There are at least two topics in the modern world I write in which tend to bring the knives out. One is the Israel-Palestine situation and the other is sexual/gender politics. The knives don’t bother me, because it reminds me that people are reading my work. Indeed, their points are rarely sharp enough to do much but scratch the first layers of my skin.
That said, the book I am writing about here—titled King Kong Theory—seems to be written with the same attitude. In other words, it is pushing people to bring out the knives. Wield them from behind your toxic masculinity and your ambition-informed liberal feminism. Wield them from your need to demean your lover and the sex worker you pay online. Wield them from your university posts and your political campaign offices. Wield them from the backseat of your car parked in the “dangerous” part of town after that sex act you paid for is over. Wield them from the safety of your suburban home after your errant children have gone off to school. Wield them from Hollywood and a studio of porn.
King Kong Theory is a text that is decidedly anti-capitalist and a little bit punk. Like much of the left and anarchist writing from the west since the 1960s, individualism clashes with class understanding and political economics with cultural revolution. The author, Virginie Despentes, is a French novelist, who left her home for Paris when she was a teen; her punk lifestyle had outgrown her hometown, so to speak. Like so many people that age, she had a variety of jobs, including as a sex worker. It was the experiences she accrued during that time that informed her fiction, including one on rape which became a movie called F*ck Me and was ultimately banned in France. This particular title is a collection of essays on all of those topics and more.
The world Despentes describes in no uncertain terms is that of a woman under capitalism. In 2021, that is the only world there is for women to love and live in. It is a world that, despite all the feminist agitation women are still working for free. They are caring for children in their homes and cleaning those homes for free. This isn’t liberal feminism. Nor is it bourgeois feminism. It’s leave me the fuck alone while I rip down your capitalist patriarchy feminism. There are no holds barred and no idols considered sacred. The housework, childbearing and child raising without pay that is expected from women would not exist if feminism had completed its task of liberating women. But it didn’t. Instead, it became another capitalist consumer scheme. Not always and not completely, but fairly uniformly.
A key understanding I got from this book is that, if one struggles long and hard enough as an individual and a group, they will achieve sexual freedom, even a form of liberation, under capitalism. However, they will still be under capitalism. That fact will completely effect their liberation as a class. Another thing I got from my read was that the patriarchal mindset is so pervasive, it has a way of turning feminist women into playacting for men and their fantasies. The latter is how Despentes describes Slut Walks and sex work. The latter, she writes, is not liberating, although it should be legal so that those who engage in it can have some actual protection from their pimps and johns, porn film directors and actors, and the police. Instead, sex work is a blatant example of capitalism at work. Everything is merely another commodity and how it gets to the marketplace is none of our goddamn business. Brutality, slavery, trafficking, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions—none of that matters as long as the customer get his jollies. After all, isn’t the customer always right? That and the profit motive?
King Kong Theory should open your eyes to the confusion and hypocrisy of modern feminism and the lives of women and girls in the capitalist economy. In fact, it should rip your eyelids off your face; that is the intention with which it is written. While your eyelids are bleeding, Despentes’ words will likewise expose the grip of the profit motive on the bodies and minds of women, girls, men, boys and every other gender in this twenty-first century. The conspiracy of patriarchy and capital is a conspiracy as old as the gods of Abraham and as new as the last episode of virtually any television show that stars a female in almost any role. As Despentes makes crystal clear, it won’t be going away without a major fight. History affirms that position.