* HistoricalVillainDowngrade: De Sade is often depicted in fiction and historical rhetoric as a harmless fantasist who was persecuted for his writings. However, he appears to have genuinely acted on the same impulses his characters expressed. Some of his repeated imprisonments were for raping and torturing prostitutes and servants, some of whom were seriously injured, and he got off lightly because he was a nobleman. Despite his notoriety, these crimes are rarely mentioned when his name comes up and there is even an attempt to rehabilitate his name, claiming he was an important liberal thinker with progressive attitudes. Like all people, De Sade was complex, so this might be true somewhat on a few issues-he opposed capital punishment, for instance-but his view on women (as seen in his writings) was retrograde even in his time-he deemed them naturally subject to men, to the point that they should be open for sex whenever a man wanted it. His "individualism" thus stretched to the point of more or less "anything goes" ([[DoubleStandard for men]]).
* MoralEventHorizon: [[spoiler:Eugénie raping her mother and ''sewing her genitals shut'' after [[ThePunishment having her infected with syphilis]].]]
* NauseaFuel: Copious amounts of it. ''The 120 Days of Sodom'' is the most notorious in this regard, but almost all of Sade's works have content that can easily turn a reader's stomach.
* NightmareFuel: ''The 120 Days of Sodom'': At first it's just NauseaFuel. Then you get to the gorn. Which includes [[spoiler: rape, torture, sodomy, and killing of innocents in most brutal ways]]. What's worse, it was made into [[Film/SaloOrThe120DaysOfSodom one of the most challenging films of all time]], similar in notoriety to [[spoiler: ''Film/CannibalHolocaust'' and ''Film/MenBehindTheSun''.]]