Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

I’ve read Jessica Valenti’s column on the Guardian US for a couple of years, and I find her to be one of my favourite writers on feminism in that format. I don’t really know how I feel about this book. She’s a genuinely brilliant writer, and this is an honest, often funny, memoir which contains a lot that I painfully identify with as a woman who, you know, goes outside sometimes.

I think the thing that threw me is that I was expecting more of the Sex Object and less of the Memoir. I was expecting a book about the experience of being objectified as a woman, and while the book contains a lot of that, it’s more about her life, in which sexual objectification and harassment has often played a part. It’s hard to know how I would feel about this book if I’d known that; I suspect I would be raving about it. It’s not that this is in any way a bad book, it’s a fantastic book, but I can’t honestly say that I loved it because I didn’t. But that’s my fault for not doing my research.

It is a deeply uncomfortable reading experience, and that is probably its biggest strength, because existing as a woman is a frequently uncomfortable experience. Jessica Valenti absolutely tackles that head on, which is brilliant and brave. I listened to the audiobook, despite my recent declaration that audiobooks aren’t for me, and I think that rendered it all the more uncomfortable, listening to the person that these horrible things actually happened to talk about them.

Ultimately, this is one of those books that I like more after I’ve read them. The reading process is unpleasant because the writing is so good, because the unpleasant events are rendered so vividly, but after the fact you appreciate that someone was so honest and put so much into getting across something awful.

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