from the sexual animal to the machine of pleasure.

the idea that maximum pleasure needs maximum preparation: detailed planning, mucht time, and a huge amount of money. an idea that has been explored in sharpest detail and very consequential in the 120 days of sodom. yes, marquis de sade. i’m not really sure why him now and here – it is partly a coincidence, partly a re-awakened interest in the consequences of his thinking.

i might start with the fact that i’ve read justine at a very crisp age. which might have been a little bit early, and discussing it with n, it became apparant that reading de sade very early on did shape my view of sexuality – well, less my view on sexuality as such (i’m amazingly and frustratingly un-kinky, especially considering that i’ve read jean genet even earlier), but its not being set apart from our “normal lives”, it being just another space in our lives where our relationships with each other and with the world in general are re-enacted. yes, another way to love, to hate – or to ignore each other.

so i do not find the sexual explicitness and the crass sex acts in itself very shocking (yeah, that sounds very jaded), but the going to the extreme of the death of the other to fullfill ones desire. this total disregard of others, this being so extremly solitaire: me and my desire. yes, it might be that loneliness, expressed in radical sadism, that is truely shocking.

and then it is shocking that one keeps on reading, obviously fascinated. well, especially shocking for everybody trying to believe that all our desires are good, that they will only lead us to places of bliss – bliss together.

marquis de sade is exactly pitching these machines of pleasures against it – it is just absolutly breathtaking to present houserules of the kind like in 120 days of sodom. pitching it against the idea that sexuality and intimate relationships are somehow excempt from the nastyness of power games of daily life, of our social standing, our fears, our schemes and manipulations.

so reading marquis de sade is certainly disturbing, partly because of the above mentioned characteristics, and maybe even for a bigger part because one has to start asking oneself questions about his / her relationship to sexuality and one’s own desires. and in its denying moral in such a radical way it of course keeps on asking the question of morals: how much of the fullfilment of desires is limited for what reason? if we assume that fullfilling ones desires is basically an egotistical act – funny enough an egotism that has (for various reasons) be declared in the sexual arena as allright – if personal sexual fullfillment is the highest goal to engage for in sex – if everybody has a right to orgasm. yes, it suddenly gets grey here – and yes, i do see this as a great quality of de sade’s writing: it starts out as extreme, but the more one starts thinking about it, the more it certainly is exaggerated…or isn’t it…?

of course there is much more: aspects i did not mention, aspects i might be not aware of. but the writing of marquis de sade has been and still is for me a reference point – a moral reference point, reminding me for example not to believe that it is per se o.k. and has to be applauded when you kick someone out of your bed because he did not perform to your expectations. but of course you can also read him and just enjoy the kinkiness of it all.

120 days of sodom

and for my readers mastering the german tongue, rather ear, i have something special – a recording of a little excerpt of die 120 tage von sodom. read by the austrian actor walter kohut.

a record with somewhat strange linernotes – again, like also with a lot of print editions of his work – there is a slightly apologetic tone, first by stating how wrong krafft-ebing was to create the term “sadism” (yeah, he should have called it pilcherism), and then at the end it states that the ones only seeing the obscenity and atheism in his work stay on the surface and miss the philosophical implications of his work. sounds all a little bit defensive to me. and well, obviously de sade did not only want to write a philosophical traktat when writing the 120 days. so i invite you to also dive into the obscene…enjoy.


p.s. the second side of the record presents the gespräch eines sterbenden mit einem priester (conversation of a dying man with a priest) – but to the atheism we get in a later post. so when listening to this, see it as homework.

4 Responses to “obscenity”

  1. martin Says:

    thanks for the kohut!

  2. norman Says:

    Certainly not a read for the faint hearted…..or those steeped in high morals (seen as what is considered”normal”).
    Picking up this book at this stage in my life…lets just say over 50 years…
    i was firstly shocked to the fine details and plans of absolute treachery about to be preformed and the questioning comes into play whether this is real or just the rantings of a brain diseased man.
    having not finished reading this “novel” as yet, there are certain aspects which show us how life could be…either loving or evily twisted for the pure sake of ones own gratification.
    to love or hate has its positive and negative…to ignore simply shows a weakness in not being able to be truthful in the moment of time yet it also has a dual effect where one can recognise the difference between love and hate. To ignore for a “higher” reason or simply to use it as a tool to punish speaks a thousand words.
    Reading thus far i have either experienced or read such accounts like of the duc, saying the kinky parts (without children) happens in all our lives should we be truthful enough. As to whether one wants to be totally stripped of all that we have been taught….morals…then its our choice to go whichever way thus having the right to have an orgasm or not. there again it must be said that 90 percent of the duc’s choice (those to be simply used and abused) is the under aged and undeveloped “innocents”, the poor, and finally the wives who are relagated to lower than that of the lowest servant.
    Where would i like to be in this “novel”? somwhere near the end before the duc departs for home…..hmmm having the rack nearby with all its tools could also be fun and kinky and with emphasis on streching that which he has ample of to a degree of uselessness. Kinky….nay!!

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