Review: Sex Object: A Memoir

Review: Sex Object: A MemoirSex Object: A Memoir on June 7th 2016
Pages: 205

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.

This is the first of book I’ve read by Valenti, and, as a reader who enjoys both memoirs and feminist literature, it was a worthwhile read. We’re given a glimpse into the author’s life, one filled at many points with unnecessary strife. Valenti is unafraid to share intimate details, from her adolescence and tumultuous college years to the present. From street harassment to lousy boyfriends, the author gives numerous examples of the ways in which she was objectified by men from a young age and vilified if she tried to stand up for herself.  While Valenti describes some cringeworthy and rage-provoking moments based on her own experiences, the unfortunate truth is that many readers will likely find these relatable. Harassment and some of the more subtle forms of abuse described are not uncommon experiences for women.

This book tells the tale of Valenti’s life as well as the public consequences of being an outspoken feminist. The final chapter contains, verbatim, some of the vitriol spewed at her over the internet, mostly by angry men. That people feel justified in saying such horrible things to someone should be more shocking than it is, though it’s still horrifying to read the abuse she endures from these trolls.

The only issue I had with this book was its structure, and I think that is more my problem than the author’s. As it is written as more of a collection of essays than a narrative, it simply doesn’t always flow well. She seems to jump in time at some points, and it’s a bit jarring. That said, Valenti’s brutal honesty and uncensored views make this book worth reading.

I’m going to have to put Full Frontal Feminism on my eventual to-read list, as much of her hate mail seems to spew from the publication of that book, and I’d like to check it out for myself and hear more of Valenti’s views.


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