The Rousseau – de Sade Cage Death Match

Walt Pereira 


The report of the results of a study done at the University of Toronto (Canada) says the researchers found that 6-month-old babies have the tendencies for racism. Two things, first I thought that only white people could be racist, and second, what does this say about Rousseauian liberalism’s claim that people are essentially born “good”?  Camille Paglia, in the last of her essays in her book of essays, “Sexual Personae” (1990-Yale University Press) entitled, “Amherst’s Madame de Sade: Emily Dickinson”, made a fascinating claim that made me rethink my attitude toward de Sade. She didn’t argue that Dickinson was a dominatrix or bondage-lit writer, but Paglia did give a defense of Donatien Alfonse François, Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), politician-turned-writer, infamous for his ”50 Shades of Gray” bondage-lit, from which the term, “Sadism,” is derived. As most people did, and still do, I thought of the good Marquis as someone who wrote sexually perverse novels, that is, until I read Paglia.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), philosopher and writer, argued that Man was essentially born good. Were it not for society, civilization with all it’s rules, laws, traditions, religions, and customs, Man would be happy. Simply put, if there weren’t any rules, there’d be no rule breakers. In fact, to Rousseau, only people that lived in the jungle, where he believed they lived without the constraints of rules, judgments, laws, and prejudices, could one be truly good, happy, and free (Claude Levi-Strauss, not available for comment. [A  side note, radio personality, columnist, and author, Dennis Prager once recounted on his radio show, how during one of his many visits to foreign countries, he found himself in New Guinea. His tour bus had made a stop on the side of the road where there were people selling things. Adjacent to the road was a clearing in the jungle where a group of men armed with spears and bows and arrows emerged from one side. From the other, emerged another group similarly armed and both began to have a “bow and arrow’ war in front of the “audience”. Yes, J J, these are your “authentic” jungle dwellers…just the same as all men everywhere. J J R may be excused for his naiveté- or lack of knowledge- but what of those that still believe that men in the jungle are “good” and without vices like ours?]). Sex is “natural”, he argued. It’s only the Church’s “demonization” of the sexual act as being primarily for the purposes of procreation, within the sanctity of matrimony, that caused all the neuroses and guilt associated with the act. Just get rid of the prohibitions, and everyone would be happy. The fact that church doctrine had been developed over nearly two millennia and was based upon the thoughts of generations of Church Fathers (like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas) trying to come to grips with Human Nature, how Man lets one’s “sexual nature” get the better of him to use and hurt women, along with the responsibilities of any offspring resulting from their activities- be they within or without wedlock, was a major problem that teachings like chastity before marriage and monogamy after it, and sex for the procreation of a family, rather than just for pleasure, to him was just brushed aside. Reaction. De Sade was having none of this “Free Love” jibber-jabber. To him, if you have libertinism, people having sex however, whenever, with whomever- against the traditional role of sex within the covenant of marriage, in order to create families- would not only lead to the breakdown of social norms, it would also lead to people hurting one another while “making love”. It is human nature.


Rousseau wrote, “Julie: La Nouvelle Heloïse,” (1761, Marc-Michel Rey, Amsterdam- originally titled, “Lettres de deux amants habitants d’une petite village aux pied des Alps. [Letters from two lovers from  a small village at the foot of the Alps.]) Heloïse was half of the famous love affair of the Middle Ages, Abelard et Heloïse. Pierre Abelard (1072-1142) was a  philosopher, theologian-turned-monk, and writer. In 1115 he became a master at le Cathedral de Notre Dame, Paris, where he met the daughter of the secular Canon of Notre Dame (Fulbert), Heloïse d’ Argenteuil (1101-1164), an educated woman cloistered at the church, but not part of any religious order (the same as Abelard). In 1132, Abelard published, “Historia Calamitatum” ( “A History of My Calamities”, aka, “Abaelardi ad Amicum suum Consolatoria”,  “Abelard and his friend’s Consolation”.) in which he spoke of his life and the love of his life, Heloïse. Included in the addendum were seven of their letters to each other. This “scandalous” and “transgressive” affair between a monk and a cloistered “nun” was the “soap opera” of its time, and their love became the most famous love story of the Middle Ages.  So, “Julie” was a novel of the title character’s “sexual awakening”, as we’d now say, and her adventures in her new found world. In 1797, de Sade would respond to “Julie” with “Juliette” ( “L’ Histoire de Juliette: Ou les Prospéperités du Vice”- “The Story of Juliette: Or the Prosperity of Vice”) which was a companion piece to the novel. “Justine: Ou Les Infortunes de la de Vertu” (“Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”). Justine was Julie’s well brought up sister who, as the title suggests, had a difficult life being the “good girl”; whereas, Julie, her nymphomaniac sister, has a very happy life with her “50 Shades of Gray” life-style, as only de Sade could describe. So, Paglia argues that de Sade wasn’t just a “peeping tom” peering into the worst natures of ours, he, in fact, was a- we would now say- “Conservative’, or maybe a “Milo-Conservative”, at first a champion of the French revolution ( He was freed from the Bastille, when it was stormed on July 14th, 1789), he eventually protested and railed against the excesses of the Revolution, not just political but cultural as well.


This dichotomy between those that believe that “We are born good” and those like me that believe we have to be taught to be good, it is not natural, still exists to this day. It truly is one of the divisions between the Liberal and the Conservative mindset, which informs the view that government is necessary to rid society of all its ills, as the Left views it, and that of the right’s view that individuals are responsible for their own behaviors, and therefore, less government is preferable. I look at us Humans as both Human and animal; the feminine/female side and the masculine/male side, if you will. We are born, at best, neutral (a “Tabula Rasa”, an empty slate, or chalkboard). We have to be taught to be good. I am not a parent, but even I know what all parents know…it takes a lot of effort to make- or raise- children to be good. It is a constant struggle of, “No’s”, “Wait”, “Don’t do that’s”, “Stop’s”, “Please share”, and “Behave’s”. Even with millennia of Judeo-Christian ethics, we still struggle, as societies, to make people behave. Unfortunately, learning to be good is not like learning to ride a bicycle- i.e., once you learn how to ride, you never forget how to ride. It’s a life-long struggle to be good for each person, which has to be constantly reinforced (one reason why marriage was considered so important in the past, for there is nothing like the responsibility of caring for a family that turns one into a more responsible person), and which many fail in doing so, falling to lying, cheating, adultery, and some to violence. The 10 Commandments, being hit on the hand with a ruler by nuns in Catholic school, and monogamy in marriage, are all intended to try to instill in our stubborn minds the goal of being good. The Church believes in “Original Sin” for a reason. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, man and woman have lived in sin- behaving badly is part and parcel of our being human. It is usually the religious that have a more accurate view of our nature that the more “enlightened”, educated, cosmopolitan Liberals who believe things like man and woman are not different, other than outer accoutrements, that there are more than two sexes ( I try not to use “gender” in this context), and that if you change the toys of children, you’ll change their behavior (re: “Toys of Peace” by Saki), and that  being able to “express themselves sexually” is the meaning of Freedom.


Something happened in the 2nd half of the 20th century that has led to our essentially “satisfy your sexual urges” ethos. Maybe It was the trauma of the “one-two punch” from the Depression and devastation of the Second World War,  which affected almost everyone some way or another. The aftermath of WWII was both physically (the destruction of both countries and of people) and psychically (the constant death of loved ones, to the horrors of the Holocaust) one that caused the next generation born in the late 40’s and early 50’s to be the first in the history of Mankind to essentially be raised without the rod, without discipline- to give them no spankings, lashes, or even harsh words- instead being given, as we say now, a “time-out”- not for the child , but for the parent to re-think giving a punishment for bad behavior, because, it was not the children that were misbehaving, but the parents, who thought giving punishment and making them obey their orders was the correct thing to do. Adding to this “bad raising of the children” debacle was what happened when they were raised…essentially the parents allowed the kids to take over the asylum by catering to their “Letting it all hang out.”, “No hang-ups.”, and “Keeping it real.” ethos, which the children preferred over the “phoniness” of rules, which even the ‘hypocritical” parents didn’t even bother to follow themselves. Any and all behaviors- be they sexual, or not- are normal and should not be stigmatized or inhibited.


