The Marquis de Sade’s Attitude Towards WomenThe Marquis de Sade was an author in France in the late 1700s. His workswere infamous in their time, giving Sade a reputation as an adulterer, adebaucher, and a sodomite. One of the more common misrepresentationsconcerning Sade was his attitude toward women. His attitude was shown in hisway of life and in two of his literary characters, Justine and Julliette. The Marquis de Sade was said to be the first and only philosopher of vicebecause of his atheistic and sadistic activities.
He held the common woman inlow regard. He believed that women dressed provocatively because they fearedmen would take no notice of them if they were naked. He cared little forforced sex. Rape is not a crime, he explained, and is in fact less thanrobbery, for you get what is used back after the deed is done (Bloch 108).
Opinions about the Marquis de Sade’s attitude towards sexual freedom forwomen varies from author to author. A prevalent one, the one held by Carter,suggests Sade’s work concerns sexual freedom and the nature of such,significant because of his “refusal to see female sexuality in relation to areproductive function. “Sade justified his beliefs through graffiti, playing psychologist onvandals:In the stylization of graffiti, the prick isalways presented erect, as an alert attitude. It points upward, asserts.
The hole is open, asan inert space, as a mouth, waiting to be filled. This iconography could be derived from themetaphysical sexual differences: man aspires,woman serves no function but existence, waiting. Between her thighs is zero, the symbol of nothingness, that only attainssomethingness when male principle fills it with meaning (Carter 4). The Marquis de Sade’s way of thought is probably best symbolized in themissionary position. The missionary position represents the mythicrelationship between partners. The woman represents the passive receptiveness,the fertility, and the richness of soil.
This relationship mythicizes andelevates intercourse to an unrealistic proportion. In a more realistic view,Sade compares married women with prostitutes, saying that prostitutes werebetter paid and that they had fewer delusions (Carter 9). Most of Sade’s opinions of women were geared towards the present, in whatthey were in his time. He held different opinions, however, for how heenvisioned women in the future. Sade suggests that women don’t “fuck in thepassive tense and hence automatically fucked up, done over, undone. ” Sadedeclares that he is all for the “right of women to fuck.
” It is stated as ifthe time in which women copulate tyrannously, cruelly, and aggressively will bea necessary step in the development of the general human conscious concerningthe nature of copulation. He urges women to copulate as actively as they can,so that, “powered by their hitherto untapped sexual energy they will be ableto fuck their way into history, and, in doing so, change it” (Carter 27). Women see themselves in the reflection form Sade’s looking glass ofmisanthropy. Critics say that Sade offers male fantasies about women in greatvariety, along with a number of startling insights. He is said to putpornography in the service of women (Carter 36). The Justine series, consisting of six editions, was one of the mostinfamous and well known series written by Sade.
While the series had severaleditions, the storyline remained basically the same throughout, though becomingmore verbose in each edition. Two characters emerge from the Justine novels: Justine and Juliette, whoare sisters orphaned at an early age. These two characters represent theopposite poles of womanhood in Sade’s mind. Justine is the innocent, naivetype who gets mistreated throughout her life. Juliette is Sade’s ideal woman,being uninhibited in her sexual conduct and in her life, murdering andcopulating at whim. She, naturally, does well in life (Lynch 41-42).
The story of Justine is a long and tragic one, taking the naive young girlabroad, where she is used and discarded by man and woman alike. This is due tothe fact that she is a good woman in a predominately male world. “Justine isgood according to the rules concerning women laid down by men. ” Her reward isrape, incessant beatings, and humiliation (Carter 38). Justine’s first encounter in life is with a priest who tries to seduce herinstead of offering her the assistance she seeks. Next, she encounters afinancier named Dubourg.
He abuses her and makes her steal. Dubourg isrewarded for the vices he has by getting a lucrative government job (Lynch 47). Justine soon is received by Du Harpin, an expert in making loans, plotterof the robbery of a neighbor, who is utilizing Justine as a intermediary. Justine is arrested as a result of Du Harpin’s misdeeds. She is soon releasedby a woman named Dubois, who engineers their escape via setting aflame theprison (Lynch 42). Dubois leads Justine to an encounter with her brigand friends, led byCoeur-de-fer (French for Heart of Iron).
