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Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade, was an aristocrat and member of the Decadent court of Louis XV's France, who managed to be considered the most decadent member of the most decadent court in Europe, due far more to his actions than his writings. Though Everything Sounds Sexier in French, Sade worked his best to disgrace it through repulsive pornography. Using the French equivalent of an entire arsenal of atomic F bombs, crude descriptions of sexual intercourse and unashamed incest, he crossed all limits and was denied publication in every respectable library, banned by religious powers from using a pen. Honorable people considered his works as the epitome of evil. Every single line by Sade contains at least a couple of mentions of fluids and swears that even the French found offensive. All this, mind you, at a time where religion was second in power only to the King's.

Despite most of his works being banned, however, they played at least some role among the more radical members of the French Revolution, such as Jean-Baptiste Carrier's infamous Republican Marriages at the Noyades in the Loire, which were specifically described by Carrier as "Le flambeau de la philosophie", referring to one of Sade's sayings, as well as the executions at Arras (see 120 Days of Sodom below for more information). In addition, he also played a huge role in the French Revolution, to such an extent that he was arguably the one who started it by instigating the Storming of the Bastille via false claims of the prisoners being tortured.

Sade's works were many, including novels, historiettes, plays and political pamphlets. Among the most notable of them are:

  • Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man - One of the earliest known written works by Sade, written while incarcerated in the Chateau de Vincennes in 1782, the dialogue is about a dying libertine convincing a priest of the mistakes of a pious life, and is very expressive of Sade's atheism.
  • The 120 Days of Sodom (a.k.a. The School of Licentiousness) - One of Sade's most infamous works, about four corrupt libertine nobles (the Duc, the Bishop, The President, and the Durcet) who put their four wives/daughters, sixteen kidnapped children, four aged prostitutes, four hideous maids, and eight well-endowed young men through 120 days of abuse and torture ultimately leading to bloodshed. It all basically plays out like an extended Aristocrats joke with no punchline. It is also suspected to be the inspiration of Joseph LeBon and his wife's stripping guillotine victims at Arras and putting them in lewd poses among the Batteries Nationales. It spawned a film adaptation set in World War II that is one of the most potent examples of Nausea Fuel in cinematic history. Written in secret while he was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1785, believed to have been Lost Forever until the paper it was written on was discovered hidden in his cell over a hundred years later.
  • Justine (a.k.a. The Misfortunes of Virtue) - Written in 1787-88 and published in 1791, this is one of the two novels (the other being Juliette) that got Sade thrown in prison for the last thirteen years of his life by Napoleon Bonaparte. It concerns a virtuous young woman whose virtue is anything but rewarded, and who suffers horrible abuse throughout her life hidden under a virtuous mask.
  • Juliette (a.k.a. The Prosperities of Vice) - A sequel of sorts to Justine, published six years after the first novel, the story is about Justine's sister, who is in many ways her polar opposite. The Villain Protagonist engages in every form of depravity, up to and including murdering her way through various people (including various family members and friends), all in the name of enjoying herself no matter whose expense it's at.
  • Philosophy in the Bedroom - A pornographic narrative published in 1795 that has since become known as a sociopolitical drama, it is a textbook example of Corrupt the Cutie in action, as fifteen-year-old Eugénie is "educated" in the ways of the libertine by Madame de Saint-Ange, her brother Le Chevalier de Mirval, and their friend Dolmancé. When her mother, Madame de Mistval, tries to rescue Eugénie from the libertines, the mother's fate is anything but pretty.

Sade's works gave rise to the word "sadism," in both its classical and fetishistic senses.

He is also a featured character in the play Marat Sade, as well as the main character of the movie Quills.

This author's works provide examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts
  • All Women Are Lustful
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The characters. All of them. Probably the author himself.
    • Given that the author himself let his mother in law walk free despite the fact that she had him locked up, it's safe to say he's more of an Even Evil Has Standards. He did have some lines he wouldn't cross even if he was royally depraved.
  • Author Appeal: Each book considers necessary to mention the incredible joys of anal sex. Makes one wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that author was convicted of sodomy.
  • Author Tract: The books are all one big tract about how unjust, oppressive and hypocritical the society he lived in was, portraying the chivalry of the aristocracy and the piety of the clergy as nothing more than filthy Straw Hypocrite lies.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Sade had a thing for guys with large equipment in his works. In both The 120 Days of Sodom and Justine, there are quite a few men whose penis size reaches the double digits. Averted though, as the characters injure many of the people they have sex with, and at least one of them is described as only having vaginal sex out of cruelty.
  • Break the Cutie: Justine suffers horribly for her virtue, unlike her libertinous and wicked sister.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Everywhere.
  • Bondage Is Bad
  • Brains and Bondage: Of the Wicked Cultured kind.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Dolmancé's main activity in Philosophy in the Bedroom.
  • Crapsack World: The world of the Marquis de Sade's works is a cold, brutal and cynical world where human decency is nonexistent, good is actively punished or made out to be a hypocritical lie, and the only way to get ahead is to be a bastard.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Sade's characters are members of the royal court and not exactly shining examples of morality.
  • Depraved Bisexual and Depraved Homosexual: These characters are staples of Sade's work. Dolmancé in Philosophy in the Bedroom is a sterling example.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Everybody. Even some who don't want to.
    • Especially those who don't want to.
  • Face Heel Turn: Eugénie of Philosophy in the Bedroom, particularly during the final act where her mother comes calling to try to rescue her from her corruption and is dealt with by her and the libertines in true Sade fashion.
  • French Jerk: Most characters are lustful and usually horrible people. And most of them are French.
    • Sade himself also qualifies. You don't get to be the namesake for "Sadism" for nothing.
  • Gorn: Happens a lot in Sade's work, but nowhere more prominently than in The 120 Days of Sodom.
  • The Hedonist: Most of Sade's protagonists are libertines, who are out solely for their own pleasure, with only a handful of minor characters appearing here and there and being horrified.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Almost every work in the Sade canon contains at least one male aristocrat who delivers an impressively lengthy speech about women's "natural inferiority" to men and the joy of watching them suffer.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Exaggerated, and how. Each and every atheist character rants for hours about how there is no God and how religion is evil and useless. Besides, apparently, atheism in de Sade's world goes hand in hand with sexual promiscuity, immorality, abuse, perversity, sadistic and murderous tendencies.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Justine, in spades.
  • A Party - Also Known as an Orgy: Dolmancé's education of teenage girls is usually done in restricted number and naked.
  • Romanticized Abuse
  • Skilled but Naive: Once again, Eugénie is said to be very "competent."
  • Spank the Cutie: Happens often as a fetish. Sade's name became the basis for the concept of Sadism.
  • Three-Way Sex at least, but may degenerate into further decadence.
  • Upperclass Twit: Mme de Saint-Ange.
  • Upper Class Wit: The protagonists being aristocrats and being less than respectful for their common fellows.
  • Villain Protagonist: Quite a few of them, with the libertines of 120 Days of Sodom being among the worst.
  • You Keep Using That Word: For some reason, Sade calls women's vaginal secretions "sperm", though it may be a case of Science Marches On.