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Sex Object: A Memoir

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Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Now, in a darkly funny and bracing memoir, Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes from the every day to the existential. Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Now, in a darkly funny and bracing memoir, Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes from the every day to the existential. Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City, revealing a much shakier inner life than the confident persona she has cultivated as one of the most recognizable feminists of her generation. In the tradition of writers like Joan Didion and Mary Karr, this literary memoir is sure to shock those already familiar with Valenti’s work and enthrall those who are just finding it.


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Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Now, in a darkly funny and bracing memoir, Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes from the every day to the existential. Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Now, in a darkly funny and bracing memoir, Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes from the every day to the existential. Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City, revealing a much shakier inner life than the confident persona she has cultivated as one of the most recognizable feminists of her generation. In the tradition of writers like Joan Didion and Mary Karr, this literary memoir is sure to shock those already familiar with Valenti’s work and enthrall those who are just finding it.

30 review for Sex Object: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ashton Kessler

    I hate when people rate books before they have even come out, but to the guy who rated it one star: fuck you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I've had a hard time parsing what I think about this book, because Valenti says so many important things that need to be said; I've wanted to support its project, and I've wanted to make sure my ultimate ambivalence to it isn't some kind of backwards blaming of her or it for her reporting of the revolting things done and said to her. Large parts of the book made me feel like I needed a shower, or like I'd walked out my front door: it's not so much that she's revealing uncommon experiences as I've had a hard time parsing what I think about this book, because Valenti says so many important things that need to be said; I've wanted to support its project, and I've wanted to make sure my ultimate ambivalence to it isn't some kind of backwards blaming of her or it for her reporting of the revolting things done and said to her. Large parts of the book made me feel like I needed a shower, or like I'd walked out my front door: it's not so much that she's revealing uncommon experiences as that one of the points of the book is how these experiences accumulate for women and on women's bodies, and are NOT uncommon. In fact, about half way through, I got frustrated and asked a friend why I was reading the book when the experience of reading it in many ways mirrors walking down a city street. (Closing with the litany of horrifying comments she's gotten, so you leave the book having just read them, was especially immersive and familiar.) Eventually, I realized that was my problem with the book: I don't think it's very good as a book. It reads like an ongoing series of articles that aren't coherent, and aren't driving toward a point; there's not a through-line or thesis. It's episodic, and all the episodes are the same thing. That makes for powerful reading if you're looking for a catalog of the things women experience daily, but it's not revelatory and I'm not sure of the point if the intended audience is already an educated and aware one. Maybe Valenti was excising; maybe the idea is to shock people who DON'T know the world is like this; maybe I'm being too unappreciative or too judgey. I certainly think writing the book was courageous. I hope people who need to read it do. But ultimately, I'm not sure of the point of the book as a book, and I'm not sure that its location in the movement means I should forgive it for not being good as a book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Yeesh. I had a really difficult time with this book. I can blame some of my reaction to extremely high expectations...but only some. Other reviewers have been pretty articulate about the flaws of the book. I agree that it feels extremely haphazard and at the same time oddly flat. She presents her experiences without any kind of "big picture" element. Unfortunately, in seemingly letting her experiences speak for themselves, they end up feeling instead like an unrelenting litany of misery--of Yeesh. I had a really difficult time with this book. I can blame some of my reaction to extremely high expectations...but only some. Other reviewers have been pretty articulate about the flaws of the book. I agree that it feels extremely haphazard and at the same time oddly flat. She presents her experiences without any kind of "big picture" element. Unfortunately, in seemingly letting her experiences speak for themselves, they end up feeling instead like an unrelenting litany of misery--of unhappy exeriences and unhappy choices that, in the end, left me feeling a bit exhausted and even annoyed. Part II especially is simply a retelling of her sexual experiences, most of them poor, and exhaustion with what she experiences as an obsession of others with her body (including what she says is literal daily street harrassment from the age of, roughly, eleven) that drains her of all autonomy (resulting in said bad sexual experiences). Again, I felt a little bit like I do when I read addicts' memoirs: after a while, all the "bad behavior" can feel a little bit like bragging: LOOK HOW OUTRAGEOUS I AM. LOOK HOW OBSESSED WITH MY BODY SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE ARE. LOOK HOW DANGEROUS I AM. LOOK HOW BADLY I WAS TREATED. LOOK HOW BADLY I BEHAVED WHICH ONLY INDICATES HOW WOUNDED I AM; I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY OF MY BEHAVIOR. I think an interesting discussion *could* be had about the need, by a reader, for a redemptive arc in books like Valenti's--an expectation that in the end, that a lesson was learned, or a new perspective was gleaned, through all these negative experiences. One *could* ask: why? Is looking for a "all these terrible experiences were worth it in the end" a horrible expectation to have of someone who experienced abuse? Perhaps. Perhaps that's something Valenti is trying to get her audience to think about. If so...it's done in a very muddy way. One of the difficulties I had with the reading experience of the book is Valenti herself still has many unresolved--and clearly hostile--feelings about...everything. For example, she states toward the end of the book that she suffers from PTSD, but it's unclear, despite the 150 pages prior to that statement, what the trauma is (her childbirth experience?