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King Kong Theory

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  10,021 ratings  ·  985 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 143 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Feminist Press (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  10,021 ratings  ·  985 reviews

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Tim Pendry
(I am reviewing the English Edition, published by Serpent's Tail, rather than the French Edition)

Let's get the negatives out of the way quickly because this is an important little book that might have got the honour of five stars if its faults had been more sincerely addressed by its Editors.

It has three spectacularly interesting chapters on rape, prostitution and pornography that would have made excellent articles in, say, Prospect or some other intelligent monthly. Yet these sit oddly between
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-stuff
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 inqualities.

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, hammerin
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, france
It is not necessary to agree with Virginie Despentes in all points to appreciate this passionate pamphlet against toxic masculinity in the context of gender relations, societal norms, the class system and capitalism. Despentes points out that it's often men as well as women who suffer from traditional norms because the pressure to conform also applies to them - and she tries to pin down who profits from this system.

Mixing general observations and personal experience, Despentes talks about the s
Blake Nelson
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the great punk rock/anarchist/feminist book that nobody could figure out how to write.


A French person wrote it of course because Americans are too prudish to let loose like Despentes does. This book kills it.
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
At the beginning of this month I realised my non-fiction quota for 2018 was looking pretty pathetic: a grand total of four books, all written by men. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to power through a handful of feminist texts I've had on the backburner for some time. I read King Kong Theory between two other short feminist polemics – Why I Am Not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin and What Women Want by Ella Whelan – and it was easily my favourite of the three.

The first few pages ar
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading about her personal experiences, but none of the concepts she extrapolated from them were particularly enlightening. Her opinions about rape survivors are juvenile, rudimentary at best; similarly, her thoughts on pornography and prostitution are naive - all she seems to argue is that they aren't *inherently* degrading. There's much more to it than that. She barely acknowledges how traumatizing the aforementioned industries are to the women who are a part of it - i.e. exploited p ...more
Audacia Ray
I like Despentes' directness, anger, and energy. She's unapologetic and ferocious, which are excellent qualities in a writer, and she's unafraid to bring personal messiness into her arguments about feminism.

The three chapters on rape, prostitution, and porn are direct and interesting, though not original arguments. The writing is engaging and it's worth repeating that she's fierce.

Throughout the book, I found myself wondering if Despentes was delivering a critique of oppositional sexism or contr
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More French books. Yay. I hope you're as excited as I am. King Kong Théorie is my first book by Virginie Despentes but it sure as heck won't be my last.
“Because this ideal of the attractive but not whorish white woman, in a good marriage but not self-effacing, with a nice job but not so successful she outshines her man, slim but not neurotic over food, forever young without being disfigured by the surgeon’s knife, a radiant mother not overwhelmed by nappies and homework, who manages her home
Wow. This is a strong, angry, fierce, direct, raw and unapologetic piece of feministic writing - it totally captured me, its passion really got me. Virginie Despentes has a lot to say - and she doesn't hold back. And she knows what she's talking about, which makes this powerful rant even more passionate and honest. This, however, isn't a manhating pamphlet, for Despentes ideas of gender equality concern all sexes, and she argues for a liberation of men as well - we're all trapped in this partiar ...more
Bárbara Széchy
I am sad to say this wasn't for me. I don't think it was necessarily bad, but it wasn't really well written neither; Despentes had interesting ideas that unfortunately remained on the surface of what I felt were the true issues. I would have liked to have had a bigger, better constructed argument and analysis along with her experiences. I do think it's valuable and important that she shared her own story, but it would have worked wonders as an introduction to an actual debate. Instead, I felt li ...more
Nicki Hill
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
okay. this book was amazing. despentes is a bold, intelligent writer. it's a short book, but it is biting. basically it is 137 pages of fabulous sound bites. i find myself wanting to quote her all day all the time. she chronicles her own very personal life and fits it to her own definition of feminism. she deconstructs every faucet of western society. she questions the greats, even de Beauvoir, which is sort of awesome. i will re-read this. here is a quote, in which she references her own rape:
Kirat Kaur
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
A disappointing read. Despentes makes so many sweeping unsubstantiated statements that, because they go unexplained, has the effect of rendering the text with a manifesto-like sensationalist ethos, that does very little to advance any kind of understanding about anything. The strongest sections are the ones in which she discusses her personal experiences with sexual violence and sex work, but even there, a lot of generalisations are made about how women respond to these things, which i feel does ...more
k reads
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Interesting but ultimately disappointing. This is more of a rant based on the author's own personal experiences. It could have used some deeper insight.
If I got to talk to the author at a party I would walk away thinking, Wow! What a fascinating person but as a book, well, there’s just not enough there there.
This is not a boring read and it’s certainly a quick read, being so short but I would have liked more substance.
Despite my two star rating, I would’t discourage anyone from reading it. I th
One hundred sixty pages that blew my mind. I stayed up all night to finish this.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Finished this a few days ago and have been letting it marinate. I appreciated this slim book of punk feminist theory, even though I didn't always agree with her conclusions. I think she has a tendency to generalize based on her own anecdotal experiences and that her view can be a bit narrow even as she criticizes mainstream society for generalizing and pigeonholing women. But I also think her perspective is very valuable. She challenges the status quo, and what more can you ask for?
Louise Beilby
Argh. I'm not sure where to start with this. I suppose the first thing to say is that I do not agree with the majority of what Virginie Despentes writes here. I am opposed to the sex industry and think that this shallow and self-centred diatribe conveniently ignores the basis of anti-sex-work arguments in favour of casting slurs on other women.

My main objection to her theorising is that she casts "anti-porn" feminists as frustrated, middle-aged wives who fear that the legalisation of prostitutio
Alexandra Pearson
What a fantastic piece of writing! I want to get a copy of this book and give it to everyone I know. I'll start with all the women and then all the men, especially the ones who don't want to read it, because they're the ones who need it the most. I feel invigorated. It's made me think, and question myself and open my mind. Fucking marvellous.
Unapologetic and engaging writing, this is definitely a favourite feminist text.
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really loved this. Despentes is fierce and unapologetic, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what she had to say. I didn't fully agree with her arguments regarding porn, however, which seemed too simplistic. She seemed to be arguing against the anti-porn movement as it is from a prudish / conservative standpoint as opposed to tackling it from the perspective of many feminists who are bothered by much more than the mere fact that women are taking off their clothes. She seems to recognize ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
A raw and direct feminist essay that I encourage absolutely EVERYONE to read!!!
It is one of the best I have read so far, no pompous writing just rage against today's patriarchal, homophobic and racist society but thoughtfully arranged and explained.

Revolutionary and empowering as fuck ! Need to re-read over and over again, there's so much to think and learn about in those 150 something pages..
Marion C.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
Even if I found this essay interesting, Despentes' writing - the way she goes straight to her point vulgarly and provokinly - is not convincing to me (but may be very powerful for some people)
Cassandra Gillig
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Lord Beardsley
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2018, feminism
Living in a French-speaking country (Belgium) and being friends with a lot of Francophone feminists, I've heard a lot about Virginie Despentes over the years. She's what I would consider to be a rock star feminist icon within French/Belgian feminism. It's very difficult to find English translations of her work in Belgium. In fact, I have had to order all her books from the States.

It helps to understand that sex worker's issues is a huge point of contention in French/Belgian feminism, a lot of pe
Apr 06, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tia, feminism
Was introduced to this book on a road trip from the southern tip of Spain to Madrid, during which the roof of our car flew off and my friend shouted in Spanish the first pages of this to the other three passengers, whose heads had been swaddled in scarves to combat the wind. Three years later, I checked it out from the library. I applaud Despentes for her energetic, combative style; even in the few places I didn't agree with her, I read the first third of this book in a flurry. And for the most ...more
Krista Danis
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
King Kong theory is like a more mature (and French) Scum Manifesto. It is clear that Virginie Despentes is extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and rational. She knows how to translate her anger into theory, speaking the language of a blended punk academic feminism. Despentes refuses to adhere to scholarly apologies and sterility, a characteristic that some reviewers found inappropriate. Alternatively, I appreciated her inattentiveness to boring PC language patterns as modes of distraction and man ...more
Masha Samartsava
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe this was the first book I read that focuses specifically on feminism. And it does so without calling it so or without stating anywhere that this is the key idea supported by the book, until it gets to the last chapter. Because of this, this book provided me with some very concise thinking points on some of the main topics within the feminist movement, how they came to be, how they are taken into account in our societies, the role of both men and women, the role of class and ideology. T ...more
Oct 02, 2018 added it
I began reading this book the same week as the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Reading Despentes describe her rape and her reaction to it answered all those shallow Republican questions like, "Why didn't Ford file charges earlier?" It explained why Kavanaugh, rather than admitting his wrong-doing, or, if he is truly blameless, requesting a full investigation, harangued his way through the day.
Despentes comments that no one likes rapists. Rapists are the men behind bars, the psycho
Caecilia Saori
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Punk rock meets feminism - and makes room for explaining the King Kong movie to me, for rape and prostitution.

When my latest book mail is this good. I sit down, I start reading, I forget about anything & everything around me. And that’s what happened here, with this one.

It’s disturbing, controversial and at times shocking. Still, her ability to express anger (the wording!) has deeply impressed me. She plays with the reader and tells her personal life story so well, it will have you unable to put
Will Mego
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking. An angry, searing text that presents the point that men have as much to gain and prosper from as women when it comes to true feminism. As usual, the author is a splendid writer who provided the capable translators with lots of challenges in translating French slang.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the one, of which I can say that this is a must-read. At least for me. After this I only can wonder, how free and rational are some people in their thoughts. Spoiler: the gender analysis of the Peter Jackson's "King Kong" is amusing.
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Virginie Despentes is a French writer, novelist and filmmaker, born in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle. Her most famous novel, and film of the same name is Baise-moi, a contemporary example of the exploitation films genre known as rape and revenge films. Her most recent biographical, non-fiction work, King Kong Theory has also been translated into English, and recounts her experiences working within the ...more

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67 likes · 16 comments
“In much the same way, motherhood has become the essential female experience, valued above all others: giving life is where it's at. "Pro-maternity" propaganda has rarely been so extreme. They must be joking, the modern equivalent of the double constraint: "Have babies, it's wonderful, you'll feel more fulfilled and feminine than ever," but do it in a society in freefall in which waged work is a condition of social survival but guaranteed to no one, and especially not to women. Give birth in cities where accommodation is precarious, schools have surrendered the fight and children are subject to the most vicious mental assault through advertising, TV, internet, fizzy drink manufacturers and so on. Without children you will never be fulfilled as a woman, but bringing up kids in decent conditions is almost impossible.” 45 likes
“Because this ideal of the attractive but not whorish white woman, in a good marriage but not self-effacing, with a nice job but not so successful she outshines her man, slim but not neurotic over food, forever young without being disfigured by the surgeon’s knife, a radiant mother not overwhelmed by nappies and homework, who manages her home beautifully without becoming a slave to housework, who knows a thing or two but less than a man, this happy white woman who is constantly shoved under our noses, this woman we are all supposed to work hard to resemble – never mind that she seems to be running herself ragged for not much reward – I for one have never met her, not anywhere. My hunch is that she doesn’t exist.” 18 likes
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