The Marquis de Sade – this Libertine inspired the word “sadism.” His gritty erotica might still be considered by some to be going steps over the line in 2015, but it was seen as blasphemous in the late 1700s, and it earned him a tour of the French Prison system for a total of thirty two years. During this time, he penned one of his most noted works, 120 days in Sodom. He was born Donatien Alphonse Francois, until his father died and he took the title Marquis. While BDSM might be a staple at Goth night in clubs today, “gothic” was not a label de Sade wanted on his writing, as it placed emphasis on the supernatural, and he said he did not need to look to Hell to help him to write in an alluring fashion.
One of his more noted works, Justine, deals with a young girl who denies god and gives in to her lust, with the underlying theme of the book being that God is evil and suffering is a result of the denial of that truth. When this was re-published in 1801, Napoleon ordered De Sade’s arrest. To some, his work was a way to reconcile himself to his own sexual crimes that escalated after his marriage, and others insist that de Sade’s aim was to shatter the illusions society placed upon subjects high on a pedestal, such as sexuality and religion. These factions seem to be in equal number. While some claim his numerous arrests were due to the ground-breaking lewdness of his writings, others state that it was due to the fact he was a sexual predator, to the extent that police in 1764 issued a warning to the Madams of Paris not to send any of their girls to the Marquis. According to Rose Keller, who escaped de Sade’s castle, if the Marquis had a Fet Life page today, his profile would have him into: kidnapping, slow blood letting (giving) , rubbing cuts with salt or hot wax (giving), excision and cutting (giving), partial dismemberment (giving). Apparently, safe words weren’t big in the late 1700s, either. The four years before his death, he had begun a sexual relationship with fourteen years old, which was depicted to some extent in the film Quills, where Geoffrey Rush played the Marquis. There have also been several other films that have depicted de Sade, sometimes in a horrific manner, and other times with loose stabs at realizing some of his narrative in movies like 120 Days in Sodom.
His descendant, the Baron Hugues de Sade, who is not only carrying on the de Sade name, but is also heir to the original manuscripts, which he has put on display at the Smithsonian. Hugues’ parents found the manuscripts bottled up in a secret room bricked up in the attic of the Conde Castle in 1940. Up until this point, the Marquis has become a dirty family secret that no one spoke of. Now Hugues not only wears the name with pride, but is also cashing in on it. He has been in negotiation with Victoria’s Secret about a line of de Sade lingerie, after already cashing in on the family name with a line of wine, scented candles and gourmet meats. de Sade’s works were banned in France until 1957. Then came the sexual revolution of the 60s, which, along with growing occult interest that went hand in hand with the shadowy underground of the taboo bdsm culture, found de Sade being a martyr for freedom and a literary figure whose works are now published along side Oscar Wilde. Not to say 120 Days of Sodom is going to saddle up next to Fifty Shades of Gray on the bestseller list, since it has more in common with The Human Centipede than erotica fluff. When the long lost scroll that De Sade wrote 120 Days in Sodom on in 1875 returned to France, it was seen as a national treasure, after being stolen and sold to a Swiss collector, the envy of collectors worldwide. The 37-foot scroll is comprised of bits of paper that were smuggled into the dungeons of Bastille and then glued together after they were hidden in a secret hole he created in his cell. Despite how you may feel about what his particular fetishes may or may have not been, he was a man passionate about his craft, and that passion made his work an enduring curiosity centuries later.