12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World

Khalid Elhassan - November 14, 2017

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Marquis de Sade. Smithsonian Magazine

Marquis de Sade

Donatien Alphonse Francois, Comte de Sade, better known to history as the Marquis de Sade (1740 – 1814), was a French aristocrat who became so notorious for his deviant sexual practices, perversions, and erotic writings – which combined pornography with philosophy and violent sexual fantasies – that his name gave rise to the terms sadist and sadism.

Unlike other famous figures on this list, who had significant life accomplishments in fields outside the bedroom that sufficed to earn them a place in history, de Sade was a pervert who is known to history only for being a pervert. He did write about politics and philosophy but were it not for the sexually deviant things that he did, and the sexually deviant things that he wrote about really liking to do, little would be known today about history’s most famous Marquis.

An advocate of radically unrestrained freedom, de Sade’s sexual fantasies’ emphasis on violence, criminality, and blasphemy – and his real-life partaking in criminally violent sexual practices – kept him behind bars in prisons and insane asylums for most of his adult life as, on and off, he spent 32 years behind bars, including 10 years in the Bastille. Most of his writings were penned while he was incarcerated.

He was addicted to prostitutes from early on, and even more addicted to mistreating them. In the early 1760s, he first appears in the record after numerous Paris prostitutes complained of his mistreatment, which led to several short jail stints, before he was exiled from Paris to his countryside residence. The details of the abuse are murky, but the fact a French aristocrat ended up behind bars during the Ancien Regime, based on his treatment of prostitutes, indicates seriousness.

His first big scandal occurred in 1768, when he lured a street beggar to his home with an offer of a housekeeping job, then tore off her clothes, tied her to a sofa, and alternated between flogging and pouring hot wax on her. His victim finally escaped out a second-floor window, but his family made the ensuing investigation go away with a royal decree that removed the case from the jurisdiction of the courts.

Another scandal followed in 1772, when de Sade and his body servant sodomized prostitutes in Marseilles after incapacitating them with doses of Spanish fly. They skipped the trial, fled to Italy, and were sentenced to death in absentia. They were caught and imprisoned in Savoy, but escaped after a few months and hid in de Sade’s rural castle in southeast France.

There, de Sade had a high turnover of employees, as he kept hiring youngsters as domestics, only for them to quit within a short time, complaining of the Marquis’ sexual predation and mistreatment. When the parents of local boys and girls complained to the authorities, de Sade was forced to flee to Italy once more, until things quieted down.

He returned in 1776 and resumed his perversions, which steadily intensified, with one scandal following another in quick succession. Finally, the authorities tricked de Sade in 1777 into going to Paris to visit his supposedly sick mother – unbeknownst to him, she had actually died – and there, he was arrested and locked up in the dungeon of a royal fortress. He was kept there, in harsh conditions, until 1784, when he was transferred to the Bastille, where he remained until transferred to a mental asylum two days before that famous prison’s storming in 1789 kicked off the French Revolution.

De Sade was released in 1790 amidst France’s revolutionary turmoil. Taking to the new order, he took to calling himself “Citizen Sade”, and within months got himself elected to the National Convention as a representative of the far left. He barely survived the Reign of Terror, during which he was imprisoned for a year, emerging from jail in 1794 utterly destitute.

In 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered his arrest for pornographic and blasphemous novels he had written a decade earlier, and had him imprisoned without trial. In 1803, his family had him declared insane and transferred from prison to a mental asylum. There, he continued writing and staged plays with inmates as actors. His writing career finally came to an end in 1809, when the police ordered de Sade kept in solitary confinement and deprived him of pen and paper.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Heliogabalus. Atlas Obscura

Heliogabalus

Heliogabalus (203 – 222), was a Roman emperor from 218 until his death and stood out even among the decadent lot of Roman emperors for his perversions and deviancy. A religious zealot, he adhered to and followed eastern religious practices that seemed bizarre in Roman eyes, and shocked contemporary sensibilities with sexual practices considered inappropriate for an emperor.

In his youth, he had been a priest of the Syrian sun god Heliogabalus. Following the assassination of his cousin, the emperor Caracalla, his grandmother argued to have him succeed to the imperial throne; her attempts were fruitful. Ascending the throne, the teenage priest took his deity’s name as his own and brought its worship to Rome, where he built Heliogabalus a great temple. There, he shocked Romans by dancing around the deity’s altar amidst a cacophony of cymbals and drums.

