally think he ‘wins’, it’s only because I wouldn’t want to be abused. If indeed he was conditioned as a child (which is the back story, that as a youth he was sexually abused by his aunt involving spankings and fur)to associate pain with pleasure, then he does win. But does that necessarily mean the female Dominatrix ‘loses’ if she enjoys being superior?

At the risk of oversimplifying, I can’t help but think that the premise is just another indication that women are never satisfied. They don’t want to be inferior, yet as superiors, they still feel less than empowered. Hence, my aforementioned point of why men must just shake their heads and acquiesce. I am really glad I’m not a man, yet this is why I certainly do not understand many of my own gender.

I did thoroughly enjoy Venus in Fur and have to wonder if posing these interesting psychologies doesn’t help Roman vindicate himself from his sexual transgression from long ago still keeping him in asylum. Certainly marrying someone almost half his age (the female lead in the film is his real life wife Emmanuelle Seigner) shows his natural desire to connect with youth. The only difference being that once he became an older man, youth was no longer adolescent and illegal.