When her debut novel Baise-moi was published in 1993, Virginie Despentes was hailed as the pioneer of a new genre of feminist literature. The boldness of the novel's plot, its angry depiction of female sexual pleasure and gratuitous violence, and its explicit criticism of contemporary Western society have earned this ambiguous work a reputation for subversion. This article argues that the novel's apparent subversiveness and its popular success are the result of Despentes's parodic reworking of the conventions of the noir thriller, and in particular of her critical revisiting of the topos of the femme fatale. Reappropriating and challenging traditional canons and representations, Baise-moi attacks phallocentrism through the exploration of female pleasure and the intervention of the female body. The text thus becomes highly disturbing and critical of the structures that contain women's autonomy. It also explores ideas that remain central to contemporary feminism with regard to women's sexual identity; remaining taboos about the body; the relationship between women and the sexual industry, and sexual oppression. Helping to release women's bodies from existing representations and to question categories, Baise-moi might indeed reclaim a voice for women
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