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Being whipped at a masochist bar in lviv, Ukraine

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Joel Lewin


I went to a bar in Lviv, Ukraine where the spirit of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the father of masochism is still very much alive. Always in search of new sensations, I received a good whipping from the muscular waitress. Sometimes cultural engagement comes in unusual forms.

Many see Ukraine as a schiz­o­phrenic coun­try. With two lan­guages- Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian- and two geopo­lit­i­cal forces tug­ging in op­po­site di­rec­tions in the form of the EU and Rus­sia, du­al­ity is cer­tainly promi­nent.  I was pre­vi­ously only ac­quainted with the Russ­ian speak­ing south-east­ern re­gions, hav­ing spent time in the Crimea, Odessa and the cap­i­tal, Kiev. In Lviv in west­ern Ukraine, I dis­cover not just a new lan­guage but a whole new world; a car­ni­val of bru­tal eroti­cism and fairy­tale chimeras.

Going from Odessa to Lviv, Russ­ian gives way to Ukrain­ian and the plump onion domes of or­tho­doxy are re­placed by sylph­like gothic spires. Lviv’s me­dieval majesty is largely un­touched by the west­ern trash that has done for parts of east­ern Eu­rope. The cob­bled streets and cityscapes of spin­dling tow­ers lend her an en­chant­ing air. It feels like I have leapt back five hun­dred years, but as night falls I am not pre­pared for quite how au­then­tic this anachro­nis­tic am­bi­ence can be­come.

Vi­o­lence in bed

Lviv was home to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the au­thor who lends his name to sex­ual plea­sure from pain and sub­ju­ga­tion, aka. masochism. I am aware that I only have a brain once, and as such I am obliged to treat it to the full cat­a­logue of sen­sa­tions that the world has to offer. So I head to Lviv to get beaten. The bar, Masoch, is a dark and dingy af­fair. The drinks menus are bound in leather and pur­ple fuzz. A huge wait­ress is lash­ing a small top­less cus­tomer with a whip. He is scream­ing and his back is cov­ered in vi­o­let welts, but not once does he ask her to stop.

My friend and I have a few drinks to steady our nerves and raise our li­bidos. I as­sume this is going to be dif­fi­cult to enjoy but I am de­ter­mined to make the most of it. We ex­press our cu­rios­ity to the wait­ress and within sec­onds the colos­sus with the whip has stormed over and stands star­ing at us with hun­gry black eyes. She lines up two chairs. ‘Get on your knees,’ she com­mands. It is as if we have signed away all our rights at the door. We kneel. ‘Grip the chair in front of you,’ she shouts, lift­ing our t-shirts over our heads to ex­pose our ten­der vir­gin backs.

whipped into heaven

In his book Venus in Furs (1870), Masoch ex­plains his un­der­stand­ing of sex­ual re­la­tion­ships; ‘whichever of the two fails to sub­ju­gate will soon feel the feet of the other on his neck.’ I had rarely con­tem­plated the power dy­nam­ics of mat­ing in such graphic terms. In fact I had never even seen power re­la­tions at work; for me mat­ing had al­ways been an act of union and equal­ity - the mu­tual ex­change of plea­sure and some­times emo­tion. Not any­more.

The first two licks of the whip draw cries of pain from us both. We at­tempt to stand but the leather-clad wait­ress forces us down with a bru­tal growl. For a mo­ment I think about re­sist­ing; I don’t have to be kneel­ing on this dirty floor being whipped by that big brutette. But then I re­mem­ber that my atoms and her atoms and the whip’s atoms have all been in per­pet­ual mo­tion since the big bang and none of us could pos­si­bly be any­where else at that par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in time. I grip the chair and put my head down.

The fol­low­ing blows lash me through the bound­aries of pain and I step into a new world. The lick of the whip is so over­whelm­ingly ex­cit­ing as to leave me per­ma­nently changed. I will never see women as equals again. They will al­ways be po­ten­tial colos­suses who set me a-trem­ble with fear and tit­il­la­tion. The thrill of being ut­terly sub­ju­gated by an utter brutette is the best thing I have ever felt and it has changed my life…

I jest. That was just wish­ful think­ing. I like to be­lieve that trav­el­ling and try­ing new things can change your per­spec­tives, but for­tu­nately I didn’t ‘find my­self’ in that masochist bar. Luck­ily for my body my brain wasn’t im­pressed. The ex­pe­ri­ence sim­ply con­firmed my be­lief that I don’t like pain and I learnt noth­ing. But I will keep try­ing. I will put my­self in what­ever strange and hu­mil­i­at­ing po­si­tion pre­sents it­self be­cause that is prob­a­bly for the best in a world of sur­prises.

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