What got him in the most trouble, however, is that he might have been the most flamboyantly homosexual ruler in history. Heliogabalus openly went about in women’s clothing, and fawned upon and engaged in public displays of affection with his male lovers, whom he frequently elevated to high positions. One such example was a charioteer he sought to have declared Caesar, later he also doted upon an athlete upon whom he bestowed powerful government positions.

Additionally, he reportedly prostituted himself in the imperial palace: “Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by their foulness. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money.

Homosexuality or bisexuality was not unusual in Rome – respected previous emperors, such as Trajan and Hadrian, had male lovers, and Hadrian, in particular, had gone so far as to create a religious cult for a lover who died young. Heliogabalus, however, was the passive, or receptive partner in sexual relations with other males. That and other instances of perceived effeminacy were unacceptable in a Roman emperor and opened him to ridicule and contempt, which led to his assassination in 222.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
James Joyce. Filosofia e Literatura

James Joyce

Perhaps Ireland’s greatest man of letters, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882 – 1941), author of the innovative novels Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, was a modernist writer who wrote in a groundbreaking style that combined complexity with explicit content that shocked contemporaries and led to landmark legal decisions on obscenity. He was also a total pervert.

Joyce had a thing for breaking wind – farts if you will. He just loved farts to distraction, and could not get enough of them. Whether dishing them out, preferably on people’s faces or receiving them, farts made Joyce’s day. And his enjoyment of farts was not limited to the fine pleasure of experiencing them: being a world-class author, he had to write about farts, describing them in exquisite detail. Indeed, there is an entire collection of Joyce letters in which he writes passionately about farts and farting.

An excerpt from a letter to his lover: “It is wonderful to f**k a farting woman when every f**k drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also

In yet another letter, Joyce gushes to his beloved: “if I gave you a bigger stronger f**k than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an asse full of farts that night, darling, and I f**ked them out of you. Big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks, and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole.” The man just loved himself some wind breakage.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Edward VII. Wikimedia

Edward VII

Albert Edward (1841 – 1910), who went on to reign as King Edward VII of the United Kingdom from 1901 until his death, was no great shakes as a king, being a mediocrity both as a man and as a monarch. As a libertine, freak, and all-around royal pervert, however, Edward VII shone, standing in stark contrast to his notoriously straitlaced mother, Queen Victoria, who lent her name to an uptight and prudish age.

Growing up, the then-Prince Albert, or “Bertie”, was a disappointment to his prim and proper parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. It started with Bertie’s first sex scandal, at age 16, with a prostitute. The queen was not amused. On the way back home from chastising Bertie for his wayward ways, his father caught pneumonia, which did him in. For the next four decades, Queen Victoria blamed Bertie for killing her beloved husband, and actively tried to prevent his following her on the throne.

She failed to get him removed from the line of succession but often remarked that her longevity and long reign were due to her determination to outlive Bertie and prevent him from ever becoming king. She tried hard and did her best, but after a 64-year reign, Victoria finally died in 1901, and after a long wait that he thought would never end, Bertie became king at age 60.

During the decades-long wait for becoming king, Bertie became notorious for his relentless quest to gratify his sexual appetites. Whether cheap hookers or top-notch French aristocratic ladies and courtesans and from discrete liaisons to well-publicized affairs with famous actresses to wife-swapping orgies, Bertie was insatiable and “down” for it all.

He was a big fan of Paris’ elite brothels, especially its most exclusive whorehouse, La Chabanais, where he had his own room, decorated with his coat of arms and furnished to his specific tastes. Those tastes included a specially designed chair, named siege d’amour, which he had installed in his whorehouse room. By the 1890s, Bertie was an obese, middle-aged, and out of shape man, so he had the heavy-duty love chair custom made to enable him to have sex without crushing his partners, and also to position them just right for royal access, with minimal exertion and contortions on his part.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Caligula. BBC

Caligula

Rome’s craziest emperor, Caligula (12 – 41 AD) got an early start in perversion and sexual deviancy, and learned from a master. Having been raised by his uncle, the Roman emperor Tiberius – a seedy creep with his own entry in this list – he was no stranger to perverse ways. Tiberius spent much of his reign as a recluse in a pedophilic pleasure palace, emerging on occasion to order the execution of enemies, real or imagined. They included Caligula’s mother and two brothers, whom Tiberius accused of plotting against him. He also probably had Caligula’s father poisoned.