I think of what the “grown-ups” of the “greatest generation” have wrought as the “sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” ethos of the Liberals. Live and let live. Live how you want to live. Love who you want to love…Yesterday’s, “ Love Is Love Is Love Is love”. Today both Feminists and many others insist that even nudity should be normalized. Why should women not be able to breast-feed their children in public? It’s a natural thing. Why should men be allowed to go shirtless and not women? Why should women have to cover their breasts? Nudity is normal. Natural. This, with the “sex is beautiful and normal” ethos has led to a perfect storm that leads directly to what the Feminists and Liberals call the “rape culture” that they see pervades the society. Women can’t walk the streets without being accosted, harassed, or even assaulted. This is where the “sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” ethos comes from. In order to “fit in” and be “popular”, young women have to rid themselves of natural inhibitions, as only alcohol can do. Drinking themselves into a stupor may awaken their inner “Jean-Jacques”, but it comes at a steep price: vulnerability- that may lead to mistreatment, assault, and even rape. The FakeNewsMedia and the Left-Wing Punditry Class, which is not known for taking responsibility for failed ideas or policies, of course, don’t see it this way. They condemn the behavior of the men, but, still, it takes two to tango.


Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) renowned English poet, wrote a poem entitled, “To His Coy Mistress”. Funny word,  “coy”.  In this case, “shy or modest”, but now meaning more like “naïve”, “silly”, or even, “foolish”. It’s a word that’s hardly ever used. Can you imagine the hysterics an over-privileged snowflake in college would break into if you referred to them as “coy”?  Sad. My reason to write articles isn’t to just apologize or criticize a certain idea or point-of-view, it’s also meant to, hopefully, make you “think more clearly’, “think things through”, “think”, period. I’d like to highlight one mode of thinking of right and wrong which I think of as “wishful thinking” by using two examples in different contexts. First, in my adventures in the Twitterverse, where I spend most of my social media life, I’ve noticed that atheists will argue that they don’t need a God or religion to “know” what’s right and wrong. The implication being that God is unnecessary. One of the people I follow is a female atheist in Australia. She posted a tweet that came across my timeline in which she was condemning a rape committed by a Muslim. I thought of sending her a snarky retort along the lines of “Since when do atheists believe in right and wrong?”, but I did not because I agree with her that rapes should be condemned, especially when done by Muslims because they use the excuse that it’s part of their upbringing/culture to treat women that way, so they shouldn’t be condemned. The reply atheists give to the above question, “Where do you get right and wrong?”, is usually replied with, I know what’s right and wrong, so, you see, I don’t need religion (or God) to tell me. Atheists’ deity is Darwin. There is no right and wrong in Darwin. In fact, there is no rape in Darwin (or murder or cheating)…there is only the sexual imperative- survive to reproduce for the survival of the species. You have to be intellectually honest to admit this. Atheists, however, do not want to admit that their idea of right and wrong stems from the Judeo-Christian societies they live in, regardless if they believe in God or not. It is part of the culture. Sans religion/God a society’s morality would be different. It’s hard to say exactly what it would be, but for starters, the norm could be infants that were born infirm, and in many cases, a female, would be automatically “exposed”- left on the rocks to die. The norm could be slavery. The norm could be rape…think of how women are treated in Islamic countries. It’s tribal. If you do something within the family, it may be okay or not. However, if you do the same without the family, it could be the complete opposite, e.g., killing someone in the family would be shied upon, but killing someone from another family or tribe may not be. Without God, rules or prohibitions are really just feelings.


Secondly, the “I don’t believe in God, but a godless society would still have the same morality as now” type of thinking manifests itself amongst the myriad of anti-capitalist groups that rail against- and insist that life would be so much better without the scourge of- Capitalism, Property, and the Imperative for Profits, which leaves so many people behind, mired in poverty and hopelessness, and divided into classes. Their solution, of course, is Socialism, an economic system which has failed spectacularly in all nations that have adapted to it. In spite of all historical and contemporary evidence that it has failed to bring about fairness and equality…much less, prosperity, they continue to believe that it works. The irony is that without Capitalism and it’s “evils”, you cannot gain the prosperity that is created on a wide basis by the entrepreneurial spirit of people living in free societies working to better their lives and the lives of others by the services they provide and inventions they make. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, which is why socialism only creates equality of poverty and misery. If things were different…things would be different. This is not the same, as in, if things were different, things would be better. The latter is wishful thinking. Utopian thinking. If you get rid of God, maybe, just maybe, things could get worse. If you get rid of Capitalism, maybe, just maybe, things could get worse. The argument between Conservative and Liberal Weltanshuungs, the way one views the world, are different; and the battles between the two, myriad and plentiful…and continuing. Rousseau’s “authentic man” view may have been novel and attractive two centuries and a quarter ago, but Science and everyday experience tells us that people are not born good, that a society’s rule, judgments, customs are not necessarily bad, but may be necessary in order for people to get along with each other, and to build societies that function well.


Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: