The Eddie, I Hate You Reading List: Dedicated to propelling me further away from love, romance, men and penile exploration.
First on my list of books that make me never want to entertain a man sexually ever again, Marquis De Sade’s ‘Justine’ exaggerates sexual cruelty into a fantastical realm worth avoiding.
If you know very little about Marquis De Sade, it is safe to assume you can only imagine a fraction of your sadistic potential.
In fact, as I just learned, the word “Sadistic” is Sade’s namesake.
Marquis de Sade was a late 18th century French writer, philosopher, criminal and, I suppose, a revolutionary known for being a freaking creepo with a castle full of prostitutes.
Of course even he was married.
His wife was an alleged willing accomplice to the bullshit horror tactics he pulled on prostitutes even after he slept with her sister.
He was imprisoned more than once for several years and, I believe, he was sent to a mental asylum but you’d have to do my research for me on that one. I am not writing to give a thorough background profile on Sade. I am merely writing to question the experience I had reading his novel Justine (originally a novella and then elongated because why not detail even more scary sex stuff if we can).
Sade wrote Justine in prison. He wrote it in two days in 1791 (just before the French Revolution). He was roughly fifty years old.
In two days this fifty year old little devil man managed to write over a hundred pages about Justine, a twelve-year-old character who goes by the name Therese, an orphan who was dispensed from a nunnery after her father died and decides, based on her relentless virtuosity to separate from her sister, Juliet (heroine of another one of Sade’s very scary sex novels) ever since Juliet asserts that the two of them need to participate in crime to save themselves.
The pursuit of criminal survival or vice, as Sade continuously refers to it, is prioritized for just about every character in this book other than Justine. Justine travels around like an idiot until she’s twenty-six clinging to her “virtue” while she is repeatedly manipulated into various rape scenarios all the while wondering why no one is as nice as they seem.
The copy I have of this book is 264 pages long. In two days Sade was able to write 264 pages of almost unreadable indecencies. I put the book down, crossed my legs and wondered: Is he a hero for all man?
Justine is so truly desperate, so perfectly envisioned as a woman with hope for love, I wondered how Sade, an apparently wicked historical figure, could mesmerize my heart with powerful accuracy. Justine falls in love with her tormentors. Of one of them, she speaks:
“I tried to find personal reasons to stifle in my heart the unhappy flame of passion that burned there, but is love an illness that one can recover from? All of my attempts to quell it merely served to make its flame burn more brightly, and the perfidious Comte never appeared more lovable to me than when I had taken account of everything that should have made me detest him.”
This young woman is so torn from decency she can’t help but love her tormentor. Stockholm syndrome, you might call it. I call it: Hope.
Comte is only the first of many defilers.
Justine meets many men along the way who corner her into epic gang bangs and almost circus-like sexual romps. Many times Justine stands up to her predators with speeches about how the world would be better if men didn’t rape at which point Sade takes it upon himself to write speech upon speech regarding the sanctity of honouring natural libertine urges.
It should be said that at the beginning of this little book, Sade writes a page and a half about how he is not writing this story in order to protect his own vices. He is merely writing to demonstrate how vice wins over virtue. So…He’s not a happy pervert, he’s just a successful pervert.
Moreover, the characters in Sade’s novel righteously argue again and again that they cannot help but be disgusting:
“Our tastes are fixed and nothing in the world can henceforth destroy them. No matter how a child is brought up, nothing changes them, and the person who is destined to be a person whose organs dispose him to virtue will follow the path of righteousness, even if his teacher has failed him. Both have acted in accordance with their make-up, with the impressions that they have received from Nature, and one is no more deserving of punishment than the other is deserving of reward.”
I haven’t yet mentioned that this entire story is being told by Justine in defence of the accusation that she burned down a building and killed twenty-one people…which she totally did do, she did do that. She set fire to a prison in order to escape from a band of criminals, coerced by a woman who is, herself, a manipulative vice-go-getter because absolutely everyone in this book is certain that crime leads to survival.
While I am never one to accuse a writer of being the book they wrote, I laugh trying to understand what the point of this book would be other than for Sade’s broadcasting of a very scary point of view.