* Her childhood? Her sexual experiences?). I do feel like she feels very acted upon throughout her life, yet, at what point does snorting Adderall become something you do, not something that was forced upon you, for example? As another example, she states in this book that she was forcefully pushed out of Feministing, which is counter to other public statements she's made about leaving Feministing, which now throws all her earlier statements into question--and then makes ME question, why bother lying about it at the time? She's even hostile about her fans, which, again, if you feel you have zero autonomy over your body and feel violated by being on a stage and having an audience, then maybe don't do book tours? I feel that, after a certain point, you don't get to agree to do things that you KNOW make you suffer and then write about how much you suffer doing them, especially if the things are "speaking engagements" and "autograph sessions." These are elite problems that can be avoided. They aren't requirements for sustaining life. Again, one could argue that her thesis is that having been treated as merely a body upon which others act has left her, even at her age, married and with a child, still feeling utterly without any control over her body or her life. In the end, my reading experience of the book is that Valenti flails around, feeing extremely injured**, without having anything else at all to say, which, as a reading experience, is...challenging. I feel like I had to turn myself inside out to create some kind of thesis to her book--out of guilt from not liking it as much as I wanted to--and I don't think that's a good thing. *Her story about pregancy and childbirth reminded me of Meaghan O'Connell's Longreads piece, and while I acknowledge there are significant differences (O'Connell's was not a premature birth), the comparison still struck me, and Valenti's book suffered by the comparison. **Once again, as I felt with We Should All Be Feminists, discussions of feminism that boil down to "I want to wear dresses and high heels but I feel bad if I do but feminisim should mean I can wear dresses and high heels and not be criticized for it" really bum me out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest SEX OBJECT is an interesting book, partially because of what it contains but also partially because of how I think people are going to react to it. If you skimmed through it, you might say, "Oh, it's just another one of those self-effacing memoirs of a woman relating all of her sexual encounters." But that makes it too easy to dismiss this book - and it shouldn't be dismissed. I know "microaggressions" is a loaded word with some people, but Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest SEX OBJECT is an interesting book, partially because of what it contains but also partially because of how I think people are going to react to it. If you skimmed through it, you might say, "Oh, it's just another one of those self-effacing memoirs of a woman relating all of her sexual encounters." But that makes it too easy to dismiss this book - and it shouldn't be dismissed. I know "microaggressions" is a loaded word with some people, but there really isn't a word out there that's quite as good at describing those little tiny "tells" of subconscious prejudice. SEX OBJECT shows many of the microaggressions women have to deal with on a day to day basis, from whether it's how women get the short end of the stick in most sexual encounters, to date rape, to sexual harassment, to pregnancies from hell. SEX OBJECT is a collection of essays and as with most essays, they are uneven in quality. I think the most powerful essays are the ones where Valenti writes about her coming of age, and how young women are often the favorite targets of predatory men. I also liked the essays about abusive relationships, and how abusive doesn't always necessitate hitting - many of her ex-boyfriends found creative other ways of being abusive. The most relatable chapter for me, however, was the last chapter, in which Valenti provides a collection of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages she's received from men who either insult her looks, threaten her with rape, or otherwise objectify or dehumanize her in an attempt to invalidate both her points and her as a person. It made me think of Buzzfeed's video, What it's like to be a woman online . It's a video I often trot out when reading books like these because it underscores what women have to deal with every day if they have an active, feminist presence online. There are a lot of topics in SEX OBJECT that make for difficult reading: rape, rape threats, gore, sexual harassment, sexual harassment of minors, and all kinds of other infuriating things. But if you can stomach the content, you should read this book: it puts an interesting spin on what the sexual life of a woman can sometimes be reduced to, and why we should all be angry about it. 3 to 3.5 stars!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    As a voice, Jessica Valenti is honest, unflinching, and insightful. As a memoir, this suffers a bit from a lack of cohesion and overall story arc. I almost wish it had been revised into a book of essays, because I think it would have worked better that way. The first section has some candid remarks on everyday sexism, the long-ranging effects of sexual assault, and the conflict between trauma and empowerment. "Despite the preponderance of evidence showing the mental and emotional distress people As a voice, Jessica Valenti is honest, unflinching, and insightful. As a memoir, this suffers a bit from a lack of cohesion and overall story arc. I almost wish it had been revised into a book of essays, because I think it would have worked better that way. The first section has some candid remarks on everyday sexism, the long-ranging effects of sexual assault, and the conflict between trauma and empowerment. "Despite the preponderance of evidence showing the mental and emotional distress people demonstrate in violent and harassing environments - we still have no name for what happens to women living in a culture that hates them."This is the passage I posted to Litsy, read out loud to my husband, etc.:"No