Philosophy in the boudoir is a sort of theatrical play written by Marquis de Sade in 1795.

The work consists of dialogues occuring during one day in a boudoir. It narrates the (re-)education of a young and pure girl by a group of libertines, and describes the worst perversions in that beautiful 18th-century French writing style. Only Sade could conjugate the verb foutre at the imperfect of the subjective (imagine you read "thou shalt fuck me" in a Shakespeare play).

This education includes both practice and theory. As for practice, the girl is initiated to many sexual practices, and the book could be the scenario of a traditional pornographical movie, although some positions look very complex to set up. The last scene is one of the most cruel and perverse scenes in world litterature.

As for theory, the characters formulate political, moral and religious theories which may or may not be taken seriously by the reader. This "philosophy" relies on two main principles:

  1. Everything is allowed if it is natural. As we will see, Sade's conception of what is natural is extensive.
  2. In a republic, there should be as few laws as possible, because the people should be encouraged to protect themselves. That way they will be strong and ready to defend the country or rebel against the government. Note that Sade spent many years in prison both before and during the revolution, and narrowly escaped a death penalty.

The first consequence of these principles is that all kinds of sexual acts are allowed, since they are natural. If they were not natural, Nature would not let us draw pleasure from them. Homosexuality is of course not a crime, and incest is a good way to strengthen the family bounds (although Sade want to destroy them at other times, but he is never afraid to contradict himself). Anything which stimulates the sexual appetite should be allowed, including violence (sadism) and rape.

This leads us to the second main consequence: all kinds of violence are legitimate. War is the natural state of the human being. Sade is against the death penalty for murders because murders are not crimes; however, individual revenge is perfectly normal. Of course, theft is natural: the people who are robbed should defend themselves.

Women are equal in rights and dignity to men. Brothels should be created where men could abduct any woman they want, but there should also be brothels where women could abduct any man they desire.

Of course, religion is an illusion. Christianism in particular is a despicable religion. Since the people apparently need to believe in some god, Sade proposes to restore the antique gods again, since they favor better values (courage, sex...) than the Christian god.

All these theories and sexual scenes make reading Philosophy in the boudoir a rare experience. I wonder if it could be published today as is. A book which encourages hatred, murder, incest with such violence would probably lead the publisher to a trial, and the book may very well be forbidden, at least in European countries which have laws against that. But, because it was written 200 years ago, you will find that book in every bookstore on the classics shelf.

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