The men in this book hurt women to gain pleasure. They speak about it in powerful defense of an obviously flawed hobby:
“So I ask you, in what way is it necessary for a woman to orgasm when we do? Is there any other reason for this than having one’s pride flattered? And does one not, on the contrary, feel this pride in a far more exciting manner by ruthlessly preventing this woman from reaching orgasm so that you alone do so, in order that nothing should prevent her from focusing on her own orgasm?
I read this and reflect on a past sexual experience of mine: I am having sex with someone who knows me well but is only having sex with me because we are very drunk and we happen to be in a room together. He is tentative to begin but he has a very certain erection and it won’t go away. The sex is mutual until he is choking me.
I recall another arrangement where an acquaintance came home with me, drunk and regretting his decision he fucked my face and promptly left.
One more recall: The gentleman who had to pee in the middle of sex and told me “When I come back, I’m just going to rip in”.
Sade has scripted speeches justifying absurd levels of licentious male entitlement. It is hard to read and, further, it is hard to forgive Sade for writing it but, I remarked to a friend of mine today that I am very glad I read it despite not really being sure why.
I know why.
One of Justine’s tormentors is a man who hires her as an “attendant” to his wife, a woman who is many years younger than him who he repeatedly calls to order publicly so he can cut her in many places and get off on the blood drip. He tells Justine,
“Nothing concerns me less than the fate of a woman. There are so many in the world, and it is good to make changes.”
Articulated with little shame, I doubt Sade is the only man to dream up that line.
Call me unromantic but I hurt for the sake of knowing that a large percentage of the sexual acts conducting in the world on any given day are performed against the security of women.
Sade may have been the daddy of Sadism but perhaps that’s only because he wrote about it with such profound confidence.
He was a criminal and a convicted maniac. No one liked that he was writing like this, in fact his books were banned but I wonder about his heroism because, without having read this book, I truly thought that I was making up the thoughts I had about chauvinistic cruelty.
Recently I had a guy over and we were watching TLC. A commercial about a show regarding polygamy came on and he asked me “What do you think about all that?”
“Polygamy?” I asked.
“Are you curious about polyamory?”
“I don’t know. Yeah.”
“I think if you want to have sex with me while you’re dating someone else, you can’t blame me when I rage-text you or eventually hate you forever.”
“What do you think about it?”
“I think that with all the bullshit I’ve been through with women lately, dating more than one of them is like, a better idea, like two or three of them.”
“Two or three women.”
“Like. Two or three, yeah.”
This man: Broke up with a woman he had been with for eight years in January. That was his only girlfriend he’s ever had after which he met three different sexual partners at different times, myself included. From that breadth of experience, he’s decided that women are not worth much more than 1/3 of his attention because it’s just too hard for him to be broken up with and left alone so….he’ll collect women just in case. Just in case of emotional stress. Nevermind the stress put on the second woman or the third or, of course, the first.
Though this example isn’t akin to the libertine sex described by Sade in this novel, it highlights the exact same sentiment underlying a lot of the hyperbolized speeches: I’m going to risk hurting a woman for my own pleasure because she’s disposable anyways. It’s only half way through the book that Justine receives a lesson on why men must dominate women since a “mutual happiness” between the two sexes can only be possible if the woman finds happiness in admitting that she is the naturally weaker sex, therefore allowing the man to achieve his naturally stronger status “by allowing whatever means of oppression must be employed”.
Does it sound antiquated and gratuitous? Yes and even more so when I witness it without the ability to articulate exactly what it is I am witnessing.
Justine is a magically disgusting homage to the true potential of masculine entitlement. I hate-love this book so much. If not for it’s strange euphemisms for genitalia (Window to Venus, my favourite) then for it’s desperate defense of terrible things because I now no longer worry that I am inventing said terrible things and I can avoid men further with strength and insistence.
Written in two days, no doubt with the energy of a man who feels the need to put in writing what he believes he is dying for, Justine remains a relic of antiquated Dick and contemporary Shame.
NEXT WEEK: Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint