With Virginie Despentes: Healing by writing, feminism and rape as a subject for men

With Virginie Despentes: Healing by writing, feminism and rape as a subject for men

“Rape, it’s like a dark place without language for men. It’s like night.” – Virginie Despentes

Virginie Despentes is a french writer and filmmaker we desperately need to pay attention. His book “King Kong theory” moves through theory, manifest and her memoirs where, just like his other movies and writings, she deals with feminism, gender violence, prostitution and stereotypes.

In an interview to the Broadly channel, Virginie Despentes talks about her career, feminism, and her own experiences with prostitution and the time she was raped:

“When I was raped more than 30 years ago, if you were raped, you couldn’t, you would find yourself pretty much on your own. Hearing kind of, “It’s a shame, you should have died. You will never be the same again, you will never recover” which is not really helpful. It would be difficult to find some tools to get out of the trauma and make something out of it.”
Virginie Despentes

Virginie Despentes

In a speech resembling that of Hilda Hilst about being a writer and the importance of writiing, Despentes tells what his book became both for the readers and for her:

“I never thought that writing was something that helps you heal but I think I changed a lot after having published King Kong Theory. King Kong theory here in France was read by many women and I’ve connected to many, many women. So I suppose something about healing did work here.”

Chimamanda Agozie brings our attention to the problem of gender expectations and the behaviour taught to boys and girls in our society. But Virginie Despentes point to an important aspect, the fact of these expectations create such a distance between man and the debate about rape that there’s no vocabulary for men to deal with thoughts and behaviors around this subject:

“I want to see men, really, I want to see men gathering and please, try to understand what’s going on with you, how can you be a rapist? How can you prevent it? Because we can’t. Rape, it’s like a dark place without language for men. It’s like night. If you bring some light here, I think it could change things.”

Despentes summarize the problem of gender inequality in one question:

“But I’m generalizing, sometimes, about men. I don’t hate them, but I like to be able to treat men like we are treated most of the time. I feel comfortable with that. If we think rape is important and if you’re really taught that you’re entitled to kill a man if he wants to abuse you, I think it changes the whole thing. But do we think rape is that important that we can allow women to kill men? That’s an interesting question in my opinion.”

It’s in this dialogue immersed in comprehension, knowledge and pragmatism that Virginie Despentes teach something to all of us.

Still around the problems faced by women, it’s always important to remind what Lygia Fagundes Telles has to say about the beginning of her career.

You can watch the full interview, in english, with Virginie Despentes below: