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Philosophy in The Boudoir
(La Philosophie Dans le Boudoir)

by le Marquis Alphonse Donatien de Sade
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes

(Paris, 1795)

Sade is the champion of absolute freedom - in his case, freedom to indulge in the sexual violence which gives us the word sadism.

And this aristocrat of pornographers did actually practice what he preached, which was why he spent much of his life in prison. Not too surprisingly, his books have been banned pretty much everywhere, but not always for the erotica - in the Soviet Union, for instance, it was his politics of individual liberty which made them forbidden.

Abridged: GH

Philosophy in The Boudoir



Voluptuaries of all ages, of every sex, to you I offer this work. Nourish yourselves upon its principles. They favour your passions, which are naught but the means Nature employs to bring man to the ends she prescribes. For it is only by sacrificing everything to the senses' pleasure that this poor creature called Man may be able to sow a few roses by the thorny path of life.


Madame de Saint-Ange: You know, my dear brother, I begin to have misgivings about the obscene plans for today. At twenty-six, and resolved to take pleasure only with my own sex, I ought to be better behaved, but my imagination is pricked the more. Tell me about your friend Dolmancé, before he arrives.

Le Chevalier: A little over thirty and six, tall, handsome, with a hint of the villain, and most philosophic.

Madame de Saint-Ange: And his fancies?

Le Chevalier: I think you know. He cares only for men.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Oh, my dear! Has he had you?

Le Chevalier: We've had our pleasures, but there's no need to belittle those with strange tastes, they are still as Nature meant.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Oh please, a few details!

Le Chevalier: They were naught beside the pleasures you offer, my dear.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Ah, what chivalry! Anyway, I intend to bring a virgin to the feast. Eugénie, a little thing I met last autumn at the convent, a few lessons will do her good.

Later, In an Elegant Boudoir

Young Eugénie and Madame de Saint-Ange are together embracing when M. Dolmancé enters...

Eugénie: God! We are betrayed!

Madame de Saint-Ange: Be at ease, my lovely Eugénie, this is Dolmancé, a most amiable man. Let us not be prudish! (She kisses him indecently.) Imitate me.

Eugénie: Oh, Most willingly! (they tongue Dolmancé, and each other)

Dolmancé: Ladies! It seems extraordinarily warm here (They undress, Dolmancé begins to inspect Eugenié.)

Madame de Saint-Ange: No, Dolmancé! Not yet! Our lessons first!

Dolmancé: Very well, Madame, I will recline on this couch, and you may begin instructing our student.

Madame de Saint-Ange: This sceptre - the member - Eugénie, is the agent of love's pleasure. It may settle here (She strokes Eugénie), or pursue a more mysterious sanctuary here (she indicates behind). Upon some agitation it may vent a viscous liquor, plunging the man into the sweetest pleasure of life.

Eugénie: I wish to see this liquor flow!

Madame de Saint-Ange: I may liberate it with my hand.

Eugénie: And the balls?

Madame de Saint-Ange: The testicles contain semen which produces the human species within the woman's womb. But a girl ought not to concern herself with that. Onto the couch, my sweet.

Eugénie: Dear God! And all these mirrors, how ingenious!

Madame de Saint-Ange: Examine my own Temple of Venus. The mound above gains hair at the age when a girl begins her periods. Here, above, is the little tongue-shaped clitoris, and all a woman's sensation. To tickle me there would make me swoon with delight. Try so. Ah, pretty bitch, how well you do it! Now, Eugénie, I will teach you how to drown in joy. Spread your thighs. Dolmancé, suck her behind while my tongue licks her. Let's make her swoon. What downy flesh! How you squirm!

Eugénie: Oh, I'm dying! (She discharges)

Eugénie: I begin to love whoredom, but is not virtue opposed to such misconduct?

Dolmancé: Ah, Eugénie, virtue is but a chimera whose worship consists exclusively in rebellion against the temperament. Can Nature recommend what offends her?

Eugénie: But what of pity as a virtue?

Dolmancé: What can that be for one with no religion? Come, let us use reason. The God who permits evils his omnipotence could prevent would be the most detestable of creatures.

Eugénie: You mean that God is an illusion?

Dolmancé: Fruit of the terror and of frailty. What does Christianity offer? The altars of Venus and Mars are changed to those of Jesus and Mary, his drivellings become the basis of a morality, and as this tale is preached to the poor, charity becomes its greatest virtue. Such, Eugénie, is the fable of God and religion.

Eugénie: But, Dolmancé, what of charity and benevolence?

Dolmancé: Be not deceived! Benevolence is naught but the vice of pride in the ostentatious almsgiver.

Eugénie: But surely there must be some actions so evil that they are known across al the earth as criminal.

Madame de Saint-Ange: There are none, my love, not even theft, nor incest, nor murder.

Eugénie: Extraordinary!

Dolmancé: Not at all! Nature made men with as many varieties of taste just as she made different their countenances.

Eugénie: Let us continue. Tell me how a girl may preserve herself from pregnancy.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Some women insert sponges, others have their lovers make use of little sacks of Venetian skin, called condoms. But of all the possibilities, that presented by the arse is without any doubt the most delicious. Dolmancé, is an expert!

Eugénie: How adorable!

Madame de Saint-Ange: 'Tis the filthiest and the most forbidden which best rouses the intellect. My brother and I often amused each other during our childhood years.

Eugénie: Is not incest a crime?

Dolmancé: Eugénie, a moment of reason- how did the human species perpetuate itself, if not through incest? By what other means could Adam's family and Noah's have been preserved?

Eugénie: Oh! My divine teachers, I see full well that there are very few crimes in the world. But grant, you must, that murder is still a crime?

Dolmancé: Oh, Eugénie, 'tis our pride that elevates murder into a crime. Be frank, Eugénie, have you never wished the death of anyone?

Eugénie: Oh, I would glad see my mother dead, but alas, I lack the means.

Dolmancé: Come, my rascal, I can hold off no longer! I am going to enter you!

Eugénie: Oh! You tear me sir!

Dolmancé: Courage, Eugénie, courage!

Eugénie: Yet I feel the pain grows into pleasure. More, Dolmancé!

Dolmancé: God's holy fuck! Thrice bloody fuck of God!

Madame de Saint-Ange: How the wench has taken to it!

Dolmancé: 'Oh heavens! I'm spent!

Madame de Saint-Ange: Now is the time to return to our discussion- upon the libertine caprices.

Dolmancé: Of sodomy, assuredly the passive man who has himself buggered takes the greater pleasure, since he enjoys the sensations both before and behind. But do avoid acids before sodomite amusements- they aggravate haemorrhoids- and always wash out the juice of one man before taking another.

Eugénie: But if they were in my female organ, should not such purging be a crime?

Madame de Saint-Ange: Sweet fool! Propagation is not the objective of Nature; she merely tolerates it. If, however, some misfortune might occur, notify me within the first eight weeks, and I'll have it neatly remedied. Dread not infanticide- we are mistress of our womb, and we do no more harm in evacuating unwanted matter there than in evacuating another, by medicines, when we so need.

Dolmancé: As to cruelties, when we wish to be aroused, there is no doubt that we are much more keenly affected by pain than by pleasure. My dear Eugénie, cruelty, very far from being a vice, is the first sentiment Nature injects in us all. The infant breaks his toy, bites his nurse's breast, strangles his canary long before he is able to reason. Cruelty is stamped in animals. Cruelty is natural. Education may modify it, but education is as deforming to holy Nature as topiary is to trees. Nero, Tiberius, Heliogabolus, Charolais, Condé, all slaughtered to gain an erection. Queen Zingua of Angola killed her lovers when she was done with them.

Eugénie: Oh Christ! You drive me wild!

Dolmancé: Eugénie- in libertinage, nothing is frightful, because everything is inspired by nature, even the most extraordinary, the most bizarre.

Eugénie: But are not some manners necessary in a governed society?

Dolmancé: Why, by God, I have something here with me. I bought, outside the Palace of Equality, a little pamphlet, which ought surely to answer your question.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Chevalier, you possess a fine organ, read it to us.



