Controversial Writing- The Marquis de Sade

marquis de sade When it comes to the Marquis de Sade, much controversy is in play. He was imprisoned for many acts that suggested extreme immorality, and his writing suggested the same. During his time, in late eighteenth century France, what he wrote was extremely shocking to people. Times have obviously changed a considerable amount since then, and with all the information that the media displays today, it is often difficult to be shocked by anything we learn. However, Sade’s writing would still astonish a good amount of people today, based on how graphic its content is. The major question we face now is whether or not his writing should be restricted.

Many would argue that his writing is not appropriate to be sold nor viewed, particularly when it comes to youth. It has been proposed that some of his writing, which can be classified as violent pornography, has the power to influence people in a very negative way. Ted Bundy, one of the earliest known serial killers, told an interviewer that he read the work of Sade and was hugely impacted by it. This is not to say that everyone will be affected in the same way, or that Bundy only committed his crimes because of violent pornography, but it is possible that this kind of material can heavily influence somebody. Some would say that if it is possible to influence one’s mind to replicate such acts, then Sade’s writing should be restricted, especially to young people.

On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that most people would be influenced in the same way Bundy was, so it would not really be fair or necessary to restrict Sade’s work. Personally, I don’t think there should be restrictions, because there is no way to prove that if people like Bundy had never read violent porn they would never have committed their crimes. I think it is up to each individual whether or not he or she chooses to read a certain piece of literature. This material goes against some beliefs, so the people with those beliefs do not have to read it if they disagree with that. However, some people may be interested in it, so why stop them from reading?

It might even be important that we keep Sade’s work around. It can “’serve to remind us… of the absolute evil of which man is capable’” (290). To forget the dark side of human nature would be the wrong thing to do; we need to understand our ability to do wrong in order to properly fight that. This knowledge is necessary to have because if we don’t understand the bad in humans, we don’t really understand ourselves.

So, how do you think Sade’s work and other work of his kind should be dealt with?

8 thoughts on “Controversial Writing- The Marquis de Sade”

  1. I agree that we should allow Sade’s work to remain accessible, but with limits. I think an age restriction is necessary, and there would have to be more limited ways of accessing it than most books. For example I don’t think it should be sold in bookstores on the shelf where someone just perusing might pick it up, but it would be fine to have it available online or by request, because whoever wants to read it would presumably know what they’re looking for. If it’s also used for academic purposes like we talked about in class then that’s another reason to keep it available.
    Whether we like it or not, Sade’s work, like Clockwork Orange, has had a tangible impact on society’s view on censorship and regulation, and it would be impossible to remove it completely from our discussions. It’s sort of become part of our history, and not all parts of history are pleasant, yet they are allowed to be put on the record. Sade’s work is no different; it’s gruesome and horrific but it’s still literature, and so shouldn’t be destroyed.

  2. I agree with having limitations on Sade’s work as well, but I also think that it won’t matter. In today’s world, violence is found on TV and is accessible to anyone who owns a television or a computer. Shows such as Law and Order SVU, Dexter, CSI, and Criminal Minds are all shows that recreate murders, rapes, and other heinous crimes. These shows sometimes depict these crimes in great detail and can be very upsetting. In the opening credits, there is a warning about the content of the shows, but children might not know what to expect and could watch the show anyway.

    It is hard now in the modern world to shelter children because there are a lot of terrible things and the media is everywhere, but I think it is worth a try. I also think it is easier to shelter children from literature because you can sell books in discrete sections.

  3. I agree with the idea of letting each individual decide whether or not they will read the writings of Sade. With only being given two examples of serial killers who read Sade’s work we cannot assume that all other criminals and serial killers read it. It is completely possible that other’s have, but to make assumptions based on a few cases is not fair. To censor a work of fiction does not make very much sense to me since it is not real. To go off Jessie’s point about TV shows, there are many shows that re-enact actual crimes as well as show fictional ones. Even if Sade was censored and his books burned, somewhere and somehow someone would have a copy of his writings whether it be in its physical form or on the internet. And God knows that what gets posted on the internet stays there forever.

  4. I agree with Lindsay that there really shouldn’t be limitations on Sade’s work. It is a free country and everyone has the right to read what they want. I think the point Lindsay makes is very important when she writes how Sade’s work can “’serve to remind us… of the absolute evil of which man is capable’” (290). This knowledge is very crucial. I also agree that if people are against this literature then they should have the free will to resist themselves and their families from reading it whether it is for their beliefs and religion or strictly because their children are too young to read it. I also don’t think that by strictly reading Sade’s writing would cause someone to commit crimes, there is so much in the media today that is not restricted, whether they are movies, shows or other articles that could influence someone to commit crimes just as much.

  5. I disagree with Jess and Lindsay. Yes, this is a free country, and yes, people have every right to read whatever they want, but to have no limitations on works like Sade’s is a little bit dangerous. If we just sell books like Sade’s in the nearest Barnes and Noble’s, anyone could get their hands on it, including people who are not old enough to read something like that. I think there should be a system similar to the one in the library in the Harry Potter books, where someone needs a signature from a teacher/parent to buy/borrow that book unless they are above a certain age. Movie ratings prevent people from buying a theater ticket to see a movie that is not age appropriate unless someone older buys a ticket for them, approving it, and I think that should also be the case with books, especially books like those written by Sade.

  6. I agree that Sade’s work should still be kept around. It shouldn’t matter if it is still here because we may still be able to learn more about people by reading what he wrote. I do however believe that there should be some sort of warning on his writing and then letting people choose to do what they want with it. Just because his writing is around doesnt mean people have to read it.

  7. Sade’s work is rather disturbing, but it is no more disturbing then a lot of things in the media today. A comparison that comes to mind are “Silence of the Lambs,” a fairly famous and popular movie about a FBI agent who interviews an incarcerated psychiatrist and cannibal about the location of another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill,” who skins his female victims corpses and wears their skin. This material is also extremely graphic however it is consistently played on TV stations such as AMC. My point is if we have access to movies such as this why shouldn’t we have access to Sade’s works? Unfortunately there are people in the world like Ted Bundy who claim to be affected by certain material but those are rare cases that should not effect everyone else’s ability to read Sade’s work.

  8. Although Sade’s work is violent, disturbing, and shocking to read, I do not think it should be restricted to all. I agree with Danny that if people have access to graphic televisions shows and movies, then they should also have access to texts of similar ideas. I personally would not chose to read Sade’s work, but for those who do, it is their decision and they should be allowed to make it. With that being said, however, I do think that it should be restricted to people under the age of 16. Going off of Danny’s point of media, movies have suggested age ratings, so I think Sade’s work would benefit from having those as well. Whether an adult allows their child to read it is up to them, but as far as people over the age rating, they should have the choice to read it if they want to. If people disagree and don’t like the disturbing material, they can simply stay away from it.

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