Tag Archives: Sade

The Tyranny of Enjoyment

DOLMANCE: . . . What is it one desires when taking one’s pleasure? that everything around us be occupied with nothing but ourselves, think of naught but of us, care for us only. If the objects we employ know pleasure too, you can be very sure they are less concerned for us than they are for themselves, and lo! our own pleasure consequently disturbed. There is not a living man who does not wish to play the despot when he is stiff: it seems to him his joy is less when others appear to have as much as he; by an impulse of pride, very natural at this juncture, he would like to be the only one in the world capable of experiencing what he feels: the idea of seeing another enjoy as he enjoys reduces him to a kind of equality with that other, which impairs the unspeakable charm despotism causes him to feel. ‘Tis false as well to say there is pleasure in affording pleasure to others; that is to serve them, and the man who is erect is far from desiring to be useful to anyone. On the contrary, by causing them hurt he experiences all the charms a nervous personality relishes in putting its strength to use; ’tis then he dominates, is a tyrant; and what a difference is there for the amour-propre! Think not that it is silent during such episodes.

The act of enjoyment is a passion which, I confess, subordinates all others to it, but which simultaneously unites them. This desire to dominate at this moment is so powerful in Nature that one notices it even in animals. See whether those in captivity procreate as do those others that are free and wild; the camel carries the matter further still: he will engender no more if he does not suppose himself alone: surprise him and, consequently, show him a master, and he will fly, will instantly separate himself from his companion. Had it not been Nature’s intent that man possess this feeling of superiority, she would not have created him stronger than the beings she destines to belong to him at those moments. The debility to which Nature condemned woman incontestably proves that her design is for man, who then more than ever enjoys. his strength, to exercise it in all the violent forms that suit him best, by means of tortures, if he be so inclined, or worse. Would pleasure’s climax be a kind of fury were it not the intention of this mother of humankind that behavior during copulation be the same as behavior in anger? What well-made man, in a word, what man endowed with vigorous organs does not desire, in one fashion or in another, to molest his partner during his enjoyment of her? I know perfectly well that whole armies of idiots, who are never conscious of their sensations, will have much trouble understanding the systems I am establishing; but what do I care for these fools? ‘Tis not to them I am speaking; soft-headed women-worshipers, I leave them prostrate at their insolent Dulcineas’ feet, there let them wait for the sighs that will make them happy and, basely the slaves of the sex they ought to dominate, I abandon them to the vile delights of wearing the chains wherewith Nature has given them the right to overwhelm others!

Dialogue the Fifth, Philosophy in the Bedroom in Sade, Richard Seaver, and Austryn Wainhouse. Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings. 1st paperback ed. New York: Grove Press, 1966, 344-45.

Sade’s Masochism

Whether Sade was a sadist or not I don’t know: the trial records shed little light upon the question. In the case we are best acquainted with—the Marseilles affair—Sade figures as a masochist, which is the very opposite. I see that at least once he flatly refused to be sadistic in spite of all sorts of encouragement: his past grievances, his feelings of the moment, and the chorus of the Section of Piques. But it could be argued that the true sadist is the one who declines to practice sadism on easy terms, who will not stand to be told when and where to give expression to his idiosyncrasy. Each of us is proud in his own way. . . .

When pain experienced by others gives me pleasure, this pleasure I feel is obviously an unusual feeling; and doubtless a reprehensible one. In any case it is a clear and comprehensible feeling, and an article upon it can be included in the Encyclopedia. But that my own pain be pleasure to me, that my humiliation be to me a dignification—this is no longer reprehensible or unusual, it is simply obscure, and it is only too easy for me to reply that if it is pain, it isn’t pleasure, if it’s dignification, then it’s not humiliation. If it’s . . .  And so on and so forth. Yet, however that may be, there does indeed exist, nobody will deny it, something which can be rightly termed masochism. To be more precise, there do indeed exist men, and women also, whom we must call masochists.

For there are some who seek nothing so eagerly as mockery and ridicule, and who thrive better on shame than on bread and wine: Philip of Neri, who used to caper in the streets and shaved only one side of his face, preferred to pass for a madman than for a saint; the sheik Abu Yazid al Bisthami would give urchins a couple of walnuts in exchange for a slap. There is no lack of persons who to their friends—and to those foremost among all their friends, themselves—fondly wish “suffering, abandon, infirmity, ill-treatment and dishonor and profound self-contempt and the martyrdom of self-distrust.” And others too who say with the Portuguese nun: “Increase the number of my afflictions.” To anyone contending that behind whatever it may appear to be this amounts to a clever attempt to assure oneself of the weal which follows after woe, and the honor which follows dishonor, and the triumph of esteem which follows after the ordeal of disdain, in keeping with some natural law of compensation, the reply would have to be that he had not very well grasped the question. But let me continue.

We see other persons who steer a steady course toward vexations and abuse, who, no matter where they happen to be, are extraordinarily alert and, through the workings of some unerring instinct, as if sensitized to the presence of a possible source of mistreatment and as if fascinated in advance, attracted, summoned by the cruel potentialities they have somehow detected in a man everybody else sees as a decent and unexceptional man. (Thus Justine . . .) Or else, of their own accord, with peculiar willfulness march straight to where prison, trials, and death await them. (Thus Sade . . . )

Paulhan, Jean. “The Marquis de Sade and His Accomplice” in Sade, Richard Seaver, and Austryn Wainhouse. Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings. 1st paperback ed. New York: Grove Press, 1966, 32-34.