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King Kong Theory por Virginie Despentes
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King Kong Theory (edição 2010)

por Virginie Despentes, Stephanie Benson (Tradutor)

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3821651,173 (3.94)6
With humor, rage, and confessional detail, Virginie Despentes--in her own words "more King Kong than Kate Moss"--delivers a highly charged account of women's lives today. She explodes common attitudes about sex and gender, and shows how modern beauty myths are ripe for rebelling against. Using her own experiences of rape, prostitution, and working in the porn industry as a jumping-off point, she creates a new space for all those who can't or won't obey the rules.… (mais)
Título:King Kong Theory
Autores:Virginie Despentes
Outros autores:Stephanie Benson (Tradutor)
Informação:The Feminist Press at CUNY (2010), Paperback, 160 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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King Kong Theory por Virginie Despentes

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    Pornography: Men Possessing Women por Andrea Dworkin (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Auseinandersetzung mit Pornografie aus sehr verschiedenen persönlichen Blickwinkeln.
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"What women have endured is not only the history of men, but also their own specific oppression."

A collection of 7 feminist essays indisputably thought-provoking and justifiably outraged, Despentes' King Kong Theory scrutinises and explores societal standards, rape, prostitution, pornography, and women's role in literature.

In sharp, vulgar, and aggressive pitch and style, arguments about the advantages of not adhering to the expected amount of femininity deter the conventional roles expected of women. When a woman automatically fits the mould of what a woman should be, her life is stiflingly laid out for her. There are no other options and choices. Despentes further declares heterosexual marriages as implicit financial contracts. From there she establishes sex work as work. She makes a good assertion of how we brand women who do such work with negatively connotative words (e.g., prostitutes) yet we don't have a single word for men who seek and pay for these services. But I think her most shockingly persuasive extrapolation is how explicitly legalising sex work (with benefits like any other job since all jobs are "degrading, difficult, and demanding") will expose traditional heterosexual marriages for what it is. It will reveal how there's little to no difference between the two ("Because if the prostitution contract became part of everyday life, the marriage contract would be shown up more clearly for what it is: a market in which for a bargain price the woman agrees to carry out a certain number of chores—notably sexual—to ensure man's comfort", "Whether they are publicly sanctioned by the marriage ceremony or covertly negotiated in the sex industry, heterosexual relationships are socially and psychologically built on the premise that men have the right to women's work", and "Like housework and bringing up children, women's sexual services must be done for free"). And of course, the biting drop of the statement "plenty of men are never as affectionate as when they are with a whore."

What's unerringly upsetting amongst these essays is Despentes' acerbic take on rape and rape culture. She criticises how men who rape euphemise the act itself (using phrases like "pushed her a little", "fucked up a bit", "she was 'too drunk'" or "else a nympho just pretending not to like it"). Men are not liable for their actions. Women are conditioned to be submissive and not to defend themselves. And for fear of being labelled as "damaged goods" with a large percentage of people (particularly cops) who don't immediately believe the victim, when it's a widespread issue, make them keep the terrible assault to themselves instead.

There is no one way to process the aftermath of rape. We expect a template on how women should cope and react. But this differs from person to person. This reminds me of Isabelle Huppert's character in Verhoeven's Elle. Her nonchalant response after she shared about her rape while having dinner with friends in a fine dining restaurant reflect the sentiment and the reaction of everyone around her. There is also an intersection between this book and the film with regards to rape fantasy ("It's a powerful and precise cultural mechanism that predestines female sexuality to climax from its own powerlessness"). What's often arousing is often socially embarrassing: "Our sexual fantasies say a lot about us, in the same indirect way as dreams. They don't reveal anything about what we want to happen in real life."

King Kong Theory also picks and tears male-directed films apart. Particularly the ones which use rape narratives. It seems the denouement in such films is a rape-revenge to wrap up the conflict. Yet women who have lived through rape think/do otherwise. Despentes states how this is what men would do if they are in women's bodies. Much like what we often see in pornography (the depiction of over-the-top sluttiness, their engagement in gang bang, et cetera). It is how men would like to behave if they're women ("When men create female characters, it is rarely an attempt to understand what the characters are experiencing and feeling as women. It tends instead to be a way of depicting male sensibility in a female body."). We also see the portrayal of women in literature through narrow male lenses and male gazes. There are a certain disconnect and misunderstanding of how women should behave (based on men) versus how women really behave.

The manipulation of female sexuality also truncates the supposed growth of women as sexual beings. Since women are presumed to stay meek, servile, docile and perhaps hand over their lives to men, their sexual needs and desire remain disregarded; female masturbation is still a taboo ("Female masturbation continues to be contemptible and secondary.") One example written in this collection is the response of the publishers with male writer's works (e.g., Genet) versus Violette Leduc's. Both are sexually coarse but only Leduc's work was toned down. Amidst the trickle of movements encouraging women to explore their sexual pleasure and kinks, a lot of work still needs to be done. And Despentes perfectly laments the usual dismissal of women about masturbation: "What relationship can you have with yourself if you systematically hand your genitals over to someone else."

Despentes' King Kong Theory is an inarguably essential collection of essays. It doesn't shy away from the issues it tackles and attacks. The personal experiences of the writer enmesh with these essays which give it a first-person advantage. However, this same quality may treat some of the areas it wades through reductively. But although the aggressiveness and crudity may turn away some readers, it is anguished at the valid perpetrators and ideas. I may never entirely agree with some of them (and I don't really like Camille Paglia which she mentions here a couple of times) but it is necessary to have the discourse. Feminism is always a movement in progress; it is continuously evolving. ( )
1 vote lethalmauve | Jan 25, 2021 |
I cannot believe it took me so long to read this--a perfect book of wild but true declarations written w the momentum of any woman trying 2 reconcile the position of women w/ the world. Dworkin meets Leduc & a papercut 2 b had on every page. so much 2 love here--every tirade a gift lol ( )
  freakorlando | May 14, 2020 |
I don't feel like writing a more thoughtful review right now, but some brief thoughts :

* There is lots to think about in the book. Even if I don't always agree, it's usually argued from an interesting standpoint and is thought provoking. Sometimes it seems contradictory- that seems ok for some reason.

* The material is much more accessible and less jargon laden and academic than a lot of other political/social books on similar topics.

* It comes across as brave, bold and unapologetic. I like that. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
Regalo de Graciela por el día de la madre
  mcarmenbriones | May 6, 2019 |
I thought this was fantastic, the kind of thing that reminds me what I first loved about feminist writing – that sense of intelligent, articulate fury levelled on behalf of common sense against the hypocrisy and idiocy of social inequalities.

Virginie Despentes identifies herself firmly as a keupone rather than a bonne meuf – these are slangy verlan terms for ‘punk’ v. ‘cool chick’ which well establish both her ideology and her idiomatic tone. One imagines her writing this in a cold rage, hammering away at her laptop in some garret apartment in Paris, Bikini Kill on the record player, eyelids at half-mast, cafetière to hand, rollie in her mouth, naked from the waist down and covered in pain-au-chocolat crumbs. Virginie Despentes is cooler than you or I will ever be.

Her polemic opens with an excoriating litany of what she sees as the women devalued by society – the ugly, the uptight, the unfuckable, she goes on and on in this vein for several long, freewheeling paragraphs until your pulse is racing and you're positively cheering her on as the underdog to root for. As well as setting out her position, it also neatly pre-empts the kind of criticism this kind of writing normally attracts:

Je trouve ça formidable qu'il y ait aussi des femmes qui aiment séduire, qui sachent séduire, d'autres se faire épouser, des qui sentent le sexe et d'autres le gâteau du goûter des enfants qui sortent de l'école. Formidable qu'il y en ait de très douces, d'autres épanouies dans leur féminité, qu'il y en ait de jeunes, très belles, d'autres coquettes et rayonnantes. Franchement, je suis bien contente pour toutes celles à qui les choses telles qu'elles sont conviennent. C'est dit sans le moindre ironie. Il se trouve simplement que je ne fais part de celles-là. Bien sûr que je n'écrirais pas ce que j'écris si j'étais belle, belle à changer l'attitude de tous les hommes que je croise.

[I think it's great that there are also women who like being seductive, who know how to be seductive, and others who happily marry themselves off; some who give off an air of sex appeal and others who give off an air of kids' packed lunches. It's awesome that some are very sweet and others who glow with femininity; that some are young and gorgeous, others coquettish and radiant. I'm genuinely happy for all those women who find that the way things are suits them. I say that completely unironically. It just happens that I'm not one of them. Of course I wouldn't write what I write if I were beautiful – beautiful enough to change the attitude of all the men I came across.]

Instead what interests her are the women she calls ‘femininity losers’ (la looseuse de la féminité), and what it says about society that the values associated with ‘femininity’ are what they are. Hint: nothing good.

Many of those who disagree with Despentes seem to criticise her for being either unrepresentatively damaged (because she was raped as a teenager, and later worked as an occasional prostitute); or, on the contrary, for having had too privileged an experience to talk authoritatively about sex work or abuse (because she worked for herself, never had a pimp, and is a white person in the media). There is lots to disagree with her about, but all these lines of attack miss the point, since a key part of what she is arguing is that rape and sex work are in some sense central to women's experience, whereas an identity as victims with no agency is not (despite some prevailing narratives).

Hence, the chapters on rape and prostitution are the most interesting, the most challenging, and, I think, the most divergent from mainstream feminist ideology. For instance, she quotes with approbation Camille Paglia's comments on rape (to the effect that being free to be raped is to be desired over the condition of being unfree and safe), and says that Paglia was, for Despentes, the first writer to demystify her own experience of rape and bring it out of the realm of ‘the unsayable, of something that must never happen under any circumstances’.

Whereas the rest of the book furiously (and satisfyingly) targets male assumptions and male privileges, these sections are, if anything, rather generous to men. This is especially the case when she discusses prostitution, the attitudes around which are designed in part, she says, to ensure that male sexuality ‘remains criminalised, dangerous, antisocial and threatening. This is not true in itself, it's a social construct’.

Rather, it is social attitudes in general, and those of ‘respectable women’ in particular, that attract her ire. How's this for a conversation-starter:

Difficile de ne pas penser que ce que les femmes respectables ne disent pas, quand elles se préoccupent du sort des putes, c'est qu'au fond elles en craignent la concurrence. Si la prostituée exerce son commerce dans des conditions décentes, les mêmes que l'esthéticienne ou la psychiatre, si son activité est débarrassée de toutes les pressions légales qu'elle connaît actuellement, la position de femme mariée devient brusquement moins attrayante. Car si le contrat prostitutionnel se banalise, le contrat marital apparaît plus clairement comme ce qu'il est : un marché où la femme s'engage à effectuer un certain nombre de corvées assurant le confort de l'homme à des tarifs défiant toute concurrence. Notamment les tâches sexuelles.

[It's hard not to feel that what respectable women aren't saying, when they're concerning themselves with what happens to whores, is that ultimately they fear the competition. If the prostitute practised her trade in decent conditions, like a beautician or a psychiatrist – if her activities were released from all the legal pressures they're currently under – then the position of the married woman would become suddenly less attractive. Because if the prostitute's contract becomes normalised, the marital contract can be seen more clearly for what it is: a transaction where women commit to carrying out a number of duties guaranteeing a man's comfort at unbeatable rates. Notably sexual tasks.]

It hardly needs to be pointed out that this is an insanely cynical way to describe married women, many of whom would (like Hannah, when I nervously read this bit out to her) be pretty fucking pissed at the idea that they were simply exchanging an occasional shag for physical or financial protection. As should husbands. But ultimately the moral prohibitions against sex work are, for Despentes, simply another way of ensuring that women's activities are as unremunerative as possible.

Comme le travail domestique, l'education des enfants, le service sexuel féminin doit être bénévole. L'argent, c'est l'indépendance.

[Like housework, or raising children, female sexual services must be unpaid. Money would mean independence.]

It's a very interesting way of framing it – ‘but why,’ as I scrawled in the margin here, ‘is sex seen as a “service” for women, and not for men?’ I'm not sure what Despentes would say to that; perhaps she would just give me a withering look and tell me to stop being so fucking naïve. (Not that Despentes thinks women have less interest in sex than men, far from it: she is cheerfully open about sleeping around, and in the chapter on porn and elsewhere, she defends women's right to an expansive, contradictory and freely-acted-on libido. However, she is also pragmatic about what she sees as culturally-conditioned differences in how men and women, on average, live out their sexual lives. Perhaps, in the end, it's not clear exactly where she stands.)

A lot of what she says comes out of a specific cultural context, of course, which is often different from my own (‘90s UK’™). So some of her priorities may be different. I think this is particularly clear in her long diatribes against femininity which open and close the book, and which make more sense in France, I think, where attitudes around sex are more pragmatic than in the UK, but gender differences are much more actively enforced in a variety of small ways. (My wife's a news anchor, a field where it's always been understood that looking ‘good’ is part of the job to a much greater degree than male colleagues – but it was only in France where this was said directly and where her work was debriefed by bosses with reference to her outfit and appearance.)

Despentes's conclusion, after considering the various aspects of her society throughout the book, boils down to a ‘simple proposition’ directed at the patriarchy: ‘you can all go fuck yourselves in the arse’. The simplicity of this appeals to me.

As a guy, and interested in feminism, I come to books like this with certain biases and one of them (when I'm finished feeling suitably chastened) is the tendency to seek out alliances and points of connection, of which there are many in King Kong Théorie. Though she's great at analysing male behaviour, when she comes to attribute blame she does it according to social class, not sex. In the end, Despentes considers both men and women to be victims of a system that sees them as commodities – ‘men as free corpses for the state, and women as slaves for men’.

Il ne s'agit pas d'opposer les petits avantages des femmes aux petits acquis des hommes, mais bien de tout foutre en l'air.

[It's not about setting the few advantages of women against the few gains of men, but rather about knocking the whole fucking thing down.]

As can be seen with current events, the French like a fight of this sort. And it's a project for which this smart, angry, colloquial book makes the ideal manifesto. ( )
4 vote Widsith | Feb 20, 2019 |
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Despentes, Virginieautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Cabrera i Callís, MariaPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Espasa, MarinaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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With humor, rage, and confessional detail, Virginie Despentes--in her own words "more King Kong than Kate Moss"--delivers a highly charged account of women's lives today. She explodes common attitudes about sex and gender, and shows how modern beauty myths are ripe for rebelling against. Using her own experiences of rape, prostitution, and working in the porn industry as a jumping-off point, she creates a new space for all those who can't or won't obey the rules.

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