Are you the one,/ who hates me in life,
but masturbates wildly/ in secret from your wife?
Never slut shame: whatever I might say
or do, how I love, why I love, beyond
asking you, “come to bed or stay away,”
lies my damned love. Damaged love, vagabond
love, lost love: but still love. If you can’t see
that then I’m not the damned one. “Cocks, cunts, juice
flowing freely,” as if it’s all just free.
That is both the freedom and the abuse
that these doggerel zipless fucks try to claim.
If the flesh is weak then the flesh is weak.
This is not your sweat-fuck poem. Don’t quote
boring de Sade to me, you still slut shame.
To me that’s neither wild, rare or unique.
“So, please, fuck off;” for you that’s all I wrote.
It’s curious how certain figures in history have had their names attached to things that rarely reflected who they were in life. For example, Sappho (as much as we know about her from scraps and fragments handed down over the centuries) was bisexual, at least by today’s understanding of the term. She was married to a merchant named Cercylas, had a daughter she called Celis. Despite all the wonderful love poems to women that she wrote legend has it that she killed herself by jumping off the Leucadian cliffs for her love of Phaon, a village fisherman. While in the 19th and 20th century her name has been attached to lesbianism, when Sappho wrote, “coming off heaven/ throwing off/ his purple cloak,” it was a love poem addressed to one of her male lovers. Of course the marginalization and silencing of bisexual artists in both the larger heterosexual and gay and lesbian communities is nothing new, and will continue as long as people only see the world in black and white dualism: you’re either gay or straight, there is nothing in-between, although Sappho wrote again and again, “your love can be any [gender] that the gods have chosen for you.” I would argue that all there is in this world is what’s in-between. Dualism is a myth that needs dismantling.
Donatien Alphonse François, better known as the Marquis de Sade, is another curious case. Even though he gave the world the word “sadism,” I’d rather poke my eyes out with a rusty fork than try to read what his admirers call “erotica” once again. This has nothing to do with subject matter. Yes, yes, I know he was, in theory at least, an advocate for extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law (what hipster isn’t?) When I was in Peace Corps I brought two anthologies of his collected works with me, since he was an author I had heard a lot about but had read nothing that he had written. Sadly, when I was done, I had to conclude that de Sade is boring. He spent 32 years in prison, which was when he wrote most of his work. His writing style was to come up with an outline and every day simply rewrite and expand each paragraph until it collapsed under its own dry weight. There is no flow or poetry in his work. It has all the erotic sensibilities of a college term paper. I had made the mistake of watching Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), which updated Sade’s novel by placing it in the fascist Salò Republic during WWII. As Italian snuff films go it was horrific. When I sat down to read the novel I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to … until I started and realized it really wasn’t a novel, more like long lists of what de Sade wanted to write about if he ever got around to do so. The legend goes that he actually did write 120 Days, but when the Bastille was liberated during the French Revolution the manuscript was lost. He never got around to producing a second draft. Justine and Juliette are vaguely interesting, if you can get beyond his utter loathing of women. The only work I enjoyed was the comedy Philosophy in the Bedroom, partly because it was short but mainly because it didn’t take itself seriously. It revolves around Eugénie, a 15 year-old girl who, at the beginning of the story, is a naive virgin of all things sexual but by the end has become a depraved libertine (of course she does). “Lewd women,” de Sade writes, “be heedless of all that contradicts pleasure’s divine laws … be as quick to destroy, to spurn all those ridiculous precepts inculcated in you by imbecile parents.” I suppose if French philosophy is your aphrodisiac then de Sade’s work will be highly titillating. It certainly got Michel Foucault excited, but since I despise Michel Foucault that really isn’t a plus in my book.