Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
The day this book (which I had pre-ordered) was released, it was in the 80s out. I was walking home from work wearing two tank tops and covered with a sweater, because even though I was walking 1.5 miles home (uphill) in 80+ degree weather, I have big boobs, and those of us with big boobs know that hot weather clothing and a large chest don’t mix well if one wants to make it through the day without leers and snide comments. Of course, that’s not a guarantee that such comments and looks won’t come, as evidenced by the fact that on my way home, a man blocked my path, hovered about a foot away, made a move like he was going to walk away, then turned back with his hand out, making to grab my chest. He didn’t; instead he laughed and kept walking, while I told him to fuck off.
Ms. Valenti’s memoir includes some similar stories, although her focus tends to be on her actions and reactions not necessarily to specific instances, but on how those instances are part of a larger, non-stop cacophony of shit that women deal with. Teachers who turn out to be creepers. Authority figures who don’t take threats to women seriously. Men who rape unconscious women but don’t really see anything wrong with it (*cough* Brock Turner *cough*), men who whip out their penises on subways or rub up against women on subways to get off (I, like Ms. Valenti, have experienced both of these things as well). Her own way of navigating this world involved drugs (mostly cocaine, and pot) and sex, at least as she has highlighted in this memoir. It follows her from youth through your daughter’s birth and beyond; however, I don’t think it actually really is fully chronological, although I could be wrong.
I believe I understand what Ms. Valenti was going for in framing her memoir this way, but I’m not entirely sure this book is successful in that regard. Each individual essay is mostly okay, although they all jump around in tenses so often that I actually did find myself having trouble understanding them at times. The topic areas and what she said will likely stick with me, but the organization of this memoir made it hard for me to really feel like I was connecting to the material, or to the author. I adore Ms. Valenti’s writings – Full Frontal Feminism and The Purity Myth are two of my favorite books – but this one won’t be added to that list.