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The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography
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The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  612 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Sexuality is power. So says the Marquis de Sade, philosopher and pornographer. His virtuous Justine, who keeps to the rules, is rewarded with rape and humiliation; his Juliette, Justine's triumphantly monstrous antithesis, viciously exploits her sexuality.

With brilliance and wit, Angela Carter takes on these outrageous figments of de Sade's extreme imagination and transfor
Paperback, 154 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1978)
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Community Reviews

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J.G. Keely
This book's primary thesis is that the Marquis De Sade is the father of modern feminism. For the uninitiated, De Sade's works are infamous for their depictions of sexual humiliation and cruelty. We get the term 'sadism' from the sex practices he fearlessly explored.

Against all expectation, Carter supports this seemingly absurd thesis in a way that is lucid, reasonable, insightful, and even amusing. It seems there is a gift for women in Donatien's mad sensual rebellion, after all.

I have struggled
Ian Klappenskoff
A Feminist Exercise

"The Sadeian Woman" is a major cultural exercise for many reasons. Here are just four.

First, it tries to understand and explain pornography from a woman’s point of view (as at 1979).

Second, it examines the work of Sade and advances the proposition that he might be a "moral pornographer".

Third, it implicitly questions, like Simone de Beauvoir, "Must We Burn Sade?"

The Marquis de Sade An Essay by Simone de Beauvoir by Simone de Beauvoir

Lastly, if only in its title, it seeks to define or promote the concept of a "Sadeian Woman".


Porn Defined

In 1979,
Carter hasn't made Sade a pressing priority, hasn't propelled his books any higher up my to-read list, but her readings, especially of Justine; or, The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791), are full of striking passages. These are perfect summaries of a very familiar type: the character of Justine Sade contrived to isolate the dilemma of an emergent type of woman. Justine, daughter of a banker, becomes the prototype of two centuries of women who find the world was not, as they had been promised, m
This was the opening salvo in my two-pronged attack on reading a work of De Sade (Philosophy in the Boudoir: Or, The Immoral Mentors) - the second prong will be Sade: A Sudden Abyss. I chose this because I love Angela Carter's short fiction and know her as imaginative writer and clear thinker.

And that's what you get here. Carter tackles the notorious figure and finds interesting and amazing things to tease out, all while floating a larger concept of what pornography is. The primary works she inv
mark monday
Carter appreciates pornography, in her own way. I appreciate Carter. I bet she would kick Camille Paglia's ass in a fight.
Emily Kramer
Jun 25, 2008 Emily Kramer marked it as to-read
From Alan Moore:

It’s like when you’ve got people like Angela Carter who, in her book The Sadeian Women, she admitted that there was the possibility she could imagine a form of pornography that was benign, that was imaginative, was beautiful, and which didn’t have the problems that she saw in a lot of other pornography. I think even Andrea Dworkin said the same thing. She said it a bit more grudgingly, but she said that conceivably there was, there could be, a benign form of pornography but she d
Hmmmm. I haven't read the source material. Given what I learned of it, I can state categorically that I will not read the source material. The critique is broken into two not-entirely-reconcilable (in my understanding) parts: the first is the majority of the book, and treats Sade's writings as political polemics, heavy on the satire, that are meant to expose problematic class and political structures. This is interesting in broad strokes, and gives Carter's overarching thesis: that Sade was the ...more
Madeeha Maqbool
You need strong nerves and dispassion to read this one. I wouldn't have been able to manage it a few years ago but found myself appreciating and devouring it now. It reveals a great deal about the discourse that goes into "making" women what they are. I especially loved Carter's psychoanalysis and feminist deconstruction of Sade's women and the things that set him apart from other men writing at the time.
Jim Coughenour
Love the polemical preface to this book! While The Sadeian Woman (originally published in 1979) may be something of a historical text these days, it's still a bracing read. Carter deconstructs the silly Ur-goddess myths of feminism with verve, glee and intelligence. You don't need to be a post-modern anything to enjoy it: any "outsider" will warm to her passion.

Amy Tobin
A wonderful polemic book about de Sade's female characters. Carter tackles the female types laid out in these revolutionary novels, comparing them to similar stereotypes that pervade contemporary society, for instance the blonde female movie lead. It is also an unflinching discussion of women, sex and sexuality. Gripping, strong and required reading for any Carter lover.
preface is really good and interesting, but I was less interested in and convinced by the later chapters (and also a bit bored to be honest - surprisingly so, considering the enormous amount of weird sex stuff that happened).
Albert Myburgh
This is an extraordinary piece of writing and I don't think I can contribute much to what has already been said about it except maybe what it meant to me. It is definitely not a timid read: It is a hard-hitting, straight talk and harsh analysis of the extreme dichotomy on which Western culture is constructed through looking at the writings of De Sade.
Angela Carter cleverly shows the reader how the construct of absolutes in De Sade's philosophy and in the history of culture causes an immutable
Let me give full disclosure and say I absolutely, completely loathe the Marquis de Sade and his writing. Can. Not. Stand. It. That being said, this is one of the smartest (and most accessible) non-fiction considerations of feminism, pornography, and the power of the body. I'm almost inspired to go re-read the Marquis... (though not quite... it's like reading the paper version of a snuff film... just, ew). But still, Carter's treatise is as compelling as it is revolutionary (still! and she wrote ...more
Brief, razor-edged, pithy and brutal: Angela Carter dismantles entrenched sexuality and its self-consciously constructed counterparts using de Sade as a perfectly ground lens. Her critiques of Sade are familiar (this was first published in 1978) but her uses of them are radical and inspiring.
Her authorial voice reminds me of Camille Paglia, though the two women have wildly different conclusions from their material.
I swear when I got this it was purely for literary purposes.
Dec 07, 2014 Kelly marked it as to-read
On my list thanks to a great review by Keely.
Ms. Carter at her most provocative!

This polemical work left me gasping!

2nd read wasn't any more enlightening than the first!

REad this, whether your a Marquis de Sade fan or not!
Jul 02, 2012 Nat rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: uni
I came across this book while doing my dissertation for my university course and it turned out to be extremely useful for what I was writing on (Angela Carter's Bloody Chamber). I found this book incredibly interesting, while not an easy read it was definitely thought provoking. I think its a book feminist's either love or hate, with some agreeing with what Carter says, while others are horrified she could have either thought of it. While I did find some of the passages disturbing (I will defini ...more
Probably not the best of books to read on Valentine's Day like I did... or maybe it is?
Not what I thought it was going to be. Still really glad that I read it though.
2015: The Year of Reading Women
O. Thurmond
(But an older version I can't find right now,softcover w/a picture of a woman in black leather w/a whip.) Maybe it just spoke to me particularly well, but I was definitely a victim of a cruel, godless world at the time, and yearning in a way to turn the tables and use what I had to my advantage. In any case, I felt it empowering; balm on my freshly minted yet deeply scarred personality.
Angela Carter is so bright that she makes me feel very dim. But I won't hold it against her. This is a great book.
Heidi Nemo
One of the better cultural critics out there, who knew? I disagree with her concepts of femininity and agency at times, but the razor of her brain pitted with Sade is a beautiful thing to behold. It's a sordid vicious brainiac cage match. I wrote reams of timy notes in the margins.
May 16, 2011 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Angela Carter and Marquis de Sade Enthusiasts
Shelves: english-class
I read this for a paper that I was doing on Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber". It points out a few interesting ideas, and is brutally honest. She is able to get her point across without losing her audience's attention which I believe is very important.
I can't say Angela Carter's book persuaded me to read de Sade---in fact, I might avoid his work entirely for the rest of my life---but it did help me think through some of the more complicated power dynamics behind female sexual subjectivity.
blowing my mind.
5 stars just for the chapter on Justine and her legacy, which is a tour de force. the rest, i'd say 4 stars. overall, just a terrific book - angela carter is an amazing writer of fiction and nonfiction.
Craig Rettig
Interesting analysis of the Marquis de Sade's work as a satirist, cross-referenced to the societal views of his time and today. Interesting reading, if you can stomach the material.
I need to read this again. I do love the way Carter can write on such a topic--rather than academy-speak, her language remains round and volumptious as in her novels.
Too much essentialism & summarization of the texts to be truly great but her thesis is something that is so up my alley that it's in my house. More like 3.5
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  • Female Perversions
  • Pornography: Men Possessing Women
  • Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty & Venus in Furs
  • Defending Pornography
  • Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire
  • The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure
  • Refusing to be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice
  • Whores and Other Feminists
  • The Marquis de Sade: An Essay by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture
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  • Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
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From Wikipedia: Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.

She married twice, first in 1960 to
More about Angela Carter...
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories Nights at the Circus The Magic Toyshop Wise Children Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales

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“If women allow themselves to be consoled for their culturally determined lack of access to the modes of intellectual debate by the invocation of hypothetical great goddesses, they are simply flattering themselves into submission (a technique often used on them by men). All the mythic versions of women, from the myth of the redeeming purity of the virgin to that of the healing, reconciliatory mother, are consolatory nonsenses; and consolatory nonsense seems to me a fair definition of myth, anyway. Mother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods. If a revival of the myths gives women emotional satisfaction, it does so at the price of obscuring the real conditions of life. This is why they were invented in the first place.” 50 likes
“To be the object of desire is to be defined in the passive case.
To exist in the passive case is to die in the passive case – that is, to be killed.
This is the moral of the fairy tale about the perfect woman.”
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