cover image King Kong Theory

King Kong Theory

Virginie Despentes. Feminist Press, $15.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-1-55861-657-8

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.