Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

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 out of 5 stars!

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