Date of Award
Master of Arts
Daniel H. Magilow
Stefanie Ohnesorg, Maria Stehle
This thesis addresses the masochist slave contract in Leopold von Sacher-Masochs Venus im Pelz and reads the slave contract between Severin and Wanda as a parody of the 19th century marriage contract. This interpretation points to the need to understand masochism less as a sexual perversion and more as a reaction to specific political and historical conditions. By becoming a cruel woman, the dominatrix symbolizes female emancipation from the dominant role of men. Especially in the marriage contract, the woman is suppressed by male power and has only limited rights. The masochist uses acontract to legitimate the woman´s liberation and to make the ritual an idealized theatricalization of love.Although this contract inverts the patriarchal hierarchy, it does not aim to invalidate the social order. As a private contract with a highly symbolic validity, it offers a paradigm for individual choice of (sexual) relationships. Nevertheless, the power relationships in the masochist slave contract do not reverse the hierarchy completely. Wanda can only play the role of the dominatrix within the ritual itself. The masochist as the initiator and director still controls the ritual and its realization and is thus the real dominator in the relationship, at least on this certain metalevel. The slave contract does not subvert the patriarchy because the male remains in the controlling position.
Nisch, Anna Walburga, "Vertrag und Frust statt Peitsche und Lust? - der masochistische Sklavenvertrag als Parodie und Theater in Leopold von Sacher-Masochs Venus im Pelz. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2012.