Philosophy in the Bedroom
Philosophy in the Bedroom ("La Philosophie Dans le Boudoir") is a dialogue written by the
Marquis de Sadein 1795in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Depending on one's point of view, it is either a philosophicalwork laced with erotica, or just pornographyin the form of a philosophical dialogue.
The dialogue details the corruption of a girl named Eugénie. She is a fifteen-year-old
virginnaive of all things sexual, and has been brought up by her mother to be well-mannered, modest and obedient. She spends a long day in a bedroom being educated by three wealthy libertines. This trio consists of 26-year-old Madame de Saint-Ange, her 20-year-old brother (and lover) Le Chevalier, and finally a 36-year-old homosexual (but will use a female anally) named Dolmancé.
Dolmancé is the dominant one of the group; he explains to Eugénie that
morality, compassion, religionand modestyare all absurd notions that stand in the way of the sole aim of human existence: pleasure. Like most of Sade's work, "Philosophy In The Bedroom" features a great deal of sexas well as libertine philosophies. Although there is some torture, the dialogue contains no actual murder, unlike many of Sade's works.
In the introduction, the Marquis de Sade exhorts his readers to indulge in the various activities in the play. He says that the work is dedicated to "voluptuaries of all ages, of every sex" and urges readers to emulate the characters. "Lewd women"," he writes, "let the voluptuous Saint-Ange be your model; after her example, be heedless of all that contradicts pleasure's divine laws, by which all her life she was enchained." He then urges "young maidens" to copy Eugénie; "be as quick as she to destroy, to spurn all those ridiculous precepts inculcated in you by imbecile parents." Finally, he urges male readers to "study the cynical Dolmancé" and follow his example of selfishness and consideration for nothing but his own enjoyment.
Dolmancé and Madame de Saint-Ange start off by giving Eugénie their own brand of
sex education, explaining the biological facts and declaring that physical pleasure is a far more important motive for sex than that of reproduction. Then they eagerly get down to the practical lessons, with Le Chevalier joining them in the fourth act and swiftly helping to take away Eugénie's virginity.
Eugénie is instructed on the pleasures of various sexual practices and she proves to be a fast learner. As is usually the case in Sade's work, the characters are all bisexual, and
sodomyis the preferred activity of all concerned, especially Dolmancé, who prefers male sexual partners and will not have anything other than anal-intercourse with female ones. Madame de Saint-Ange and her younger brother Le Chevalier also have sex with one another, and boast of doing so on a regular basis. Their incest- and all manner of other sexual activity and taboos like sodomy, adultery, homosexuality, etc - are justified by Dolmancé in a series of energetic arguments that ultimately boil down to "if it feels good, do it." Sodomy was illegal and punishable by death in France at the time the dialogue was written, and Sade himself was convicted of sodomy in 1772.
The corruption of Eugénie is actually at the request of her father, who has sent her to Madame de Saint-Ange for the very purpose of having his daughter stripped of the morality her virtuous mother taught her.
The dialogue is split into seven parts - or 'dialogues' - and was originally illustrated by Sade himself. There is a lengthy section within the fifth dialogue titled "Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans" in which it is argued that, having done away with the
monarchyin the French Revolution, the people of Franceshould take the final step towards liberty by abolishing religion too.
Although saturated with sexual activity, "Philosophy In The Bedroom" is not especially erotic in the traditional sense. The sexual acts themselves are quite mechanical and often rather absurd, with complicated sexual positions featuring up to half-a-dozen people, in addition to the pornographic cliché of most male characters having excessively large
penises, one fourteen inches in length. Being set out as a play, the action itself is not noted in any real detail and the profane dialogue of the characters is often the only way the reader can figure out what lewd acts they are indulging in. In between the sexual activity there are quite lengthy breaks of philosophical discussion, attacking religion and morality, often repeating ideas alluded to in The 120 Days of Sodom, one of Sade's earlier works, which he believed lost forever.
These attacks include a long monologue on the absurdity of worshiping Christ, beginning with his birth in a 'pigsty', moving to say that his 'miracles' would make any two-cent fraud of today blush with embarrassment, and ending by ironically pointing out how he 'cleverly tricked the authorities into killing him slowly and painfully, with no appeals to a higher court.'
In the final act, Eugénie's mother, Madame de Mistival, arrives to rescue her daughter from the "monsters" who have corrupted her. Eugénie's father, however, warns his daughter and friends in advance and urges them to punish his wife, whose person and virtue he clearly loathes. Madame de Mistival is horrified to find that not only did her husband arrange for their daughter's corruption, but Eugénie has already lost any moral standards she previously possessed, along with any respect or obedience towards her mother. Eugénie refuses to leave and Madame de Mistival is soon stripped, beaten, whipped and raped, her daughter taking an active part in this brutality and even declaring her wish to kill her mother. Dolmancé eventually calls in for a servant who has
syphilisto rape Eugénie's mother. Eugénie sews up her vagina and Dolmancé her anus to keep the polluted seed inside and she is then sent home in tears, knowing her daughter has been lost to the libertine and corrupt mentality of Dolmancé and his accomplices.
2003, a play titled "XXX" based on "The Philosophy In The Bedroom" was staged in a number of European cities. Featuring live simulated sex and audience interaction, it caused some controversy. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/2969799.stm BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | 'Shocking' sex play opens ] ]
This dialogue is reputedly still banned in
Singapore( [http://www.expatsingapore.com/getting/customs.shtml source] , the book is incorrectly cited there as 'Bedroom Philosophers').
"Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings" (1965) Arrow Books (ISBN 0-09-982160-5)
"Marquis de Sade for Beginners" (1995) Stuart Hood and Graham Crowley, Icon Books, (ISBN 1-874166-30-7)
[http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/La_Philosophie_dans_le_boudoir Original French text at Wikisource]
[http://www.sin.org/tales/Marquis_de_Sade--Philosophy_in_the_Bedroom.pdf Full-text (PDF) at sin.org]
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