All you ever wanted, or more likely never wanted to know about the Marquis de Sade


etching of a sadeian orgy

  Most people have heard this name referenced in pop culture and intelligent sitcoms, but who exactly is the Marquis de Sade? Most obviously, he was a French Marquis–in other words a distant descendent of french royalty. Also, the more well-known term “sadism” is derivative of his name! Here’s a refresher on the definition of that one: 1. Psychiatry. the condition in which sexual gratification depends on causing pain or degradation to others. 2. Any enjoyment in being cruel. He was imprisoned for most of his life due to his ideas, (and very questionable treatment of prostitutes and servants in his Lacoste chateau) and had the majority of his work destroyed by the French Government. Here are some things the marquis was really into: 1. incest 2.pedophilia 2.sodomy 3.torture 4.murder 5.matricide (not necessarily in that order.) I luckily found an omnibus edition of his three most well known novels at a used bookstore and felt obligated to read them all–so now you don’t have to be seen doing so in public in order to know what this infamous historical character was all about. The first story was called Philosophy in the Bedroom, which in my opinion was the most entertaining and lighthearted (very relatively, of course). The story is set up as a philosophical dialogue between five “libertines”:

Noun: a person who is morally or sexually unrestrained, especially a dissolute man; a profligate; rake; a freethinker in religious matters

who are educating a (fully complicit) 15 year old girl about their lifestyle while simultaneously having a wide variety of orgies. I liked this story because everything was consensual, and it seemed sort of feminist for 18th century literature since 2/3 of the female characters were totally free to obtain whatever pleasure they sought. All of the characters were very versatile, enjoying both dealing and being dealt blows from various whips, sodomizing and being sodomized as a man or woman (and by a man or woman), so it seemed almost harmonious compared to the works that followed. The language used was really fun because every time someone was cumming, they would say strange things like “I discharge!” or, “i am dead!” intermingled with a lot of nonsensical blasphemies. The young girl expresses her gratitude for the teachings bestowed upon her by joining her new friends in a dildo gang-bang of her own mother which culminates with the poor woman contracting syphilis and having her lady parts sewn closed. Intense! The second story, Eugenie de Franval, is set up almost like an old moral tale, and was the most boring. A depraved libertine man marries a normal woman with normal virtues and morals and they birth an infant who is apparently sexy (to him). He locks the girl-child away and educates her personally in such a way that she has no knowledge of morality, and therefore falls in love with him. His wife/her mother figures it out and tries everything to stop the relationship, so he has the girl put to the task of murdering her. when the child eventually does murder her mother, she too dies of shock and heartbreak, realizing how wrong she has been, and upon hearing of both their deaths the the libertine murders himself atop their caskets. (At this point I wonder if this obsession with matricide has to do with the fact that the Marquis himself had a daughter, and hated his wife despite the fact that she was his biggest advocate and source of financial support even throughout his imprisonment–until she moved into a convent and took a vow of silence.) The third story Justine was his most famous, and by far the most depraved. I believe he wrote it in prison, and had to renounce authorship during his lifetime. It’s the story of an orphan girl who is super religious and SUPER unfortunate. for every act of kindness she does or every virtuous choice she makes she is punished terribly. Each person she attempts to help ends up being some sort of sexual deviant who wants her to aid in the commission of a crime or an act of moral wrongdoing. When she refuses, as she always does, she is raped, tortured and then manages an escape only to be kidnapped by another more extreme villain. Meanwhile, as she grows increasingly wretched, people who tortured her in the past come back up and are doing great, richer and more admired than ever! In terms of rape, torture, shit-eating (literally) and all the themes formerly acknowledged, this story is by far the most extreme. By this point the stories, while still shocking, seem a bit repetitive in the sense that all of the characters are flat, and solely exist as vehicles for Sade’s “philosophy”. He attempts to teach us throughout the text that we should not discriminate when it comes to differences in tastes (namely sexual), as nature itself has appointed us with all of our traits and is the only true law. Just like many collegiate-level philosophers, I was completely enamored when i first read Nietzsche’s Will to Power, which I now realize was very much ripped-off from the Marquis, who very much ripped the concept out of ancient Greco-Roman texts. All maintain that he (of course it’s always a he) who wields power, physical or otherwise, is free to use it in any way he deems necessary for his own benefit; that those who look out for their fellow man are masturbating their own virtues and are no more selfless than he who destroys his fellow man in the same cruel fashion nature so often does. There’s certainly no shortage of food for thought, and it’s very entertaining to attempt to place yourself someplace on the Marquis’ sordid value scale. Obviously the texts are also known for being blatantly misogynistic, constantly belittling women (and their sex organs) while maintaining that the ass is “the most sacred and ultimate altar at which to worship”. Bearing that fact in mind, i was still vaguely surprised to find not a tinge of romantic love, or even basic human understanding in any story. I like to think that even the most odious of characters have the same common objective that is “to be loved”, but de Sade repeatedly says that any sort of human affection, be it between parent and child, incestual siblings or your most garden variety pair of fuck-buddies is completely outmoded, unnecessary, and even unnatural. In conclusion, The main reason i stuck with this book was to analyze the treatment of sex in terms of  language used to describe it. Being a translated text, it’s hard to attribute this directly to the Marquis’ intention, but the translators did a great job of making the language run the gamut; At certain points terse and crude as imaginable, at other points it was  proper, polite and even lyrical as it (long-windily) described atrocious sexual acts in, at first glance at least, inoffensive terms. So there you have it: the longest unsolicited book review I’ve ever written! This will probably be the last installment of Sexy Book Club for awhile, since i suspect they entertain me much more than anyone else. Feel free to comment with any questions, or feedback of any sort.  


2 thoughts on “All you ever wanted, or more likely never wanted to know about the Marquis de Sade

  1. ” Here are some things the marquis was really into: 1. incest 2.pedophilia 2.sodomy 3.torture 4.murder 5.matricide (not necessarily in that order.)” Really, and you based this on his books? Or do you have something to refer to when you talk about what he was “into”. I’ve read most of his books, damn my curiosity, but never did I made any references to the author himself. Basing someones personality on the books they write will mean that the author of Game of Thrones has just as “special” sexual preferences as de Sade.

    1. The way his work reflected his life has been well documented by more significant historians than myself. Many of his works provide historical background and partial biographies. I would never claim to know anything about anybody’s personal preferences that I hadn’t read up on.

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