I am about to put forward some major ideas; they will be heard and pondered. If not all of them please, surely a few will; in some sort, then, I shall have contributed to the progress of our age, and shall be content. Rome disappeared immediately Christianity was preached there, and France is doomed if she continues to revere it. Since we believe a cult necessary, let us imitate the Romans- actions, passions, heroes- those were the objects of their respect. Minerva's devotee coveted wisdom. Courage found its abode in Mars. What do we find in Christianity's futile gods? Does the grubby Nazarene fraud inspire any great thoughts? Does his repellent mother, the shameless Mary, excite any virtues? Do you discover in the saints any example of greatness, of heroism or virtue? Lycurgus, Numa, Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, all these great rogues, all these great thought-tyrants, knew how to fabricate divinities to serve their own interests. Let philosophers proclaim instead the wonderful sublimities of Nature, whose these laws are as wise as they are simple, and which are written in the hearts of all men. Let there be no doubt of it- at all times, in every century religions have been cradles of despotism. Massacres and expulsions, however, have no place in the enlightened mind. Let us condemn the charlatans to be jeered at. Let the most insulting blasphemy, the most atheistic works, be openly authorised, and, in six months, your infamous god will be as naught.


Frenchmen, you are too intelligent not to see that new government requires new manners. In every age, the duties of man have been considered under the following three categories- Those his conscience and his credulity impose upon him, with regards a supreme being; Those he is obliged to fulfil toward his brethren; Finally, those that relate only to himself. I cannot repeat it to you too often, Frenchmen, no more gods, lest their fatal influence plunge you back into despotism. As to the second class of man's duties, those which bind him to his fellows, the absurd Christian morality tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves- in defiance of all the laws of Nature. Since hers is the sole voice which must direct all our actions, it is only a question of loving others as brothers, as friends given us by Nature, and with whom we should be able to live much better in a republican State.

We cannot devise as many laws as there are men; but the laws can be lenient, and so few in number, that all men, of whatever character, can easily observe them. Especially we must get rid of the atrocity of capital punishment, because the law which attempts a man's life is impractical, unjust, inadmissible. It has never repressed crime- for a second crime is every day committed at the foot of the scaffold. The injuries we can work against our brothers may be reduced to four types- calumny or defamation, theft, crimes which may disagreeably affect others, and murder.

Here I address myself only to people capable of hearing me out; they will read me without any danger. If calumny attaches to a truly evil man, it makes little difference. If a virtuous man is calumniated, it is merely a test of purity whence his virtue emerges more resplendent than ever. As to theft, it is certain that stealing nourishes courage, strength, skill, tact, in a word, all the virtues useful to a republican system. Lay partiality aside, and answer me- is theft, whose effect is to distribute wealth more evenly- to be branded as a wrong under our government which aims at equality? There was once a people who punished not the thief but him who allowed himself to be robbed, in order to teach him to care for his property. A republic threated by despots outside can by no means preserve itself other than by war. Nothing is less moral than war, so how we ask, may the individual be required to be moral?

We may now consider modesty, that faint-hearted negative impulse of contradiction to impure affections. Were it among Nature's intentions that man be modest, assuredly she would not have caused him to be born naked. Lycurgus and Solon obliged girls to exhibit themselves naked at the theatre. We are persuaded that lust is not to be stifled or legislated against, but that it is, rather, a matter of arranging the means whereby passion may be satisfied in peace. We must thus introduce order into this sphere of affairs.

Various stations, cheerful, sanitary, spacious, properly furnished and safe, will be erected in each city; in them, all sexes, all ages, all creatures possible will be offered to the caprices of the libertines who shall come to divert themselves. Whenever you withhold from man the means to exhales the dose of despotism Nature instilled in the depths of his heart, he will seek other outlets for it. It is certain, in a state of Nature, that women are born vulguivaguous, that is to say, are born like other female animals- belonging, without exception, to all the males

There will then also be government houses intended for women's libertinage, and the more constantly they frequent them the higher they will be esteemed. Must the diviner half of humankind be laden with irons by the other? Ah, break those irons- Nature wills it. Amongst the Tartars, the profligate woman was honoured with jewels. In Peru, families rent their wives and daughters to visitors, like horses, or carriages! Every philosopher knows full well it is solely to the Christian impostors we are indebted for having puffed lewdness up into crime. The priests had excellent cause to forbid lechery- their power of absolution for private sins, gave them an incredible ascendancy over women. We know only too well how they took advantage of it.