one wants to listen to our sad stories unless they are smoothed over with a joke or a nice melody...No one wants to hear a woman talking or writing about pain in a way that suggests that it doesn't end. Without a pat solution, silver lining, or happy ending we're just complainers - downers who don't realize how good we actually have it. Men's pain and existential angst are the stuff of myth and legends and narratives that shape everything we do, but women's pain is a backdrop - a plot development to push the story along for the real protagonists. Disrupting that story means we're needy or selfish, or worst of all - man-haters - as if after all men have done to women over the ages the mere act of not liking them for it is most offensive.See what I mean? Good stuff. I'd recommend reading the book just for the first section. But then Valenti goes off to talk about all the relationships she had and all the drugs she did. I think the point she was trying to make was that there was a connection between feeling devalued in society and acting like she herself was worthless, not caring for herself sexually or physically. I struggled with this section because it just felt like a litany of things she did or things that happened, lacking the commentary that I think would have made it stronger. The third section is about abortion and having a preemie and post-partum depression, which I failed to connect much to the concept of the book except for that of course getting pregnant involves sex and these things happened to her. She doesn't talk a lot about the pressures of having babies, which would have fit in nicely here, had they been her experiences (and maybe they weren't!) One chapter in this last section, called D, about a married friend's sexual advances. She looks at how despite her feminist beliefs, she still finds herself communicating with men first in flirtation, and that she still accepts this expectation from men that "his desires trump my comfort." I think many of us can identify with these issues, harder to tackle if they are people we know and who are in our circles. At the end of the book, Valenti has an appendix of sorts with a selection of comments men have made to her on her blog, to YouTube videos, and to Facebook. Anyone who thinks women exaggerate should at least read these two pages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    This is my first book by Jessica Valenti, but hopefully the first of many! I've been interested in her writing since I found Full Frontal Feminism, but I was excited to read this book by her in particular because memoir is more familiar to me, and the first chapter of this is stunning. I ended up reading this entire book in a few hours. I love Valenti's observations of sexual objectification and not only how it perpetuates misogyny, but it also causes women to devalue themselves and normalize This is my first book by Jessica Valenti, but hopefully the first of many! I've been interested in her writing since I found Full Frontal Feminism, but I was excited to read this book by her in particular because memoir is more familiar to me, and the first chapter of this is stunning. I ended up reading this entire book in a few hours. I love Valenti's observations of sexual objectification and not only how it perpetuates misogyny, but it also causes women to devalue themselves and normalize abuse and harassment. I liked the first and third parts of this book because they felt relevant to the subject matter of the book, but the middle section just seemed like an unneeded tangent about all of her relationships in college, and it was difficult to keep all of her partners, universities, and chronology straight. And in the end, those descriptions really didn't build anything onto the message of the book for me. I underlined several stunning, thought-provoking quotes in this book, and I enjoyed Valenti's approach to this subject matter. Her explanation of her life and actions is so refreshingly honest and she doesn't waste time pretending that her life is flawless and we are getting more and more progressive, because she still is swamped with hate online and sometimes prefers crawling under a rock to being famous, which takes a lot of guts to admit but I really admired. After I read more of Valenti's works then maybe I'll be able to better assess whether it was a good idea to start with this book, but regardless of my intent to read her other works, hearing about her experiences and her perspective on how to make sure those experiences don't extend to her daughter had me captivated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Reading this book is like getting a chicken bone caught in your throat. It’s very uncomfortable, but points to a reality that needs to be understood and dealt with fast.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    Sex Object is a powerful memoir, worth reading/listening to. Early on, Valenti lets us know that this is not an inspirational, motivational, "here's the silver lining" kind of book, that, apparently, women, feminists, in particular, are expected to bestow, otherwise, they're just "whiny" and/or "victims" and we can't possibly have that, can we? Valenti dared to be different, and just tell her story, in the form of essays. I liked that. I personally related to some aspects discussed in the book, Sex Object is a powerful memoir, worth reading/listening to. Early on, Valenti lets us know that this is not an inspirational, motivational, "here's the silver lining" kind of book, that, apparently, women, feminists, in particular, are expected to bestow, otherwise, they're just "whiny" and/or "victims" and we can't possibly have that, can we? Valenti dared to be different, and just tell her story, in the form of essays. I liked that. I personally related to some aspects discussed in the book, and even those far away from my own experiences still gave me an insight into her life. I applaud her candour about her sexual relationships, bad relationships, abortions, drug taking, and motherhood. One of the most powerful chapters/essays is the last one, where she reads messages she received via email, blog comments, twitter, facebook and other social media outlets. The amount of vitriol and threats she's received is astounding. It's somewhat incomprehensible that most of us womenfolk are still heterosexual (stupid mother nature and all that reproduction bs...). That there is a lot of internet bullying is a well known. The one directed towards women though goes to a whole new level. It made me sick; I know I couldn't put up with it and keep going. So, I take my virtual hat off to you, Jessica Valenti, for being able to stick out.