They rape Justine between raids inwhich she doesn’t participate. During one of their raids, they rob and beatSaint-Florent. Justine helps Saint-Florent escape. He promptly expresses hisgratitude by raping her and stealing the little money she had (Lynch 42). Justine is left abandoned and distraught in the woods.
She happens upon ayouthful count named Bressac in the middle of a homosexual act with one of hisservants. Rather than killing her then for her indiscretion, Bressac bringsher home and forces her to assist with his plan to murder his wealthy aunt. Justine flees after four years with Bressac (Lynch 42). She is soon hired by a “surgeon” who is better described as a vivisector,who practices his science on his daughter and on young children. Justine,feeling pity, attempts to save Bressac’s daughter, is caught, and is brandedas a common criminal (Lynch 42).
Justine’s cycle of misfortunes continue for some time. She is visitedonce again by Dubois and twice by Saint-Florent, both of whom incriminate herin something not of her doing. She finally finds her long-lost sister,Juliette, who she recites her life’s story to. Her sister grants her freedom.
She lives for a short time afterwards, shortly disfigured by lightning andeventually killing her (Lynch 43). Juliette, sister of Justine, lives a different life altogether. Her earlylife revolves around her tutors, who introduce different trades. Her firsttutor was Mme.
Delbene, a libertine, who introduces infliction of pain forpleasure. Mme. Delbene’s final affirmation to Juliette was, “Oh, my friend,fuck, you were born to fuck! Nature created you to be fucked” (Lynch 52). Her next mentor is Mme.
de Lorsange, who brings an introduction to theft,a supplement to carnal pleasure. Under Mme. de Lorsange’s tutelage, Juliettebecomes a skilled thief, robbing many. Here Juliette learns the intricaciesof being antiethical (Lynch 53).
Juliette’s next learning experience comes from Noirceuil, a believer inthe duality and balance of virtue and vice in people. He is a totallyindependent individual. He justifies himself by tracing immorality throughantiquity. He arranges a transvestite wedding, where he dresses up as a womanand Juliette dresses like a man. He later violates Juliette’s seven-year-olddaughter, roasting her alive afterwards with her mother’s permission. Noirceuil is awarded a position in the ministry (Lynch 53).
Juliette later becomes involved with Saint-Rond, a minister and king’sfavorite. He introduces her to the Society of Friends of Crime. Justine isinitiated by being asked questions about her sexual activities (both past andpresent). Her last oath uttered upon entrance in the Society read,”Do youswear to forever live in the same degeneracy as you have all your life?” Shereplied yes (Lynch 53). Sade’s two aforementioned characters represent two factors in Sade’s life:reality and fantasy.
Reality, in Sade’s eyes, is Justine. Innocence withoutprosperity, an image of woman. Juliette represents fantasy. She is what Sadeexpects and hopes the woman of the future will resemble: uninhibited, free,equal (Lynch).
So says Gullaume Appolinare in Lynch:Justine is the old woman, subjugated, miserable,and less than human; Juliette, on the contrary,represents the new woman he glimpses, a being wecannot conceive of, that breaks loose fromhumanity, that will have wings and will renewthe universe. Sade justified his writings and feelings by saying, “Flesh comes to us outof history, so does the repression and taboo that governs our experience offlesh. ” He cites flesh as verification of itself, rewriting the Cartesiancognito, “I fuck therefore I am” (Carter, 11). Sade punished virtue in his writings.
Women are the representation ofinnocence to him, which isn’t too far from how his contemporaries felt. Bypunishing Justine in his novels, he isn’t punishing woman, simply the innocencethat woman represents. While Sade believed that the woman with which he was copulating was simplythere to serve his needs, he also felt it could (and should) work the other wayaround. It is as if he is saying, “Just because I use you, it doesn’t meanyou can’t use me. ” Sade couldn’t be a sexist in the modern sense, simplybecause he advocated free sexuality so much. He saw the women of his time and was troubled by it.
In turn, he wroteabout these women, represented in Justine. The woman he saw in the future werea bolder, free-spirited kind, represented in Juliette. It was the promise ofthis new genre of women he looked forward to and was enlightened by. In short, Sade disliked subjugated women and liked empowered women. Heliked women closer to his own persona. Sade was probably the firstpornographer, and as such, caused quite an uproar.
Most of the judgements madeabout Sade by critics were reflexes, made without taking in the full spectrumof what he was, what he wrote, and what he did. The judgement of Sade by thepopulus, therefore is one more severe than it should be.