Caligula concealed whatever resentment he might have harbored against his homicidal uncle, and succeeded Tiberius to the throne. Once freed of the ever-present threat of execution, Caligula let down his hair and cut loose in an orgy of extravagant spending and hedonistic living, as the sudden freedom and unlimited power warped his mind. To show what he thought of a soothsayer’s prediction years earlier that Caligula had as much chance of becoming emperor as he did of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae, Caligula had a bridge built across the bay, then rode his horse across it while clad in the armor of Alexander the Great.

As to deviancy, among the sundry depravities attributed to Caligula, sex with his sisters was just a start – as contemporaries put it: “He lived in habitual incest with all his sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above“. At dinner parties, he was in the habit of ordering the wives of guests to accompany him to his bedroom, and after having sex with them, would return to the party and rate their performance, berating the cuckolded husbands if their wives had been lacking.

To show his contempt for the senatorial class and their sensibilities – and to humiliate Rome’s patricians – he turned the imperial palace into a brothel, in which he compelled the wives of leading Roman senators and other high-ranking dignitaries to serve as prostitutes. To further show his contempt for the senatorial class and the Roman Republic for which they pined, Caligula had his favorite horse made consul – the Republic’s highest magistracy.

There were many other instances of unhinged behavior, such as the time he started giggling uncontrollably at a party, and when asked why, replied that he thought it was hilarious that with just a signal, he could have anybody present executed on the spot. On another occasion, at an arena, he was informed that there were no more criminals to throw to the beasts, so Caligula ordered a section of the stands thrown to the wild animals.

He went on to declare himself a god and had the heads removed from the statues of various deities, replacing them with his own. He also once declared war on the sea god Neptune, marched his legions to the sea, and had them collect seashells to show the deity who was boss. Eventually, the weirdness got too much, and his Praetorian Guard murdered him in 41 AD.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Charlie Chaplin. ABC

Charlie Chaplin

One of Hollywood’s most readily recognizable stars, English actor Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977) was the silent film era’s most famous star and one of the silver screen’s all-time greats. In addition to being a pioneer who revolutionized acting and comedy, Chaplin was also a sexual pervert who liked ’em young. So young as to cause scandal, derail his career, and get him de facto deported from the US.

Chaplin also seems to have been Harvey Weinstein before there was a Harvey Weinstein and is credited with pioneering the “casting couch”, whereby powerful Hollywood figures extracted sexual favors from actresses during auditions. Reportedly, Chaplin used caption cards during auditions to prompt aspiring actresses into increasingly suggestive acts and poses, until they stood before him naked or nearly so.

However, his kinks went beyond the run-of-the-mill quid pro quo sexual harassment, and into the realm of the… unusual. Chaplain had a thing for pies, and not just as comedic props and gags. After getting actresses to disrobe during auditions, Chaplin would grope them in exaggerated ways on the couch, then, having worked himself up by getting them to do a striptease on demand, followed by a groping session on the couch, he would stand them naked against a wall and throw pies at them.

He also had a penchant for orgies and liked to organize them with his friend and fellow comedic film star, Fatty Arbuckle. Those orgies came to a screeching halt, however, in the aftermath of a scandal that rocked the country in 1921. Fatty Arbuckle was accused of raping a woman to death and tried for murder. Although acquitted, the Chaplin-Arbuckle orgy parties never resumed.

Chaplin’s greatest scandals however arose from his propensity for cradle robbing: he liked much younger women. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a pervert himself if ever there was one, had long disliked Chaplin’s political leanings and used his sex scandals to launch a smear campaign against him. In 1944, he had Chaplin prosecuted for violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of women across state lines for sexual purposes. Chaplin was acquitted, but his reputation was severely damaged.

In 1952, while Chaplin was in London for a film premiere, the US Department of Justice revoked the British actor’s reentry visa and stated that he would have to submit to an interview concerning his politics and morality before reentering the United States. Chaplain decided not to bother, cut his ties with the US, and settled in Switzerland.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Lord Byron. Wikimedia

Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788 – 1824), who became famous as a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement, is considered one of Britain’s greatest poets, widely praised for his brilliant use of the English language. He gained further fame, or infamy, for his flamboyance, sexually deviant practices, the notoriety of his romantic liaisons with members of both sexes, and allegations of incest.

Of Byron’s numerous affairs, his most famous was with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, who spurned him at first, describing him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know“, before succumbing to his charms and joining him in a torrid affair that scandalized Britain. After he dumped her, Lamb turned stalker and pursued him relentlessly. After she stopped at his house one time too many and scribbled in a book on his desk “Remember me”, an exasperated Byron responded as only a poet could, with a poem entitled Remember Thee! Remember Thee!, whose final line concludes “Thou false to him, thou fiend to me“.

