In January of this very long year, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker made it official. Reports from 2018 about their then-rumored relationship were now very clearly confirmed, and what has ensued over the course of this 2021 is a filthy, smutty celebration of love between two people who have gone through a fair amount of shit and have found love (or something like it) in an unexpected place.
Kourtney and Travis are powerful in their own right, but together, they make a pleasant alternative to the other celebrity couple slogging through the dregs of this year. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s love is a welcome blast from the past, a lovely second chance for two people who tried it once and were burnt by the press, but it lacks the verve and the nastiness that Kourtney and Travis embody when they do just about anything together. Rooting for celebrities to succeed or fail in love is an easy spectator sport, but with Travis and Kourtney, what’s surprising is that I actually want them to win.
The allure these two hold on my psyche is less about aesthetics—though there is something deeply appealing about the tattooed dirtbag pairing up with the pretty girl—and more about aspiration. All relationships eventually shed the frizzle of excitement and generalized horniness that suffuses the early months in favor of a quieter and more companionable existence, but the way Kourtney and Travis allow themselves to be perceived in the public eye indicates to me that the horny phase will never quite leave them. Unlike Bennifer, who by now are simply going through the motions of being very famous and publicly in love for a second time, Kourtney and Travis’s relationship feels genuine.
Consider any Page Six item concerning the comings and goings of Bennifer 2.o, which are largely centered around their PDA. These photos, taken sometime over the weekend, show Ben and Jen dressed in autumnally appropriate clothing, kissing with their backs pressed against buildings and holding hands in Central Park. The photos themselves seem disingenuous as if Ben and Jen were dutifully taking a walk and kissing in public solely so the paparazzi can pay their bills. Over the Fourth of July, Ben and Jen took to the Hamptons dressed in matching khaki, grimly walking down a road to gaze at the ocean, letting the photographers get their shots, before heading back to their privacy. In the very recent past, I celebrated Ben and Jen’s audacity at living their love out loud and in public, relishing in the thrill of a reboot. But the playbook is still the same as it was when they first started dating, and this time, it feels a little too cynical to accept it as anything other than a publicity ploy.
The same argument could be made for Kourtney and Travis, but it’s clear that there’s something more at play. At first, the onslaught of gossip items about the new couple was overwhelming, if only because every time they were mentioned in the press, it was for doing something sexy in public instead of behind closed doors. The finger-sucking incident, which was electrifying, is still a little gross, but viewed in aggregate with the rest of the public performance of their love, begins to make sense. Consider Kourtney’s most significant relationship, which was with the father of her children, Scott Disick, and was by all accounts, a mess. Scott and Kourtney did what they could over the duration of their relationship, but by the last season of the show that made both of them famous, Scott found himself begging for Kourtney’s hand once more—a generous offer of marriage and the promise of stability that Kourtney rejected, in favor of a sure bet.
That the sure bet is Travis Barker was confusing at first, but now, it makes an awful lot of sense. Simply put, Travis Barker has the air of a man who is capable of bringing a woman to orgasm. Scott Disick does not. There’s more to a successful relationship than sex, but after what I imagine to be years of ineffectual and infrequent lovemaking at the hands of Lord Disick, Travis Barker is a breath of fresh air. There’s an argument to be made about the performative nature of Kourtney and Travis’s public dalliances, but by now, Kourtney is a trained professional who understands her part of the bargain—but there’s nothing obligatory about their public make-outs because they are genuine.
The paparazzi photos of Kourtney and Travis making out in a loading dock in New York City in the middle of September solidified this for me. Though the idea of making out in a loading dock might seem disgusting to some, what I see here is two people who are so enamored with each other that they cannot keep their hands off each other, and also, have evolved past the point of giving a shit. An old wives’ tale that I made up just now states that a woman becomes obsolete after the age of 40, unless she has children or is married, but ideally both. As it currently stands, Kourtney is 42, a single mother of three, and, by dint of her great wealth and vast amounts of leisure time, looks better than most people of her age or younger. It is her absolute right to run through the streets of Los Angeles with her tattoo man, engaging in sexual frottage wherever she sees fit. There’s a hint of gleeful freedom here that I find inspiring—who among us hasn’t wasted a solid chunk of time with a man who, for all of his strengths, was simply never going to be enough?
Of the sisters, Kourtney is the one that everyone likes the most, despite her GOOP-adjacent side project, Poosh. Kim is the easy target, Khloé and Kylie less so, and Kendall, bless her, keeps her nose out of the family business as best she can. Railing against Kourtney and Travis Barker for flaunting their nasty little love all over this country of ours is tiresome, because it should be celebrated. It doesn’t matter if you particularly like Kourtney or Travis separately or as a unit. But recognizing that he probably lays the pipe so good that the only way to recover from it is to suck face in a Applebee’s parking lot sheds some light on the why and how of their relationship and points convincingly towards its longevity. The true appeal of the Kardashians has always been that the men are superfluous to their business, but when a sister finds a partner that enhances rather than detracts from the brand at large, it is magic. Consider this photograph of Kourtney nestled on Travis’s lap as he does something nasty with his tongue in and around her neck. That’s the smile of a woman who is finally truly satisfied, content with a person who can give her what she wants.