* 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. Most 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 desired it. His "individualism" thus stretched to the point of more or less "anything goes" ([[DoubleStandard for men]]).
* HollywoodAtheist: All atheist characters in De Sade's novels despise religion ([[BoomerangBigot some while being clergy members themselves]]), are uniformly sexual sadists/serial killers, and feel that individuals should be allowed to do whatever they desire, murder and rape included, [[AppealToNature because it's natural for them]]. This reflects [[WriterOnBoard De Sade's own view of things]], and he himself was imprisoned and committed to an insane asylum for the sexual abuse of prostitutes and his own servants, along with writing the aforementioned books.
* 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''.]]
* TheWoobie: The title character of ''Justine'', a sweet, kind girl who just wants to be good. Unfortunately, she's in a Marquis de Sade novel, so she suffers utter ''hell'' because of it. Everyone that she meets who doesn't want to beat and/or rape her wants to do something even worse to her, and usually gets to do it. The ''high'' point of this story is Justine recounting how at the age of twelve, she asked for shelter in a man's house and was told that she could only stay if she would have sex with him. She gets ''screamed at'' by the person she talks about this to for being a "parasite" that wanted something for nothing. And it does ''not'' get better for her.