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Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) - Marquis de Sade

Related: French literature - novel - Marquis de Sade - 1790s

Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) - Marquis de Sade
[FR] [DE] [UK]
cover by Tomer Hanuka

La Philosophie dans le boudoir/Beyond Love and Evil (1969) - Jacques Scandelari [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Philosophy in the Bedroom (La Philosophie Dans le Boudoir) is a play written by the Marquis de Sade in 1795 in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Depending on one's point of view, it is either a philosophical work laced with erotica, or just pornography. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_in_the_Bedroom [Feb 2005]

The play details the corruption of a girl named Eugénie. She is aged fifteen, a virgin who is naive of all things sexual and has been bought up by her mother to be well-mannered, modest and obedient. She spends a long day in a bedroom being corrupted by three wealthy perverts. 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 man named Dolmánce.

Dolmánce is the dominant one of the group, explaining to Eugénie that morality, compassion, religion and modesty are 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 sex as well as libertine philosophies. Although there is some torture, there is no actual killing, unlike a lot of Sade's other works.

In the introduction, the Marquis de Sade writes what amounts to a call-to-arms to 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 Dolmánce" and follow his example of selfishness and consideration for nothing but his own enjoyment. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_in_the_Bedroom [Feb 2005]

Plot Summary

Dolmánce 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 La Chevalier soon joining them and helping to swiftly 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 sodomy is the preferred activity of all concerned, especially Dolmánce, 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 La 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 Dolmánce in a series of energetic arguments that ultimately boil down to if it feels good, do it. (It is worth remembering that sodomy was illegal and even punishable by death in France at the time this was written; 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. Eugénie's mother, naturally, does not approve of such lewdness.

The play 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 monarchy in the French Revolution, the people of France should 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 clichč of most male characters having excessively large penises (one is quoted as possessing a 'member' that is 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.

In the final act, Eugénie's mother, Madame de Mistival, turns up and attempts to rescue her daughter from the "monsters" she is in the company of. Eugénie's father, however, warns his daughter and friends in advance and urges them to punish his wife, who he clearly loathes and whose virtue he finds annoying. 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. Dolmánce eventually calls in for a servant who has syphilis to rape Eugénie's mother, who is then sent home in tears, knowing her daughter has been lost to the libertine and corrupt mentality of Dolmánce and his accomplices. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_in_the_Bedroom [Feb 2005]

Other Information

In 2003, a play titled "XXX" based on "The Philosophy In The Bedroom" was staged in a number of European cities. Featuring live sex and audience interaction, it naturally caused quite a stir.


  • Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings (1965) Arrow Books (ISBN 0099821605)
  • Marquis de Sade for Beginners (1995) Stuart Hood and Graham Crowley, Icon Books, (ISBN 1874166307)

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