Byron’s most controversial relationship, however, was an incestuous one carried on with his own sister, Augusta Leigh, whom Byron had seen little of during childhood, only to make up for it in spades by forming an extremely close relationship with her in adulthood. In 1814, Byron fathered a daughter upon his sister, making the poet the unfortunate child’s uncle as well as father.

Byron, ever sentimental, liked to keep mementos of his lovers. In those days, the norm for mementos was a lock of hair from one’s object of affection, perhaps tied with a ribbon. But being Byron, Britain’s most flamboyant poet, eccentric aristocrat, and all-around pervert, a simple lock of hair would not do. Instead, Byron liked to snip clumps of pubic hair from his lovers’ crotches, and kept them, cataloged and labeled, in envelopes at his publishing house.

The mounting scandals eventually made Britain too hot for Bryon, and he started roaming Europe for years at a stretch, including a seven-year stint spent living in Italy, before his restlessness led him to join the Greeks in their war of independence from the Ottoman Turks. He was disappointed with the Greeks of his day, however, because they differed greatly from the heroic Hellenes he had read about in history books and Homer’s poems. While moping about that discrepancy, he caught a fever and died in a Greek backwater at age 36.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Nero. Wikimedia

Nero

One of history’s most depraved rulers, the Roman emperor Nero (37 – 68 AD), who ruled from 54 to 68, ascended the throne as a teenager and was under his mother’s thumb early in his reign. And not just her thumb: she seems to have controlled Nero with incest, as described by contemporary sources: “whenever he rode in a litter with his mother, he had incestuous relations with her, which were betrayed by stains in his clothing“. When he grew older and sought to assert his independence, Nero’s mother resisted ceding power and kept meddling in government. So he decided to murder her, resorting to elaborate means to make it look accidental. She survived each attempted “accidental death”, so Nero finally had some sailors club her to death with oars.

Once freed of his mother, he gave free rein to his impulses. He saw himself as an artistic avant-garde type, and so liked to shock contemporary sensibilities. Open displays of perverse and deviant sexual practices were among the easiest ways to do so. He reportedly “defiled every single part of his body“, and when he tired of run of the mill perversions, “he at last devised a kind of game, in which, covered with the skin of some wild animal, he was let loose from a cage and attacked the private parts of men and women, who were bound to stakes, and when he had sated his mad lust, was dispatched by his freedman Doryphorus.”

At some point, he grew infatuated with a youth named Sporus, and married him in a public display calculated to shock: “He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife.

He liked to organize and preplan his perversions, to the point of setting up sex rest stops in advance of his route during vacations, or as sources of the era put it: “Whenever he drifted down the Tiber to Ostia, or sailed about the Gulf of Baiae, booths were set up at intervals along the banks and shores, fitted out for debauchery, while bartering matrons played the part of inn-keepers and from every hand solicited him to come ashore“.

Between such perversions and misgovernment – he drained the treasury with extravagant spending, while neglecting the state and entrusting its running to corrupt henchmen who wrecked it – Nero doomed himself. In 68 AD, generals and provincial governors across the empire rebelled, the Senate declared Nero a public enemy, and his Praetorian Guard abandoned him. Fleeing Rome, he toyed with throwing himself upon the mercy of the public and begging its forgiveness, but changed his mind after being told that he would probably be torn apart by a mob if sighted in public. Out of options, Nero had a freedman stab him to death, while crying: “Oh, what an artist dies in me!

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Aleister Crowley. Golden Dawn

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875 – 1947) was an English occultist and writer who claimed to be a magician – not the stage tricks kind of magician, but the warlock, spells and sorcery type. An L. Ron Hubbard type before there was an L. Ron Hubbard, Crowley also founded a religion in the early 20th century, Thelema, whose prophet he asserted himself to be, entrusted with guiding mankind to the “Aeon of Horus”.

A fundamental principle of Thelema was that the 20th century would usher in the Aeon of Horus, which would overthrow all existing codes of morality and ethics. In the new age, people’s “True Will”, which they would discover via magic, would be all that matters, and Crowley summarized the Horus era’s ethics as: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law“.

Crowley’s magic religion included lots of sex with his followers, which he termed “Sexual Magic”, whereby orgasms and bodily secretions were used as components of magic spells. The main precept of Sexual Magic was that all adherents should be completely open and uninhibited about sex, without social limitations or restraints. Also, followers should expose their children to sex from infancy, and accustom them to witness all kinds of sexual activity.

In 1920, Crowley and his followers established a religious commune in Sicily, the Abbey of Thelema, but it was not long before the perverse goings-on there led to controversy, scandals, and denunciations, that became regular fodder for the British and Italian press. Responding to the outcry, the Italian government finally shut down the commune and evicted everybody in 1923. Crowley then hit the road, and split the remaining two decades of his life traveling between Britain, France, and Germany, to promote his faith.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Hans Christian Andersen. Visitfyn

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was a Danish author who penned plays, poems, novels, travel books, and autobiographies. His specialty, however, was literary fairy tales, and his works in that genre, which include The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, are among the most widely translated writings in the world and have been a staple of childhood for generations of children around the world.

Anderson’s own childhood was an unhappy one. Born to impoverished parents, he grew up in dire want, and as a child, his mother sent him to work in a local mill to help make ends meet. The childhood penury was compounded by a childhood homeliness, or ugliness, if you will, that made the young Andersen an object of teasing, mockery, and bullying by his peers – The Ugly Duckling was actually based on his own miserable childhood.

He overcame the sad childhood and dire poverty and harnessed those experiences into stories that impacted many. However, when he was not busy writing stories that would go on to feature prominently in the childhood of billions around the planet, Andersen liked to masturbate compulsively. And when not doing that, he liked to talk with prostitutes – and then rush back home to masturbate compulsively.

A celibate (which perhaps sheds some light on things), Andersen not only liked to masturbate a lot, he liked to keep meticulous records of his masturbation sessions, describing and listing them in his diary with a pair of plus signs (++), with sample descriptive entries reading: “When they left, I had a doubly sensuous ++“. In Paris, he liked to visit prostitutes and talk with them, then rush back to his hotel to put more ++ sign entries in his diary.

He also had a maudlin and needy streak and kept falling in love with people – both men and women – who did not reciprocate his feelings. He had a habit of writing cloyingly mawkish love letters to the objects of his affection, and frequently penned long tracts, gushing about his feelings to women whom he knew were uninterested and would turn him down – in a way, he throve on rejection. Then he would rush back home and earn more ++ entries for his diary.

12 Historically Important Perverts and How They Changed the World
Tiberius. Wikimedia

Tiberius

While notoriously debauched Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero, and Heliogabalus, are better known because of their ostentatiously bizarre behavior and public displays of sexual deviancy, the Roman emperor Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD, reigned 14 – 37 AD), while not as out of control insane as the aforementioned trio, matched and likely exceeded them in perversion. He just preferred to be a pervert in relative privacy and seclusion, rather than put it all out on public display.

Unlike Rome’s other notoriously perverse rulers, Caligula, Nero, and Heliogabalus, who ascended the throne as teenagers or immature young men and went crazy with the sudden power, Tiberius came to the throne as a mature middle-aged man approaching old age – he was in his mid-50s when he succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in 14 AD. As such, he was not driven by youthful passions and the need to engage in ostentatious displays to shock and attract attention – behavior which would have run against his personality, anyhow, since even as a young man, Tiberius was taciturn, withdrawn, and introverted.

Instead, Tiberius built himself a vast pleasure palace and compound, secluded on the island of Capri. There, he wallowed in all kinds of sexual perversions, most notably pedophilia with children of both sexes. Among other things, he had toddlers trained to dive underwater while he was in a pool to “nibble” at him as he swam – he called them his “minnows”.

He also had pleasure gardens stocked with teenaged and prepubescent boys and girls, dressed in outfits from Greco-Roman myths and legends or running around naked, to frolic about, display themselves for his pleasure, and engage in sex on command with each other – as he grew older, Tiberius grew increasingly impotent, and so was often reduced to being a spectator in the perversions acted out for his pleasure.

Inside his palaces and villas, he had walls covered with erotic or explicitly pornographic paintings and murals of all kinds of sexual activity, from the routine to the shockingly depraved. The artwork served as a menu, and when Tiberius wanted to cut to the chase, all he had to do was point at a particular painting to communicate what he wanted done.

He even had anal experts on the imperial payroll: “On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions.” To top it off, he got blowjobs from babies: “Unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction.”

Tiberius was probably the dirtiest and seediest old man to have ever ruled Rome, and if perversion was a contest, he could make a credible challenge for the title of history’s most perverted ruler, ever.

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