De Sade was born in the Conde palace in Paris. He wrote Justine(1791), Juliette (1798), The 120 Days of Sodom (written in 1785, see also Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma), Aline and Valcour (1795), Philosophy in the Boudoir (1795), and Crimes of Love (1800) as well as a number of plays.
Initially he followed a military career. In the 1760s he married, but at the same time he began living a scandalous libertine existence. He was convicted of acts of depravity and sent to prison. He was sentenced to death in 1772 but reprieved. He was imprisoned again in 1777 in the Bastille in Paris, and in the asylum at Charenton, but was freed in 1790. In 1801 he was arrested for having written Justine. From 1803 until his death he was confined again to Charenton.
De Sade's works contain explicit descriptions of rape and a great number of sexual perversions, some of which push the boundaries of the possible. It is not known how many of these acts he actually performed. Although it is believed his personal practices were sadomasochistic, his legal problems were primarily the result of his writings and not his actions.
His name is the source of the word sadism.