What relevance might the libertinage of Ancient Regime France have to our contemporary society?
The 2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair reinvigorated discourse amongst French academics surrounding the notion of a professed “singularité française,” a uniquely French way of conducting romantic relations inspired by the literary and philosophical movement of Ancient Regime libertinage. In so doing, academics such as Habib and Raynaud attempted to appropriate eighteenth-century libertine doctrine to contemporary society. This paper considers this insistence upon libertinage and its possible relevance to twenty-first-century society. The paper specifically notes the horrific implications of Habib and Raynaud’s maintenance of libertine doctrines concerning gender relations in the present day. This essay ultimately exposes this school’s neo-conservative aims as it clings to a nostalgic form of conservatism. Employing both feminist and queer theory, argument centres upon the examination of gender and sexual relations in the Marquis de Sade’s Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu and La Philosophie dans le boudoir in conjunction with Choderlos de Laclos’ Liaisons Dangereuses.