Is incest more dangerous? Hardly. It loosens family ties so that the citizen has that much more love to lavish on his country; the primary laws of Nature dictate it to us, our feelings vouch for the fact; and nothing is so enjoyable as an object we have coveted over the years. If we traverse the world we will find incest everywhere established. The blacks of the Ivory Coast and Gabon prostitute their wives to their own children; in Judah, the eldest son must marry his father's wife; the people of Chile lie indifferently with their sisters and their daughters. I would venture, in a word, that incest ought to be every government's law- every government whose basis is fraternity.

As to sodomy, we wonder that savagery could ever reach the point where you condemn to death an unhappy person for the crime of not sharing your tastes. The greatest of men lean toward sodomy. Plutarch speaks with enthusiasm of the battalion of lovers who alone defended Greece's freedom. At the time it was discovered, the whole of America was found inhabited by people of this taste. In their letters, Martial, Catullus, Tibullus, Horace, and Virgil wrote to men as though to their mistresses; and we read in Plutarch that women must in no way figure in men's love. Amongst the Greeks, the female perversion was also supported by policy- so that women resorted to each other, and thus had less communication with men so that their detrimental influence in the republic's affairs was held to a minimum. In fine, these are perfectly inoffensive manias. Even if women were to go so far as caressing monsters and animals, no ill could possibly result therefrom. Of all the offences man may commit against his fellows, murder is without question the cruellest, since its loss is irreparable. But, from Nature's point of view, is murder a crime?

If Nature denies eternity to beings, it follows that their destruction is one of her laws. Little animals are formed immediately a large animal expires, and these little animals' lives are simply one of the necessary effects determined by the large animal's temporary sleep. Is it a political crime? Are wars, the unique fruit of political barbarism, anything but the means whereby a nation is nourished, strengthened, and buttressed? Is it not a strange blindness in man, who publicly teaches the art of killing, who rewards the most accomplished killer, and who punishes him who, with reason, does away with his enemy! Is murder then a crime against society? What difference does it make to society, whether it have one member more, or less? Will its laws, its manners, its customs be vitiated? No, alas.

What, then, must the attitude of a warlike and republican state be toward murder? Republican mettle calls for a touch of ferocity- if he grows soft, if his energy slackens in him, the republican will be subjugated in a trice. In Sparta, in Lacedaemon, they hunted Helots, just as we in France go on partridge shoots. In Mindanao, a man who wishes to commit a murder is raised to the rank of warrior brave and decorated with a turban. The inhabitants of Borneo believe all those they put to death will serve them when they themselves depart life. Devout Spaniards vow to St. James of Galicia to kill a dozen Americans every day. One sees it upon every page of their history. What people were at once greater and more bloodthirsty than the Romans, and what nation longer preserved its splendour and freedom? In the republics of Greece all the children who came into the world were carefully examined, and if they were found not to conform to the requirements determined by the republic's defence, they were sacrificed on the spot. In those days it was not deemed essential to build richly endowed houses for the preservation of mankind's scum. In China, one finds every morning an incredible number of children abandoned in the streets; a dung cart picks them up at dawn, and they are tossed into a moat.

Do you not prune the tree when it has overmany branches? And do not too many shoots weaken the trunk? To sum up: must murder be repressed by murder? Surely not. Let us never impose any other penalty upon the murderer than the one he may risk from the vengeance of the friends or family of him he has killed. Murder is a horror, but an often necessary horror, never criminal, which it is essential to tolerate in a republican State.

We have now but to speak of man's duties toward himself. The only offence of this order man can commit is suicide. I will not bother demonstrating here the imbecility of the people who make of this act a crime, they may read Rousseau's famous letter. In Greece, one killed oneself in public, and one made of one's death a spectacle of magnificence.

Let us create few laws, but let them be good; rather than multiplying hindrances, it is purely a question of giving an indestructible quality to the law we employ, of seeing to it that the laws we promulgate have, as ends, nothing but the citizen's tranquillity, his happiness, and the glory of the republic. But, Frenchmen, I should not like your zeal to broadcast your principles to lead you further afield. Remember the unsuccess of the crusades. Revive your trade, restore energy and markets to your manufacturing; cause your arts to flourish again, encourage agriculture. Leave the thrones of Europe to crumble.

Madame de Saint-Ange: Oh, my friend, fuck us, but let us have no sermons!

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