The Life and Legacy of Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was the French writer of the highly controversial book, The 120 Days of Sodom. De Sade’s life was fraught with sexual deviance, affairs, prison sentences, and wealthy indulgences. Born into a wealthy family, de Sade was highly educated, attending a Jesuit school in Paris, and went into the military during early adulthood. During this time, he was imprisoned for egregious acts of sacrilege, including masturbating over a statue of Jesus. This led to many years of accusations of and imprisonment for sexual crimes, such as homosexual sodomy, torturing a beggar by cutting wounds in her with a knife and sealing them with hot wax, and partaking in an orgy with four prostitutes. The most public of these scandals included the “little girls affair,” in which he and his wife remained inside his castle for a winter with several teenage servants whom are suspected to undergo inhumane sexual encounters and rape by de Sade during the time. One of the young servants, Nanon, had given birth to a child, and, presumed to be de Sade’s child, was taken from her after his wife falsely accused her of theft. The baby was starved to death. After spending some time in hiding, De Sade was found and immediately incarcerated, being sent to imprisonment at the Bastille in 1785. It is here where he spent 37 days writing The 120 Days of Sodom in tiny print on a scroll,, which remained unfinished and never to be seen by him again when he was relocated to another prison cell. Said to be taken during the Storming of the Bastille, it was not published until 1904, over 100 years after being written. The egregious book contains terrible depictions of sexual crimes, possibly based on his own actions and/or fantasies, and is considered so sinful that it was banned in several countries, along with the 1975 movie adaptation Salò.

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