Out of print in the U.S. for far too long, writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes’s autobiographical feminist manifesto is back—in an improved English translation—“blistering with anger, and so precisely phrased that it feels an injustice to summarize it” (Nadja Spiegelman, New York Review of Books).
I write from the realms of the ugly, for the ugly, the old, the bull dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckable, the hysterics, the freaks, all those excluded from the great meat market of female flesh. And if I’m starting here it’s because I want to be crystal clear: I’m not here to make excuses, I’m not here to bitch. I wouldn’t swap places with anyone because being Virginie Despentes seems to me a more interesting gig than anything else out there.
Powerful, provocative, and personal, King Kong Theory is a candid account of how the author of Baise-Moi and Vernon Subutex came to be Virginie Despentes. Drawing from personal experience, Despentes shatters received ideas about rape and prostitution, and explodes common attitudes about sex and gender.
An autobiography, a call for revolt, a manifesto for a new punk feminism, King Kong Theory is Despentes’s most beloved and reviled work, and is here made available again in a brilliant new translation by Frank Wynne.
In the newest from Despentes, author of the controversial 1991 novel Baise-Moi (and co-director of the controversial movie adaptation), the feminist provocateur examines key questions of sexuality, male and female roles, and her own awakening to action. Having been raped at 17, and served as unwilling confidante to many women since Baise-Moi's publication, Despentes struggles mightily with a society that taught her, as a woman, not to fight back against a man attempting to rape her "when that same society has taught me that this is a crime from which I will never recover." She also, thankfully, finds some measure of relief; three years after being attacked, she discovered feminist writer Camille Paglia, whose words first inflamed and then emancipated her. Elsewhere in this short book, Despentes discusses sex, pornography, and prostitution. That she spent several years as a prostitute isn't notable, Despentes says; what's notable is that she's willing to speak about it. While Despentes wades boldly into some murky waters ("who is the victim in porn?"), she ultimately settles on a single, low note: "femininity is the same as boot-licking-the act of servility." Coming nearly 20 years after Baise-Moi, Despentes's manifesto feels flat and a bit in thrall to her earlier work.