Department or Program



From their clandestine publications in the eighteenth century to the present, the works of the Marquis de Sade have been charged with endorsing rape, misogyny, the subordination of women, and aesthetically poor taste. After Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon’s court cases against pornography in the 1980s, the charge that these works subordinate women is of apiece with the broader philosophical claim that “pornography subordinates women.” This claim has had a rich afterlife, beginning with Rae Langton’s defense of it in 1993, finding adaptations and contestations in Drabek (2016) and Bauer (2015) alongside many others. Yet unlike the dominant examples within the philosophical literature, de Sade’s narratives have two distinct features: a) they are textual works, not videographic representations; and b) they can be illustrated or performed, but they are not themselves illustrations or performances. This thesis investigates de Sade’s writings, alongside sexually explicit illustrations of Michel Leiris’ Miroir de la Tauromachie and Georges Bataille’s Histoire de L’oeil, to probe the conditions that make it possible for us to attribute real-world harm to works of fiction, sketching out how depictions of subordination generally subordinate non-fictional classes of people.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Ashwell, Lauren

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf. file, with images included.

Open Access

Available to all.