XX: You look exhausted, my dear XY. Did our lesson take your breath away? Rest against my legs for a moment, for there will be another very shortly.
XY: I feel like a neophyte, XX. For everything you think you know about pleasure, there is always something new to learn.
XX: Pleasure really is one of the pinnacles of life to strive for, is it not? It reminds me of de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir …
XY: Ah, now I understand the inspiration for the lesson, XX—and the reason I’m so sore. I can’t agree more about the quest for pleasure, but do you really think pleasure is de Sade’s aim? Or is he simply out for shock and sensation? Jealous of Satan himself, as someone once said. I suppose that’s the life of a libertine.
XX: Well, I’ll admit that I find his need to shock overdone. He layers taboo upon taboo, with not a little sexism and violence. But there is an important point beneath it all—that women should take hold of their desires and be unafraid to explore them. When Dolmancé, Madame de Saint-Ange, and her brother the Chevalier teach their young pupil Eugénie every fetish and sex act imaginable in a series of vignettes, I like that she is so curious and hungry—although really, XY, if you think you’re tired, imagine poor Eugénie, having her cunt and ass endlessly licked by both men and women, jerking off Augustin, Mme de Saint-Ange’s young, handsome gardener, whose cock is a tremendous ‘thirteen inches long and eight and a half inches around’. Hm—I don’t think you’re that large, darling, but oh, you’ll do …
XY: I’ll try not to be jealous, XX, but really, what man wouldn’t worry at the thought of such an enormous cock charming his lover away from him? On the other hand, when I recall one particularly painful scene of anal initiation in the book, I can’t help think that most women would prefer something less … extreme?
XX: Well, de Sade is the ne plus ultra of sexual extremity, and that does make him difficult, if not downright distasteful—at some points it all becomes terribly dark. It makes you realise that some of the other taboos are in place for good reason, and should remain so.
XY: I wouldn’t have agreed with you before, XX, but after de Sade I’m inclined to.
XX: In some ways, the underage Eugénie is similar to the just-of-age Cécile in Les Liaisons dangereuses—only with de Sade, nothing is left to the imagination! And that I think is where de Sade fails in his preaching about pleasure. He underestimates the power of lingering sexual imagination, the delicious mysteries of learning about a lover slowly, over time. De Sade wants either an innocent naïf—someone he can corrupt completely—or an utter libertine. For him there is no one in between. It strikes me that, had I learned everything at once, how bored I would be now! I adore when life brings sexual surprises, like the time I accidentally pissed on a male model with whom I’d been having an otherwise dull fling—and discovered that I loved it! There is only so much ab-stroking a woman can put up with …
XY: Oh darling, you didn’t piss on him! Now I am jealous. But tell me about the nice bits, XX, for there must be some reason de Sade is still read so widely, besides our insatiable appetite for the strange sexual predilections of others. Is there nothing more … conventionally exciting?
XX: Yes, of course. Despite his many flaws there are some really delightful passages in de Sade, usually when he sticks to what most of us regard as simple pleasures, as when Dolmancé has his cock sucked: ‘Ah, what a delicious mouth! What heat! … It’s as enchanting as the most beautiful ass! You skillful and voluptuous ladies—never withhold this pleasure from your lovers. You will chain them to you forever’. And I’m sure it wasn’t meant humorously, but after one of the orgies he has the Chevalier read from a political pamphlet: ‘FRENCHMEN, SOME MORE EFFORT IF YOU WISH TO BECOME REPUBLICANS.’ Can you imagine? Please don’t get any ideas like that, XY. But I’m feeling especially hungry for knowledge tonight—perhaps it’s time you taught me a lesson or two? I do adore a stern tutor, one that encourages my studies, but with a very firm hand.
XY: If it’s the whip you want, darling, the whip you’ll get. But let me hear you recite some more passages from memory—and if they’re perfect, instead of pain your tutor will give you a more pleasurable yet equally firm reward.