Classics month – Anything for Love: The Story of O

Though the Story of O can be read as fanfiction (Pauline Réage was inspired by the Marquis de Sade), the mystery that surrounded it for decades, as well as its continuing popularity, put it squarely in the realm of classics. So it is high time that we did a Kinkstarter post about it.

As with the preceding Classics month posts about the Marquis de Sade and Venus in Furs, the Story of O started as a novel. It was published in the 1950s under a pen name (Pauline Réage), and for decades people speculated about the identity of the author. As the protagonist, “O,” willingly consents to some basic whippings and spankings; humiliation; and light bondage, it was argued that in no way could this have been written by a female author. Despite the apparently female penname. But forty years after publication, the author stepped up and, guess what, she is female. Which is still strange, because how can any woman have masochistic fantasies, right? But yes. Apparently they do. Lesson learned, moving on.

The Story of O

O has the perfect life. She is a (I’m guessing) successful photographer and very much in love with her lover René. At some point (the startingpoint in the movie), he takes her with him in a taxi; tells her to take off her panties; replaces her suspender belt with garters (which really is a downgrade); cuts off her bra; and blindfolds her. Which is not a bad start to a BDSM movie, is it?

First scene of the Story of O
Off to a pretty good start…


The taxi stops in front of a house, and René tells O to go inside. O has arrived at Roissy. In this mansion, they train submissive women to submit to and serve their masters. In the movie, they first show O around, let her experience a taste of the whippings and submission that they are asking for, and then explicitly ask for her consent. The novel is a tad less politically correct when it comes to consent. But then again, it was the 50s, and no-one could predict the success this book would have. Have I not convinced you of this success yet? The BDSM porn website has a Channel named The Training of O. Rule 34, squared.

The aftermath of an orgy

So, of course O consents. Because what kind of masochistic fantasy would this be if she changed her mind? The women in Roissy are required to wear a dress with splits in both the front and back, and no cover of the breasts. Which is pretty practical wear considering that they are supposed to be available to any man at any time. She is given her own valet, Pierre, who bathes her; takes care of her; chains her to the bed at night; and gives her whippings whenever he feels she needs them. A good time is had by all. When the Masters of Roissy feel they sufficiently trained her, René comes back into the narrative. The masters hand her back over to him, and give her a ring. Now, pay attention, because I am about to give you more proof of the Story of O’s continued popularity.

The Story of the Ring of O

First, let’s see O’s ring:

One ring to be ruled by them all

That looks pretty cool, right? Well, we’re not the only ones who think that. In BDSM communities, the Ring of O has become a way to subtly identify yourself as submissive to other people in the know. You can find them on Etsy, Amazon, and many (online) BDSM stores. But in the story, the ring means more than just that. This ring does not just identify O as being submissive, it means that, like she was in Roissy, she will continue to be available in everyday life to all men who know the meaning of this ring. It allows them to spank her and have sex with her whenever it pleases them. So wearing this whilst trying to remain a succesful photographer seems a bit tricky to me. However, O loves the ring and loves René. So the story continues.

Sir Stephen

When they get back to her apartment (O has been away for a while, though we do not know how long she was at Roissy), René tells O to throw away any clothes that are not easy to take off and do not open in the front. Because wearing this ring means people need to have easy access, of course. Apart from that, O’s life pretty much goes back to usual. She still does not wear bra’s, and any woman who sees her garters makes a big deal of it (maybe it is a ’50s thing?), but she gets back to work and lounging around in her apartment. That is, until René introduces her to Sir Stephen.

This man is Renés half-brother and they claim they have always shared everything. So on top of having to be sexually available to any man familiar with Roissy, René now gives her to his brother. Sir Stephen tells her that even though both him and René will be her masters, really, it is him who’s in charge. And again, they explicitly ask O for her consent to this arrangement. Because you have to keep up appearances. Now, up until this point, the narrator kept telling us that O went through all of this out of her love for René. But this position becomes a little bit difficult to maintain, when she is not really “his” anymore.

The things we do for love

Sir Stephen calls her out on this, when he says that she wants every man who desires her. And there is not much O can say about that. He also tells her that so far she has confused love and submission. And that now she will be able to show true submission, by serving a man who does not love her and never will. Whilst she struggles at first, she starts to enjoy it. And of course, they fall in love. That leaves them with an issue though, because now René does not have anyone anymore. But no fear, because Sir Stephen turns out to be a great match-maker. In an ultimate powermove, he asks “O” to seduce one of her models (she is still a photographer after all), make her fall in love with her, and convince her to go to Roissy. Isn’t that nice of them?

Just doing her job

Now, both the novel and movie do deserve some critical spankings, but I will leave that for another time. This story is more fantasy than documentary, and that is fine. There’s some questionable consent; and O is more submissive than masochistic (which makes the pain more about endurance than pleasure). However, with a book from the 50s and a movie from the 70s, you cannot really blame them for not being “woke,” can you? The training houses and blending of BDSM and ordinary life is something that can still be found in contemporary BDSM stories (for example, the Marketplace series). Both the book and movie have inspired generations of kinksters and added to their fantasies and jewelry collections. And it makes you wonder if there really is an underground slave training community? Maybe The Story of O is a documentary after all.

I guess we’ll never know.

O is hanging from rope after a beating
Happily ever after

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