  9. 5 out of 5

    El

    I had been looking forward to reading this for a while, since it came out and made its way onto my radar, though with reservations. I like Jessica Valenti. I think she does a lot of good and has great things to say about contemporary feminism for the most part. I was excited to read a book on her thoughts about being a sex object, which, as she points out, is a role every woman falls into at some point in their lives, whether they choose to be or not. It's a role that is chosen for us. The fact I had been looking forward to reading this for a while, since it came out and made its way onto my radar, though with reservations. I like Jessica Valenti. I think she does a lot of good and has great things to say about contemporary feminism for the most part. I was excited to read a book on her thoughts about being a sex object, which, as she points out, is a role every woman falls into at some point in their lives, whether they choose to be or not. It's a role that is chosen for us. The fact that she wanted to write about this in the form of a memoir intrigued me. It starts out with a punch. Her childhood was difficult to read about and I'll be honest that it stirred up a lot of my own pre-adolescence, and then adolescence. Those are hard ages for anyone, but I am confident (since I lived through it and that's the only experience I have) that those ages are more difficult on girls than it is on boys, though of course it's damaging for everyone in some way. But soon the chapters of Valenti's life became more like announcements about her experiences rather than some sort of personal essay. She is (and I think she admits this somewhere in the book) removed from her experiences which is troubling to see. What she doesn't come right out and say (causing it to seem even more removed) is that is the basis for her entire memoir. That in a way we become desensitized to behaviors and statements made towards us about our bodies, about expectations of us as women. It's so prevalent - in Valenti's case she rode the subway at a young age and first experienced a man jizzing on the back of her jeans. We all have experiences of some sort, for sure. And it makes an impression on all of us, regardless of how we choose to deal with those experiences as we grow up. Eventually I didn't even quite understand the purpose of some of Valenti's chapters. They became a litany of stories of people she had sexual relations with, drugs she did, lies that she made. The worst part is that some of these chapters didn't even have a thread connecting it to the title or the purpose of this memoir. They felt disconnected from one another, and it was the strangest thing ever, coming from a memoir. The flap of this book says "In the tradition of writers like Joan Didion and Mary Karr..." I adore Joan Didion, but this lacks a lot of the eloquence with which Didion writes, and I cannot comment on the Karr reference since I have yet to read her. But as I read this, the author who came to mind most frequently was Elizabeth Wurtzel, another writer who has on occasion had really good things to say, and at other times has been a complete mess which has come across in her writing. I read Wurtzel in my twenties, like a lot of other young women, and considering I believe Valenti and I are the same age, or roughly so, I would expect she spent a lot of her twenties reading Wurtzel as well. If she did not, I would be surprised because their writing styles (at least with this book) are very similar. It's not Valenti's fault that I expected more out of her memoir than I actually got. Her story is not unfamiliar to me, whether we have a few shared experiences, or I recognize in her stories the stories of people I have known. It makes me sad that women of any age find things happening to them that are beyond their control, and it angers me that men feel that they can say and do anything to women they want. The strongest part of this book was the few pages Valenti talked about street harassment, though I admit that's also a part of our world that I find to be incredibly troublesome and it's a topic I think about quite a bit. Additionally, the fact that men (and even women) feel it's okay to say horrible things, usually only to women, through social media is another huge problem that society isn't ready to combat yet. If you read any part of Valenti's book, I recommend it be the Endnotes (2008-2015) in which Valenti shares bits and pieces from emails and internet comments left for her. It's troubling and disgusting; unfortunately it's a reminder that no matter how intelligent a woman is, no matter what experiences she has lived, she will always be reduced to this sex object, an object of any sort, sexual or otherwise, this thing that anyone can comment on based on their looks or level of attraction. This book will appeal to younger readers who are likely going through a lot of Valenti's earlier experiences. I'm glad she spoke so candidly about her experiences because it's that candid discussion that needs to happen so others grow up not feeling as alone as so many do. However, due to the emotional disconnect, much like Elizabeth Wurtzel, a lot of the experiences shared comes across as glorified and that's not what I thought Valenti's point was before I picked up the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    Sexual harassment. I can hear the groans now. Who still wants to read another dreary feminist memoir about it? Are we not over discussing this subject by now? Not for this reader. I was compelled to read this heart-wrenching memoir of a young woman's lifetime of being treated as a “sex object” and it resonated with me. As I became an older woman, I felt relieved to not be stared at and to not have remarks made about my different body parts. It felt like I had been in a prison in my teens and Sexual harassment. I can hear the groans now. Who still wants to read another dreary feminist memoir about it? Are we not over discussing this subject by now? Not for this reader. I was compelled to read this heart-wrenching memoir of a young woman's lifetime of being treated as a “sex object” and it resonated with me. As I became an older woman, I felt relieved to not be stared at and to not have remarks made about my different body parts. It felt like I had been in a prison in my teens and twenties. How sad. We still have such a long way to go and it is not getting any better especially online. This book is her hell and she writes to exorcise her past and current demons...I can relate. I think most women can. Four stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    This collection of essays about womanhood and the impact of living in a body that is constantly sexualized rocked my world. It is a heartbreakingly accurate portrayal of the daily experience many of us face while living in a female body, and felt especially relevant to read right about now. I listened to it on audio, and Jessica Valenti does a great job as a reader. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, because I think it sheds a lot of light on what are unfortunately not terribly This collection of essays about womanhood and the impact of living in a body that is constantly sexualized rocked my world. It is a heartbreakingly accurate portrayal of the daily experience many of us face while living in a female body, and felt especially relevant to read right about now. I listened to it on audio, and Jessica Valenti does a great job as a reader. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, because I think it sheds a lot of light on what are unfortunately not terribly uncommon experience. –Amanda Kay Oaks from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3.4 stars] This is an engaging, somewhat uneven memoir about growing up female and becoming a mother. I really appreciated Valenti's unflinching honesty about herself. I think she is incredibly brave - especially given the hostile emails and social media comments she shared at the end of the book. Valenti is proof that you don't have to live up to some impossible, superwoman ideal to be a feminist and make a difference.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brandice

    Unfortunately I didn't care for this book. I don't know what exactly I was expecting but as a whole, I was left disappointed. There were 2-3 select statements in the book that I read and thought "yes!" but other than that... not sure what to say. I had a hard time seeing where it was going - it felt like the book should be building up to something, but that just didn't happen. While I realize the author's interactions with men shaped her way of thinking and sometimes impacted her actions, a Unfortunately I didn't care for this book. I don't know what exactly I was expecting but as a whole, I was left disappointed. There were 2-3 select statements in the book that I read and thought "yes!" but other than that... not sure what to say. I had a hard time seeing where it was going - it felt like the book should be building up to something, but that just didn't happen. While I realize the author's interactions with men shaped her way of thinking and sometimes impacted her actions, a large portion of the book came across as disjointed: quick recollections and some even just seemed like they were "bragging" moments (not saying they are (or aren't) just seemed to read that way to me). I also felt that the book ended kind of abruptly. I kept reading, even as I began to feel unsure near the middle, because I was waiting for the big build up moment but disappointingly, it never came.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ang

    So. Hmm. I read Lindy West's Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman breathlessly and ravenously. It feels unfair to compare these two books, because what is similar about these women? That they wrote a memoir and they happen to be awesome feminist women? But the truth is, I couldn't separate the two books. And I relate to West in a way I just can't relate to Valenti. And those two facts made me like this book less than I liked Shrill. It's possible that at any other time, I would have really loved this So. Hmm. I read Lindy West's Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman breathlessly and ravenously. It feels unfair to compare these two books, because what is similar about these women? That they wrote a memoir and they happen to be awesome feminist women? But the truth is, I couldn't separate the two books. And I relate to West in a way I just can't relate to Valenti. And those two facts made me like this book less than I liked Shrill. It's possible that at any other time, I would have really loved this book, and in fact, some of the essays are simply lovely. The material that deals with her daughter Layla's birth is just...it's heart-wrenching and beautiful and really, really amazing. But if I tell you to read one feminist memoir this summer (BUT WHY WOULD I? READ BOTH YOU CRETIN.), it would be Shrill. That's why this has the rating from me that it does.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book made me angry. Or, rather, it reminded me the multitude of reasons why I SHOULD feel angry. Why I should feel frustrated and hurt by society’s treatment of women. Jessica Valenti refuses to sugarcoat what women deal with in a patriarchal society, and her feminism is a bitter pill to swallow. Here are concrete examples and anecdotes of one woman’s daily experiences with sexism, misogyny and microaggressions. This book was a difficult read, but a necessary one. Everybody (especially This book made me angry. Or, rather, it reminded me the multitude of reasons why I SHOULD feel angry. Why I should feel frustrated and hurt by society’s treatment of women. Jessica Valenti refuses to sugarcoat what women deal with in a patriarchal society, and her feminism is a bitter pill to swallow. Here are concrete examples and anecdotes of one woman’s daily experiences with sexism, misogyny and microaggressions. This book was a difficult read, but a necessary one. Everybody (especially men!) should read Valenti’s account of how society fails women, and how crucial feminism is in a world that still hasn’t accepted its movement’s legitimacy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Smalter Hall

    I've really enjoyed Jessica Valenti's work over the years and was excited to check out her memoir. I was surprised by how uncomfortable and raw it is, but it's also fascinating! If there's an underlying thread, I think it would be that Valenti, like most women, has been objectified her entire life, with a staggering number of disgusting anecdotes to drive home the point. The pervy stories in the book started to feel excessive, until I stopped to consider how every woman could come up with just as I've really enjoyed Jessica Valenti's work over the years and was excited to check out her memoir. I was surprised by how uncomfortable and raw it is, but it's also fascinating! If there's an underlying thread, I think it would be that Valenti, like most women, has been objectified her entire life, with a staggering number of disgusting anecdotes to drive home the point. The pervy stories in the book started to feel excessive, until I stopped to consider how every woman could come up with just as many stories, except that we tend to brush them off instead of talking about each one. The other common thread is Valenti's lifelong struggle with anxiety, addiction, and imposter syndrome. These anecdotes — and there are plenty — felt a bit off-putting because they came off a little as "ooh, look how crazy I am!"; but at the same time I think the case can be made that it's also radically feminist — Valenti's showing up and saying: "here I am, with all my flaws and mistakes." One last thing that I didn't love about this book is that the stories have a kind of weird flow and the memoir feels a little incomplete and rough around the edges. But, for someone who has enjoyed a lot of Valenti's other work, I found this book to be interesting, candid, and bold.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Some interesting thoughts in the beginning of the book but after about 1/3 the slew of boyfriends and casual sexual encounters bored me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    This book has some good things to say about the horrible ways some men treat women and how women don't feel they have the right to stand up for themselves. Other than that, it's not really a coherent narrative and I didn't really get her point in the end.

  19. 4 out of 5

    MissBecka

    This is a collection of memories from the author. The timeline is all over the place with no clear transitions, so I found it confusing moving from married adulthood to 11yr old memories in the same paragraph. I didn't care for the book, but it was short and easy to get through quickly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Jessica Valenti makes no excuses for the language she uses or for the principles in which she believes. From the stories she tells about her childhood and the years beyond, she's been dealing with chauvinism and men who are pigs for decades. She is not alone. I could absolutely relate to some, although not all, of her essays. As a grandmother, I don't spend much time thinking about the times I've been groped or had men expose themselves to me. But it has happened multiple times. Listening to the Jessica Valenti makes no excuses for the language she uses or for the principles in which she believes. From the stories she tells about her childhood and the years beyond, she's been dealing with chauvinism and men who are pigs for decades. She is not alone. I could absolutely relate to some, although not all, of her essays. As a grandmother, I don't spend much time thinking about the times I've been groped or had men expose themselves to me. But it has happened multiple times. Listening to the audiobook, and hearing Valenti describe her experiences in crude detail, made me heartbroken and angry for every woman, girl, and child who's lived through this. And especially for the ones who don't live through it. Let me also be clear, I say it was crude detail, not because of the frank language Valenti uses but because the men were crude in the first place. That's putting it nicely. On the other hand, I didn't have a strong connection to Valenti's experiences with pregnancy and parenthood since mine have been radically different. I believe her essays have value and deserve to be told. Connecting and listening to other women is a part of empowering us all. I'm a feminist, and I believe women's rights are still very much at risk. The final essay in this book is a list of email, Twitter, and Facebook responses Valenti received. Just when I thought I'd become numb to her style of writing with f-bombs and other cursing, she reads us some completely heinous stuff. When men stop judging women based on their looks and sexuality, the world will improve. When men stop treating women like objects instead of valid humans, feminism won't be such a fight. We have a long, long way to go and I appreciate Valenti for shining a light on the reasons why.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I wish I could like this more because it seems like something I should get behind, but (here we go), it is so poorly edited it is hard to read. It seems like Valenti wrote a bunch of anecdotes down on separate pieces of paper, jumbled them in a pile, and then assembled them as one document in the order that she found them. There's a section that starts with talking about how her parents had really violent childhoods, like when her dad chased a thief out of his house with a hammer and how her mom I wish I could like this more because it seems like something I should get behind, but (here we go), it is so poorly edited it is hard to read. It seems like Valenti wrote a bunch of anecdotes down on separate pieces of paper, jumbled them in a pile, and then assembled them as one document in the order that she found them. There's a section that starts with talking about how her parents had really violent childhoods, like when her dad chased a thief out of his house with a hammer and how her mom had to hide from her drunken, abusive father. Valenti starts a story about a time when she failed an economics class in high school and her father, who pages earlier was described as once throwing a man through the window of a bowling alley, screams at her to pick up this huge pot and hold it in her arms or he's going to beat the shit out of her! And it's really scary! And then the next four paragraphs are about a cherry tree growing in their backyard and how they assumed it would die but then it grew so many cherries that her father would give them away to random people. What of the pot? Or the possible beating? And all of the tension leading up to that which is drained away by this talk of a cherry tree? Well, no big deal, she holds the pot for an hour & then her father drives her to an abandoned factory to make a point about not making mistakes in life. What does this have to do with her father's violence? Why do I need to hear anything about the cherry tree? This is where a good editor should have come to the rescue (My rates are low, low, low, I'm just saying). There's a lot to wallow in here if you want to get on your misandry horse, and I read today on twitter that Valenti's taking a break from social media because someone sent her rape/death threats about her five-year-old daughter, so everything is pretty objectively awful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    May Watson

    "I started to ask myself: who would I be if I didn't live in a world that hated women? I've been unable to come up with a satisfactory answer, but I did realise that I've long been mourning this version of myself that never existed." Thanks to Edelweiss for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair review! Jessica Valenti has been a prolific name in the online feminist community for over a decade now and her memoir does not disappoint. The title leaps right out at you, "I started to ask myself: who would I be if I didn't live in a world that hated women? I've been unable to come up with a satisfactory answer, but I did realise that I've long been mourning this version of myself that never existed." Thanks to Edelweiss for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair review! Jessica Valenti has been a prolific name in the online feminist community for over a decade now and her memoir does not disappoint. The title leaps right out at you, promising an unflinching account of growing up as the worst of the worst in our sexist world: a woman. I read this book pretty much in two sittings - the chapters are short enough that you find yourself thinking "oh go on, just ONE more!" then suddenly it's 4am. The life story that Valenti tells us is at times a harrowing one, but I (unfortunately) can relate to a lot of it. It's also funny at times, and sad, and rage-inducing. Tales of flashers and assaults on the NYC Subway will probably be hard for some to get through, but I'm glad that Valenti has spoken up about feminist issues. She has definitely inspired me to keep up the fight and hopefully with this new book she'll inspire many more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Men should be required to read this book, because we need to know. Women should read this book to compare notes. This book is full of pain. It will make you hate, but we have to get beyond hate if we will ever find enlightenment. Be careful of being judgmental when reading Sex Object, because you will regret it. If you are quick to judge others, turn to the back of this book first and read "Endnotes (2008-2015)" before starting it. The Guardian reports that Valenti was the #1 receiver of hate Men should be required to read this book, because we need to know. Women should read this book to compare notes. This book is full of pain. It will make you hate, but we have to get beyond hate if we will ever find enlightenment. Be careful of being judgmental when reading Sex Object, because you will regret it. If you are quick to judge others, turn to the back of this book first and read "Endnotes (2008-2015)" before starting it. The Guardian reports that Valenti was the #1 receiver of hate email at their site, and this section gives a sampling. Reading those quotes made me want to move to an island and abandon my species. This book could have been called Hate Object. But let me give you a second warning, don't be judgmental when reading Sex Object. This book is a confessional, and you will want to judge Valenti too. You will think her quite a sinner until the end when she becomes a saint. As any good confessional, Valenti is her own worst critic. She tortures herself more cruelly than any of her soulless critics. When I started reading this book I thought it would be a feminist examination of the nature of sex objects. It's not a work of feminist philosophy. It's a memoir, not a polemic. But again, it is. Valenti uses her own life story to make a philosophical statement without boring us with philosophical arguments. It's painful. But suffer the pain, because in the end, Valenti and readers are redeemed by Layla. Only the heartless will not cry. Valenti chronicles her encounters with men that are wretched at being human, and not all of them were animalistic predators, some were even her boyfriends. They are a problem for society in the same way terrorists and mass shooters are, they just haven't grabbed a gun (yet), but they are motivated by extreme beliefs, lust, hate, and frustration. This is not just a feminist problem, but an inherent failing in our species. I wonder when we're going to start seriously working on it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    "They called it an emergency c-section but still found the time to shave my vagina." snazzy cover catchy title 1.99 ebook deal The positives end here. Valenti tries WAY too hard to create shock value when it makes no sense and is not necessary. I'm not a fan. "They called it an emergency c-section but still found the time to shave my vagina." snazzy cover ✔️ catchy title ✔️ 1.99 ebook deal ✔️ The positives end here. Valenti tries WAY too hard to create shock value when it makes no sense and is not necessary. I'm not a fan.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Gordon

