Call 413.540.1234 to
schedule an appointment
CONCERN/EAP: 413.534.2625
CRISIS: 413.733.6661

Sexuality & Sexual Problems
Resources
Basic InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
ActionAmerica UnzippedAmerican GirlsAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBoys Don't CryChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsCold HitCybersexDare... to Try BisexualityDilemmas of DesireDoing ItDoing ItEarly Embraces IIIErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.For The Bible Tells Me SoFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGetting the Love You WantGoing DownGood GirlsGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexHard to GetHit & MissHomosexualitiesHooking UpHow Sex WorksHow to Create Chemistry with AnyoneHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanI'd Rather Eat ChocolateIn a Queer VoiceIn the Mood, AgainIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalJane Sexes It UpKids Gone WildLet's Get This StraightLikely to DieLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLustMaking Peace with PornMale SexualityMaster BreastsMiddlesexNormalNormalNot GayOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmsPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPornifiedPornlandPornographyPoxPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrivate Practices DVDRainbow PartyRapeSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Therapy, and KidsSexting and Young PeopleSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual EcstasySexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Teens, Sexual MediaShamelessSurviving Sexual ViolenceTalk to Me FirstThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First TimeThe Happy Hook-UpThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Only Girl in the CarThe Pornographer's GriefThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Science of Intimate RelationshipsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Sleep of ReasonThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Vagina MonologuesThings Tom LikesTransTransUltimate SexUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWastelandWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Wilhelm ReichWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWritten in the FleshZen Sex
Related Topics

Family & Relationship Issues
Homosexuality & Bisexuality
Relationship Problems

by Jessica Valenti
Dey Street Books, 2016
Review by Christian Perring on Jun 7th 2016

Sex Object

Jessica Valenti is still relatively young, being 37 at the time of publication of her memoir Sex Object.  She has already written, co-written or edited 6 other books. She is a columnist for The Guardian US online newspaper, and her name often crops up in modern debates about gender. She defends women's rights, and addresses many issues in popular culture. She regularly addresses the politics of abortion, the sexism of the media, the way women are portrayed, and transgender ethics. In this memoir, Valenti delves into her past, setting out her experience of our culture as one that treats women as sexual objects, uses women sexually, and does not treat women equally. Valenti grew up in Queens and Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s, and she recounts many episodes of being sexualized in her youth. She puts this in the context of other women in her family being molested as girls. Sometimes she gives the impression that it was the old days, and it is jarring to realize she is describing the not-very-distant past. She is talking about the time when the Disneyfication of Times Square started, after 1985.  But her point is that the world hasn't changed that much, even if New York City has got a lot richer. Women are still objectified, and she is concerned about the world that her young daughter will grow up in.

Valenti writes like a blogger. The chapters are fairly short and her story does not develop in a linear fashion. They skip around in time and theme, and have lots of throwaway details which keep them interesting. She loves the dramatic opening sentence: "Grilled Cheese" starts with "The day after he fucked me while I was unconscious, I had Carl buy me a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries." She talks about her relationships with her family, her female friends, and her apparently long list of men she has hooked up with or had some kind of romance with. There's a lot of sex as well as sexualization, and crude language, especially about her experiences in school and in her twenties, where she recounts what other people said to her and her own experience. It's often gripping – Valenti tells a good story. It does get a bit repetitive; maybe the repetition of the sexualization and objectification is the point, showing what it is like for a young woman to grow up in our culture, or at least, the certain part of modern culture Valenti grew up with in New York. The stories move fast without lingering on any one scene. She shows how she grew into a Bohemian lifestyle and then as she got into her mid-to-late twenties, she started to move out of it. She got married and had a baby. But she her experience informs her point of view now, and her honest reflection on the world she lived in is illuminating.

This memoir is worth reading now because Valenti has had a particularly interesting life, but rather because her experience is in many ways typical of that of many other women, and it explains very well her understanding of sexuality and gender. She is blunt about much of what she has done and what was done to her, including early sexual experiences, abortions, heartbreak, random couplings, and love. She is certainly not a moral exemplar; she has the same kinds of weaknesses, passions, and strengths as most other people. That's what makes Sex Object a provocative account of her life as a sexual being.

 

© 2016 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York