Book Review: Sex Object

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“Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women?” 

After the past couple of weeks in U.S. current events I have found myself asking the same question. Which is one of the reasons why I picked up Jessica Valenti’s book Sex Object. I have been a fan of hers for a while now, following her on Twitter and reading her articles for The Guardian and now Medium. She’s unapologetic in her writing and I love that about her.  She gets it.

She doesn’t have the energy for the internet trolls anymore (I mean, who does?!) and even though she knows she should have compassion, she doesn’t. She doesn’t feel bad for them. She doesn’t have compassion for them. She hates them, and that’s all she has. And I think that’s important to remember. Just because we are women does not mean we can’t have anger, or hate. It’s okay to have those feelings.

At a little over 200 pages, Sex Object is a quick read. I read it in one sitting and I haven’t read a book in one sitting in a very long time. (At least without falling asleep first) 

What was so refreshing about Valenti’s work vs. other feminist books I have read was her complete and utter bluntness and honesty without trying to sound too “academic.” Don’t get me wrong, I love reading some good books on feminist theory, (I once took a 4 hour feminist theory class in graduate school) but sometimes I just want to read something that makes me say “yeah, that” or “yessss girl, get it.” What can I say, I love a good rage read.

The first essay in her book, “Line Violence” had me highlighting almost every single word. To me, it echoed Betty Friedan’s “the problem with no name” but instead of talking about 1960’s housewives, Valenti discusses the no name for the side effects of women who have experienced trauma in their lives — whether getting catcalled while walking down the street or being sexually assaulted — all women know what that feeling is.

“…We still have no name for what happens to women living in a culture that hates them…When you catch a cold or a virus, your body has ways of letting you know that you are sick–you cough, you get a fever, your limbs literally hurt. But what diagnosis do you give to the shaking hands you get after a stranger whispers ‘pussy’ in your year? What medicine can you take to stop being afraid that the cabdriver is not actually taking you home?” 

Part I of Sex Object reads like a manifesto. It’s a declaration of finally deciding to own our bodies for ourselves and no one else. Saying we are done being your objects of desire or affection. It’s time to change the narrative so what our grandmothers, our mothers, and what we went through won’t happen to our daughters. It ends with us. Part I will have you nodding enthusiastically, and dare I say—positive for the future?

Parts II & III of Sex Object felt more of the classic memoir writing you would expect. Valenti details her life growing up in New York, relationships, and her very honest experience with getting two abortions. Valenti had me laughing one minute and in tears the next. Her vulgarity and “in your face” descriptions of her sexual encounters with either one night stands or boyfriends were probably some of my favorite stories. Why? Because they were so HONEST and written with such confidence. So many times we read stories about how women should not date too much because we can’t be seen as “too loose” or “too wild.” It’s the never ending societal expectation that women are to be pious.

A particular moment where I found myself nodding in agreement was the essay about how Valenti met her husband, and how she was questioning his “niceness” at first. She explains that when it comes to romantic relationships, women believe we don’t deserve someone who treats us as our equal. We believe that when we do find someone who does treat us equally it’s a gift rather than a given. The fact that we are programmed to think it’s a gift rather than a given is a problem. Being treated nicely feels somehow inherently wrong to us, and why is that? According to Valenti, “when confronted with the love you deserve, it is easier to mock it than accept it. Especially when everything else you have experienced of love and connection is based on something more like control or disdain.”

10/10 would recommend to anyone. Loved this book so much.

 

 

Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Sex Object

  1. Fantastic review! I also liked this book but I guess it didn’t speak to me as powerfully as your reading of it. From what I remember I think it was the memoir parts that didn’t appeal as much to me. I’m glad that you got so much from them! She’s definitely a strong writer and a powerful voice.

    1. I have heard that about this book so I was a bit leery going into it. (a lot of people on Goodreads had some strong feelings about it, haha) There were some moments where I kind of breezed through because I felt myself not connecting to the story, but it didn’t happen enough where it changed my overall view of the book. She’s definitely a powerful voice, no doubt about that!

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