    I've had to sit and think about this book for a few days. It's not very good. I wish there was an exact middle rating on Goodreads because I would stick Sex Object in the 2.5 star category. It's not a badly written book or an uninteresting book; but it's certainly a confused book. Jessica Valenti starts by setting up Sex Object as a call-out against men's objectification of women. This is familiar ground for her given her background as founder of feministing.com, and her previous books as well. I've had to sit and think about this book for a few days. It's not very good. I wish there was an exact middle rating on Goodreads because I would stick Sex Object in the 2.5 star category. It's not a badly written book or an uninteresting book; but it's certainly a confused book. Jessica Valenti starts by setting up Sex Object as a call-out against men's objectification of women. This is familiar ground for her given her background as founder of feministing.com, and her previous books as well. This initial section is also the strongest part of the book, balancing the heavy emotional aspects of this discussion with hard analysis. However, I was uncomfortable with this setup knowing that this book was meant to be a memoir. How do you use a memoir to craft a feminist movement against a huge systemic problem? In short, you don't. The powerful statements of Valenti's introduction are disconnected from the rest of the book which weakens the overall work substantially. It is not that Valenti's memories of being objectified from an early age are not powerful. However, the plural of anecdote is not data. To delve so deeply into her own experiences erases the myriad of ways that objectification happens to women and undermines her attempts to frame this as a universal problem. Valenti is a conventionally attractive woman, and even though she received negative comments about her nose, she experienced a very particular type of harassment, and she never properly acknowledged this point. Furthermore, are her experiences even that universal for attractive women? The level of public harassment she experienced was intense and not something that any of my friends have experienced. I do not mean to imply that Valenti is exaggerating about what happened to her. I have no reason to believe that she is making anything up. However, given this book is about responding to a systemic issue, she needed to acknowledge that her experiences were not everyone's experiences, which is pretty tough to do in a memoir. The type of book she was writing simply does not fit the message she was trying to craft. As Valenti moves into discussing her young adulthood, I grew more uncomfortable with the way this book was positioned. She talks about some rather terrible things that happened in her life, failing at university, abusive relationships, sexual assault, and drug addiction, but doesn't clearly tie these incidents back to the idea of male entitlement in a way that makes sense. Sure, I can see how the patriarchy undermined her self of self-worth, but these problems doesn't necessarily stem directly from the patriarchy. This is the section of the book that I think criticisms about "white feminism" will apply to. Despite all her problems, Valenti was still a teenager that went to a high school for gifted students, she was accepted into decent universities, had a loving and supportive (though at times complicated) family, and created and maintained strong networks of people to help her in her professional life. Many of her problems were caused by her own choices, and while sometimes she was constrained in what she could do, she still have far more opportunities than many other people. Some of these problems I struggle to even relate back to systemic gender inequality. Doing substantial amounts of cocaine while running feministing.com, getting a book deal, and being a fairly well-respected feminist figure? While I concur that being a feminist does not make you immune to the effects of gender inequality, I needed to see more critical self-analysis in this section, and more direct connections to her overall point. Even as a memoir it jumps around too much and lacks the type of reflection that makes this genre of writing interesting and insightful to read. The last section of the book is a detailed account of the traumatic birth of her daughter. Honestly, while it is engaging and well-written, I have no idea why it was included. Having PTSD because your kid was born prematurely does not easily fit within the male entitlement theme. It's a good story to tell, but as a part of this work. Sex Object was an interesting, but not a good read. It was too confused and lacked sufficiently deep reflection. It was trying to be several different books at once. Given what was going on in Valenti's life at the time, I understand how her book could have gotten away from her, but this is what editors are for!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I'm really struggling with rating this one - I wanted to love it and give it 5 stars. And yet, it didn't quite meet my expectations so I'm giving the entire thing a 3 star but some of the content deserves something closer to 5 stars. Jessica Valenti put to words a great deal of the things that women in general can relate to and have frankly experienced. She spoke to me in so many ways. She doesn't downplay the crude and disgusting experiences that we experience as women every day. She tells the I'm really struggling with rating this one - I wanted to love it and give it 5 stars. And yet, it didn't quite meet my expectations so I'm giving the entire thing a 3 star but some of the content deserves something closer to 5 stars. Jessica Valenti put to words a great deal of the things that women in general can relate to and have frankly experienced. She spoke to me in so many ways. She doesn't downplay the crude and disgusting experiences that we experience as women every day. She tells the truth. She puts words to the experiences we've all had. It isn't always easy to read her very direct and focused exploration of sexism and misogyny. For that alone, this book needs to be read. Despite how uncomfortable it might be. Despite how hard to read it is. The thing that didn't work as well for me was that some of the content didn't work for me. It fell flat in a way. I just didn't connect to it in the way I did other content. Each of the essays didn't seem to add up into one cohesive book for me. But, that doesn't make the impact of the impactful essays go away. It just means the essays individually were more impactful to me but the entirety of the work didn't work quite as well for me. However, I DEFINITELY recommend this and hope you will read it despite it's faults. I think it gives the reader a critical look at something we all need to better understand.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Zantopoulos

    I listened to this book in audio format and enjoyed hearing it from the authors own voice. That said, I didn't love this book. It was fine, it was good, but I felt like it could have been more. I didn't realize at first this was memoir more than a book about women being objectified when I first started it. I would have preferred the latter so it isn't the fault of the book or author that I didn't like it as much as I thought I would going in. I found the sections to be disjointed. Jessica would I listened to this book in audio format and enjoyed hearing it from the authors own voice. That said, I didn't love this book. It was fine, it was good, but I felt like it could have been more. I didn't realize at first this was memoir more than a book about women being objectified when I first started it. I would have preferred the latter so it isn't the fault of the book or author that I didn't like it as much as I thought I would going in. I found the sections to be disjointed. Jessica would mention something then backtrack then jump back forward. There were some seriously hard hitting and valid examples and discussions about the objectification of women and treating them like sex objects or vehicles for pleasure that I thought were raw, valid, and important to hear. What I didn't love was the long narratives about drug use...but to each their own. You do get a picture of unhealthy relationships and how women can internalize being a sex object, even take pride in it. That's a topic I'd have liked to see explored more completely and not just on the surface which it sometimes was. There were multiple "he treated me poorly but I fucked him anyway" tales that could have been used to discuss this theme. It was a fine book, I'm glad I read it, but I didn't love it and I probably won't be rushing to recommend it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Sex Object is a book that needs to be written. Why do we objectify women (and men)? What can we do about this? This was not the book. When reading, I often felt like I needed to wash my hands. I cringed. I felt dirty and used, as much for Jessica Valenti as for myself. The essays in the first part are repetitive – that's the point – only the names and places change. Valenti outlines the many ways that men – peers, strangers, teachers, dates – used and objectified her. She described the ways that Sex Object is a book that needs to be written. Why do we objectify women (and men)? What can we do about this? This was not the book. When reading, I often felt like I needed to wash my hands. I cringed. I felt dirty and used, as much for Jessica Valenti as for myself. The essays in the first part are repetitive – that's the point – only the names and places change. Valenti outlines the many ways that men – peers, strangers, teachers, dates – used and objectified her. She described the ways that women bullied and harassed her, often ruthlessly, almost saying, "There's only room for one of us in this town." Perhaps most disturbing, she described the ways that she participated in this abuse, as she had accepted the limiting stories she'd been fed – hook, line, and sinker.A high school teacher once told me that identity is half what we tell ourselves and half what we tell other people about ourselves. But the missing piece he didn’t mention—the piece that holds so much weight, especially in the minds of young women and girls—is the stories that other people tell us about ourselves. (p. 3)Valenti identifies as a feminist, writing a feminist blog, speaking around the country as a feminist. Being a feminist isn't enough to protect us – from others or ourselves. And I cannot believe that so long after I first experienced a man making it clear that his desires trump my comfort, I still accept it. (p. 130)I often didn't recognize myself in Valenti's experience. While I felt desired and struggled with saying No to boys and men who wanted to date me (as a teen, I didn't want to hurt their feelings), while I frequently got whistles and catcalls while walking down the street, I only once had a man expose himself to me. Thankfully. Valenti appeared to have received dozens of such. I never had a male teacher come on to me. I believe Valenti. Her experience was just very different than mine, which makes me wonder why. Perhaps it's a difference in age (I'm probably 25 years older) or location (she grew up in Queens, while I grew up in a Chicago suburb). Probably this difference came in part from being small-breasted and thus not being perceived – or seeing myself – in the same way as Valenti did. Valenti rarely wondered why she was so repeatedly harassed and victimized, in and out of relationships. I wanted her to raise her eyes from the penis to consider why we do this to each other. I wanted Valenti to have a happy ending, and in some ways she has: she can now tell her husband when a friend hits on her. This seems like such a small success relative to what I'd like for her and all of us. (Yes, I recognize this really is big.) We all deserve more and better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vikki VanSickle

    Whoo boy what a book. I devoured this is one sitting, feel alternately vindicated and horrified at Valenti's experience just being a woman in the world, not to mention a woman on the internet. She is candid, funny, self-deprecating, and angry. The afterward alone, a series of hateful tweets, emails and messages she has received is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to do as we stumble towards equality.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Read this in about two hours. Very engaging. Wish I could require young men and women to read a few of the chapters. I've always loved nonfiction that follows Lester Bangs' dictum: "be honest and unmerciful." Disturbing to read as a father but necessary, I think. Should help me raise my sons and daughters to be happier and healthier.

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