The Marquis de Sade\'s Attitude Towards Women


The Marquis de Sade was an author in France in the late 1700s. His works
were infamous in their time, giving Sade a reputation as an adulterer, a
debaucher, and a sodomite. One of the more common misrepresentations
concerning Sade was his attitude toward women. His attitude was shown in his
way 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 vice
because of his atheistic and sadistic activities. He held the common woman in
low regard. He believed that women dressed provocatively because they feared
men would take no notice of them if they were naked. He cared little for
forced sex. Rape is not a crime, he explained, and is in fact less than
robbery, 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 for
women 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 a
reproductive function."
Sade justified his beliefs through graffiti, playing psychologist on
vandals:

In the stylization of graffiti, the prick is
always presented erect, as an alert attitude.
It points upward, asserts. The hole is open, as
an inert space, as a mouth, waiting to be filled.
This iconography could be derived from the
metaphysical sexual differences: man aspires,
woman serves no function but existence, waiting.

Between her thighs is zero, the symbol of nothingness, that only attains
somethingness when male principle fills it with meaning (Carter 4).
The Marquis de Sade\'s way of thought is probably best symbolized in the
missionary position. The missionary position represents the mythic
relationship between partners. The woman represents the passive receptiveness,
the fertility, and the richness of soil. This relationship mythicizes and
elevates intercourse to an unrealistic proportion. In a more realistic view,
Sade compares married women with prostitutes, saying that prostitutes were
better paid and that they had fewer delusions (Carter 9).
Most of Sade\'s opinions of women were geared towards the present, in what
they were in his time. He held different opinions, however, for how he
envisioned women in the future. Sade suggests that women don\'t "fuck in the
passive tense and hence automatically fucked up, done over, undone." Sade
declares that he is all for the "right of women to fuck." It is stated as if
the time in which women copulate tyrannously, cruelly, and aggressively will be
a necessary step in the development of the general human conscious concerning
the 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 able
to fuck their way into history, and, in doing so, change it" (Carter 27).
Women see themselves in the reflection form Sade\'s looking glass of
misanthropy. Critics say that Sade offers male fantasies about women in great
variety, along with a number of startling insights. He is said to put
pornography in the service of women (Carter 36).
The Justine series, consisting of six editions, was one of the most
infamous and well known series written by Sade. While the series had several
editions, the storyline remained basically the same throughout, though becoming
more verbose in each edition.
Two characters emerge from the Justine novels: Justine and Juliette, who
are sisters orphaned at an early age. These two characters represent the
opposite poles of womanhood in Sade\'s mind. Justine is the innocent, naive
type who gets mistreated throughout her life. Juliette is Sade\'s ideal woman,
being uninhibited in her sexual conduct and in her life, murdering and
copulating 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 girl
abroad, where she is used and discarded by man and woman alike. This is due to
the fact that she is a good woman in a predominately male world. "Justine is
good according to the rules concerning women laid down by men." Her reward is
rape, incessant beatings, and humiliation (Carter 38).
Justine\'s first encounter in life is with a priest who tries to seduce her
instead of offering her the assistance she seeks. Next, she encounters a
financier named Dubourg. He abuses her and makes her steal. Dubourg is
rewarded for the vices he has by getting